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.

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.

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


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.

Halloween True/False Quiz

My advanced high school students are jealous that my younger classes get to have Halloween parties while they still have to study. This is a nice way to include older students in the Halloween fun!

How much do your students know about Halloween? Find out by asking your class a short true and false quiz about Halloween customs. Have students discuss each question in groups and agree on the answer. After the quiz, check the answers as a class and give prizes to the groups that scored highest! For added educational value, let the quiz lead into a discussion of what activities they’d be interested in doing for Halloween, and what kinds of pranks they could think of to play on their friends.

Here are some statements you might consider using:

  • Halloween started in America. FALSE – Halloween traces its history back to Ireland.
  • Halloween used to be a New Year’s celebration. TRUE – The Irish celebrated New Year’s on November 1st.
  • Halloween is about 500 years old. FALSE – Halloween has been celebrated more than a thousand years – some say closer to two thousand.
  • People used to dress up for Halloween to avoid real ghosts. TRUE – People believed real ghosts walked the earth on Halloween, the night before the New Year, and they wore a costume so the ghosts would think they were also dead and not bother them.
  • The traditional colors of Halloween are orange, yellow, and black. FALSE – no yellow, just orange and black.
  • Nowadays, Halloween is only for children. Teenagers and adults never dress up or celebrate Halloween unless they work with children. FALSE – many teenagers and adults like to wear costumes for Halloween, although trick-or-treating is only for children.
  • On Halloween, children knock on doors and say “trick or treat”. Their neighbors give them candy, money, fruit, or cakes. FALSE – usually it’s just candy, although some people also raise money for charity. Fruit and cakes aren’t popular because people are worried about poison.
  • Children go trick-or-treating right after school, so everyone can admire their costumes in daylight. FALSE – Trick or treating is usually held after dark.
  • People carve pumpkins and put them outside their houses for Halloween. TRUE – Nowadays, people use pumpkins as a signal to trick-or-treaters. If there is no pumpkin or no light inside the pumpkin, then the family inside is not celebrating Halloween and trick-or-treaters should not knock at the door.
  • If you don’t give candy to trick-or-treaters, they will play a trick on you. TRUE (sort of) – Most children don’t play tricks, but teenagers often wander around neighborhoods on Halloween playing tricks on people who refuse to give them candy. Popular tricks include ringing the doorbell and running away, putting toilet paper around the house or car, throwing eggs, and scaring people.
  • Many people decorate their houses for Halloween. TRUE – some people go all out, with moving decorations that play music, or that jump out and scare people. Popular decorations include ghosts, spiderwebs, bats, witches, tombstones, scarecrows, and pumpkins.


This is a fun game for reviewing sight words or vocabulary in a younger class, but you can adapt it for older advanced classes as well.

A simple grid, with the solution filled in - this is the teacher's copy. If you're good at drawing, you could use pictures instead of words in a pre-reading class.

A simple grid, with the solution filled in – this is the teacher’s copy. If you’re good at drawing, you could use pictures instead of words in a pre-reading class.

Before class, prepare a chart of vocabulary words, which you won’t show to the students. Each vocab word appears in the chart twice (which means that the chart can’t be 5×5 – there has to be an even number of squares). Draw an empty version of this chart on the board, with just the gridlines showing.

Draw this on the board - this is all the students see.

Draw this on the board – this is all the students see.

Divide the class into two teams. One student from each team comes to the front and does Rock-Paper-Scissors (Paper Scissors Stone, here in Taiwan) to determine who plays first. I make the loser ask the winner a review question as well, before they play. (You could also ask both students a review question, and let the student who answers faster go first.)
The first student chooses two squares. The teacher writes the words into those squares. (Don’t just tell the student the word – make them read it!) If the squares contain the same vocab word, the student’s team earns one point. If the words don’t match, the teacher erases them and no points are given. (Give all students a moment to read and remember the word before erasing.) After the winner plays, the loser gets a turn, too. Continue playing until all the words are matched.

Team A went first and got lucky - their first guess matched. Team B wasn't so lucky - now the teacher erases "horse" and "monkey" and students have to remember what words appeared in which spaces in the grid.

Team A went first and got lucky – their first guess matched. Team B wasn’t so lucky – now the teacher erases “horse” and “monkey” and students have to remember what words appeared in which spaces in the grid.

Extra challenge – the team has to define the word, or use it in a sentence, in order to earn their point for the word.
Advanced version – instead of having two words that are the same, the grid can contain synonyms or antonyms, or words plus definitions.
Basic version – For students who don’t read yet, you can play this game with quick drawings instead of written words – this would work for foods, animals, and colors. You could also use flash cards, stuck facing the board, to play.

An intermediate version, matching opposites instead of exact words.

An intermediate version, matching opposites instead of exact words.

An advanced version, in which students match definitions with vocabulary words. And yes, they have to use it in a sentence to get credit for the word!

An advanced version, in which students match definitions with vocabulary words. And yes, they have to use it in a sentence to get credit for the word!


Crazy Photo Story

A great way for intermediate to advanced students to practice their speaking or writing.

Before class, gather a variety of strange or unusual photos. (If you can get them blown up to a larger size, that’d be helpful so all students can see without passing them around.) The pictures could be your own vacation shots, or strange things you’ve found on the internet.

(Edited to add: some great photo series like these might be fun!)

Hand out the pictures so that each student (or pair/group) gets one. The students have to think of a story that explains why this situation is taking place. Have the students brainstorm for a few minutes, then tell their story to the class.

After the stories have been told orally, give the students a homework assignment to write a short story or essay somehow related to their picture. Display the pictures and stories around the classroom for all to enjoy.

Variation: Have one student come to the front to start telling a story about his or her picture. After a few sentences, have them sit down and invite a new student to come up, continuing the story but adding in something from their picture. Let the story get more and more ridiculous as more students contribute to it.