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Slow Motion Pictionary

I’ve been looking for games I can play with my older classes, especially my one-on-one class with a quiet teenager. This works very well at keeping the conversation flowing in full sentences during a fun vocabulary-based guessing game.

To start, one person (could be the teacher or a student – we’ll call him the artist) thinks of a word. The rest of the class has to ask questions to try to guess the word. The questions must be yes/no questions, and every time the answer is “yes” the artist can add one line to his picture. The other students continue asking questions until they can guess the word.

If your class is as obnoxious as mine, you might have to be explicit about the rule that questions must be on topic – asking “are you our teacher” or “is Kevin in our class” is not a fair way to get a free line drawn on the picture.

This was as far as the artist got before the other students guessed "tennis racket"

This was as far as the artist got before the other students guessed “tennis racket”

Example Game:

  • Jenny comes to the front of the class, flips through the textbook for ideas, and chooses a tennis racket as her picture.
  • Bob asks, “Is it an object?” It is, so Jenny draws a line.
  • Mandy asks, “Is it an animal?” It isn’t, so Jenny doesn’t add to the picture.
  • Eric asks if it can move on its own. Jenny confirms that he means that it can move if people aren’t touching it, then says no. No new lines added.
  • Tim asks if it’s small. Jenny asks how small is small. Tim rephrases the question to ask if it’s small enough to carry in one hand. Jenny says it’s small and draws another line.
  • Sarah asks if it can be seen in someone’s house. Jenny struggles to answer, then decides that yes, it is seen in people’s houses, but only when it’s not in use. She draws a third line.
  • Jason thinks he knows the answer and asks if it’s something used in sports. Jenny confirms and draws another line.
  • Jason guesses tennis racket and wins the game.
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Christmas Stocking Relay

This is just like an egg and spoon race, but Christmas themed.

Before class, prepare one bowl, one spoon and one Christmas stocking per team, as well as at least one candy per student and a few extras just in case.

To play the game, students must use the spoon to pick up a candy from the bowl, carry it across the classroom, and put it in their team’s Christmas stocking. The first team to have every student successfully put the candy in the stocking is the winner.

For fun, you can also have the students use chopsticks instead of spoons to pick up the candy.

As a variation, you can have one team sing or recite a lesson while the other team is filling the stocking. Then both teams switch, and whichever team puts more candy in their stocking is the winner. I’d award both teams their own stocking, plus the winner gets the leftovers in the bowl.

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Human Christmas Banner

A fun Christmas spelling game!

Before class, cut out construction-paper letters to spell out a Christmas phrase or message (Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Happy New Year, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, etc.).

To play, give each student a letter (or two), then have them line up to spell out their Christmas message. Take a picture of the finished product to send to their parents!

Variation A: Make two sets of letters, and have two teams race to spell out their message.

Variation B: Make two sets of different letters, assign two students a phrase each, and have them figure out who can help them spell it.

Variation C: Hide the letters around the classroom, and have students look for them before spelling the phrase.

Variation D: Hand each student a piece of paper, and assign each student a letter to write and illustrate beautifully. When they’re finished, have them make the sentence and pose for a picture.

 

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Paper Chain Sentence Making

This is a fun way to make your Christmas activities educational!

Before class, prepare strips of paper for making paper chains. On each strip, write a word. Bring several spare strips of paper to replace any that get ripped or damaged. Also, bring glue sticks or staplers to class.

Divide the students into groups of two or three, although you could have bigger groups if you don’t want to prepare so many strips of paper. Each group receives about 20 strips of paper, and has to put the words on them into grammatically correct sentences. When they’ve made a sentence, they glue or staple the strips of paper into rings and string them together in order, to make a paper chain. You can give prizes for the longest chains, the most sentences, the most creative sentences, and the prettiest chains. Use the paper chains to decorate the classroom when you’re done!

Some sentence ideas:

  • The reindeer is on the roof.
  • My stocking is in front of the fireplace.
  • I want a big, expensive present from my parents for Christmas.
  • Every year I eat lots of delicious chocolate Christmas cookies.

Pass the Present

This is a fun Christmas party activity.

Before class, prepare a small present – something from the dollar store – and wrap it in a whole bunch of layers of paper. Between each layer, place one (wrapped) candy. Make sure there are enough layers so that every student gets to unwrap the present.

During class, have the first student answer a question, then give him or her the present and have the student unwrap the first layer. Then the student asks a second student a question and pass the present. Students continue asking questions and unwrapping layers of paper until the last student gets the real prize in the middle!

Decorate the Tree

This is my game of the week in all my classes – a silly game to get them started on the Christmas spirit so we can plan our Christmas party for next week.

To prepare for the game, I took two dozen Christmas ornaments and glued or taped magnets to them. At the beginning of class, I drew two equal-sized Christmas trees on the white board, and prepared two sticky balls (with flashing lights inside, because I like sparkling lights).

To play the game, two students rock-paper-scissors (paper-scissors-stone) – loser asks the winner a review question. Then each student throws the sticky ball at the tree. Wherever on the tree the sticky ball hits, the teacher places an ornament. Once everyone has had a turn, or once one team runs out of ornaments, the game is over and the team with the best-decorated Christmas tree is the winner.

I’ve also got half a dozen variations on the game – if you have a classroom of your own, rather than ten different classrooms like I do, you could use felt trees, a velcro sticky ball, and felt or velcro decorations to make a longer-term display, playing by the same rules. Kids can wander up and move decorations around at will, which might make for chaos or break-time entertainment.

For a review game, teams can take turns throwing balls at the tree while the other team is reading or reciting material. The team with the most ornaments on the tree is the winner, and the losing team sings a Christmas carol as punishment.

For a Christmas party game, one team can sing a Christmas carol while the other team throws sticky balls at the tree. Then the teams switch.

For a ridiculously crazy party game, play hot potato by passing two or three sticky balls while singing along to Christmas carols. Whenever you stop the music, whoever’s holding a ball has to throw it at their team’s tree as fast as possible.

If you don’t want to go to the bother of preparing ornaments, you can draw them on the tree before the game, and have students race to undecorate the tree by erasing every ornament they hit with the sticky ball.

If you have more students than decorations, you can have the students throw left-handed (non-dominant-handed) or roll a dice to determine what silly way to throw (blindfolded, on one leg, over one shoulder, etc.) so as to limit the number of balls that actually hit the tree.

I didn’t do this, but it might be fun to decorate the tree with garlands as well as ornaments – each kid throws twice, and the garland’s two ends go wherever the sticky balls hit.

You can also do this game pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey-style, with kids taking turns being blindfolded, trying to place ornaments on the tree.

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Situation

This is a great short activity for an intermediate to advanced class. I use this as an ice breaker, warm up, or time killer at the end of class.

Before class, have a list of “what would you do if…” questions prepared. For example, “A dog is chasing you – what do/will/would you do?” Phrase the question according to the grammar your students are familiar with – low intermediate students can answer in simple present tense (I run away), upper intermediate in future tense (I will run away), and advanced students in conditional (I would run away). Send two students outside of the classroom, and ask the rest of the class what they’d do in a particular situation. Help them come up with a variety of creative answers that hint at but don’t spell out the situation. Bring the two missing students back in, and have them wander the room asking their classmates “What do/will/would you do?” Using the other students’ answers as clues, the two students race to guess what the situation is.

Some situation ideas include:

  • A dog is chasing you.
  • Your teacher yells at you in front of the whole class.
  • Your mother asks you to cook dinner tonight.
  • You find a wallet on the ground.
  • Your friend gets hit by a car in front of you.
  • You see a classmate steal something.
  • You can’t find your schoolbag.
  • Your friend starts smoking cigarettes.
  • You spill your drink on your clothes as you’re walking to school.
  • You win a ticket to Paris at the same time as your exams.
  • You receive two identical gifts for your birthday.
  • Your parents suggest moving to Russia next year.
  • Your friend’s fly is down and you can see their underwear.