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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 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
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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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Candy Jar Guess

This is a simple game for a class party or for lessons on counting.

Before class, fill a clear jar with candy. Show the jar to the class and ask them to guess how many candies are in the jar. Each student makes a guess (“There are 145 candies in the jar.”) and the guesses are recorded on the white board. Then the jar is opened and the class counts the candies aloud. The winner gets a prize, and the candies are shared amongst the class.

If you’re getting into really high numbers, you can divide the candies into bowls (one per table) and the students can count their bowls in groups of three or four. Then the class can add each group’s totals to find the number of candies in the jar.

Note: Wrapped candies are better for this, unless you’re using a spoon to count them!

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Memory

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!

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True False Quiz

This is a great getting-to-know-you game for a new class, and can be made simpler or more complicated depending on the students’ level.

Before class, the teacher prepares a list of ten statements about him or herself. They can be funny, obscure, unusual, or mundane statements.

A few question ideas for True False Quiz.

A few statement ideas for True False Quiz.

During class, the teacher writes statements on the board, one at a time, and asks the students to decide if the sentence is true or false. To make this an active game, the teacher can have students stand up for true and sit down for false, or point to the right for true and to the left for false. Then the teacher reveals the correct answer. All students who got it wrong must ask a follow-up question to elicit more details about the statement.

Variation: Divide students into groups of 3 or 4, and make a handout with the statements on it. Groups must discuss each statement and agree on which ones are true or false, giving reasons for their answers. Each group presents its choice and reasons before the teacher reveals the correct answer.

An answer handout for the True False Quiz

An answer handout for the True False Quiz

After you’ve played the game once using your own statements, let students prepare their own statements. I usually do this as another day’s activity, a few weeks later.

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Hangman Deluxe

A new twist on a classic last-five-minutes-of-class game!

The game is played just like regular hangman at the beginning – the teacher thinks of a word and students guess letters. For every wrong letter, the teacher (or the student leading the game) draws a body part on the board. If the teacher draws the whole body on the board, the students have lost. If the students guess the word before the body is finished, they win.

Pretty standard Hangman design - as you can see, some of my students aren't clear on what letters are most common in English! This is a seven-letter word, so I'd give 14 points for guessing it correctly.

Pretty standard Hangman design – as you can see, some of my students aren’t clear on what letters are most common in English! This is a seven-letter word, so I’d give 14 points for guessing it correctly.

(To be politically correct, you can replace the hanging theme with something else. I sometimes draw a face on the board and erase it bit by bit. Now it’s not hangman but a whole new game!)

My alternative to Hangman - erase the face. One wrong letter erases the hair, one the mouth, one the body, and so on. The kids honestly don't realize this is the same game as Hangman!

My alternative to Hangman – erase the face. One wrong letter erases the hair, one the mouth, one the body, and so on. The kids honestly don’t realize this is the same game as Hangman!

To add to the educational value of the game, after the word is guessed, the students have the chance to earn points. I have a sliding scale of point values for my students. You get 5 points for naming a synonym or antonym (opposite) of the word. You get 10 points for using the word in a sentence or defining the word in English. I also give two points per letter for guessing the complete word. I play this team by team, rather than giving points to individual students, but either way would work.

Scoring for the word Lantern.

Scoring for the word Lantern.

To keep it organized, if team A guesses the word, they get first choice of bonus points. They choose to use the word in a sentence for 10 points. Then team B gets the chance to earn bonus points by naming a synonym or antonym, or giving a definition of the word. If we’re short on time, we might guess five or six words in a row, writing the answers in the corner of the white board, and then use them in sentences etc. for bonus points at the end of the game.