A wide variety of games can be used when teaching English.
The key is to ensure that everyone fully participates and has enough practice with the lesson material to play. If students are not confident, they will struggle and not get the most out of the activity.
How To Use Games
Whole Class games
Some games such as interview activities, bingo, jeopardy, and board games can be played by the entire class. - An interview activity to practice the “Where are you from?” and “I’m from ~.” structures might start by handing out slips of paper with eight to ten different country names. Students can then be given a worksheet with all the country names written on the left and told that their goal is to get a student signature for each country by mingling with their classmates and asking the target question. When asked the target question, a student should respond based on the slip of paper he received. - Bingo can be played with numbers, letters, vocabulary words, or many other topics you may want to practice. - Jeopardy is more of a review activity because it focuses on listening and does not give students lots of speaking practice. The easiest thing to do is have students make groups of four to five, write categories and stars for each answer on the board, and explain that groups will get three points for a correct answer after the first clue, two points after the second clue, and only one point after the last clue. You will need five or six categories and perhaps five answers per category. If you would like to focus on a particular tense, simply use that tense for at least one clue per answer. You can choose the first category but after that, the group who provides the correct answer first should choose the category. This activity could take a whole forty-five minute lesson and the group with the most points at the end of class wins. - Board games are often best played in small groups but if introducing a very challenging game, it may be a good idea to play as a class first. A group of students can be represented by a game piece and students can work together to answer questions. In the class following this, students can play the game in groups for further practice.
Games in Small Groups
There are also lots of games that can be played in groups of about four students. - Board games where students move pieces and answer questions or form sentences based on images make for good practice activities. For practicing the “If ~, then ~.” structure a Chutes and Ladders layout may be fun for students. - Card games such as Go Fish, Memory, and many more can be adapted for classroom use. When you are teaching comparatives, card games can be an invaluable tool. You can also use simple card games to test comprehension by making up decks of cards with letters for example. Have students spread all the cards face up on their desks, you then say a letter aloud, and the first student to slap the correct card gets to keep it. Repeat until all the cards are gone and the student with the most cards at the end of the game wins. To make this more challenging, you can tell students that if they slap the wrong card, they have to take one card out of their pile.
There are many of pair activities students can do to practice English but very few of them take the form of a game. -The best and most versatile one by far is Battleship. This will take a lesson to explain and practice but once your students are familiar with it, can be played as a twenty to thirty minute activity. Battleship is best used to practice tenses. The worksheet consists of two identical seven by seven grids, one above the other. The first box in the upper left is kept blank, the first row is filled in with phrases such as “play soccer” and “study English”, and the first column is filled in with words such as “I, You, He, We, They, The students.” Students should secretly draw their “boats” on the grid. Typically one boat should have five squares, one boat should have four squares, two boats should have three squares, and one boat should have two squares. Boats can only be drawn vertically or horizontally. On the board practice the structure that students will use for the activity for example “I played soccer. You studied English.” until every row and column has been practiced and then instruct students to say “Hit”, “Miss”, or “You sank my ship!” when appropriate just like in the original game. Students can usually play two or three times before moving on to another activity.
Again, there are lots of different games out there that can be used in the classroom. Be creative and have fun! Ensuring your students have the necessary instructions and practice before starting any activity will make it more enjoyable and beneficial for your students.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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