Showing posts with label Classroom Games and Activities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classroom Games and Activities. Show all posts

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tefl Classroom Activities: Compound Sentences—And, But

This is a simple classroom activity for students to practice using "and" and "but." You can easily modify it to suit any topic, and you can use it to focus on writing or speaking.

Create Worksheet

Create a worksheet with pairs of questions that students can ask each other regarding whichever topic you want to focus on. I encourage you not to put complete questions on the worksheet. This is so your students can complete the questions themselves. The following examples demonstrate this:

Again, notice that the questions are in pairs so that in the second half of the activity, the answers to the questions lend themselves to using "and" and "but." I created this particular worksheet for a business English class about shopping and new products.

Put Students in Groups

Once you have prepared your worksheets and have met your class on the appointed day, divide them into groups (for this activity, I've found that groups of four work very well). If you have a prepared spiel about the topic in question and any relevant vocabulary, give it to them now.

Then, tell the students that there are two parts to the activity. Hand out the worksheet and tell students to ask and answer yes/no questions in the necessary verb tenses with one or more group members. Let the students know that you will fill them in on the second half of the activity after they have finished interviewing each other. Telling students about both parts of the activity at this point would overload them with too much information.

Second Part of Activity

After the students have finished interviewing each other, tell them that they are now going to take turns telling the rest of their group about the responses of one or both of the individuals they have interviewed. In other words, each group member takes a turn to speak to their entire group about the answers of other group members. Before they proceed, point out to them that all the questions are in pairs.

Next, highlight the possibilities for formulating different sentences with "and" or "but." I usually write the following on the whiteboard:
Explanation on whiteboard
This part of the activity also requires students to conjugate verbs for third person singular. The examples I used here are quite varied, though for lower level students, you could ensure that the structure for all questions is the same. Also, instead of only practicing compound sentences with "and" and "but," you could also practice complex sentences with subordinating conjunctions such as "however," and "despite."

And that's all there is to it. A simple activity that is adaptable, easy to prepare, easy to explain, and which allows students to practice a number of different skills and to focus on using "and" and "but."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tefl Classroom Games: War Ships

Tefl grid games war shipsWar Ships is the mother of all grid games and great for review and revision in the TEFL classroom. I often play this game with my students in the last class of the semester.

More than most TEFL games, War Ships requires a very thorough explanation of the rules before proceeding. If there is some confusion, go slowly and repeat using slightly different language.

What You Need

For this game, you will need a game sheet for each student. You can download the sheet at the bottom of this blog post. The game sheet described in this post uses past simple and present continuous verb tenses. However, you can use this game with any verb tense or grammar point. Download the generic game sheet at the bottom of this post and fill in the categories according to your plan.

Time Requirements

This game usually takes approximately 90 minutes to play, which includes explaining the rules to your students. While this may seem like a fair amount of time to invest toward playing a game, it is well worth it. I can almost guarantee universal participation and a great atmosphere in the classroom when you play this game.

With a smaller class whose English is quite good, I have explained all the rules and played one game in as short as 45 minutes. Because the game is partly based on chance, it is hard to predict exactly how long each game will take. Better to give yourself more time than you may need. You can always play another round if there is time left. Nothing more frustrating for your students than for the class to finish before a winner is declared.

How to Explain Rules of War Ships to Students

Explaining this game to students and getting everything set up can take 20 minutes or more. However, it is well worth taking the time to ensure maximum understanding and benefit is gained.

First, hand out a sheet with the following vocabulary: shoot, hit, miss, sink, aircraft carrier, battleship, submarine. You can download a sheet with the vocabulary at the bottom of this blog post or you can go over the information on the whiteboard in your classroom.

Next, draw a simple table on the whiteboard and label the top row 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and the left column a, b, c, d, e. Then, draw an x in any of the quadrants that appear in the table that you have drawn. Ask a student where the x is located. It may take a bit of prompting, but you should be able to elicit the correct response (a, 4 or 4, a, or whatever the correct answer may be). Draw a few more exes in various locations in the table and get some of the other students to answer. Make sure all students are clear on this before proceeding.

Then, draw an exact replica on the whiteboard (see image further down) of the grid that you will use when playing the game. Point out that along the top row of the grid are the seven subject pronouns. Along the left-most column of the grid are the verb tense categories—you have Past Simple Positive, Past Simple Negative, and Past Simple Question, and the same positive, negative, and question categories for present continuous.

Now, point to one of the squares in the grid and demonstrate which verb tense category and subject pronoun it represents. If the square represents Past Simple Positive, with the pronoun "I," a team would "shoot" at that square by making a sentence such as "I went to the mall yesterday."

Next, on the whiteboard draw 3 rectangles next to the grid. Label the smallest rectangle "submarine = 2 squares," the next rectangle "battleship = 3 squares," and the longest rectangle "aircraft carrier = 4 squares." Point to the submarine rectangle and then draw a "submarine" that occupies 2 squares on the grid. To keep the game simpler, I recommend allowing the teams to only draw the ships vertically and horizontally and not diagonally.


Submarine = 2 squares


Battleship = 3 squares

aircraft carrier

Aircraft carrier = 4 squares

Now, go over the concept of "shooting" by forming the relevant sentences again. Provide an example for a square near the submarine that you have drawn on the grid. Indicate that this shot would be a "miss" (see image below). Choose a student in the class and have her "shoot" at one of the squares over which the submarine is drawn. Indicate that this is a "hit."

war ships game grid example

Next, separate the class into two teams and hand out the game sheets. Make it clear to the students that the top grid is where they must draw their ships, and the bottom grid is where they record their "shots" at the other team. Give the teams a few minutes together to decide where they want to draw their ships. All the members of the same team must draw their ships in the same location on their game sheets! It is worth having a look at all the students' game sheets to make sure that no one has incorrectly drawn their ships in a different location than their teammates.

It is also very important that all members of both teams record their shots at the other team on the bottom grid (grid labeled "Enemy Team"), and their opponents shots at them on the top grid (grid labeled "My Team").

Playing the Game

The teams should sit in a row facing each other. Team 1 begins with one member of the team briefly consulting with her teammates and deciding where they want to "shoot." Based on the square on the bottom grid where they want to shoot, the student then speaks out the statement or question.

Because the other team may not be able to quickly decipher exactly what the category of the question was, you (the teacher) can summarize. For example, "past simple, negative, pronoun 'she.' " You can also point to the relevant square on the grid that you should still have on the whiteboard.

After a student "shoots," the opposing team responds by saying "hit" or "miss." The team will respond "sink" if a particular ship has been hit the required number of times (submarine is sunk by 2 hits, battleship 3 hits and aircraft carrier 4 hits).

Then, team 2 shoots. Go back and forth in this manner with all students taking turns at making sentences and responding (as the excitement level rises, the teams will be shouting in unison "hit" or "miss").

I advise that you keep a close eye on both teams and their game sheets and make sure that all students are accurately recording their hits and misses on the bottom grid as well as the hits and misses of the other team on the top grid. It is easy for them to make a mistake in this regard—either by recording the hit or miss in the wrong square or recording the shots on the incorrect grid. Nothing derails this game faster than a dispute over a previous shot and whether it was a hit or miss.

Continue playing until one team has sunk all the ships of the opposing team.

This is probably the most consistently effective and rewarding TEFL game that I play with my students. When students are eager to speak in English and forget about the usual stress and worry that goes along with it, you know that you have found a successful game.


Download the following game sheets and vocabulary sheet for use with the above game.

War Ships game sheet: past simple/present continuous

War Ships game sheet: generic

War Ships vocabulary sheet

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

TEFL Reading Activities: Writing on the Wall

TEFL graffiti From my experience, and from talking with other EFL teachers, reading classes have always presented a certain challenge. In an ideal world, you would assign students to read an article for homework and then you could engage them in a lively discussion in the subsequent class. You could also focus on vocabulary and discuss various language patterns that appeared in the article.

However, counting on all students to read a number of pages for homework is usually not realistic. This often results in a teacher asking students to “read this article“ during the class. The class goes silent, starts reading, and a good chunk of the time for that period is gone.

The challenge is always to find other methods to make the reading of the article more interesting and fun for the students.

ESL Graffitti is a great way to break up the monotony of the usual “read this article” approach. I found this activity a number of years ago. It is such a great idea that I am surprised I have never found variations of it elsewhere. Good TELF games and activities are normally replicated on numerous websites and are passed along by teachers who are constantly looking for interesting activities.

So, I will simply direct you to the website that contains this great idea. However, I will also summarize the activity and add some more information that could make it even more successful for you.

Summary of ESL Graffitti Reading Activity

I have found that this activity works best with a relatively long reading passage of a few pages or more. Photocopy the article and then cut the photocopied pages up into sections. Depending on the size of the article, the size of your classroom, and the amount of open wall space in the classroom that is at eye level, you may want to cut up the article into about 7 to 10 equal sized chunks. Make sure that each cut out section is a continuous part of the article. In other words, each cut-out section should be able to somewhat stand alone and make sense when read on its own.

Next, paste each cut-out section onto a blank piece of 8.5 X 11 paper (or larger if you wish). Now, tape those pages at equal intervals at eye level on the walls of your classroom. You could tape up the articles in sequence so that the order of the article is maintained. Or, you could simply tape the pages up in no order whatsoever. If you choose this option, place a number or letter on each page. You can then introduce a second element into the activity that follows (more on this second element later in this post).

When your class files in, they may see you finishing up the preparation for this activity. This will generate some buzz and excitement. Even if you are finished the preparation, most students will notice that something is different. Creating a bit of excitement by doing something out of the ordinary is one of the benefits of keeping your teaching methods varied and interesting.


Ask your students if they know what graffiti is. Ask them if they have ever seen writing on the bathroom walls or on the sides of buildings. A discussion like this could take all sorts of interesting turns. After you have talked about graffiti and perhaps introduced some relevant vocabulary, tell your students that they are going to now have the chance to write some graffiti of their own (this, of course, being the only time when it is acceptable).

Point out the pages that you have taped to the walls and tell them that you want them to walk around the class and read every section of the article. They are then to write whatever comments they want on the corresponding piece of paper to which each section is pasted.

Encourage them not to worry about being grammatically correct or writing in full sentences. The goal is to get the ideas flowing. For example, if they don’t understand a word, they could write, “I don’t understand __________.” Or they could even comment on another student’s comment.

If you wish to add a second aspect to the activity, tape the pages to the walls out of sequence. Also, you should write a number or letter on each page. Let the students know that the numbers do not reflect the real order of the pages. Instead, the students should decide in which order the pages taped to the wall should go.

Post-Activity Discussion

Once all students have had a chance to write their graffiti on each of the pages, you can then engage in a class discussion about the article and try to elicit some ideas regarding main idea. You will still likely want to then move on to some more traditional activities such as answering the questions that go along with the article in whichever textbook you are using.

And, later when you are back at your desk in the teacher’s room, you will probably get a kick out of some of the comments that students have written on the pages!

I have found this to be a really effective activity with good results. Don’t overuse it though. More than once per class per semester would probably be too much.