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Buckingham University PGCE/IPGCE Feb 2017
Games or game-like activities are just another example of language
tasks with a purpose, so there’s no need to belittle their value. The
unique element they offer, however, is a degree of amusement or
competition which adds an edge, an extra source of motivation.
After learning and practising new vocabulary or structures, students
have the opportunity to use the TL in a non-stressful, purposeful way.
While playing games, the students' attention is on the message, less on
the form of the language. Meaningful activity helps embed memory.
Battleships with a twist
Suppose you are working on the past (preterite) tense with a grid made
up of pronouns down the left and infinitives along the top. Normally
you would get students to just give the pronoun and verb, e.g. in
German “du hast getanzt” (you danced). Instead, you can require them
to add an extra element to the verb, so a student might say “du hast
mit deinem Freund getanzt”.
Then ask students to make up sentences with a verb + two extra
elements, e.g. “du hast gestern mit deinem Freund getanzt”. In this
case an important aspect of German word order (time/manner/place
of adverbs) is practised. Later get them to add another element to their
sentences, e.g. make the sentences negative.
Mental maths bingo
Instead of reading out a number, give classes a simple mental
arithmetic sum to solve which leads to a number which may be on their
card. You’ll need to teach them simple terms like plus, minus, multiplied
by and divided by.
The advantage of this variation is that it provides more mental
challenge. The downside is that students don't make the immediate
link between the numbers you read and the number on their card. You
might also need quite a quick-thinking class to do it.
Number sequence bingo
Instead of just reading a number, read simple sequences of numbers
and students have to work out what the next number would have
been. You can make this as simple or as hard as you want, depending
on the class. e.g. 1,2,3,4 ___ . Or 64,32,16 __. You can cater for any
number easily, e.g. 5,4,3,2 __.
Students get to hear a lot of numbers, so you’re maximising the input.
The minor downside is that, as in mental maths bingo, students don’t
immediately match the number they hear to the one on their card.
Number in a sentence bingo
In this variation, instead of reading out a number, you read a sentence
containing the number, e.g. in Spanish Hay treinta alumnos en la clase
(There are thirty students in the class). This offers a greater level of
challenge and is an opportunity to provide input at sentence level,
allowing students to hear the numbers in context.
Some classes may find it too hard and you may need to do a bit of
thinking beforehand about the nature of the sentences which are
feasible. You can match the sentences to your current topic.
University Challenge. The class is divided into two or more groups of
about 4 students. You need to prepare at least a hundred general
knowledge questions grouped by theme, all relating to the TL culture,
e.g. food, history, art, cultural icons, geography, music and language.
Ask a starter question for 10 points and the first team to answer
correctly on the buzzer gets the right to answer three more follow-up
questions on the same topic. If a student incorrectly answers before
the question is finished they lose 5 points and the question passes over
to a member of the opposing team. Conferring is allowed between
team members for the follow-up questions.
The Price is Right
Prepare by making a PowerPoint presentation with about 20 different items
you’ve found in online stores. Keep a list of the prices. The more interesting
you can make the items from a cultural standpoint, the better. You could, of
course, choose items related to a recent topic you’ve been working on.
Invite four students up at a time, describe the item they see displayed,
tailoring your language to the needs of the class, then ask each contestant to
name a price in euros. The student closest to the real price gets to stay up for
the next round. An alternative twist would be to display three items at once,
describe them, then give a price for one of the three. The contestants have
to identify the correct item. To make sure all the class is involved you can get
them to write down their own guesses on a mini-whiteboard.
How well do you know each other?
• For intermediate to advanced level. A good way of practising question forms. Get
two students to volunteer to be the couple and send them out of the room for 5-
10 minutes to find out as much as possible about each other. It helps if the pair
are already friends. While they are outside preparing, you revise question forms
with the rest of the class and write up some model questions on the board which
the class can refer to. Questions will be in the third person, e.g. What is her
favourite colour? Where did she go on holiday last summer? What’s her favourite
sport? Who is her favourite movie actor?
• The “married couple” come in one by one to be interrogated by the class. The
winner is the one who gets the most correct answers. Note: although at any one
moment only one student will be speaking, the whole class will be listening to
what you and the other class members say. So this is an excellent listening activity
This is for intermediate to advanced level. Pair up students and give them a sheet
of A3 paper each. Begin by calling out a category (e.g. the name of a town in the TL
country) and giving the students a minute to write down as many words as they can
from that category. Do another four categories, e.g. animals, means of transport,
furniture and famous people from the history of the country. Don’t tell the
students what will follow; leave them wondering what’s going on. You can then
elicit some brief feedback from pairs. What words did you find?
Next, tell them that they have 15 minutes to write a brief story which incorporates
all the words they wrote down. Tell them the story can be as weird as they like, but
they should try to be as grammatically accurate as possible. Explain that when the
15 minutes is up, you’ll ask pairs at random to read their story aloud (this should
add some urgency to the task). When the 15 minutes have elapsed invite a
selection of pairs to read their story aloud.
This is a popular and useful error correction game which can be used
with all levels. Students bid for the right to say whether a sentence is
right or wrong and/or correct it, doubling the money they bid if they’re
right and losing that money if they’re wrong. One approach is to split
the class into two teams and give each team a sum of money, say 1
Then display a sentence which is either correct or contains one or more
errors. You could even make them up as you go along if you think the
teams are winning or losing too much money and depending on your
class’s ability to spot errors. One member of each team volunteers to
place their bet while someone keeps a tally of the gains and losses.
1. Vocabulary mimes
Students mime a word they choose or are given, without speaking or using sound
effects, until their partners say exactly that word. This works particularly well for
adjectives, adverbs, action verbs and idiomatic phrases such as body part idioms:
My head aches, etc.
2. Sentence mimes
This is similar to vocabulary mimes, but students have to mime and guess whole
sentences, e.g. The lion jumped over the chair. These sentences can be given by
you, taken from a textbook exercise or text, written by the person or group that is
going to mime, or written by another group as a challenge.
3. Imperfect tense mimes
Students mime actions to each other in pairs. While one partner is miming their
partner says Stop! and then explains to them what they were in the process of
doing. The imperfect tense is required to give the explanation, e.g. you were
making a cup of tea, you were watching a scary movie or you were brushing your
Call My Bluff
An advanced level game played with a panel of three versus the rest of the
class. For each round the panel in turn reads a different definition of an
unusual word selected by the teacher. Only one definition is correct, the
other two are bluffs. After each panellist has read out their definition
students choose what they believe to be the correct definition. The class may
ask questions to each panellist to see how well they can improvise around
their definition. Do they sound convincing or not? Brief the panellists in
advance to be inventive. You need this activity to be more than just reading
aloud and listening.
Provide each panellist with a card showing the words TRUE and FALSE in TL
to hold up when the class has finally voted for the correct answer. The class
collects points for correct guesses. The panel can remain the same for each
round or be rotated.