Playing with a dice…..

 

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Our huge class dice, on the teacher’s desk!

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…

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Board games

 

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.

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Secret Questions

 

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 .

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Phonology

 

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.

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Mini-sketches

 

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.

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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!

He is acting a word out...

He is acting a word out…

Points lottery

 

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 .

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Grammar Game

 

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.

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Making questions

 

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!!

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Creative ways of revising vocabulary

 

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class....TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country....it was lots of fun!

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class….TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country….it was lots of fun!

Some old-time-classic  vocabulary games, I love.

They say that, to stimulate long-term memory ideally, words would be reviewed 5-10 minutes after class, 24 hours later, one week later, one month later, and finally six months later.

Unless these new language items are noticed and understood on multiple occasions, they will likely fade from memory and be forgotten.

Over the past decade, I’ve put together a variety of sure-fire and engaging vocabulary recycling activities drawn from a number of sources: resource books, teachers, trainers, and some of which are of my own invention. You could also give them a try….

Taboo-hot seat

Divide the class into teams A and B. One member from each team plays at a time. The teacher scribbles a word on the board and gives the team one minute to get their teammate to say the item. If the hot-seated player manages to say the word, the teacher quickly writes another item on the board and so on until the minute is up. The team scores a point for every item they manage to say within one minute.

Taboo!

Taboo!

Memory challenge

Put the students into pairs or small groups. Give them a time limit (e.g. 3 minutes) and ask them to write down as many words, phrases, and/or expressions as they can from the last lesson on topic X. The pair or group that can remember the most items wins.

Variation a: To add a spelling accuracy component, teams can also earn an extra point for each correctly spelt item.

Variation b: I love it when I use music to help them brainstorm vocabulary in this game! An example is when we  revise the Season’s vocabulary and I eg have them listen to Vivaldi ” Four Seasons” while writing….

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Brainstorming!...

Brainstorming!…

 

Pictionary

Divide the class into Teams A and B. Team A sits in a group on one side of the classroom, Team B sits on the other side. One member from each team goes to the board. The teacher flashes them a word, phrase, or expression written on a piece of paper. The students have one minute to get their respective team to say the item only by drawing pictorial clues on the board. Written words, verbal clues, or gestures are forbidden. The first team to say the word scores a point.

Variation: With younger students, I draw the word in three steps: First, I draw 2-3 lines. If they get the word right, they get 3 points for their team. secondly, I draw half of the word pictorial clues. If they now get it right, they get 2 points . Finally, I draw all the pictorial clues and in case they manage to get the word right, I award them 1 point or no points at all, if they aren’t able to figure it out!

Pictionary

Pictionary

Bingo

I love playing Bingo revision games with kids! There are many variations..this one, is one of my favourite ones.

The teacher writes up 20 words, phrases and/or expressions on the board. Each student chooses any 9 of the items from the board and writes them down. The teacher then selects one of the items at random (bits of paper from a hat, for example) and offers a brief definition or synonym of the item but does not say the word itself. If a student thinks they have the word the teacher described, they tick it. When a student ticks all of their words, they shout BINGO!! The first student to shout BINGO wins the round. Additional rounds can be played with different sets of words.

Playing Bingo with lists of words!

Playing Bingo with lists of words!

Scrabbled letters

Write up eight words with their letters shuffled (e.g. eicscen for science) on the board. When the teacher says ‘go’, the students, individually or in pairs, endeavor to untangle the words as quickly as they can. The first student or pair, to do so wins. The teacher can then quickly run through each of the scrambled letter groups on the board, eliciting information about each word or concept. Tip: Don’t make them too difficult.

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Categories ( Aka The alphabet game)

Divide the class into 3 or 4 teams and assign a secretary for each group. On one side of the board, write down six categories related to the current topic or syllabus of your course (e.g. countries, sports, jobs, movies, furniture, verbs, things that are round). To start the game, the teacher randomly selects a letter of the alphabet and scribbles it onto the board. Each team must then work together to quickly find a word for each of the six categories that starts with the chosen letter. The first team to complete all six categories shouts “stop!” The class then stops writing, and a member of the team goes to the board to fill in the categories. The teacher then checks each word with the class and also elicits what other teams had for each category. If the quickest team has filled in each category correctly, they earn one point for their team. The teacher then chooses a different letter and another round is played. The first team to score X number of points wins.

The Alphabet game.

The Alphabet game.Working in teams.

Vocabulary fun activities 

The Dolls’ House.

To help them revise the house rooms and furniture as well as the prepositions of place, I have them decide how to decorate a dolls’ house . They are asked to place the pieces of furniture anywhere in the house they wish, and tell the class about each change they make to the previous furniture arrangements. eg ” The sofa is in the kitchen now, next to the fridge”

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This is a handmade dolls’ house, that I made with my daughter at home , some years ago reusing some old supermarket boxes…

Feelings

Instead of asking them to write a boring dictation on  the adjectives that describe feelings, I ask them to find photos that show different feelings and moods and bring them to class.They  use them to play several guessing games with their classmates, in teams!

 

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Seasons poetry

When I want them to revise all the Seasons Vocabulary, I have them write their own poems using it, and recite them  in class where we hold a poetry competition and finally vote for our favourite poems! I often have them work in pairs: one of them is the poet while the other one is the artist who reads the poetry and creates his/her work of art, being inspired by it! The artist, has to talk to the class about his picture, using as much of the target vocabulary as possible.

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My special talents

When I want them to revise the sports and free time activities, instead of giving them a test, I have them stand up and show the class what they are good at, or what their special talent is. They are free to even teach the class about their special abilities . Such a good activity to enhance self-esteem , too!

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I am good at tae-kwon-do!

 

 

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Practicing both vocabulary and CAN/CAN’T for ability.

The Apple tree

This is basically a scoring game, and can be used in various different ways.I mainly play it to test new words and  spelling !

1. Put the kids in groups (6 is usually good as there are usually 6 rows of desks), but keep them seated at their desks.

2. Draw pictures of trees on the board, one tree for each group. Each tree has 9 “rungs” (add more or less depending on the amount of time you wish to play), and some apples  at the top. (see the picture above) This takes about 1 minute if you’re quick!

4. During the game you play some music (something fast and dancey). When the music plays the kids pass a ball around (no throwing!!).

5. You stop the music.

6. You then ask the person holding the ball a question (“What’s this? How are you? What’s your name? etc.) My variation is spelling new words!

7. If the student gets it right then their team’s animal climbs one rung up the tree!

8. Repeat from step 4 until one team reaches the top – and the apples!

This is good for a review session, or even for practicing new vocab. 9 rungs lasts about 20 minutes. After the first few tries I then ask questions that are worth 2 “rungs”, or even ask the kids if they want an easy question for 1 point or a tricky one for 2 points!!

 

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The apple tree board game-revising nationalities

The weather forecast

Instead of asking the kids to write boring weather reports, I ask them to predict about next week’s weather and report to the class on….our class TV! They talk about their predictions using their  weather map and we can  even adjust the…volume holding imaginary remote controls !It’s loads of fun!

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My favourite sports board game

To revise the sports vocabulary, I usually have them play a vocabulary board game, in pairs! They have to say the name of the sport in the picture they land on , to be able to move on to the next level. I ask older students to use the sport word in a sentence instead.

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This is the book page with the new words.

Dancers and poets

When I want my students to revise new words, especially adjectives, I usually ask them to work in pairs. One of them is the poet, the other one is the dancer. The poet, writes a poem using as much  of the target vocabulary as possible. The dancer is dancing while the poet is reciting his poem …according to the verse content, trying to express his/her feelings listening to it!It can become, hilarious! Students, love both to watch and participate in  these …performances in which, improvisation rules !!

 

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My friend is….

I love working with adjectives! To revise them, one of the things I do is to ask my students to write their names on a sheet of paper, then put all  those sheets  up on the classroom walls and finally ask the students to  walk around the classroom and write adjectives next to each name which they think characterize their friends! I always ask them to focus on the positive characteristics of their classmates! It’s a nice way to boost self-esteem too….We later, collect the sheets of paper and comment on them. Fun!

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School objects hidden

Instead of giving my 3rd graders boring dictation on school objects, I prefer playing fun vocabulary games with them. One old-time-classic game  is the following : I hide different school objects under a piece of cloth and have them touch the object without looking to guess what they are ! They work in teams and for each correct guess they make , they get one point for their team!

 

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Look, taste, smell….

To practice grammar, I also play games..

One example is the way I ask them to practice and revise the Sense Verbs . I ask a student to…take off his/her shoe and ask another student to….. smell it and tell us how it…smells! ! It’s hilarious…! Then I ask a student to keep  his/her mouth wide open and ask the student sitting next to him/her to say how it looks!! I might also ask them to smell his/her breath and comment on it!! Sounds disgusting , ha? But, the children love it! I might also ask a male student to kiss a girl’s hand a tell us the taste or smell of it…! Touch her hair and produce sentences like: ” It feels soft”!The list of the fun things I ask them to do is endless! They just don’t want us to stop! The more I ask them to do, the more they practice using the Sense Verbs !

 

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Learning grammar, the fun way!

 

Another example is, the activity we do to practice the  Order of Adjectives ,when the students become …models !!

They take turns and walk like fashion models on the catwalk!

The other students use opinion, colour, material etc adjectives, to describe what the model is wearing and make comments on his/her clothes!

Example: She’s wearing a cute, pink, woolen sweater! It suits her!

He is wearing  smart, dark blue,denim jeans! They match his t-shirt!

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A top model, in our English class!

The cute Monsters Posters

To have my students practice the words that describe  People and Physical Characteristics I ask them to use them to describe an imaginary creature on a poster!

They have to think about the following before they create their monster:

  • What colour is he?
  • What colour arms and legs does he have?
  • What does he look like? (Tell us about his eyes, his ears and his mouth.)
  • What can he do?

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Then, they write up a profile for their monster including his/her appearance, personality, traits, skills/powers, monster friends, enemies, hobbies and where it lives – or if they are a bad guy monster you can replace the hobbies bit with ‘Strategy’ and put ‘Weakness’ at the bottom and write down what their weaknesses are.

Finally, I ask them to draw their monster!

The only limit is their imagination….

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Drama activities to have them speak 

I rarely have my students read the text or dialogues from our book aloud…I prefer to have them act the story out in groups- from a very early age.

Sketses promote active learning, enriching and reinforcing their more traditional school experiences. In addition most children are excited by the prospect of performing in front of others as a chance to be the center of attention.  So, when it comes to teaching English as a second language, no matter the age of the student, drama and children are a winning combination.

Children love being part of something.  Preparing an ESL skit together is a bonding experience for the group.  All children are involved, from the shyest to the most outspoken and all contribute to the final outcome. Children want to belong and being part of a play allows that to happen.

You don’t have time NOT to use ESL plays.  Drama is not an addition to my 26 units, but a method of teaching them more effectively.  It does not matter if you can’t act – the children will be doing the acting and they are the experts!

The conversational use of language in an ESL play script promotes fluency. While learning a play, children listen to and repeat their lines over a period of time. By repeating the words and phrases they become familiar with them and are able to say them with increasing fluency.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The teacher’s own enthusiasm also goes a long way towards motivating a child. Anyone who has taught a classroom of children knows how quickly they pick up and reflect your moods. If you think your English lesson is boring, so will they!

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The plays DO GET THEM TO SPEAK. And this is a very rewarding experience for us, teachers, to hear them SPEAK, not just use the target vocabulary.

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Teaching and revising vocabulary has become easier for me  through all these fun activities ,as for the children every single new word they are learning is now more meaningful as it is connected with their real life experiences in class .