Friday, July 15, 2005

games and activities

by Jonathan Chandler and Mark Stone

Make a Word Box for each class at the beginning of the course. This box will fill up with new lexical items that occur in that class and provide you with a valuable resource. Explain to your students that the box is a bank of all the words they will learn and practise. Keep this page at the back of your register or file and use these activities frequently for lexical practice.

Setting Up

Choose a cardboard box with a lid and cover it with colourful paper. It should be quite big as it will fill up very quickly!

Cut up pieces of durable card in advance. Cards can all be the same colour, or different. A new colour can be used to show when new students have come into the class, or a different colour can be used for each week. You can then choose how recent the vocabulary to be recycled should be. Colour-coding could provide a handy topic guide if the course is topic-based. Alternatively, colour-code the cards according to verbs, nouns, phrasal verbs, adverbs, etc.

What can be put in the box? Not only individual words, but also: collocations, set expressions, idioms, phrasal verbs, etc.

Extra useful information that may be marked on the cards includes: phonemic script, small drawings, opposites, (partial) synonyms, definitions, example phrases, indication of register, connotation, etc. Students should not be encouraged to put all of these on the cards, but it is useful to make them aware of some of the possibilities, so that they are as imaginative as possible in their use of them.

At lower levels it can be useful to mark the stress patterns on the other side, using bubbles. This helps the student reading the word to pronounce it in recycling activities, and creates opportunities for pronunciation games.
Students enjoy being responsible for putting new words in the box. A class rota (daily/weekly) generally works well. Pair students up for this so that choosing the words for the box becomes a communicative activity in itself. The students read out new words to the class as they put them into the box at the end of the lesson.

NB Long / short activities can be done in ten minutes at the end of the lesson - the length of the activity depends on the number of turns you allow or the number of cards you use. Those marked as long need more than ten minutes.


The Hot Seat long /short
Divide the class into two teams.
One member of each team sits in the Hot Seat with their back to the board. A word is put on the board and each team has to get their team member to say the word by eliciting it, e.g. without using mime. The first team to get the word gains a point. Change the 'guessers' after every three words. [A very lively game.]

Word Stacks 1 long
In small groups each person has, for example, eight cards. If necessary, a student checks with the teacher or past notes what the words mean. He/she then elicits the word from the group either with an explanation or a synonym/antonym, etc. The student who first gets the word keeps the card. The person with the most cards is the winner.

Word Stacks 2 long / short
Each group gets a pile of, say, ten cards. Students take it in turns to take a card, then elicit it from the rest of the group. The first group to get through their stack wins. Groups can then exchange stacks and start again.

The Question and Answer Game long / short
Students have to elicit words by only asking questions (e.g. 'Who delivers letters to you in the morning?' 'How do you walk if you have hurt your leg?'). [Difficult, and more suitable for intermediate groups and above, it can be played in pairs or small groups.]

The Drawing Race long
Two or three teams. Show a word to one student from each team, who runs back to the team and has to 'draw' the word (no speaking, mime, spelling, etc.). The first team to guess the word gets a point. The team with the most points is the winner. [Generally very lively and good for encouraging the students to be more imaginative in their approach.]

The Miming Game long
The same as above, except this time the students have to 'mime' the word. No speaking.

The Shopping Game long
Students each have the same number of cards (e.g. five or ten). They then have to go round the class asking other students for the meaning of the words on the cards or for sentences that use the target words. If a student does this satisfactorily he/she then keeps the card. The student with the most cards at the end of the activity (e.g. after ten minutes) is the winner.

Matching Words long / short
Students have to take two words out of the box at random (this works best with nouns). They then have to make a comparative sentence out of the two words that they have (e.g. 'a teacher is smaller and lighter than a truck, but a truck is more useful than a teacher for carrying things').The more bizarre the comparison, the better. [Don't go on too long with this one!]

The Word Stress Game long / short
(with stress pattern on reverse of cards)In groups, students receive stacks of cards, words face up. They have to organise them into groups that share the same stress patterns. When they are satisfied, they turn the cards over to see if they are right. The group that has made the fewest mistakes wins. Groups can then swap stacks.

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