Conceal a card or piece of paper with a word written on it from the students. Give them 3 hints as to what the word is i.e. 1. I am very big 2. I’m an animal 3. I’m gray (word=elephant). Give them a minute to shout out guesses. The student who guesses correctly first gets the point. Adapt the game according to the level.
Bring a student to the front but command them to remain absolutely silent at all times during the game. Reveal a flashcard/sentence on paper to them. They must try to silently say it to the rest of the class- who are trying to guess what it is.
Bring in a box of random objects (which students have already learnt the names of). Give the class a minute to look into the box and see what is there but they cannot write it down. Cover the box up and see how many items the students can name or write on a list.
Have students walking around the room. Randomly shout out a number between 1 and 8. Students must quickly form groups of this number. Odd students are eliminated.
The first student says a word. Then student must say a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word.
Students sit in a circle. Elect an action master. Have the first student perform a chant whilst doing the action. Go around the circle until it reaches the action master who then changes the action and passes it around.
Two students come to the front. You give them a category and say they have one minute to talk about. They must talk about the topic at the same time. After one minute ask the class or judge for yourself who kept their/your attention for the longest during the minute.
Break the ice by giving the student on the far left a plastic bottle or another item and telling them that it must be passed down the line but students can only touch it with their elbows i.e. by clenching them together to grip it. Alternatively you can have a relay race in teams.
Chase the rabbit
Students are in a circle. Pass a small ball, ‘the rabbit’. Each time a student receives the rabbit they must say a word/sentence before passing it on. After one round, introduce a bigger ball, ‘the farmer’. For the farmer they must say a different word/sentence. Have both balls passing around. You can simply do this or add a story that ‘the farmer is chasing the rabbit’ to add drama and urgency to the game.
Have the students lined up against the wall with their eyes closed and their hands held open behind their back. Walk along the line and place a small coin in the hand of one student. Tell them the coin holder must try their best to not give away their identity. Afterwards have them all turn around and get them to quickly walk around shaking each other’s hands and saying something like “hello, nice to meet you”. They can pass the coin during a handshake or use the hand without the coin in it to shake hands with other students. After 2 minutes, sit them down and tell them to hold one clenched fist out in front of them. Do a show of hands to vote on who the class thinks has the coin. The person with the most votes is eliminated regardless of whether or not they had the coin. If during the voting one student accuses another of having the coin because they gave them it, encourage the coin holder to argue back and try to bluff their way out of it. The game keeps going until the coin holder is found.
Select a category such as animals. Choose one student to start. The starter says something like ‘dogs say bark’, ‘cats say meow’ etc. If the noun matches the action the rest of the class must do the action. If the caller says something false such as ‘bears cluck’, the students who cluck are eliminated.
Give each student an empty cup. Make them stand up and balance the cup on their head upside down. Have them do actions, TPR etc. The last person to keep the cup on their head is the winner.
Divide the number of students in your class by 4 to determine how many ‘families’ you will have. For each family have cards for ‘Mr…’ ‘Mrs…’ ‘Brother…’ Sister…’.Hand out the cards in class at random and don’t let your students look at their card. When you say go all the students will go around asking the others questions to find the rest of their family. For example, if the card is Mr Smith they need to find to stand with the rest of the Smith family. This can work with many different sets of vocabulary.
Make two or more circles of eight students. Instruct them to hold right hands with the person opposite them and then hold left hands with a different person in the group. Without anyone letting go of each other’s hands they must try to untangle the human knot that is created. Walk around the room and if any group cheats disqualify them.
Stand your students in a line. Have one of them stand facing the board, at the front of the class. Instruct the rest of the class to change position in the line and quietly take one student (or even teaching assistant) out of the room. Tell the one at the front to turn around and give them 10-20 seconds to guess which person has been ‘kidnapped’.
Place a seat at the front of the room. Students take turns to see if they can last a minute sat on the chair without any of the other students making them laugh or even smile. Kids love to use English to say silly and outrageous things so let them have a good go at making funny comments 9within reason). Alternatively you can have two students sat at the front, facing each other, the first to smile or laugh loses. With this format you can set up a knockout tournament to determine who has the best poker face in the class.
Spelling test threat
This is an activity for classes whereby students are reluctant to speak. Print off some blank spelling test sheets on a day when there is no spelling test scheduled. Show them the test papers and say “I can’t decide whether to practice some speaking or do a spelling test”. Although there are classes who adore spelling tests, your comment will most likely be met with disapproving sighs. Tell them that if they can talk to you for 10 minutes about ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ instead then you won’t give them the test. Use this chance to threaten the quieter students into talking or the whole class will be faced with a spelling test which they haven’t prepared for.
Go around the class and ask for one random letter from each student. Write each letter on the board. If there isn’t a fair range of vowels, throw in a couple of letters yourself but don’t give them anything too easy to work with. Give them five minutes to try to write as many words from these letters as possible. State that you can use a letter only once unless there is more than one of them on the board, in which case they can use that amount. Give points or prizes for the students with the most words and the one with the longest word.
A-Z Vocabulary game
Choose a random letter of the alphabet. Go around in a circle and each student has 5 seconds to say a word that begins with that letter. Their words must be unique, so if another person already said it they are out. Also give a 5 second time limit on answers. The last person in the game is the winner. For higher level classes you can use categories or kinds of word i.e. verbs, nouns, adjectives etc rather than just a letter.
Actions and words
Set a category i.e. foods. Each student has a different word. Give them a minute to think of an action to accompany their word. Go around the circle and everyone says their word with the action. For a bigger class you should play it in smaller groups to give students a better chance of memorizing. After everyone has shown the actions, have them pass random words to each other. When a student performs the wrong action they are eliminated.
Tell your class the scenario that you are an alien who has just arrived on earth. You can speak a very basic level of English but you want to learn more to teach other aliens back on your own planet. Ask them about an object in the room or something in general. Start by saying “what’s this?” they will respond “it’s a pen”. Then say “what’s a pen?” They have to explain the object by talking about what you use it for, when and where to use it, where it is from etc.
Pre teach the concept of collective nouns- a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a herd of cattle etc. give the class 5 minutes to come up with crazy examples.
A student finds something that is visible in the room and says “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…” The rest of the class must guess words beginning with that letter to find the answer.
Solve the idiom
Tell your class a common idiom in English. Have them try to work out when you should use it in conversation, why and how. Explain any complex vocabulary. Let them use a thesaurus if possible.
What’s in the box?
Before class find something unpredictable, strange, humorous etc and put it in your box. Take it to class. Tell the class you have something in your box that is very special. Give them a few minutes to ask questions and try to figure out what it is. Give them short answers. Do it the following week with something different in your box to develop a sense of mystery.
Get a group of lazy, day-dreaming students out of their seat and take them through a humorous Tai Chi routine. This seems like a strange activity to do during your class but it does serve the purpose of getting focusing their attention and waking them up.