Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘games’

Hitting the drawing board

This is a very simple two- or three-stage activity I’ve successfully used with small classes of young learners and teens to revise both grammar and vocabulary. They love drawing on the board!

Stage one: drawing


Drawing the past simple

Divide the board into a space for each student/team.

Say a word (e.g. car, trousers) or a sentence featuring the grammar structure you want to practise (e.g. I went to the beach. I played with my brother.)

Ask the students to draw a relevant picture. They shouldn’t worry about their artistic skills, just draw anything that they feel represents the language.

Repeat, ensuring they don’t clean the board in between.

When they have about 10 pictures, stop! 🙂

Stage two: hitting


Before giving students the flyswatters, I normally give them two rules:

  1. If you hit anyone with it, we stop.
  2. They’re very cheap. If you hit the board too hard, it’ll break and we’ll have to stop. (This happened once!)

Give the students flyswatters.

Call out one of the words/sentences.

The students hit the relevant picture.

Start with them hitting their own pictures, then move them around – this can be quite challenging if other students have interpreted the language in a more abstract way!

You can also ask one of the students to be the teacher. With small groups, you replace them as the player.

Stage three: cleaning (optional)

Repeat stage two, but this time, instead of flyswatters, give the students board rubbers. They clean the relevant picture each time you say the language.

When there are only two pictures left, they have to tell you the words/sentences.


You can also use paper rolled into a tube instead of flyswatters. Stage two works well with flashcards too.

Adults would also enjoy this game.

With larger groups it could be done in teams or on paper.

Simple, minimal preparation, and lots of fun! Enjoy!

A homemade revision game

This is a very simple game which is perfect for revision, and requires almost no pre-class preparation. All you need is some small pieces of scrap paper, some kind of blutack to stick it to the table, dice for each group, and a counter for each student. The blutack is optional, but it does stop the paper from blowing away! You could use post-it notes instead, but sometimes they curl up making it easy to see the answers! It works best for revising grammar or vocabulary in closed questions.

Give a pile of pieces of paper to each pair/group of students. Ask them to go through the units of the book which you want them to revise. They should write questions for other students in the class, writing one question on each piece of paper, and write the answer on the back. They can create the questions themselves, or copy them directly from the book, along with any relevant instructions, like ‘Write the correct form of the verb.’ My students normally spend about 15-20 minutes doing this. Here are some examples from my intermediate group:

Examples of revision questions

Once you have a pile of questions, shuffle them all up (easier if you have scrap paper than post-it notes at this point!), then divide them evenly between all of the groups in the class. Each group should lay out a track of questions to create a board game, so it looks something like this:

The board game laid out

The groups then play the board game. When they roll, they should answer the question they land on. If they’re correct, they can stay there. If not, they have to go back to the question they were on at the start of the turn. The winner is the person who gets to the end first, or who is in the lead when they run out of time.

Creative students!

The board can even go up and down!

I got this idea from somebody at IH Brno, but unfortunately I can’t remember who. I use it almost every time I’m revising for a mid-year or end-of-year test, and it always prompts a lot of discussion. The group shown in these pictures even asked if we could keep playing it when I said the time was up!


I like it because as well as reminding the students of the grammar and vocabulary areas likely to appear in the test, it always prompts a lot of discussion and shows them which areas they still need to revise.


Writing bingo

I’ve got a pre-intermediate teenage class at the moment, and I’m finding it a bit difficult to engage them in class, so when this activity worked well with them the other day, I was over the moon!

It started because I was annoyed with them speaking too much Russian, so I asked them to spend five minutes writing about their last holiday to give me time to calm down/think/work out how to get them to speak more English. They couldn’t show the story to anyone else. After a bit of protesting, they did as I asked, with two students seeming to compete over who could write  the shortest story. While they were writing, I did too:

My last holiday was in Germany. I went with my friend Catherine. We visited Munich for three days, then went to the Alps. In the evenings we went to different restaurants, and one night we went to the cinema. In Munich we went sightseeing. In the Alps we visited two beautiful castles, called Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. We went everyone by train. It was very cold, but the snow was beautiful. I went to my friends’ wedding too.

After five minutes, they turned to page 17 of the New English File Pre-Intermediate Student’s Book and looked at the following questions:

Holiday questions from NEF Pre-Int SB p17


They had to add any information which they had not already included. This is what I added to my story:

We stayed at two hostels. We didn’t have any problems and we had a really good time.

For the next stage I drew a table on the board. It had all of the students’ names, plus mine.

I asked the students to think of three words they thought might be in my story and write them down. For example, ‘friend’, ‘walk’, ‘beach’. I read my story aloud, and they had to cross out any word from their list they heard. They got one point each for the words they had predicted correctly. I also got points for every word the students had correctly predicted. For example: A got 2, S got 1, R got 0, M got 1 and D got 3, so I got 7.

We repeated this around the class. Students with longer stories tended to get more points because there was more chance the predicted words would be in their stories.

Once they realised what was going on, the students were competitive, engaged, and eager to read their stories. Russian disappeared completely for the 40 minutes this activity took. For homework, I gave them the chance to improve their stories before I looked at them. Three of them did this (out of five), including one of the students who had been involved in the ‘can I write the shortest’ competition – he ended up writing over 100 words, and it was excellent.

This is definitely an exercise I will use again in future, and I hope it’s useful to you as well (if you can understand it!). 

To finish off, here’s a gratuitous picture of one of the beautiful castles:



A revision game

On Friday I created a new revision game for my students. I hope you like it too!

Collect a series of mistakes your students make throughout the week/course, for example with tenses or collocations. Or choose a set of lexis you’ve recently taught. You need about 15 things.

Write a key word prompt at the side of the board for each of the mistakes. For example, if your students always say ‘I want to make a Masters’, your prompt could be ‘do a Masters’.

Turn it into a table, like so:

Divide your class into teams of 4-5 students. I had two teams, so there were two empty columns, but if you have more, add more columns! You need one column for each team.

Each team needs a mini whiteboard, a pen and a board rubber. If you don’t have mini whiteboards, you could put a piece of paper in a plastic wallet and give the students tissues to rub out the sentences after they have scored for them.

Now that you are all set up, this is how the game goes:

  • Each team chooses a prompt from the table (they can use the prompts in any order).
  • They write a sentence using the prompt correctly. I was very strict and told my students that all punctuation had to be correct too.
  • They show the teacher the sentence. If they are the first team to use that prompt and the sentence is perfect, they get 2 points. If they are the second team to use it, they get 1 point. If there is a mistake, they don’t get any points. Instead, put a little cross in the corner of the box. They have to rub out that sentence, work on a different one, and then they can come back and try that prompt again later. (With 4 teams, give 4 points for the first team, 3 for the second and so on)
  • When one team has used all of the prompts, the game stops and the points are added up. The team with the most points wins.

They can use more than one prompt in the same sentence if they want to. Remind the students that it’s a race, and that they have to be quick to make sure that the other team(s) doesn’t beat them to all the high point scores!

This was my board at the end of a pre-intermediate class.

My board

Examples of sentences I accepted were:

  • When were you born?
  • I have lived in Newcastle for a year.
  • I like playing noughts and crosses.

Sentences I didn’t accept include:

  • Can I go home (no question mark)
  • He is a student. (not the same as on the board – I wanted to make sure they remember you can use ‘he’s’)
  • My career is teaching. (no ‘in’)

The next teacher saw the game, and asked me to explain it to her, so we played it with her upper intermediate class too.

Upper int boardIt took about half an hour to play. By making the students write a completely new sentence each time they make a mistake, instead of editing what they just wrote, they have to really focus on accuracy. The students were engaged, and really wanted to be accurate, because they knew they wouldn’t get any points if they weren’t!

I hope that all makes sense. Let me know if you have any adaptations.

Creating two PowerPoint games

Most people think that PowerPoint is just for presentations that put you to sleep. In fact, it’s a very versatile tool and fairly easy to get a lot out of, despite seeming a little scary at first glance. Here I’ll show you how to create two simple PowerPoint games.

Hidden Pictures

I made this example a while ago, and if I did it again I’d probably use #eltpics! Although it doesn’t look like much here, if you download it you can see that each time you click a box disappears, gradually revealing a picture and a word underneath. As this happens, students call out or write down what they think the picture/word are.

[To download, click ‘view on slideshare’. You may have to log in (not sure), but it’s completely free. You should then be able to click on ‘download’ above the document.]

This is great for revising vocabulary especially with young learners, who get very into it – definitely a stirrer rather than a settler! It could also be used for introducing or revising modals of speculation – as you reveal a picture, students have to guess what’s in the picture, or what the people are doing.

This is how to make  it. I’m using PowerPoint for Mac, so my screen may look a little different from yours, but the names of the menus are normally fairly similar – click on a few things and see what happens! If it really doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll add screenshots from a Windows computer.

Creating the basic template
  1. Open PowerPoint. You will normally see a title slide already in your presentation. Delete it.
  2. Add a blank slide. Insert new slide > Blank
  3. Decide how many boxes you want covering your picture – I would recommend four or six, unless the picture is quite complicated, in which case nine could work. Generally students guess quite quickly, so lower numbers are better to avoid boredom.
  4. Insert a rectangle. Shapes > rectangles then click and drag the box where you want it to appear.
    One box
  5. Copy the box using CTRL + C (CMD + C on a Mac).
  6. Paste it three, five or eight more times, using CTRL + V (CMD + V on a Mac)Four boxes stacked
  7. Click and drag the boxes so that they fill the slide.Four boxes grid
  8. As you can see, my boxes don’t quite fill the slide. This normally happens, so resize the boxes to fit or to leave space for some visible text at the bottom of the slide.
  9. If you want to, you can change the boxes so that they are different colours. This makes it easier for you and your students to see at a glance how many boxes there are and what part of the picture they cover. To do this, double-click on the box you want to change. A box should appear. Edit the ‘fill’ and the ‘line’ to the colours you want.Four boxes coloured
  10. Next you need to animate the boxes so that they will disappear. Click on the box you want to disappear first. Then click Slide Show >Custom Animation, select ‘exit animation’ and choose the style of animation you want to use. I would recommend something simple, as you don’t want it to distract from the purpose of your activity. I would also suggest using the same style of animation for all four boxes. There is normally a preview so you can see what happens with each effect.Exit animation
  11. Repeat this process for all of the boxes on your slide.Exit animations
  12. Once one slide is ready, copy and paste it a few times so that you have as many slides as you need. Multiple slides
  13. To make the slides a little less predictable, go to some of the slides and change the order of the animation so that the boxes disappear in a different order. On my version of PowerPoint, you do this by selecting the name of the shape (‘rectangle 5’ in the example below) and using the arrow keys to move it up or down the order.Animation order
  14. If you want to reuse this type of game for different purposes, save what you have now as a template so you can reuse it without having to start again from scratch.
Adding your content
  1. Choose the images you want to use in your game. I would recommend using #eltpics as you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright, as long as you credit the photographer. To find out how to download #eltpics, watch this screencast. I’m going to use the jobs set in this example. Collect the images that you want to use in one place – I normally put them on my desktop, then delete them when I’ve finished. Don’t forget to record the source!
  2. Returning to your PowerPoint, insert the first image on the first slide. Insert > Picture > From file > [your file name] It should appear on top of the boxes. Resize/move it if necessary.Farmer slide
  3. Right-click on the image, then arrange > send to back. It should now have magically disappeared behind the boxes.
    If you want to see it again, right-click on any of the coloured boxes, choose ‘send to back’ and you should see a corner of the photo. You can then right-click on the photo and choose ‘bring to front’ to see it again.Send to back
  4. Add any words you need, as well as the source of the photo in text boxes. Insert >Text box, then click and drag where you want it to appear. Farmer slide with text
  5. Right-click on the text boxes and choose  arrange > send to back again.Send to back text
  6. Repeat this process for all of your other slides, so that you now have photos and text on all of them.
  7. Preview your slideshow to check how it works. Slide show > View slide show You might want to change the order of the box animation on some slides if it is too easy to guess what the hidden image shows. For example, if removing the orange box first shows the farmer’s body, it will probably be a lot easier to guess than removing the blue box first.
  8. Save.
  9. Play!

Here is the finished version of my example. Click to download it: Jobs hidden pictures game eltpics

Flash vocabulary

In this game, pictures or words flash up on the screen for a few seconds each. Afterwards students write as many of them as they can remember. It is great for revising old vocabulary, especially if it is a few lessons old.

Manual version
  1. Choose the images you want to use in your game. I would recommend using #eltpics as you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright, as long as you credit the photographer. To find out how to download #eltpics, watch this screencast. I’m going to use the same photos as above from the jobs set in this example. Collect the images that you want to use in one place – I normally put them on my desktop, then delete them when I’ve finished. Don’t forget to record the source!
    Alternatively, for every stage saying ‘images’ below, you can do the same with text boxes so that words flash on the screen.
  2. Open PowerPoint. You will normally see a title slide already in your presentation. Delete it.
  3. Add a blank slide. Insert new slide > Blank
  4. Insert the images on the slide. Insert > Picture > From file > [your file name] Resize/move them so that they are all arranged on one slide. Alternatively, you could place each image on a different slide.All pictures
  5. Next you need to animate the pictures so that they will appear and disappear. Click on the picture you want to appear first. Then click Slide Show >Custom Animation, select ‘entrance effect’ and choose the style of animation you want to use. I would recommend something simple, as you don’t want it to distract from the purpose of your activity. I would also suggest using the same style of animation for all of the pictures. There is normally a preview so you can see what happens with each effect.
  6. With the same picture still selected, choose an ‘exit effect’.Appear disappear
  7. Repeat for all of the pictures.All animated
  8. Preview your slideshow to check how it works. Slide show > View slide show
  9. Save.
  10. Play!

You can now play the game by manually clicking through the images so that they stay on the screen for as long as you like. However, if you want the game to be a bit more automatic, you can now add timings.

Adding timings
  1. Click Slide Show > rehearse timings.
  2. Your game should appear as a full-screen slide show. Click through the pictures so that they stay on the screen for as long as you want them to. For this game, 2 or 3 seconds is probably enough.
  3. Once you have shown every picture and clicked out of the slide show, you should be given the option to save the timing to use in the future.

Here is the final version of my example, including timings. Jobs flash vocabulary game eltpics

I hope these two games are useful to you. Please let me know if any of the instructions are unclear.


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