In light of the internship being underway, I thought you guys might like a few games to keep your TEFL lights burning and give you some ideas.
I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know what works/doesn't work. Also ask away if you don't understand the logistics!
Your i-to-i TEFL helper!
Name of game: Calmer
English skills: Speaking, Listening and Vocabulary.
Objective: To practice/revise vocabulary
This is a good game for high-energy groups when you need to get them sitting down and focused. They really have to concentrate to stay in the game. If you don’t have space to get everyone sitting in a circle or you can’t move the tables you can do it standing up. With large classes you could model with one group first, then get students to do it in their groups.
- Sit in a circle with your students and do the hand actions of clap, clap, left click, right click. When they get the hang of it, add these words in time to the rhythm “Concentration, concentration, concentration now beginning, are you ready? If so, let’s go!”
- On the first finger click, you say your name, and on the second click you say the name of someone in the circle. You have passed the turn to the person you nominated on your second finger click. They say their own name on the first click and on the second click, the name of another student. And so on.
- For lower levels: When they have got the idea, use different lexical sets. For example, to practice vocabulary: Tim: ‘Apple…Helen’ Helen: ‘banana…Tom!’ Tom: ‘Orange, Alex!’.
- For higher levels: When they have got the idea, use different lexical sets. For example, Tim: ‘Tennis, racquet…. Helen - basketball’ Helen: ‘basketball, hoop…..Tom, Golf!’ Tom: ‘Golf, hole….Alex, cricket!’.
- For a competitive group, eliminate those students who make mistakes!
Name of Game: Hold them up!
English Skills: Listening, Reading and Vocabulary
Objective: For students to revise vocabulary.
- Split the class into groups 4/5.
- Before the activity, write a different word on a separate piece of paper for each team (the vocabulary you want students to revise).
- Have one student from each team sit in an allocated chair with the papers on a desk in front of them or on the floor.
- Say one of the vocabulary words on the board (or you could give a definition for higher levels)
- Students have find the word on the board and hold it up!
- The student to hold it up first gets one point for their team.
- Repeat until everyone has had at least one turn.
Variation: Use pictures for young students who haven't learned the alphabet
Variation: You could split the class into three and write the vocabulary three times on the board (in three sections). Different students are selected each time and have to circle the word on the board.
Name of Game: Telephone
English Skills: Listening, Speaking and Writing
Objective: Groups pass a message to each member of their group by whispering.
1. Divide class into groups of 6 or more, and arrange each group in a straight line or row.
2. Ask for a volunteer listener from each group. Take them outside of the classroom and give them a message (one sentence or more, depending on students’ level).
3. Open the door, and let the students run to the first member of their group to whisper the message.
4. Each member passes the message, by whispering, to their neighbour.
5. When the message reaches the end, the last person has to run to the board and write the message.
The winner could be:
- The first team to pass a legible, complete message (even if it's wrong)
- The first team to finish, first team with a message closest to the original.
Name of Game: Word Challenge
Number of Students: Teams of 4-10
English Skills: Listening, Speaking, Spelling
Objective: One team says a word and the other tries to spell it
1. Have students get into teams of 4-10 people
2. One person from each team does rocks, paper, scissors/rolls a dice
3. Winner says a word and opponent tries to write the word correctly
4. If they get it right, their team gets a point
5. If they get it wrong, the person who said the word can write it out for a point for their team
6. Have another person from each team play 'Word Challenge'
• Make an 'arena' in the middle of the class for two students to face off
Students will start to look up difficult words to stump the other team! Remember to do a follow-up assignment for words used, such as teaching the class the meanings and having students make sentences with the new words.
Name of Game: Fly Swatter
English Skills: Listening, Reading and Vocabulary
Objective: Students use fly swatters (or rulers!) to hit vocab words on the board
- Split the board and the class into three.
- Write vocabulary words scattered across the board
- Place two chairs in front of the board with a fly swatter on each chair
- Divide class into two equal teams
- Have one student from each team sit in the chairs with their backs to the board
- Say one of the vocabulary words on the board
- Students stand and find the word on the board
- Students get one swat and the first student to hit the word with their fly swatter gets one point for their team
- If neither student hits the right word, the next students are up and no points are awarded.
- Repeat until everyone has had at least one turn
Variation: Use pictures for young students who haven't learned the alphabet. Students will often get loud so don't let teammates shout the answer or location of the word.
Variation: If you don’t have a fly squatter, students could circle the word.
Name of Game: Dictation Game
English Skills: Listening, Reading, Speaking, Spelling and Writing
Objective: Review dialogs by having students dictate to each other
1. Select a dialogue/short story from the lesson
2. Have each student work with a partner
3. One student reads the dialogue/short story
4. The other student writes it down
5. The first team to finish it correctly wins
Variation: Put the text on the wall and have groups of 3 with one 'runner' who relays between reader and writer.
Readers can look at what the writers are writing. Readers should also tell writers all punctuation and capitals. Make sure to teach readers how to say important phrases like, "How do you spell ~?", "Say it again, please.", etc.
Name of Game: Guess Who aka Guess What
English Skills: Speaking
Objective: Form questions and identify a person or thing
1. Choose a student leader for the class or individual groups
2. Ask the leader to think of a famous person
3. Group members have to ask yes/no questions to get information about the target celebrity
4. When a group member receives a 'yes' to their question, they can ask one follow up question
5. If the answer to a group member's question is no, the next student gets to ask a question
6. The game continues until the students guess who it is
7. Students can only guess who it is when it is their turn
• This game can be played as 'Guess What', in which case students are playing to identify an object, animal, etc (it’s a good idea to start with an object in the room until students get the hang of it).
You may choose to prepare a handout of possible questions to get things started and help weaker students as play progresses. Some possible questions are: Are you famous? Are you a man? Are you a woman? Are you an actor? Are you a singer?
• Music can add to the fun and tension of this game. Add recorded sound effects such as a ticking clock, Jeopardy, etc. to create a better atmosphere for the game.
Name of Game: The Hot Seat
English Skills: Speaking, Listening, Vocabulary
Objective: Communicate words without saying them
1. Put students into groups of 4/5. One of the students must sit with their back to the board, the other students facing the board.
2. The teacher can draw or put a flashcard on the board (or write a word). The students have to describe what is on the card to help the student (with their back to the board) to guess what it is.
3. For higher level students write a number of TABOO WORDs on the board. For example if a teacher shows the students a flash card of say ‘a teacher’, the taboo words that students cannot say could be ‘school’ and ‘student’. This forces the students to find other ways of describing the word.
Name of Game: Back Writing
1. Students sit in team lines
2. Pre-teach the following actions: tap own shoulder for 'repeat' and nod for 'OK, I understand'
3. Agree on using capital or lower-case letters, or a combination for names, etc.
4. Show the last person in each group a word on a piece of card
5. Students trace the message (word or sentence) of the word card on the back of the person in front of them. The message is then passed down the line.
6. When the messages reaches the first person in line, they write it on a piece of paper
7. When the round is finished, the first person has to go to the end of the line to change writers
**You can award points for speed or accuracy depending on the complexity of the message. By getting students to write on each other's back is a good way to stimulate the sense of touch in the lesson and further engages the student. Longer lines make the game harder but shorter lines allows
for more opportunity to have everyone be the writer.
Name of Game: Stand and Spell
Number of Students: Groups of 4-10
English Skills: Alphabet, Spelling
Objective: Students stand next to each other and spell words
• Give each student a large alphabet card to hold above their head
• Have one student be the leader who places students in the right position
• Make teams for bigger classes
• Give groups a time limit to spell the word
If a student's letter comes up more than once in a word, get them to move which will make the game more fun. Use quieter students as the leader to help include them in class.
Name of Game: Back Writing
Number of Students: At least 3
English Skills: Alphabet, Spelling, Writing and Vocabulary
Objective: Practice spelling words by writing them on the backs of other students
Instructions for younger students:
1. Have students either sit in a circle for a smaller class or in a line for a larger class
2. Choose a letter or word from current study and have the children trace it in the air together
3. Next, have students trace the letter onto the back of the person in front of them
4. Observe the students and correct where necessary
5. Repeat using new letters
6. Use words or sentences for higher levels
Name of Game: Telling stories
English Skills: Listening.
Objective: students listen for words in a story.
1. Find a short story for students level and age.
2. On pieces of paper write key words
3. Hand out a word to each student.
4. While you read the story, students must stand up when they hear their word (whilst simultaneously holding the word in the air).
Name of Game: Bigger and Bigger
English skills: Speaking and pronunciation
Objective: to drill pronunciation of words
1. Say a word in a whisper getting louder and louder each time.
2. Or – Get students to crouch into a ball and get bigger and bigger each time they say the word.
Name of Game: What am I doing, how do I feel?
English Skills: Grammar
Objective: Act out emotion and verb flashcards to create crazy combinations
1. Prepare two sets of flashcards, half with ~ing verbs and half with emotions
2. Ask a student/group of students to come to the front and select one card from each set.
3. Students have to mime and the class has to guess the emotion and ~ing verb. For example: She is angry and she is swimming or He is sleepy and he is dancing.
** If students are too shy to be the 'mimer' they will feel more comfortable if they can participate as a group. Correct the students as they shout out their answers.
Name of Game: How Many Words Do You Know?
English Skills: Speaking, Spelling and Vocabulary
Objective: Write down all of the 2-letter words you know
1. Divide chalkboard into four equal vertical sections (columns).
2. Split the class into four teams
3. Choose a leader for each team to go to the chalkboard. Tell students they have 2 minutes to make as many words with two letters as possible.
4. Leaders write all the two-letter words they know on the count of 1, 2, 3, GO!
5. Team members help their leader by shouting out words and by writing words in big letters on paper and holding it up for their leader to see.
6. Stop with 10, 9, 8,...0, STOP!
• Three-letter, four-letter words, etc.
• Words that begin with the letter 'S', 'R', 'Th', etc.
Decide beforehand whether dictionaries, textbooks, etc. can be used. This game tends to get classes noisy so make sure to close windows and doors!
Name of Game: I Went to the Market
English Skills: Grammar, Speaking, Vocabulary
Objective: Use memory to reinforce past-tense structure and focus on correct use of articles
1. Divide class into groups and select one group to help demonstrate the rules:
2. Teacher starts by saying, "I went to the market and I bought an apple."
3. Student next to the teacher follows by saying, "I went to the market and I bought an apple and some eggs."
4. The next student continues by saying, "I went to the market and I bought an apple, some eggs, and a potato."
5. Play continues with each student repeating what previous members said and adding one item to the shopping list.
6. Start students off in their groups.
A good game to practice all kinds of verb tenses and vocabulary!
• ‘Name the game’ – see Primary games but use larger words.
• ‘I went to the market’ – see primary games, and use the following variations:
- I went to the electronics store and I bought...
- When I go on holiday I will take...
- When my friend and I go to France next year, we must remember to take...
Name of Game: Making a monster
Duration: 5-10 minutes
English Skills: Listening, Speaking and Vocabulary
Objective: Learn and practice body parts by drawing monsters
1. Go through different shapes eg heart, diamond, squares, diamonds etc
2. Ask students to draw a monster using only the shapes (tell them to hide their picture!)
3. Put students into pairs (back to back if possible)
4. Students must describe their monster to their partner who must try to draw it.
- Let students take the drawings home for coloring. For homework they could make a story about their monster.
- Share the art by putting the pictures up on the wall!
Name of Game: Shiritori
Number of Students: 2 groups of at least 2 students
English Skills: Writing, Vocabulary
Objective: Make word lists by using the last letter of the previous word
1. Divide the class into thirds.
2. Divide the blackboard/whiteboard into three with a line.
3. Students all stand up and form lines opposite their side of the board
4. Provide a first word at the top of the board for all teams.
5. The first student in each team writes a word to follow the first word:
- The word must start with a letter which is the same as the last letter of the previous word
For example, if the first word is "dog," then the next word is "good"
The list goes on: dog->good->deer->read...
6. Each student takes a turn.
7. The team with the longest list in the time given wins!
8. Set a 5 minute time limit max.
9. Words cannot appear twice on the list.
Variation if students sit in lines: Give a piece of paper with the first word written on and students have to pass the paper to the next student by the end of the line. The first team to finish wins!
Name of Game: Hat questions!
Skills: Speaking, reading, vocabulary.
You can use this game either to match definitions to words or match opposites. Ideally, you need two sets of cards of different colours. One colour for the words and another colour for the questions. Put all questions in a bag or hat.
1. Put students into groups.
2. Write on the board a list of previously taught vocabulary.
3. Ask a student to choose a card from the hat and read the question.
4. Students study the list of words and write their answer in their groups.
5. The winning team has the most correct answers,
Example questions on cards:
• What type of animal has cubs?
• What’s the opposite of the verb ‘to break’?
• What do you call a person who works in a court?
Class surveys are a good way to get larger groups to circulate. Allow your students to create questionnaires based on class material. Students must then interview X number of people in the class and record their answers. Afterwards you can talk as a class about the questions they made and some of the answers they received. This gives a little bit of structure to students who are intimidated by 'free-talking', and relieves the pressure of speaking in front of a large class.
Name of Game: Utter nonsense
English skills: intonation practice and language of deduction
1. Put students in pairs and give them a scene to act out.
2. Ask students to have a conversation using an invented language. The pair should act out a scene using the correct intonation as if they were really talking to one another.
3. The rest of the class watch and guess what the situation is. After, you could write out the real dialogue in English for one of the scenes.
Name of Game: Guess the word
English skills: Vocabulary, Listening and Speaking
1. Choose five words relating to recent conversational themes.
2. Write clues to help students guess the words. Play with whole class or teams.
• I am a noun.
• I am very important.
• I begin with the letter ‘g’.
• It’s a group of people.
• It directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects.
• The leader of this organisation rules the whole of the country.
(Puzzle word = Government)
- Class surveys – See senior school games
Name of game: Musical inspiration
Skills: Listening, Speaking and Vocabulary
1. Put students into groups and have them sat in either circles or rows.
2. Give each student a piece of paper and some coloured pencils.
3. Tell students you are going to play some music and you want them to draw whatever comes into their heads.
4. As the music is playing, all students should be drawing.
5. After 20 or 30 seconds, stop the music.
6. Students stop drawing and pass their picture to the person to the left of them in the circle.
7. Play the music again and they continue drawing what the person next to them had started.
8. This continues until everyone has their original picture back. When finished, each student will have a picture that several students contributed to.
Then you could:
- Get them to label everything on the picture.
- Describe the picture to the group or a partner.
- Tell the students: Imagine that the picture represents the dream you had last night. Explain your dream to your group. (You could ask another student to analyse the dream.)
- Tell them the picture is actually a postcard. Write the postcard to a friend telling them all about the place where you’re on holiday.
Note: Different types of music tend to produce very different pictures! Reggae or Latin American music tends to get tropical island or beach scenes, dance music tends to get cityscapes and classical or chill out tends to get more abstract pictures. See what your students draw and adapt follow-up activities accordingly.
This activity helps activate new vocabulary and improve narrative techniques. After reading a text, ask groups of students to select certain words from the text. When they have finished, go around the class and swap the lists of words produced by groups sitting next to each other. Individual groups must then create a story containing the words from the list, either orally, or in writing. Winners can be selected by vote.
This game practises the formulation of sentences. You will need pens and paper. Players must begin by writing a male name at the top of the paper, then folding it down so the next player cannot see it. The paper is passed on, and the next player will write a female name. The paper is passed around again until a story unfolds. The classic pattern is as follows:
A boy (name 1) met a girl (name 2) in/at (place).
He said to her (sentence 1) so she said to him (sentence 2).
So he (action 1) and she (action 2).
The consequence was (consequence).
On completing the game, the unfolded papers are read out by the students in turn. Resulting stories are invariably funny, and students enjoy this activity.
Cartoon captions are a fun way to promote free writing. Hand out a cartoon (use newspapers, magazines or the internet for sources) with the caption removed. Have the class discuss the scene portrayed. Then ask your students to think up a funny caption for the cartoon (they can work in groups, pairs or individually for this one). Once everyone is finished (allow about 3-5 minutes) collect all the captions and write them on the board. Work as a class to correct any mistakes and discuss the choices. Then show the original caption. Everyone can then vote on which captions are the funniest. Prizes for the funniest caption make it more interesting.