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Halloween Concentration

Before class, make several sets of concentration cards featuring typical Halloween images: pumpkins, ghosts, black cats, witches, owls, bats, spiders, and zombies. I print them in black ink on orange card stock. If you want to use them for other games, like Go Fish, you might want to make “suits” by giving each image a happy, sad, angry, or crazy face.

At the beginning of class, teach the students the new vocabulary words for Halloween. Also teach them phrases like “It’s a pumpkin” and “This is a spider.” Then, divide the class into groups, each of which gets one set of cards.

For concentration, put one whole set of cards face-down on the desk in front of the students. Students take turns flipping over two cards. If the cards match, they keep them. If not, they return the cards to their original positions. The student with the most cards at the end wins.

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Human Buzzer Quiz

A ridiculously fun review game, if you can trust your kids not to get overexcited and hit their human buzzer a little too hard. This is also fun for a larger class. Very good for days when you have a lot of material to review, especially before a big test.

Before class, prepare a list of review questions. You’ll need a lot – two to three questions for every student in the class, if you want everyone to get a turn at the buzzer.

To set up the game, divide the class into two to six teams. Place one chair per team at the front of the class, facing the class. Two people from each team can play at a time. One person, the human buzzer, sits in the chair. The other person, the contestant, stands behind the human buzzer. The buzzer’s role is to make a noise indicating that their contestant can answer the question. The contestant then answers.

When the teacher asks a question, the contestants have to push their buzzer by patting the human buzzer on the head. Then the buzzer makes a noise (bzz, honk, tweet, whatever – something unique for each team is best) to let the teacher know that the contestant is ready to answer. The contestant whose buzzer “rings” first must answer the question, and the teacher awards points for correct answers.

This would be fun enough on its own, but as the kids get excited, the human buzzers make mistakes and buzz out of turn, forget to buzz, or make the wrong team’s buzzing noise. I make the contestants answer if I hear their team’s buzz, even if it was a “misfire”. Pretty soon the whole class is giggling, and some buzzers will deliberately mess things up for their contestant. Make sure you change roles every few questions, so that each student gets to play both as a contestant and as a buzzer.

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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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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.

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King’s Chair

Before the game starts, the teacher writes up a number of vocabulary words on the white board, in columns (two columns for an easy game, up to six for a difficult game). In front of each column is a chair, facing away from the board.

The setup of the game, with the objective of reviewing words related to nutrition.

The setup of the game, in this case reviewing words related to nutrition.

To play the game, the teacher divides the class into teams. One student from each team comes to the front of the classroom. The students must race to sit in the chair in the right column. In classes of beginners, the teacher simply calls out the word and the game is one of reading or word recognition. For a more difficult game to use in advanced classes, rather than calling out the vocab word, the teacher gives a definition of the word. For example, “This is something that helps you build muscle. You can get it from eating meat or tofu.”

If your class is likely to get too rowdy with chairs, you can have them use flyswatters, squeaky hammers, or sticky balls to hit the words with instead of elbowing each other to be the first to sit in the chair.

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Categories Race

This is a fun game to play with intermediate to advanced classes to get them thinking and up out of their seats at the same time.

Before class, make a list of categories for your students. Categories could be foods, animals, drinks, types of transportation, and simple things like that. More advanced students can handle categories like “things you don’t want to see when you look under the bed”, “ways to kill someone”, and “bad excuses for not doing your English homework”.

To play, divide the class into teams. Each team has a space to write on the board, with numbers from one to six (or ten, if the team has enough members and you want to challenge them). The rules are that students must write as many words or phrases as they can that fit into the category provided. Each round ends when the first team has filled out all six (or ten) blanks with answers. Score one point for acceptable answers, and you can choose to give half points for iffy ones or put the answers up to a class vote.

A sample categories race that my class did. You can see some confusion about what finger foods are - a couple of students thought they were foods you could dip your fingers into. Also, the whole class argued that ham was better eaten with the fingers, so I gave them credit for it. And ice cream cones and bars are both held in the hand, so I accepted it reluctantly. This round was a tie.

A sample categories race that my class did. You can see some confusion about what finger foods are – a couple of students thought they were foods you could dip your fingers into. Also, the whole class argued that ham was better eaten with the fingers, so I gave them credit for it. And ice cream cones and bars are both held in the hand, so I accepted it reluctantly. This round was a tie.

For a large class, or to avoid total chaos, have students take turns running up to the board to write one word apiece for their team. In smaller classes, you can get away with having the whole class gathered around the board suggesting answers as one student on each team writes their team’s answers down.

A round takes only about three minutes in an active class, including time to evaluate the answers.

Categories suggestions for advanced students:

  • Ways to kill someone
  • Things you don’t want to see under your bed
  • Foods you can eat with your fingers
  • Words that describe our teacher
  • Things you’d want in a husband
  • Parts of the body
  • Things you shouldn’t say to your mother
  • Bad excuses for not doing your English homework
  • Ways to make the class next door angry
  • Things you shouldn’t teach your little brother
  • Places to go on vacation with your friends
  • Things you can’t explain to your grandmother
  • Activities you avoid doing
  • Things people criticize or complain about
  • Things to do when you have time to kill and no smartphone
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Word Relay

Divide students into teams. Students line up in front of the board, and each team has a starting word written on the board. (A fun way to start is for each team to choose a name – Elephant versus Tiger – and the team name is the starting word.)

For game play, each student on the team has to write a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word. For example,

Elephant 

Tea 

Apple 

Easy

and so on. If this is the first time playing, make sure students understand that each word depends on the word before it – some kids get confused and think every word should start with the same letter. The game ends after a time limit (two to three minutes works well) or when one team reaches a target number of words (20, for example).

Note: I allow team members to help each other out with word suggestions or spelling, and don’t allow repeated words (including words that the other team used). A good rule to institute is that students may not shout out the spelling of a word that the student is struggling with, but have to shout out the sound of the letter that comes next instead. For example, a student is struggling with the word Mexican and has written only Mexi____. students can shout “Kuh! Kuh!” (student writes c) “Ah! Ah!” (student writes a) “Nnn! Nnn!” (student writes n).