Back to the board
Have a student stand at the front with their back to the board. Write a word on the board. Classmates or team have to explain the word by saying what you can do with it, where you can find it etc. This works well when having 2 teams and giving the student at the front a minute per round.
Bean bag/ball toss
Lay out flashcards on the floor. Give a student a bean bag, ball or anything else that can be thrown. Have them stand facing the wall and throw the object behind them. They must then make a sentence with the card nearest to where the bag object has landed.
Easy or hard
Have two piles of word cards faced down- an easy pile and a hard pile. Easy cards are worth 1 point, hard are worth 3. Students play in teams. They take turns to select a card and attempt to overcome the challenge of making a sentence with the word on the card, spelling the word or whatever is suitable for that particular ability group.
Give each student a piece of paper and tell them to draw a fish and cut it out. Draw two lines on either side of the room i.e. a racing track with a start and a finish line. Bring the first set of students to the starting line and have them line up their fish on the floor. Ask each student a question related to the grammar and vocabulary of the lesson. If they answer correctly they can blow or fan their textbook once to propel their fish forward. The first fish to cross the finish line wins the race.
Get a rope and a student at either side to hold it stretched out. Other students line up at one side of the rope. They must say the word on the card correctly then go under the rope without touching it. Start the rope at a reasonable height and lower it after every round. Eliminate students as the touch the rope while passing under it or fall to the floor during their attempt.
Bring a student to the board. Reveal to them a word or sentence and have them portray it by drawing it on the board. The other students attempt to guess it. Alternatively get a student form each team to draw on the board at the same time and their teammates trying to guess what the picture is.
Roll the dice
Write the numbers 1 to 6 on the board and give each number a word or sentence. Students take turns to roll the dice. They simply say the sentence or word that corresponds with the number they roll. Depending on the level you can make it more complicated. For example, you can have 1= say a past tense sentence 2= say a future tense sentence 3= spell a word the teacher says etc. Also you can allocate a certain forfeit to a number such as dance, sing, say a slightly embarrassing sentence 5 times etc. You can easily incorporate teams and points into the game.
Spin the bottle
Students sit in a circle. Spin a bottle in the middle. Whoever the top of the bottle is pointing towards has to say a piece of vocabulary, sentence, spelling etc.
Cards and forfeits
Write on the board: Ace= lose a point, 2/3/4= grammar point, 5/6/7= spell a word, 8/9/10= say 10 words (from a given category) in 30 seconds, Jack= general knowledge question, Queen= win 3 points, King= win 5 points. In turn students pick a card from the deck.
Connect the dots
Draw a square grid of 10 by 10 dots on the board. Have two teams of students. Go around the class, team 1 first then team 2 etc, asking them questions or getting them to say the grammar point and vocabulary for that lesson. If a student is correct they may come and draw one line to join two dots together. If their line completes a square, put the team’s initials in the square. The team with the most squares when all lines have been drawn are the winners.
Leading up to a test set your students the task of looking through the work book and writing what the key grammar, vocabulary etc is from the units they have done on this course. Then tell them to write a list of 10 possible questions that will appear on their speaking test. When all students are finished, put them into random pairs and have them test each other. Tell them to mark the other person out of 5 and write down any mistakes they have made.
Divide the class into teams. Draw a line on one side of the room that students must stay behind. Place a big water bottle or another item that will work about 10 feet away. Students take turns to come up and bowl a big sized ball to knock over the bottle(s). Ask them questions, get them to say vocabulary, spell a word etc in order to gain a turn.
Random head to head
Select a team captain from each team and send the captains outside the room. Whilst they are outside give each student a number to remember. If you have two teams of 10, number Team A 1-10 and Team B 1-10; including the team captains who are unaware of who is what. Bring the captains back in and get them to say a number each. The students who correspond to each number on either team come to the front and face a head to head challenge. This can include answering a question about a grammar point, completing a sentence, spelling a word, answering a quiz question (depending on the ability level and aims of the class).
Give each student a different piece of written English and instruct them to translate it into their native language on another piece of paper. When they have finished, collect the translations and hand them back out so that everyone has someone else’s work. Now ask them to translate this from their native language into English. After this, hand back the original English texts and have them analyse mistakes. This is a valuable activity to get them thinking about how to properly convert one language to another and will undoubtedly lead to mistakes which they can learn from. Alternatively you can give them a piece in their native language and get them to translate it into English. In this case have your teaching assistant mark the papers.
Write a phrase on the board such as ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’ ‘Goodbye’ etc. Give them a range of people that they should practice saying it to i.e. a person in the street, a baby, your friend who you haven’t seen for 5 years, your boss, a family member who is dying.
Wheel of fortune
Draw a pizza on the classroom floor with grammatical tasks, spelling task, win a point, lose a point etc written in each section. Students in turn come up and spin a bottle or pencil and whatever it is pointing to they must do.
Give each student a piece of paper. Have them write a problem. It can be crazy such as ‘my mother is talking to animals’ or a real life crisis. Collect the papers and shuffle them. Turn the first problem over. Have the class offer advice on how to solve the problem.
Have 2-4 different coloured balls or different throw able objects. Get the student into a circle. Assign a different question to each ball/object. Have students pass them around and ask the question related to that ball/object. The catcher must answer then throw it to someone else.
Students take turns to sit at the front of the class. The rest of them fire quick questions at them for one minute either general or related to the grammar point. Don’t allow any short answers. A point is given for each grammatically correct response. Make a scoreboard and announce the winner as the one with most points earned during their turns.
Tell the class about a scenario in which a ship is sinking. There are 5 people on the ship but the lifeboat can only carry 4. Give them a list of 5 people- celebrities and controversial figures work well. Encourage them to debate about who should be left to die. Have a vote at the end.
Teach your class the concept of similes. Give a few examples such as ‘her skin was as white as snow’, ‘my mouth is as dry as desert’. Write a list of 5 subjects on the board i.e. ‘the teacher’, ‘my house’, ‘the sun’ etc and give them 5 minutes to write similes for them. Announce whose are the best after they have all presented.
Take some sticky labels to your class. Write a noun or a person’s name etc on the labels then stick one to each student either on their forehead or on their back so that they can’t see it. Have them walking around asking each other questions to find out who they are. They can only give each other yes or no answers.
When you hear…
When you say a word your students have to shout out what they think of when they hear it.
Pre-teach the concept of the United Nations and what happens when its members have a meeting. Tell them that you will be hosting the event and you would like to discuss a number of topics (this can include war, giving money to poor people, protecting the environment or anything that could spark some debate). Each student creates an imaginary country to represent and writes some notes on their country’s policies. Chair the ‘meeting’ and get some debate going amongst your students. Ask them to explain all of their ideas in as much depth as possible.
Give each student a light-weight plastic cup. Use a desk or a long table and have the teams lined up at either side of it with their cup sitting face up on the edge. When you say go the students begin a relay race whereby they must flip the cup using their fingers to flick it from underneath. The student on the end then has to run to the board and write a sentence which follows a set grammatical structure.
Put students in small groups and give them a situation. Assign each student a role and some adjectives to go with it i.e. an angry police officer, a sad old lady.
Alphabet word race
Have your students race each other to write a word for every letter of the alphabet. You can limit their range by saying it has to be words from a certain place i.e. ‘in this room’.
Before the activity begins, get your students to think of questions to ask a potential employee and some ideas of how to sell themselves. You can assign different kind of jobs ranging from bank manager to circus clown. Put them in pairs and have them take turns to interview each other.
Give your students an opportunity to be creative by putting them into pairs and asking them to invent a sport, machine or something else. Get them to explain how it would work and why it would change the world.
Teenagers can be reluctant to perform role-plays in front of others. Rather than give them a dry dialogue to read out have them write their own role plays using specified grammar structures and vocabulary. Allow them to be a little bit crazy and creative.
Numbers and questions
Give each student a piece of paper with a number on it. Work through a series of questions, after each one call out a random number and have them answer it. This works well with bigger classes and stops students from falling asleep.
Get students into small groups. Write an amount of money on the board i.e. $1,000,000. Have them come up with ways to spend the money and develop sales pitches to argue why you should give the money to their group. When all groups have presented their pitch, allocate an imaginary amount of money to each group depending on their performance.
This gimmick can work for many different team head to head activities. A basic version is to bring a student from each team to the front of class and give them a word or phrase to use as their ‘buzzer’. Ask a question or say a word which is to be used in a sentence with a certain grammar structure and have them try to get in first with their buzzer to answer the question and win a point for their team.
Play your cards right
Line up 12 playing cards across the board ledge or on a table face down. Turn over the first card. Have students in two teams answer questions one by one. If they answer correctly they can try to guess whether the next card will be higher or lower than the previous card. If they guess correctly they get a point for their team, if not, the other team get the point.
Get students in a circle. Give one student a ball. They start by asking another student in the circle a question then throwing them the ball. The receiver answers the question the passes the ball and asks another student.
Students stand up. Say a word and then go around the room, one student says one letter. When a mistake is made that student must sit down.
Send a student form each team out of the room. Write a scrambled word on the board, bring them back in and have them race to solve it.
Spelling board race
Two teams of students in lines facing the board. Give a pen to the students at the front. Shout out a word. The first student in line writes a letter, passes it to the next student then goes to the back of the line.
Divide students into 2 equal students into teams and get them to form 2 circles either side of the room with their chairs. Students should stand on their chairs. The chairs perimeters now act as 2 large ships. Give 1 team an average size ball made of soft rubber. This team has to answer a question from any of the topics covered in class in order to throw the ball at the other team. If they catch the ball all members are safe and it’s their turn. If they don’t catch the ball they can either nominate a person to stand down or the person who doesn’t catch the ball can stand down. This person then acts as ‘an iceberg’ they should float around in the sea until someone decides to hit them with the ball so they can then join their team. However, in doing this they sacrifice a turn to have this member on their team. The aim of the game is the team with the most people standing on their chair at the end wins.
Counter frustration game
Give each student a counter piece and a sticker to write their name on the counter (to save time you could write their names on stickers/counters before class). On the floor you will make a long line of flashcards, one above the other along the length of the classroom. In line with the end of the flashcards you will draw a finish line and in line with the start of the flashcards you will draw a start line. Then you will join the 2 lines up to make a perimeter for the game to be played in. Students take turns to put their counter on the start line and flick the counter. Whichever flashcard the counter lands in line with the student has to say the word or the grammar structure correctly to keep their counter at that position or if it lands in line with a forfeit card then they do the forfeit (go back to the start or go back 3 flashcards). If the student cannot pronounce/say the word/grammar structure correctly or if they flick their counter out of the perimeters then they move their counter back to the start line where it will wait until their next turn. The student who is 1st to make their counter land on the finish line in their final flick is the winner. This is a fast pace game and lots of fun.