Easy and Interactive Classroom Activities and Games

Posted on October 5, 2012 by

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With the start of a new semester and new semester resolutions hanging over our heads, self-promises to be a better teacher, to be more exciting, to captive those little children’s minds and win them over so that they love English with our ever more exciting lesson plans, it can become a bit daunting to think of how exactly to do so. It is my hope to share some of the review games and activities I have used, and more importantly to receive feedback and have others share their ideas that I myself can use in the classroom as well. The activities explained below can be used with children who have very little knowledge of English, are fairly easy to explain to co-teachers and students, and most importantly only require materials commonly found in a classroom, such as: paper, chalk, or chairs.

Run and Touch the Colors

Objective:

Listening exercise and review specific vocabulary (colors)

Materials:

A variety of colors in the classroom

How to Play:

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but yes, you can place objects, colored paper, or just use the colors that are already in place in the classroom, then say a color and have the children race to be the first one to touch the color. My first and second graders loved this. As always you can play for points, and have the students practice saying the numbers of their points.

Advanced:

Say a color and an object, for example, “A blue bag.”

I Spy with My Little Eye

Objective:

Listening and speaking exercise, and specific vocabulary review (colors and classroom objects)

Materials:

A variety of colors in the classroom

How to Play:

I substitute “I see something” in order to keep the vocabulary simple, but like in the game from long road trips when I was little say, “ I see something BLUE” and have the children find something blue, or say what the object is in order to use vocabulary. Don’t be afraid of having the students lead the game after they understand, so they can have more practice speaking. It helps to write “I see something ____” on the board particularly if the students are leading the game.

Modified Duck, Duck, Goose

Objective:

Listening and speaking exercise, and specific vocabulary review (verbs and or the present continuous [the “ing” form])

Materials:

Individual chairs and enough for each student, or somewhere to sit, like on the grass outside.

How to Play:

Before you begin, review the targeted verbs and assign a charade motion to each verb, for example, for flying you can flap your arms.

Have the students sit in their chairs in a circle facing inward. Student 1 walks around the outside of the circle tapping each of the other students on the top of the head. When student 1 taps student 2 on the head, student 1 will say a verb, like “Fly,” and so student 2, who was sitting down, then charades flying, to show student 2 understood what student 1 said. Student 1 continues walking around the circle, tapping the other students on their head, speaking different verbs. Eventually student 1 will tap a student, for example student 3, on the head and say, “Run,” then students 1 and 3 run to the empty chair, which originally was student 1’s. Whoever does not sit down continues the game walking around the circle.

Use the “ing” or present continuous verb form depending on what you would like to review.

I Have Got

Objective:

Speaking and listening exercise, and specific phrase practice

Materials:

Individual chairs minus one less than the amount of students.

How to Play:

I actually stole the basis for this game from a getting-to-know-one-another game from orientation in Tbilisi. Place enough chairs for everyone minus one in an inward facing circle. IF there are 6 students then there should be 5 chairs. The chairs ought to be spaced out with maybe a two or three meter diameter. Student 1, who is chairless, will stand in the middle of the circle of chairs. Student 1 will say, “I have got a DOG,” and all the students who have a dog, have to stand up and find a new chair. The students who do not have a dog, do not have to change chairs. The student who is still standing without a chair, will then become the speaker, and say, “I have got a ____.” You can use a variety of vocabulary including, colors and objects, like, “I have got a BLACK BAG,” “I have got BLUE EYES,” and so forth.

Be careful of students who do not listen and will simply run to change chairs no matter what the speaker says. To test for this I like to say obscure things, like, “I have got a BOAT,” or something that many students do not have like, “I have got a PINK BAG.” This activity is great for checking their listening comprehension, so it is important that they understand that they only change chairs if they have the thing that the speaker says.

Airplane Darts

Games with paper airplanes have always been a favorite of my students. I have used variances of these games for students who were learning English for the first time to advanced students. Paper airplane games are great because they only require a piece of paper and classroom objects.

Also, you can teach students how to make a paper airplane, and in doing so teach them words like “first,” “second,” “then,” “next,” “finally,” “fold,” and “half.” If you need a reminder on how to make a paper airplane just look up “dart paper airplane” online and you should find some instructions. I find that this specific type works well.

Objective:

Reviewing numbers or motivating students to learn higher numbers

Materials:

Paper, chalk, and a chalkboard

How to Play:

Draw a target on the board assigning points to each section depending on how high you want the numbers to go. After a student or team hits the target, they must speak the amount of points they earned and then their total amount of points after adding the new points to their total.

Classroom Objects as Targets

Objective:

Speaking and listening exercise, and specific vocabulary review

Materials:

Paper for a paper airplane

How to Play:

Assign points to classroom objects, and then tell student 1 where to throw the paper airplane. If the student hits the target then the student or the student’s team receives the points.

Prep Plane

Objective:

Speaking and listening exercise, and practice with prepositions

Materials:

Paper for a paper airplane

How to Play:

Tell student 1 to throw the paper airplane either on, in, or under a classroom object (or use other prepositions depending on what they know). For example, “Throw the airplane under the desk.” You can then have student 1 tell student 2, or team 2, where to throw the paper airplane, so that the students are also practicing speaking.

If you have a small amount of students you can even have each student have a plane and have them compete to be the quickest to throw. I was able to motivate students to respond faster rather than hesitating for so long because of this.

Blackboard Tic-Tac-Toe

Objective:

Speaking and reading exercise

Materials:

Paper for a paper airplane or a light weight ball, a blackboard, and chalk

How to Play:

Draw a Tic-Tac-Toe grid on the board either 3 by 3 or 4 by 4, then write vocabulary words, questions, or even phrases in the boxes. After a student, or team, throws the paper airplane and hits a square, they must say whatever is written in this box. Be as strict as you want, but if they do not say it correctly or cannot say it, then it is student 2’s or team 2’s turn (or give the box to student 2 if this student is able to read the word). Of course, standard Tic-Tac-Toe rules where three in a row or four in a row wins.

Word Chain

Objective:

Writing or speaking exercise, and general vocabulary review

Materials:

If spoken there are no materials; if written just a piece of paper or a chalk board

How to Play:

Assign a first word, like “Apple,” then student 1 must say or write a word that begins with the same letter as the last letter in the previous word. For example, the first word was “Apple,” so the second word could be, “Eat,” the third, “Two,” and so on.

Even lower level students can be quick to catch on to this if the teacher is writing the words on the board and the students are collectively working together. After they understand, you can have them come up and individually write on the board, or they can work in pairs or groups taking turns writing their word chain on a piece of paper. Of course they are not allowed to repeat previously used words, and you can decide whether names or numbers are allowed. This also works well as a quick warm-up in the classroom or when tutoring.

For my advanced students we sit in a circle and go around the circle speaking. Each student only has ten seconds to say a word, so the game moves fast, and since they cannot repeat words they must be creative and use more difficult vocabulary. They even began adapting strategies to say words that end in more difficult letters like, “box,” in order to eliminate their fellow classmates from the game. I usually play this game where each student is allowed 3 lives. They lose a “life” if they repeat a word or they cannot answer within the 10 second allotted time.

3 of a Kind

This game will probably only work for advanced students, but after a bit of practice my students who have played it really enjoyed playing this game. It might be best for the students to work collectively at first, and then in teams or pairs competing against one another.

Objective:

Writing exercise and general vocabulary review

Materials:

A blackboard and chalk or paper

How to Play:

The teacher assigns a letter and a number, and the students must write 3 words that both begin with the assigned letter and has the same amount of letters as the assigned number. For example, if the teacher writes “D4,” then the students could write, “Down,” “Dogs,” and “Dive,” because each of these words start with the letter “D,” and are 4 letters long. Conjugating verbs and plurals are allowed and will help the students think of more answers.

You can also have a bonus round or a tie breaker round where students write as many words as possible that start with a particular letter within 1 minute.

Descriptions

Objective:

Listening and speaking exercise, as well as practice with adjectives and descriptive phrases

Materials:

Enough paper for each student and a pencil is preferred.

How to Play:

The teacher or student 1 describes a student in the class, a person at school, or for advanced students even cartoon characters or famous people. For example, the speaker says, “She has long black hair,” and the students will draw long black hair, and then the speaker will keep describing the person until the students finish the drawing and can guess who it is. Or if you prefer you can do this without drawing.

Students are often timid about doing so, since it can be difficult, but if possible, have a student become the speaker.

Charades

Certainly we have all done this in our ESL classrooms simply just trying to communicate, but of course, we can use it as a game, and have students do the charades themselves to make it more fun for them.

Objective:

Speaking exercise, and specific or general vocabulary review

Materials:

Yourself and students!

How to Play:

Pick a vocabulary word and do your best to mimic what the word is without speaking. Assign teams or play collectively as a class.

Advanced:

This is not difficult, but explaining it may be. Have the students stand in a line facing the back of one another’s head. Student 1, who is in the back of the line, turns around to face the teacher. The teacher assigns student 1 a word to charade. Student 1 then taps student 2 on the shoulder. Student 2 turns around to face student 1 and student 1 charades the assigned word. When student 2 thinks s/he understands, student 2 turns around and charades to student 3. The students continue this until the last student guesses what the assigned word was. This can be more fun, because the majority of the students charade each word.

Hangman (of course)

What ESL classroom would be complete without the occasional game of Hangman? I’m sure most everyone is familiar, but here is a description just in case. Also, if you are familiar skip to the hint at the very bottom, this might be useful if it is your first time using Hangman in the classroom.

Objective:

Writing and speaking exercise, and specific or general vocabulary review

Materials:

Paper and pen, or chalk and a chalkboard

How to Play:

Student 1 is assigned a vocabulary word or chooses one. If the word is “Cat,” then student 1 draws 3 consecutive underscores, one for each letter of the word, like this: _ _ _.  Students guess letters of the alphabet. If the letter is not in the chosen word, then draw part of the figure of a stick figure that is being hung by a rope. If the drawing of the hung man is completed then the students lose, but if the students guess the word correctly before this, then they win.

Hint:

If you want to review specific words then have the student who is writing choose from a list or word bank of these words. If you are just playing for general review, still have the student write down the word in a notebook that is hidden from the other students, so you can check for spelling mistakes, or so you know what the word is in case the student accidentally says that the word does not contain the letter “A” when it in fact does. This also helps to prevent cheating.

Also keep in mind that the sound for “ae” in Georgian is commonly represented by the letter “e” in the Roman alphabet, but of course they should say, “ae” to refer to the letter “A.” If their vocabulary is very low, then they might just be guessing words instead of letters, because they know the word must be one of the few words they know that has three letters. To prevent this you can choose less popular words (not “cat” or “car”), and use “How,” “two,” or longer words.

One last comment, you can mention that the students should guess for vowels at first, and a little trivia: the letter “e” is the most common letter in the English language.

That is all for this time, but I hope a couple of these can be used effectively in your classrooms and please don’t forget to share your own ideas or modifications with me by leaving a comment. Enjoy the new semester!