Saturday, May 17, 2008

TEFL Games and Activities: Past Simple

red diceJust as a pack of playing cards can be useful when teaching English, a pair of dice also comes in handy, especially when you are teaching small classes.

They can be used to play games at the beginning of the class. "Warmers" really do help get the students in a good frame of mind before moving on to the (potentially) more serious aspects of the study session. Also, if you have a few minutes left, a dice game (not craps!) can be a great way to end off and leave the students with a positive memory of the class.

Here is a simple game using a pair of dice. The grammar point is the past simple verb tense. Draw two tables on the board, each with 12 squares, and with all the squares numbered. Label one table as "Verbs" and the other "Nouns."

game grids
On a piece of paper, write 2 columns of numbers, with each set corresponding to one of the tables. This will be the list that you refer to when you are conducting the activity. The students, of course, should not see the list. For the first set, write a verb next to each number. For the second set, write a noun next to each number:


list nouns verbs
The nouns in column number 2 can be of any category though I find that animals work well.

Before starting, model a sentence on the board. For example:

“Last week I chased a dog.

It is always good to give students a chance to change the verb tense (conjugate) when playing a game like this.

Now, have one student from the first team roll the dice. If they roll a 4 and 5, they can choose box 4, 5, or 9 (the two numbers added together) from the grid marked "Verbs."

Have the same student roll the dice again and follow the same procedure for the grid marked "Nouns." Then, you (the teacher) will write in the words in the box that correspond to the numbers the student has chosen. Finally, the "contestant" has to form a sentence with the words that have been revealed. You can decide whether to allow consultation with the rest of the team.

As you can see from the list of words I have here, there are some amusing possibilities that pop up. As soon as the words are revealed, the laughter will begin before the sentence has even been formed. Once a correct sentence has been created and spoken out loud by the student, erase the words so that both grids contain only the numbers. With only 12 choices in each grid, it doesn't take long for the class to remember which words are "hidden" behind each box.

For this game you can divide the class into two teams. Each sentence can be rated by the class as to grammar and logic. Of course the other team will be shouting “No point!” but you will be the final judge. There really isn't much choice when the word pairs are revealed and there aren't likely to be many errors. The real benefit is in practicing the pattern and learning the past tense form of different verbs. Encourage students to change up the time reference used at the beginning of the sentences as well.

Take into account different cultural and religious sensitivities when deciding on the options. While some hilarious combinations can result, awkward ones can pop up as well if you’re not careful.

You can also use other verb tenses and could probably come up with countless variations using the same basic premise. It's a simple but fun game that takes the place of otherwise monotonous drilling.

Unlike many of the games and activities I post here, I can claim this one as an original. I have had good success with it though it probably maxes out at about twenty minutes.

Though this game uses dice, it is also one type of a whole classification of games I call “grid games.” In the coming weeks I will be posting more of them here.


Interested in more classroom games and activities? Try the following:

Present Perfect

Modal Verbs

The Passive Voice

Likes and Dislikes

Reading Activities: Writing on the Wall

14 comments:

John Brezinsky said...

Great game idea! It's great to see another game enthusiast who understands the role that different games can play in a lesson.

I used to use a smaller grid and allow teams with correct answers to submit (secretly) a new word for the space they just won on. This would often add to the humor.

Anonymous said...

What an idea! I was just looking for a fun, low prep game for practising the past simple, and BANG! There it is.

cheers

Mark

Peter said...

I intend to use this tomorrow thank you very much. It looks like a heap of fun.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Thank's it look's a fun and good game for my students!!!

Anonymous said...

wooww great idea,I was looking for a game to practise past tense,that will be brilliant and please keep your fingers crossed for me because this game will also help me to get the job in a secondary school...thanks and good luck to everyone!!!

caludia said...

This game sounds so good! I will definetely try it tomorrow
Thank you for the idea

Anonymous said...

A really nice idea. Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Great! thanks! Keep them coming

Anonymous said...

great game.I am going to try this tomorrow, will let you know how it goes

Anonymous said...

excelent. thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Gave me a new way to get the class using the language.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Game!

Anonymous said...

What is the game supposed to teach our students???? Seriously??? You want them to come up with sentences like, 'I killed a dog last week' or 'I kicked a cat.'?????

Anonymous said...

I think you can change the words to whatever you wish to teach your students but the game is really great!! Thanks for sharing.

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