Almost every teacher of English as a second language has taught a unit on anatomy at one point or another. Perhaps this is because it is one of the most tangible sets of vocabulary a nonnative speaker can learn. Perhaps it is because our bodies are such an important part of what makes us uniquely ourselves. Perhaps it is for some other reason. Regardless of the motivation behind the theme, anatomical lessons naturally find themselves in the ESL classroom. Once you have given your students some basics on the parts of the body, try one or more of the following games to review what they have learned!
Try These ESL Games for Teaching Anatomy Vocabulary in Your Classroom
In the Classroom
“Simon says touch your head. Simon says touch your toes. Touch your ears”. Whether or not you are good at following directions, Simon Says is a simple game that you can use to review the vocabulary of the body. Having your students go through the motion of moving and identifying parts of the body is a great review for vocabulary that you have introduced in an earlier lesson. You can match the difficulty of the game to the skill level of your student – speaking more or less quickly, using more or less complicated vocabulary. Your students, too, will have a great time as you make the game harder and harder to eliminate players. Give the last one standing a prize, or just let him be Simon for the next round!
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you may decide to play a game of Twister Scare. To play, either use a Twister mat or create a similar layout of colors on your classroom floor using craft foam, carpet squares or construction paper. (Heads up – you will want to make sure all the desks are moved from the area in which you will be playing.) Then ask your class to brainstorm a list of common words for parts of the body. Write each of these body parts on a small slip of paper and put into a bag or hat. For each turn, pull one body part from the pool and either choose a color or use a spinner or die to determine the color that will be the goal for that body part. Keep playing for as long as you can or until your students have had enough!
In the Gym
If you have a bag of old clothes that you use in your ESL class, that can also be repurposed for a review of anatomical vocabulary. They make for a great relay race when teams have to identify the parts of the body that the clothes and accessories are worn on. To play, divide your class into two teams and have each team choose a model who will eventually wear all of the clothes. For each turn, have one player from each team stand on either side of you as you pull an item out of the bag. The first person to identify which part of the body the piece is worn on wins the piece and should run to her model and put the piece of clothing on that person. When you get to the last piece of clothing in the bag, the team with more items on their model is the winner!
If your students are getting sleepy in their seats, this anatomy game is sure to wake them up. Take your class to a large playing area, outside or a gym work well. In this game, you will call out pairs of body parts like “Ear to Elbow” (the name of the game). Students must then rush to find a partner, and one of them must put his ear to the other’s elbow. If anyone is unable to find a partner or does not match the body parts correctly, he is eliminated. Give another paring and each person must find a new partner. You may choose to make calls such as head to knee, hand to foot, hip to hip, shoulder to back or any other combination you can think of. The last pair standing wins a prize.
In Small Groups
Do you want to play a game of body parts with your students but get them to think outside the box? Try the classic game of Operation in which students must remove “punny” body parts from an electric surgical patient. Students will draw cards asking them to remove such items as the funny bone, the breadbox, the Adam’s apple and butterflies in the stomach. If they touch the sides of the opening for each piece, a buzzer will sound and that person loses his turn. You can use this game as a jumping off point to talk about idioms or expressions that have to do with parts of the body. Challenge your students to do some research and compile a list of all the expressions using body parts that they can find. You can make this a game in itself by grouping students and giving them a set amount of time to come up with their lists.
Just because lessons on anatomy happen so frequently in ESL classes does not mean that you cannot have fun while you give them.
These games provide a fun review of what your students have learned and may also teach them a thing or two. So try one with your class and get in some laughs as you do your body parts review!