Giant noughts and crosses

Sometimes you forget that the activities you use all the time might not be known to other teachers at all. To that end, I would like to share some of my favourite classroom games in a series of posts, and I invite you to do the same.

On to the first entry:

Giant noughts and crosses

I learnt this game (like many I will share) during an observation at IH Brno. Unfortunately I can’t remember who I was observing, so if it was you, please make yourself known!

Start by dividing the board in squares. Aim for more than 25 to give the students plenty of options later in the game.

In each square write an item of vocabulary which your class has recently studied. You could also ask the students to write these up. Your board should now look something like this:

Ready to play

Divide your class into two or three groups. Each group needs a pen and paper or a mini whiteboard if you have them. For two groups, one is noughts and one is crosses. For three, add triangles (or whatever other shape you like!)

Ask the class to choose a number between six and twelve. For example, nine. This is the minimum number of words in the sentences they must produce.

Choose one group to start (A). That group selects any word from the board. Every group (A, B and C; not just A) has two minutes to write a sentence including that vocabulary item. In this example all sentences they produce should have nine or more words.

When every group has a sentence, the group which chose the word (A) reads their sentence out. If the rest of the class think they have used the vocabulary item correctly, they can mark their nought/cross on the word. If not, the other team can try by reading out their sentence. If neither team has a correct sentence, the square is available for another turn, but they must write new sentences.

The aim of the game is to win lines of three squares, horizontally, vertically or diagonally. For every line of three, the team gets one point. At the end of the game, the winning team is the one with the highest number of points.

The game in progress

If you want to add an extra challenge, groups are only allowed to include each square in a maximum of two lines. In the photo above, that means triangles cannot use ‘rise’ in another line, circles can’t use ‘realize’ and crosses can’t reuse ‘actually’.

It is great revision, and can easily fill a two-hour lesson.

What are your favourite games? If you would like to share one as a guest post here, let me know and we can arrange it.

9 thoughts on “Giant noughts and crosses

  1. Thank you for taking this game to a more sophisticated level. I have been playing it for years with students of all ages (8 year olds to adults) as a recognition game. Students have to explain the meaing of a word or a sentence in order to make their mark on the board. When I play this when working with only one student I only make a mark when the student makes a mistake. As it is such a short game we can rapidly play quite a few in a row. When I, the teacher, no longer get a chance to make a mark becasue the student has become so good the game ends on a victorious note for all!
    Great and simple tool!


  2. What a fantastic variation on an old classic! I currently play a similar version to Naomi for irregular past participles (make a correct sentence to get the square). I also have a couple of noughts and crosses boards pre-marked with the prepositions ‘in on and at’ for time and place. Students write places or times (bank, 3rd floor, car, 11am etc) on pieces of paper and then have to match these to a square on the board. I also have boards marked with ‘+ve, -ve and ?’ where students have to practise using the auxillary (whatever tense we are studying) to make correct statements to obtain the square.

    I will definitely be trying the ‘giant’ version of one of my favourite games in my classes next week and I look forward to reading your other ideas – thank you!


    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks for the comment. Your pre-marked boards sound like a great idea. I’ll take a note of it for the next time I teach a lower level class – sounds like a great way to revise a lot of grammar basics.


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