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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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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.
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Christmas Trivia Quiz

How much do your older students actually know about Christmas? Sure, they’ve been through half a dozen Christmas parties and they might even remember all the words to Jingle Bells, but do they have the faintest clue what the holiday is about? Let’s find out, shall we?

To play this game, divide the class into teams of three to five students. You can play pub-trivia style, in which teams write down their answers and check at the end, but that takes longer. For shorter game play, students can write the answers quickly, then take turns calling out their answers after a few seconds to think. The shortest way to play is to have students answer instantly, with only the first team to answer getting points. Many of the questions have more than one correct answer – depending on the level of the class, you can give points for any correct answer, or ask for a certain number of answers (name five, 1 point each, for example.)

My questions, in no particular order:

  • How do people celebrate Christmas? – exchange gifts, decorate the house, decorate a tree, go to church, write cards, open advent calendars, go caroling, …
  • What do people do on Christmas day? – open presents, go to church, eat a big meal, play games
  • What’s a traditional Christmas dinner in America/England?  – Turkey/goose/ham, stuffing, gravy, roasted/mashed potatoes, whatever else is traditional for you.
  • What might people serve for dessert at Christmas dinner?  – Christmas pudding / Christmas cake / pie / cookies?
  • What is the day before Christmas called? – Christmas Eve
  • What is the day after Christmas called (in England/Canada – not so much in the USA)? – Boxing Day
  • If someone invites you to a potluck Christmas party, what are you expected to bring with you? – A dish of food to share
  • The night before Christmas, children usually leave some food and drink for Santa. What food and drink do they leave him?  – Milk and cookies
  • What are some common Christmas decorations? – Christmas trees, stars, snowflakes, wreaths, angels, nativity sets, snowmen, Santa, reindeer, stockings…
  • What does Santa say? (What’s his catch-phrase?) – Ho ho ho!
  • What does Santa drive? – A sleigh, driven by reindeer.
  • How many reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh? – nine, but eight is also possibly correct.
  • What are the names of Santa’s reindeer? – Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner/Donder, Blitzen
  • How does Santa get into your house? – through the chimney
  • What does Santa fill with presents? – stockings (or shoes, in some countries)
  • Where does Santa live? – at the North Pole
  • Who is Santa married to? – Mrs. Claus
  • What are Santa’s helpers called? – Elves
  • Why do we celebrate Christmas? – birth of Jesus, winter solstice, eat good food, spend time with family, spirit of giving
  • Where was Jesus born? – Bethlehem, in a manger – I would accept barn as well
  • Who visited Jesus as a baby? – three wise men, angels
  • What gifts did they bring? – Frankincense, Myrrh, Gold
  • How did they find Jesus? – they followed a star (in the East)
  • Who were Jesus’s parents? – Mary and Joseph

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.
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Last Card

This game is good for reviewing old material, or for a quick warm-up at the beginning of class.

Distribute a whole deck of cards among the students so that each student has at least two cards. On the board, draw a target (I prefer it dartboard-shaped) with the card values on it. Students take turns throwing a sticky ball at the target. When they hit a card value (king, for example) any student holding one of those cards has to stand up and answer a review question. They then return that card to the teacher. If the student throwing the ball hits a card value that’s already been returned, the student throwing the ball answers the question instead. The game ends when there’s only one card value left – the four students holding that card are the winners.

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Make A Question

This is a great game for beginners just learning the grammar of how to ask questions, or for intermediate students to review question-making. Before class, prepare several sets of cards with words on them. I make about one set per four to six students, with twelve cards per set.

  • who
  • what
  • is
  • can
  • Sandy (or someone’s name)
  • holding
  • eating
  • hold
  • eat
  • a
  • hamburger
  • ball

Each team gets a blank sheet of paper and one set of cards. On the board, draw a picture of a person (Sandy, in my case) holding a ball in one hand and a hamburger (with a bite out of it) in the other hand. Give the students an example question – “Is Sandy eating a ball?” and have them make it by rearranging their word cards, and then write it on their paper. Now challenge them to make as many questions as possible from their cards.

In beginner classes, I have each team raise their hands whenever they have a completed question, and I check it for grammar before they write it down. I keep track of how many questions each team has by awarding stars or stickers for each question made.

In intermediate classes, teams write down questions as quickly as possible without consulting me. Then each team reads out their questions to the class, and we discuss whether the grammar is correct so they can earn a point. Other teams can correct any grammar mistakes to “steal” the points for the question. This takes much more time than the beginners’ way, but is more educational, I think.

I’ve also used this game in advanced classes, with more complicated pictures. At that level, the students don’t need any vocabulary cards to rearrange and can make up questions quite well on their own. You’ll get much more creative questions (Why doesn’t Sandy seem to like his hamburger? Does he like ice cream better?) but a lot more grammar mistakes.

Using the twelve word cards above, my students have made at least 20 grammatically correct, logical questions, but there are a lot more if you accept obscure questions such as “Who is eating Sandy?” or “What is a ball?” My best class got 68 unique questions, which I’ll leave as a comment.