Games in the Classroom – the “oldies” by sandra luna

‘Language learning is hard work… Effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time. Games help and encourage many learners to sustain their interest and work.’

in A Faraway Land, Michael Berman, UK

Children learn about the world through play. They learn while having fun and this should be taken into the classroom. Games offer an escape from the routine, the illusion of a break from the learning process, they motivate and boost learners’ confidence. Games allow students to interact, to give meaning and purpose to the language. If a game doesn’t rely solely on knowledge, if luck can play a role, then even those students who shy away from such activities might feel tempted to participate. Now, if you’re ready, let’s play.

There are a number of traditional games that can be used for ESL. I’ve mentioned Checkers before but here are a few other you can use.

Noughts and Crosses

This game does not require anything apart from paper and pens or pencils. However, if you want to make it a bit different you could create the cards, the noughts and crosses and laminate them. This way you can personalise it bit, as well as making it last for a long time.

In the picture you could see the set of cards the students were using to play the game. In this case I meant to revise the difference between simple past and present perfect, so I had different cards related to the language. In some the students would have to fill in the gaps, in other conjugate the verb, another possibility would be to choose between two given options. Student A would read the card to Student B. Student B then gave their answer within a certain time limit (usually 30 seconds). If student B got the right answer, they would be allowed to play, otherwise they would lose their turn. Student B now reads another card to student A and so on. If you have trios, you can have Student C acting as a moderator and reading each player their cards. Once one match finishes. One of the players becomes the moderator, so that Student C can then play.

IH noughts & crosses

One minute talk

Quite good to use as a warmer with adults and with exam classes. Write topics on small pieces of paper and roll them. Students take turns to take the papers. They need to speak about the topic for one minute. Alternatively you can get them to write instead of speaking.

Talk for a minute

4 corners

This is a very easy game to plan and students (both teenagers and adults) enjoy it. On 4 different cards write the following: agree, strongly agree, disagree, strongly disagree. I usually use cards of different colours to make the different opinions more visible. Place each card in a different corner in your room. Get students in the middle of the class and read out a statement. (Here are a few I’ve used before: Celebrities earn too much money, The death penalty is acceptable in some cases, War is not an option for solving international disputes, etc.) Students then need to move to the corner which best shows their opinion. After that encourage debate, allowing students to share their opinions and their reasons. I also allow them to move to a different corner if they change their mind somewhere along the line. It means someone else had strong arguments.

4 corners

Board Games

The internet is full of free resources where you can find board games for most topics, age range and levels. A favourite of mine is Leave a comment and tell us about yours.