Effective games & activities to teach English in a foreign country | My Student Experience
I’m basing these games and activities off the lessons I taught in Spain to children aged 12-15. However, they can be applied to any age with a few tweaks!
A British party classic. This one is just an activity for a 5 minute break, or maybe at the start of the lesson to get everyone moving. I’m sure you know it, but in case you don’t; firstly take a chair away from the number of children in your class. Play music (in the language you are teaching), all the kids get up and walk round their chairs, getting faster and faster. Pause the music and wait for the class to all run and grab a chair.. the one who didn’t manage to get a seat is asked a question (I usually did a grammar question, or played Taboo – see below).
Great one for vocab. I started off by using some worksheets I found on the internet to get word/description ideas, then I freestyled-it and made my own according to my class’ abilities. One (or two) students have to describe the chosen words to their fellow classmates without using the description, for the students to guess what they are explaining.
Debates & discussions
For a small group – fluency and confidence. People love to talk about themselves, but often in a language classroom it’s just ‘describe your family’, ‘talk about your pets’. These topics are boring, and nobody actually cares that Rachael has a dog called Ross, and Phoebes favourite hobby is running. Spark conversations about stuff that is topical to the age range in your class – create debates about social media, or if religion should be taught in schools. Find out about what they are interested in and have a chat!
Who is the burglar?
Another one for listening and vocab. There are a series of cards with descriptions of people on them, divided out among everybody. The teacher creates a scenario, in which someone was robbed and clues were found of the culprit. Once the students have the clues, they can start asking each other about their characters to detect which one of them is the burglar. To make it harder, make a scenario about the character who was robbed, and have them figure two people out.
Would you rather..
A 5/10 minute lesson filler – encourages debates and more authentic English (rather than textbook English). Ask funny ‘Would you rather’ questions, go round the class or ask to the class as a whole. Let it be a free-for-all on comments, this is a good one to get them engaged in class.
Okay, we play a drinking game like this as uni, but I promise this version does NOT include alcohol. Each student asks a question to another student, the aim of the game is not to answer the question but keep going round as fast as you can. You must not answer, repeat a question or stall at your turn. Example; ‘Ross, what’s the oldest dinosaur?’ Ross: ‘Monica, how do you spell Jellyfish?’ Monica: ‘Joey, do you share your food?’.. you get the idea. If someone answers, repeats or stalls they have to answer a grammar question (for example). Great for practising question phrases and fluency.
This one is a longer project/assessment kind of jobby; writing, speaking and creating. I did app design – but basically you find out what the students are interested in (maybe it’s shops, food or video games), and give them a chance to create something within their genre and sell it. So, my students all created apps, wrote about their idea, designed a poster to ‘advertise’ their product, and then did group presentations to ‘sell’ their idea to me. By the end, they had been marked on a piece of writing, a presentation and a poster.
Good game for younger kids starting to learn grammar. Firstly, talk about a few different tenses (I would focus on about 3 or 4), write them on the board with their rules and common structures. Step 2 is to make the paper air-planes with the class, and maybe decorate them with the rules written on the board. Have the names of the tenses written on pieces of paper and dotted around the classroom. Say phrases and sentences using these tenses, and make the children fly their air-planes on the count of three to the correct corner of the classroom. You can add challenges, e.g. last person to fly or collect their air-plane has to say the next grammar example.
Finally, using music is a great way to set the tone of the class, and there are sooo many different activities you can use music for. A good warm-up activity is to tell students to stand or sit when they hear a certain word/verb/grammar structure (depending on level). There are tons of worksheets online with the lyrics of popular songs and fill-in-the-gap activities. These kind of tasks gets them thinking about the structure of lyrics they already know, helping fluency with creating new sentences in the future.
That’s all I’ve got!
I am by no means a professional teacher – I’ve never had any sort of training.. apart from being in school/college/university for the last 17 years. If I were to share one bit of summer-camp-teaching-wisdom, it would be that if the kids are bored in your class, they won’t learn, engage or behave. Compromise the boring stuff with fun stuff, and let them know that YOU know writing in a workbook is boring.
Hope you get a few ideas, and good luck wherever you may be teaching!
Comments or questions?