Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fun and Games 2 - activities

I've been asked over and over again to produce a worksheet for my Fun and Games 2 workshop so instead of wasting paper, here it is! Although I believe that no explanation or description will truly show the spirit of any game, I do hope you find my ideas useful. And please, do drop me a line should you have something to add.

Those of you who have come to see me in Paris and Salamanca might have not seen all the games described below as due to time constraints I had to modify and cut out some of the activities. 

  1. Paper Conversations - students work in pairs. They need a piece of paper and something to write. Tell them they need to write a question they would like to ask their friend. Next, they exchange the papers, read the question they were given, answer it in writing, and write a follow up question to continue the conversation. They exchange papers again and continue repeating all the steps i.e. read the question, answer it, write a follow up. It works really well with very noisy classes especially teenagers as the students shouldn't speak at all during the activity. Also, used at the beginning of a class it tends to have a calming effect on the students. As a follow up, you may ask your students to take their 'paper conversation' home and look for any mistakes (tenses, question formation etc) and rewrite it or expand both questions and answers.
  2. The longest word - students line up in two rows facing the board. The teacher writes a long word horizontally (or vertically, which is an easier option) on the board twice (there should be one word for each group). After a signal, the students run to the board one by one and write down words beginning with one of the letters in the word written by the teacher in any order. The team that finishes first, wins. Extra point may be given to the team that writes the longest word. It works really well as a filler, ice-breaker or as a way of eliciting new lexis once you tell the students that they must write only certain types of words (e.g. personality adjectives or animals). 
  3. A-Z race - students line up in two rows facing the board. The teacher writes all letters of the alphabet on the board twice, one on the left, one on the right (there should be set of letters for each group). The teacher chooses a category e.g. clothes, food, animals, sports etc. The students, after making a group decision, choose to eliminate 3-5 letters from each set of alphabets (the decision on how many depends on the teacher). Having done that, after a signal, the students run to the board one by one and write words beginning with each of the letters of alphabet in any order. The team that finishes first i.e. has a word for all the letters, wins. A variation involves having only one set of letters on a whiteboard and giving two teams two markers of different colours. In this case, the teacher decides who won by counting the words (e.g. 15 words written in green and 10 in blue means that the green marker team won). I use this game for brainstorming and eliciting ideas but it works fine as a revision acitivity as well.
  4. Revision Game - prepare a set of 25 A4 cards (scrap paper in my case). Number each card (A1-A5, B1-B5, C1-C5, D1-D5, E1-E5). On each card write a question or task you want your students to answer. To do it, copy things from the revision unit in the coursebook you're using. Three of the cards should contain a Bonus point. On the board create a grid 
    Revision game grid
    and divide your students into teams of 3-4 people. Each team, one at a time, chooses a square from the grid e.g. B2 and gets a corresponding question which they have to answer having agreed on the correct option. If they don't know the answer or answer wrong, the question passes to the next team (and so on if necessary). In this way, all the students are focusing on getting the question right, not only the team whose turn it is. When they hit the bonus point card, a point is given to them without any task. When nobody knows the answer, the teacher supplies it as the real objective of the game is to revise, not to get points, which you may want to remind the students from time to time. At the end, the team with the biggest number of points wins.
    Example of question cards
    An alternative involves writing all the questions in your notebook and simply reading them out to students. It's a time-saver but in this case the students can only hear the questions and not see them which makes the activity more difficult for some and slightly tedious and monotonous. Preparation of question cards takes roughly 30 minutes.
  5. Two circles game (aka Spinning Ideas) this game is based on a worksheet I found on my desk one day and which has been recently identified as Spinning Ideas ('Games for Grammar Practice' by CUP). I have also seen a similar activity in 'Working with Words' by CUP. In the original game, the students, after being put in pairs or small groups, were presented with two circles containing places and certain modal verbs (see below). The teacher or a student rolls a dice twice (one for each circle) and depending on the number moved around each circle. Next the students had to write down three sentences combining a place from one circle with a modal verb from the other e.g. 5 and 5 - what you shouldn't do on holiday. Sentences are read aloud and 2 points are given if a sentence is logical and grammatically correct, 1 point, if there are some mistakes.
    The original worksheet
    In my version of the game in circle one (C1) you may put question words e.g. where, how and in C2 tenses eg. past simple, present perfect or C1- question words, C2 - numbers e.g. 4,7,12 which means that students have to make a question with that particular number of words. An alternative is a phrasal verbs game with C1 containing verbs such as go, get, put, make, set, take and C2 - on, in, off, out, up, down. In this case, the students have to decide if a chosen combination of words exists and make a sentence using a particular phrasal verb accurately to show its meaning.
  6. Who am I? (What am I?, Which city am I? etc)- the teacher prepares small cards with famous people’s/ film/ book character’s names – one for each student (you can use sticky labels to do that).
    Labels with names of film/TV characters
    The choice of characters depends on what you're currently working on. It could be animals, countries, cities, adjectives, phrasal verbs, professions etc. Each card is placed on the students’ backs. Their task is to walk around and ask questions to find out who they are. Students should start with yes/no questions only e.g. ‘Am I an actor?’, ‘Do I have long hair?’ to make the activity a bit more challenging. After a few minutes you can allow other questions too. Make sure students talk only to one person at at time, otherwise they will stick to someone for the entire activity and also have extra sets of cards prepared for fast finishers. With low levels and kids, provide some scaffolding by writing some questions on the board for them to refer to. The youngest students I've tried the activity with were around nine years old and the topic was professions.
  7. Call my bluff - students are put into teams and given dictionaries, one for each team. The teams choose a few difficult, new words from the dictionary that they think other people in class may not be familiar with. Stick around closely and help them choose as teenagers tend look for offensive language and slang and adults sometimes choose specialized words which, in general, are not the most useful ones to know. Next they have to create definitions for each word, only one of which should be correct. Allow them to copy parts of the definition from the dictionary but not all of it. When each team has e.g. 3 definitions they read them out to each other, choose the correct option and are given points. It's nice to keep putting all the words on the board and use them later e.g. to play Hot Seats or to write a story as homework. Needless to say, it's one of my first choices to practise relative clauses.
Have fun playing the games with your students!

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