Some time ago, I read a post on Olha Madylus’ amazing blog www.olhamadylusblog.com about how to use a dice in the class, which I found very inspiring! I decided to give it a try, at once! I made my class huge dice and used all the activities below -suggested by Olha in her post- along with some activities of my own….!
I have to admit, it was huge success!! My students loved the dice games and asked for it, every single day! I am grateful to Olha, once more for all her support and inspiration ! She has been my mentor and she knows it !
I am sharing Olha’s notes first and I am also adding a few of my own tips! They really worked in my class! Hope, they will work in your class, too!
As Olha says “Sometimes we don’t need or don’t have access to much in the way of sophisticated aids, materials, back-up in our classrooms. But what we do have is the most sophisticated tool ever created – the imagination to help us!”
First things first….
Equip students either with dice or get them to make spinners (you can also make dice) and away we go…
Can be student-made and that’s all the better as students will get involved in making and shaping their own materials and get to practice even more language.
Below is a board game I made to practice sports and free time activities vocabulary. Children throw their dice in turns and when they land on a picture, they have to say what it is. It can be used for more complex language, too, e.g. when a child lands on a sport picture she can say ‘I like / I don’t like tennis ’, practicing the use of grammar ; ‘My most favourite sport is tennis’, practicing descriptions etc.
Children can create their own board games by drawing pictures of vocabulary items they have learnt in English and challenging each other. If you laminate the board games and keep them in a box, they are great for fast finishers or as a filler in lessons.
Older students can create board games with questions in spaces to be answered when landed on e.g. What’s your greatest ambition? What sport would you like to be able to play but can’t?
My variation: I use this game mainly to teach vocabulary . First, my kids are asked to make their own board games working in teams to practice specific vocabulary related to ie- Christmas, Easter, the environment, geography etc -according to the unit we were working on, each time.
If producing a board game seems too fiddly or time-consuming, students can work in pairs (or individually) and write 6 questions (based on a previously taught unit in the course book e.g. if they are practicing the vocabulary of jobs a question could be – What do you call a person who takes care of our teeth? / dentist). They mingle around the class and when they meet another pair/student, they have to roll or spin and get asked the question which they have landed on.
My variation: I use the same procedure in the beginning of the school year, as an ice-breaker….My students are asked to write personal questions they would like to ask their classmates ie- ” Which is your favourite cartoon character and why?” , “If you were an animal, what would you be and why?” or other type of questions about ie- their summer holiday memories .
A fun game which revises lots of vocabulary and is great for older children and adults is practicing how many syllables words have. In groups one student at a time rolls the dice or spins the spinner. When it lands on a number that student has to say a word which has that number of syllables in it e.g. 4 = photographer. If they are correct they win a point. At the end of the game, points are counted up and a winner declared. This game is great for recalling vocabulary and hearing it inside our head.
My variation: Instead of words, my students are asked to say a sentence which has that number of words in it
eg 6= My favourite toy is my bike.
Students work in pairs and take it in turns to throw the dice / spin the spinner and have to produce an utterance with as many words as they have thrown. They have to conduct a whole conversation! You can assign topics beforehand. If you can record them it’s fun or have pairs doing their dialogues in front of the rest of the class, if they feel comfortable. This is great fun and encourages students to be very creative and meaningful, while producing often very short utterances.
My variation: I did that activity both in English and in Greek a few months ago -during our “Teachers4Europe” project. Teams had to use the dice and creative writing techniques, to produce their own short plays about the myth of Europe.Instead of conducting a conversation , they had to produce their own script, for the school sketch.
Whose turn is it?
Choosing who gets to answer questions or dealing with lots of hands up in the air can lead to accusations of unfairness. I group students in the class so that there are five or eleven groups, each group assigned a number. (I get a number, too) With the bigger class I use 2 dice or spinners. When it’s time for someone to answer a question I roll the dice / spin the spinner(s) and that group – or I – answer the question. Trust me – it’s fun and students never complain if they have to answer more or fewer questions than others as it’s just the luck of the draw.
My variation: I also use this game to decide about which team comes to the board first or next, in order to present their project to the rest of the class! I also use it to decide about who my helpers for certain tasks will be. Or even to deal with seat arrangement !! Cool!
Normally whenever we play a game with students they win a point for a correct answer, but let’s bring an element of chance. For example they could be playing Hangman. Before they guess a letter they roll the dice or spin the spinner, whatever number they land on will be the amount of points they get if they are right. This adds that element of chance and daftness to the game. It is also great practice to add up points at the end together in English.
My variation:I haven’t actually changed anything ,here! I use this lottery activity, a lot when we play games in teams. Kids get so excited about throwing the dice to find out the amount of points their team gets !
I also use it with my 3rd graders when I teach them the numbers 1-6 . They have to throw the dice and say or write the number they have landed on. Later, when they know more numbers , I might ask them to throw the dice twice and write the number they get making basic mathematical calculations .
Another great game for teens / adults. Bring in an interesting picture with a lot happening in it or show a video clip from a film with lots of action but with the sound turned down. Assign each number a tense e.g. 1=simple present, 2=present continuous, 3=simple past etc. As students take turns rolling the dice they have to create a sentence about what they are seeing in that particular tense. Again students can work alone or in pairs. It’s challenging and yet very meaningful as the rest of the class must accept or reject the offerings.
My variation: I have created a similar activity to revise vocabulary ! Students, work in teams.I give individual students a word .
I assign each number a task with the given word .
e.g. 1=Spell it, 2=write it down ,3=use it in a sentence, 4=draw it, 5=act it out, 6=translate it .
They get a point for their team , each time they succeed.
Allocate each number to a question word – 1=who, 2=why, 3=where, 4=when, 5=what, 6=how. Decide on a topic – this is usually one studied recently. Students work in pairs or small groups. One at a time students roll or spin and as they land they have to make a question for their partner(s) on that topic using that question word. For example if they land on 4 and they topic is sport a question could be – When do you usually watch sport on TV? Making questions in English is tricky and it’s great to practice as well as to review language from earlier lessons.
My variation: It’s fun when I combine this activity with the “Bananas” wh- questions game! One student comes to the board , rolls the dice and has to answer all his classmates’ questions- which should start with the question word he has landed on- without smiling or laughing!! If they smile, they are out and the person who has made them smile, takes their place ! For example if they land on 5, their classmates have to ask them questions starting with “What” ie-What does your nose look like?, What’s your brother’s name etc .Hilarious!!