Monday 4 June 2012

My favorite English games

So, I'm nearly at the end of my contract here and I'm thinking about what to tell my successor. I keep noticing certain games that I reuse, so I thought I would share them.

These aren't all the activities I ever did, but they are some of the ones that worked the best and I used them often. I think what makes certain activities good, in my opinion, is that they are simple, easy to prepare, and require the students to participate/use English.

I used all these activities in my high school lessons, but they would probably work well in junior high too.

Lets just jump straight in...

Castle game:
This game is simple, and doesn't require much preparation. All you'll need is some questions to ask the students, and a class of about 9 or more. I can't claim originality here, I did read about this one somewhere, but  I've made it my own (a modifier I'll explain later).
Here's what you do: split the class into 3 or 4 teams. They can be big teams as it is really just a question/answer game. Draw 1 castle on the blackboard for each team. Each castle should have at least 3 walls and 1 tower which is behind the walls and a team flag at the top. The goal of the game is to destroy each others towers. You can do this by answer questions correctly for your team. If a team answers a question correctly they can choose which teams castle to destroy. Once all the walls and the 2 levels of the tower have been destroyed a teams flag can be stolen and added to the attackers tower (next to their own flag).
Now about the modifiers which can make this game more interesting...
1. allow teams to rebuild walls on their turn. Standard rule really.
2. Introduce a dice. Introducing dice into a game is really standard English teaching 101, it can changes people lives. If you do this you must modify your drawing. Split the walls up so they are divided into 9 pieces each (6 for easier/faster... better choice if you can repair). When a team answers the question correctly they can roll the dice. The roll of the dice determines how many units of the castle the can destroy.

Describe the picture game...
I made the name for this game. This one is simple too. Simply print a bunch of interesting characters/people/objects or scenes and keep them secret from the students. Split the class into teams again, and give points to the team that answers first. So what you do is have one student at a time come to the front of the class and describe what character/etc is in the picture without saying its name. For example, you may have printed a picture of a panda, the student will say something like: It is black and white. It is an animal. It lives in China... etc. If the students are feeling nervous then allow them to come up in pairs (this works a lot of the time and can really change a lesson) or if you still have that dice then use it to select a student by row/column (standard really... dices are awesome).

Ok, so you've probably even played this one before. Simple game that can be used to review learned vocabulary. All you need to do is think of a list of interesting words. In this game a student or students are shown a secret word that they must draw for their team, the team must guess (in English) what the picture is.  Which ever team answers first gets a point. My English club love this game, always a winner. A good thing to do is feel the atmosphere of the class and modify if needed. One way to do this is have 1 or 2 students draw the picture on the board. This will work well if the class in comfortable together. Another way is to give each team sheets of paper to draw on, and call 1 member of each team to come and see the secret word. Personally the second method works better in my school, probably because they love drawing.

Song puzzle
Another simple game. This one requires a bit of preparation, but nothing impossible. All you need to do is prepare a song and cut it into chunks so the students can listen and piece it together like a puzzle. Simply choose a good song for your class (if your not sure go for a slow and clear song) and space out the lyrics in chunks in Microsoft Word or something. The bigger the paper the better. I space it out as such: verses are 2 sentences long chunks then white space. Chorus is 1 sentence long chunks. Print this out on large paper and cut it up. Ensure you have enough puzzles for the student groups.
There is one more cool thing you can do with this: add a secret message going down the side of the puzzle. Once the song puzzle has been put in order the students can see the message going from top to bottom on the left or right side.
Example: Bruno Mars - Talking to the moon.
Ensure you download the original after following the link. Google docs might change the format/make some things invisible. Let me know if there are problems.
As you can see I have put a message down the left hand side.

Song - fill in the blanks
This is pretty much explained in the name. Print of the lyrics with missing words or phrases. Have the students listen and write them in, or supply a word list where they can add a number into the blank space. This can easily be changed for the level of your students. Allow them to listen to the song once or twice. If they are having trouble then you can stop the song just before and after the blanks to allow them sometime to write/match.
Here's and example: Goyte & Kimbra - Someone that I used to know
Ensure you download the original after following the link. Google docs might change the format/make some things invisible.
This song is a little bit challenging, but the students do love it. I even had one teacher overhear the song being played and he came to tell me how much he liked it. A good example anyway.


  1. I am going to be a JET ALT beginning July 28th! I'm really happy to be placed in Nagasaki-ken. I can't wait to hear where I will be placed exactly. I'm going to ask my pred about classroom technology, cell phone plans, internet, rent etc.

  2. As an incoming Kiwi JET to Nagasaki I'm stoked to have come across such a helpful blog!!
    I was stressing out the other day about what kind of accommodation I'll end up with, but you've eased my mind a little on that.
    Good to see you incorporated some NZ music into your lessons. As a HUGE fan of NZ music, I'm hoping to include it in whatever activities I dream up for my students.
    I don't know if i'm being a little ignorant about the Nagasaki summer's but, I've been living in Sydney for the past couple of years so I've experienced my fair share of hot days :)

    All the best with your plans post JET.


  3. As a current ALT who just stumbled across this blog I just thought I'd pipe up and say that music in the classroom is great.
    Another thing to try is, when the grammar you are studying fits, have students use that grammar to talk about the music.
    When students get to giving reasons (I... because...) is a good time to bring out the "write a music review" activity.