February 15

Games for adult learners – Word Ladders

Word Ladders are fun for any age and they’re easy to play with minimal preparation from the teacher.  On the board, draw two ‘ladders’ with an equal number of rungs on each.  Divide the class into two teams and set them playing.   If you have a large group and enough space on the board, you could draw more ladders.  I always say that learners can help their teammates and keep an eye on the game so you can rub words off if they’re spelt incorrectly or if the other team has already written it first.  Here are some ideas of variations on the game, which you can combine to make the game more challenging:

Going up

In one of the simplest versions of the game, learners start with a word with three letters at the bottom, then on the next rung write a word with four, then five, and so on until they reach the top of their ladder.

Going up with a topic

To add a bit of challenge, you could give the learners a specific topic for the ladder; for example, if the topic was adjectives, they might write fat – thin – happy – strong – serious – exciting – fantastic.  Or for animals, it could be cat – frog – snake – rabbit – leopard – elephant – crocodile.

Last letter, first

In this version, as learners move up the ladder, the word must start with the last letter of the word on the rung below – this gets trickier when combined with Going up.  So you may end up with cat – take – eaten – notice – easiest – terrible – everybody (lots of es in that round!).  And even more so if you add in a topic! 

 

 

 

February 9

Indiana Jones and the Vocab Competition

In Macmillan’s Footprints series, there are always pages for cross-curricular learning and whilst the topics themselves are often interesting, they are frequently explored through an extended text with comprehension questions, which can be less than inspiring for our learners.  The subject for this unit in Footprints 5 was History and as the unit was on “Treasure Hunters”, the topic was archaeologists, with a photo of Indiana Jones (unfortunately from the fourth film which was fairly atrocious!).

I wanted to engage the learners in the topic and also to use a clip from a film as I don’t often use videos with these two groups.  We started with a quick game of Hangman to spell out Indiana Jones and then discussed what the learners knew about him – this surprised me as in the second group of 10, only one of them had ever heard of him and seen one of his films!  In the first group, the learners were more able to produce sentences about him and it gave one of the quieter learners a moment to shine as he was more familiar with the films than others.

We then watched this short clip and I asked them to write down as many objects as they could see in pairs.  We watched the same clip again and wrote down verbs and then a third time, writing adjectives.

The learners then competed against each other for points: an object was worth 1 point; a verb, 2 and an adjective, 3.  Plus, if they chose a word which no other team had, they won double points for it.

Unfortunately we then ran out of time, but if I had had more time, I would have asked the teams to write sentences using all the vocabulary we had boarded to retell the story from the clip.

 

November 1

Circle vocab

I’m not a fan of games where people get eliminated – both in terms of the group dynamic and linguistic production.  Here’s a quick five-minute filler which will hopefully ensure learners avoid elimination.

Everyone stands in a circle and the lexical topic is chosen, for example food.  Go round in a circle naming food; if somebody repeats or takes too long to think, they go down on one knee. If they forget again, they go down on the other knee – as I use this game just in the last minutes of class, it’s always been time to go before anyone has actually got to that stage.  Another option could be that if someone is down on one knee and provides a correct answer, they can stand up again.

August 20

Word Formation

I did a fun activity with the B2 group today – a game taken from Straightforward Upper-Intermediate which practises word formation.

Each group of two or three students has a question board and there is a questionmaster who has the answer sheet.  The object of the game is to get for boxes in a row (horizontally, vertically or diagonally).  Learners choose a square and must produce the correct form of the word given; if they’re correct, they win the square and can colour it in.

Use of English activities can sometimes be a little dry and although this has the disadvantage of not showing the word in context (which goes a long way to helping identify the form of the word needed in the exam), it does make for an enjoyable, competitive way to practise this skill.

February 28

Flashcard Games

I was feeling a bit uninspired the other day before my S2 and S3 classes (6 and 7 year olds)…I could feel that the learners, especially in the S2 class, were getting a little tired of the same old revision activities with flashcards.  So I went through to Chris‘ class and started thinking about games I’d done in the past to review lexis and then asked him for some more ideas.  This is the list we came up with in a couple of minutes…

Secret Code: put three flashcards on the board facedown and tell the class which lexical set each one comes from.  Learners then guess the code.  With VYLs, I do it like this; with YLs you can give them ticks when they guess one or two correctly…but not say which word was correct.  A disadvantage to this game is that it doesn’t encourage or really allow space for BIG language, just single lexical items.

Board Slap: I still haven’t invested in fly swatters, although I see a number of my colleagues have.  There are a number of varieties for Vocabulary Slaps – again though I feel it doesn’t provide learners with the opportunity for BIG language.

SharkShark: This is actually a favourite in most of my classes…with each incorrect guess the man drops down a step.  Will the class guess the word and save him?  (Although there are groups who actually lose on purpose so the poor chap gets eaten! )

Teacher, stop!: In this activity the teacher shuffles through the flashcards facedown until one learner says, “Teacher, stop!” and then asks, “Have you got…?”  This activity could easily be adapted to allow for a greater range of language.  For example, when working with animals learners could ask a question about the animal such as “Has it got four legs?” or “Does it live in the jungle?”

On your head: VYLs especially like this activity because it shows that they know the vocabulary better than the teacher!  Shuffle through the cards then hold one up (above your head) and make a sentence about it…at the most basic lvel this would be, “It’s a pencil.” The learners then respond either with “Yes, it is” or “Yes, you’re right” or, as is more commonly the case, “No, it isn’t” with varying amounts of laughter followed by a correct sentence about the flashcard.

Describing: Another activity which works better with some lexical sets than others – choose one flashcard and describe it; learners guess what it is from the description.

Circle Drill: Although we often associate drills with phonology, they can be useful with flashcards to help learners remember less frequent or more complex lexis.  Choose the flashcards which learners are having most difficulty remembering and then pass them round in a circle, ensuring the learner says the word as they have the card.  To add a bit of mayhem, have a number of cards going in opposite directions.

Pasapalabra: An activity adapted from a Spanish TV show, both classes really enjoyed playing this on Thursday.  Choose 8-10 flashcards from different lexical sets and then put them in a pile facedown.  This is an individual activity, but it’s important for the others in the group to be attentive as it’s being played.  Choose which learner is going first and hold up the first flashcard; if they say the correct word, move on to the next and so on.  If they say the wrong word, play passes to the next learner and you start from the beginning.  Again, this is good for discrete items.

With all the activities above, after modelling how it is played, a learner can become “Question Master” with guidance from the teacher.

Target: Stick four flashcards to the board, one in each corner.  The first learner makes a sentence about one of the flashcards and if their sentence is correct, they try to hit the flashcard with a ball.  If they hit it, they win the card and play passes to the next learner.  This activity encourages learners to move beyond single words and becomes even more demanding if learners aren’t allowed to repeat the same sentence throughout the game.

This last activity can be adapted to play with higher levels and is especially useful for learners preparing for Cambridge PET in which they have to describe a photo.  For each flashcard, learner must introduce their sentence describing the location of the flashcard on the board.  For example, “In the bottom left there’s a camel.”