Ah, sweet, sweet summer break.
Holy hells, I am exhausted, but my brain refuses to sleep, so I figured I’d check in with all you fine people.
Anyway, I said way back at the beginning of the semester that I’d make a list of the games I used in class to help out any other new teachers in over their heads.
*Waves to new teachers*
Warmers—Games used at the beginning of class to wake the kids up
- Blindfold: Super simple. Have one child come up and blindfold them. Then choose another student to come up and say “Hello, who am I?” They have three guesses and then you reveal.
- Dancing: You don’t even have to make up a dance. I taught my kids the Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show and they thought it was stupid/hilarious. I also taught them the Soulja Boy Dance and that took two classes. *Dancing also makes a great low key disciplinary measure. For my older kids, I gave them each three warning for speaking Chinese, after that, they had to stand up and do one of the dances.
- Poker Face: Pull a chair up to the front of the room and have one student sit. Their goal is to not laugh for one minute. Meanwhile, the other kids can make faces, sounds, tell jokes (in English) or whatever else. I didn’t let my kids touch the person sitting, but that’s totally up to you.
- Hot Seat: Again, bring a chair up to the front. This time make certain the student sitting can’t see the board. Then you write a word on the board like ‘Lion’ and the rest of the class must describe the word without saying it. The student has three guesses and then it’s someone else’s turn.
- Number/Shape Clusters: Any class you’ve done numbers in you can do this game. Have all the students stand up and then you call out a number between 1-10 (let’s say 3). The first students to make a group of three gets a point. If you’ve done shapes (circle, square, triangle) it’s a great review for that too.
- Alphabet Bodies: This can be done with partners or as individuals. Have the students stand up and then either call out a letter or write it on the board. The first person/pair to make the letter with their body(s) wins.
- Telephone/Whispers: This is an old standby, but the little kids love it, especially if you race girls vs. boys. If you don’t know, have the students make two lines. Bring the first person up and whisper a word to them and then they run back and whisper the word to the next person. The word travels down the line to the end and then the end person runs up to you and tells you the word. If it’s right, they get a point, if not, they have to redo it.
- Clap/Elimination: Really simple, X=Clap. Have the students count one at a time 1, 2, 3, X, 2, 3, X, X, 3, X, X, X. It’s like the B-I-N-G-O song. If the person messes up have them stand up and do a dance or another funny penalty and play again.
Vocabulary/Sentence Games—Games you can use in class for basic vocabulary identification or having students do controlled practice with new sentence structures. *All of these games are played with teams, I used two teams, but if you have big classes, they all work with multiple teams.
- Basketball/P.I.G.: Basketball is pretty straightforward. Have a ball and either a hoop or a small bucket for them to shoot into. I made three lines they could shoot from and based on the line they chose that was the difficulty level of the question. So a three point question I would ask them to make a sentence, a one point question they would have to identify a vocabulary card.
- P.I.G: This is a really popular game, sometimes called H.O.R.S.E. Split class into two teams and you can use the same line system as above, but this time if the student misses the shot, their team gets a letter. For the older kids I equivocated the number of letters with the line they shot from—three points=three letters. I also used vocabulary words instead of Pig or Horse.
- Ball Hop: This is by far the most versatile game I used. Get two balls and draw a line at the back of the classroom. The students hold the balls between their knees and then hop to you. First student to give you a high five wins, the second student must identify a vocabulary card.
- Variation: Same game as above, but they hop directly to the vocabulary card you or a student calls out. First one to tag it wins, the other must identify another word and becomes the next student to call out a word.
- Cowboy: Draw a line closer to the front of the room. Place flashcards at the back of the room. Students face the front and when you call out a word must race forward and touch the board/wall with their ball and then run to the back of the class and tag the proper vocabulary word.
- Hot Potato: No running in this one, but have the students make a circle. Place the flashcards in the center and introduce one or two balls. Have the students start passing the balls clockwise while you countdown from 10, 5, or 3, whatever you want. When you get to zero, say a vocabulary word and the two students with the balls have to jump forward and tag the proper card.
- Vertical: Instead of placing the flashcards horizontally in the back of the room, place them vertically and assign them point value—10, 20, 30, 40, 50—and bring up only one student at a time. Like ‘Cowboy’, draw a line close to the front of the room. As soon as you say go, begin counting down from five. The student has to run forward and touch the board before running back and tagging as many cards as they can while saying the words. Person with the most points at the end wins.
- Blocks: No ball in this one, but small foam blocks. Have students either balance the blocks on their heads or hands and either high five or tag the vocabulary card directly.
- Chopsticks: *If you’re not in a country with chopsticks, I don’t think this will be an effective game, but you might be able to use spoons.* Get two sets of chopsticks and a couple foam blocks. Set the chopsticks on top of the blocks and draw little circles around them so students put them back in the same place. This game is awesome for practicing prepositions—on, in, under, between, in front of, next to—but if you just want them to find the correct word it’s great for that two. So you give them a word and they run up and touch the card with their block while repeating the word and then they have to run back and reset their block and chopsticks. First one to reset wins.
- Castles: Get some building blocks and give each team a place at the front of the room to build their castle. I tell my students the castles must be at least three stories, otherwise they’ll try to cheat and make them one level. Once castles are done, have students either sit or line up at the back of the room depending on class size, and ask them questions. If they answer correctly, they get a ball and try to knock over the other team’s castle. You get the best castles and reactions if you don’t tell them at first you’ll be knocking them over.
- Musical Chairs: There is actually no music involved here, but I couldn’t think of a better name. Have students make a big circle with their chairs and put one in the middle. The rest of the class asks them a question and the middle student answers. Once they give a preset answer (i.e. “I’m wearing a red hat.) All the students have to get up and change chairs. Whoever doesn’t get a seat is new student in the middle.
- Connect 4/Tic Tac Toe: These games are excellent fillers. Connect 4 is just like Tic Tac Toe/Knots and Crosses but they have to match four instead of three. On the board draw sixteen squares and write in their vocabulary along with four or five penalties—again, my favorite one is dancing because the mortification never ends—and have them make sentences with whichever word they want.
- Ostrich: Draw a big circle on the floor and select two student. Each one holds a flashcard behind their back. Their goal is to see and say the other person’s card without being seen themselves. Make sure students understand before the game starts that telling their teammate the other person’s card gets them a point penalty. That includes saying it in their native language as well.
- Red Light/Green Light: Have one student stand up at the front of the class with two flashcards. One means Go, the other means Stop. Have the other students line up at the back of the class and either walk, hop, or dance when they are allowed to Go. When the card changes to Stop, they have to freeze and say the word. The first person to reach the cardholder becomes the new cardholder.
- Maze: This game is for older kids who are working with directional words. On the board draw a small maze with four or five vocabulary words scattered about. Blindfold one student and give them a pen to draw with. The rest of the team must give them directions to the specified vocabulary word.
- Pictionary: Another great game for “What is it?” or “What does s/he/it look like?” Have the students come up and draw animals or people on the board. The rest of the class asks them questions about it and the artist answers.
- Board Games: Ahhh, these are amazing. This is a catchall for any game you can draw on the floor or on the board. Get a dice and some little blocks as markers for the teams and let the kids play. They have to answer a question before they roll but they really enjoy these. I had one game I called Mountain Climb where I drew a rough mountain on the floor and made several penalties like Rock Fall, Lose Turn or detours that sent them back to start or bonus trails that got them extra points. I did a shipwreck one where they started on a boat and had to swim to shore. If they landed on a shark they lost a life. Then they had the option of being saved by a mermaid and gaining extra points or getting sucked up in a typhoon land losing their points based on what they rolled. On land they could be eaten by cannibals and lose their points and another life or they could climb a mountain and have an eagle steal their points or get lost in the jungle and lose life and points to tigers and monkeys.
- Bag Toss/Cornhole: Get a small bean bag and draw a line at the front of the room. Place the flashcards in a large triangle formation with the closest ones being the lowest points and the farthest one the highest. Students have to identify the flashcard before tossing or make a sentence with their intended word.
- King and Queen: Get about a dozen previous flashcards to add to their current lesson’s cards. This game only works with two team, any more than that and it will be a mess. Choose one person from each team and have them secretly choose one flashcard at random. These are your Kings/Queens and they sit on their ‘Thrones’ at the front of the room. They’re not allowed to show or tell anyone what card they choose. Once they put the card back shuffle them and spread them out in the back of the room. Choose another person from each team to be the card selector. Their job is to just pick up cards. Once they do, they need to ask the target question: “Is it his_____?” and then the game proceeds like Whispers with each person on the team asking someone the question until you get to the monarch at the front. They say Yes or No. If Yes, that team wins. If No, the card runner selects a new card and the game begins again. Again, make certain you tell them not to cheat in their native language before the game starts and they know everyone has to ask and answer the question. They can’t just say “Lamp” and pass the card down, they have to talk.
Phonics Games—Phonics is fucking boring for everyone. But, the kids remember more if you make a game out of it.
- Stomp/Clap: Let’s say our two sounds are /b/ and /d/. /b/=Stomp, /d/=Clap. Write a rhythm on the board like B B D B D B B. Have the students practice a couple times and then call on individuals to show off. Don’t forget to have them make the sounds.
- Kung Fu: All right, if you have a rowdy class, skip this one. Make it very clear from the beginning if they intentionally hit anyone they don’t get to play. Have them line up facing each other. Let’s keep up with our /b/ and /d/ example: /b/=Right high punch, /d/=Left high punch. Again, make up a quick little pattern: B D B D B D B B and have them say the sounds.
- Tongue Twister: My kids loved tongue twisters. “Betty Botter bought a bit of butter” was their favorite. They liked to race each other and race me. If you do this, remember, words aren’t really important, make sure they’re making the right sound. Ones my kids had problems with were /s/ and /sh/ and /r/ and differentiating the vowels.
- Chair Race: Place two chairs at the front of the room and mark one /b/ and one /d/. Have two students at the back of the room and then call out a word. Instead of running, have them skip or hop because they will not hesitate to tackle each other to get to the write chair.
- Ball Drop: At the front of the room write /b/ and /d/ in separate circles. Just like the vocabulary Ball Hop, have students but a ball between their knees. When you call out a word they have to hop to the right circle and drop the ball.
- Which Wall: Assign one side of the room /b/ and the other /d/. Have students stand in a line in the center and when you say a word, they hop to the appropriate side of the room.
- Basketball: Have two hoops or baskets, one /d/ and one /b/, choose two students to come up to the free throw line. You say a word and they choose the basket. This game is by far the most popular because you can up the difficulty level by having several point lines or by having them say a word before they shoot.
Those are the greatest hits from this semester. After next semester I’ll add whatever else I come up with. Hope this helps, happy teaching!