Last Minute TEFL Games

Knowing games is not only entertaining for the students, but if done correctly, games are also a really effective method of teaching.

1) SLAP THE BOARD

For this game you can have the students slap the board with their hands or you can even use a flyswatter.  The more advanced the students, the more words you will write on the board.  You can even use flashcards/pictures and hang them on the board or the wall.

Divide the students into two teams, lining them up if space allows.  The students have to be quiet when you say the word, and be sure to speak clearly. The first two students run up to the board and slap or swat the correct word. The first one to hit it earns a point for his team. Each person only gets one word, then they have to go to the back of the line. If they get the word wrong, the next person in line can move up to slap the correct one.

2) I WENT TO THE MARKET

I Went to Market is a memory game that gives everyone a chance to practice speaking. The type of market can be up to the student, or you can narrow it to ‘grocery store’, ‘clothing store’, ‘camping store’, ‘ice cream shop’, depending on their interest and/or level.  The first student says, “I went to market and bought a bicycle”. The second adds something to the ‘purchase’ : “I went to market and bought a bicycle and oranges.” Again, depending on what the students are learning, you can require adjectives for each item such as colors, measurements, articles, quantifiers, etc.

3) BOGGLE

If you haven’t heard of the game Boggle, you have 3 minutes to write as many words from a grid of letters.  The words must be created from letters that are somehow connected to each other (vertical, horizontal, diagonal).  The players then compare the words they’ve written and if two or more players write the same word, it is removed from all players’ lists.  Points are received for each remaining word on a person’s list.  The words can have any number of letters in it, the more letters in the word, the more points that word is worth.

This can be played in the classroom by either writing the letters on the in a grid on the board, overhead screen, or preprinted worksheets.  This is a great game for both individuals, pairs, and small groups.

For example:

o r p t s a
e a i e t f
b k n e r i
a d r g o r
c o t l s e
k f h m a n

Some possible words from this board:

green, pink, trainer, back, fires, fast, road, frog

4) FOLLOW MY DIRECTIONS

Follow My Directions is a break from the traditional games.

There are many variations to this popular game.  The one we like the most is a student or students are shown an image and they try to get the class or partner to draw the exact same image, only by describing it.  The one who draws the image closest to the original wins.  Try to avoid well known or common images (Big Ben, food items, etc).  A nondescript simple home with geometric shapes (oval bushes, triangular roof, 8-panel door) works best.  The goal is the use of spoken descriptive.

5) YES, NO, LAUGH

YES, NO, LAUGH is where students can NOT say ‘yes’, ‘no’, or laugh out loud (smiling can be at your discretion). Pair students off, work in a circle, or one by one in class.  Whichever way, one student must ask the other a YES/NO question.  If the one answering responds with ‘yes’, ‘no’, or laughs, they are out of the game. If played in pairs, the winning partner is paired with another winning partner. This way, you can create a tournament of yes, no, laugh.  Smaller groups or partners typically work best of this game or it can go on too long.  Other ways to speed it up can be forbidding other words such as ‘I’ or ‘maybe’.

6) OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

Have students each write down an open-ended question on a piece of paper. The questions could be something like “What is your favorite kind of food?” or “What was the last movie you saw?”.  For more advanced students you can require the questions to have a more elaborate answer or make it a two part question such as “What is your favorite kind of food?” and “What do you like about it?” or “What was the last movie you saw and what was it about?”.

Students then fold their papers and drop them in a bag as you pass it around. Then, go around the room and have students take turns drawing a paper and answering the question. Be sure to allow students to draw again if they choose their own question.

For smaller classes have them write down four questions and each student has to choose 2 or 3 of the questions on the paper, depending on how much time is allowed.

7) CONTINUE THE STORY

This game requires no advanced planning and students can work in groups or individually as there is no need to move desk or chairs around.  For this game, first think of several starter half-sentences and write each one on the top of its own piece of paper or on the board. The half-sentences should be written so that students can easily finish them to start a story, such as:

  • Jessica said she didn’t see when it…
  • I have been really looking forward to…
  • Did you know the bus driver had…

Another way to start this is for one group to start the story for another group.

Students will then work in groups or pass their paper around the class, each one adding to the story when it’s their turn. After the last person in the group or class finishes, one student will read the story to the class.   This activity is great for all levels on any topic.

8) Would You Rather…?

This classic game can be molded to fit any group of students. In this game, students think about two different options and choose the one they would rather do. The “Would you rather…?” questions (a variety of which can be found online), can range from goofy to serious, such as:

  • Would you rather have more time or more money?
  • Would you rather be without a phone or without the internet for a month?
  • Would you rather lose your hearing or your vision?
  • Would you rather eat your favorite meal for every meal for the rest of your life or never be able to eat your favorite meal again?
  • Would you rather be able to speak to animals to be able to speak 5 languages fluently
  • Would you rather explore the ocean or explore space?
  • Would you rather have a rewind button or a pause button for your life?

These questions are endless and can be printed up in advance so that every student can pick one randomly and take turns answering it.  It’s more fun if they have to answer the question spontaneously and don’t have time to think about it!  For extra challenge, follow the answer with ‘Why?’ or ‘Why not?’.

9) MINIMAL PAIRS

Don’t worry if you can’t quite remember what minimal pairs are; this pronunciation

game is easy for the teacher and fun for students. Best of all, it requires no real preparation and just a white board and marker.

Make two columns on the board or overhead and write one word from the minimal pair in column 1 and the other in column 2.

1. Think of pairs of short words your students already know that are exactly the same in pronunciation except for one different sound (these are “minimal pairs”). Examples of minimal pairs are: she’s/cheese, this/these, very/bury, bad/bed, fan/van, etc.. Choose 5 pairs and for each, write one word on the right and one word on the left side of the column.

  1. Practice saying all the words with the class first, then tell students you will now call out a word from the board, and they should raise their left or right hand, depending on which column they see the word in. Reveal the correct answer after each example.
  2. After a warm up, you’re ready to play! Each student will number a piece of paper 1-5. Now you call out one word from each pair on the board. As you do, students write an R or L, depending on which word they hear. Again, reveal the answers once done.
  3. Change the words and play again.

How to make it harder/different: Choose a student to come to the front of the class and call out the words.

10) LAST MAN STANDING

You’ll need a ball or something soft to throw from student to student. In a pinch, you can use a balled up piece of paper.

  1. Think of an age appropriate and interesting vocabulary theme. An example for lower level students could be colors, animals, or foods. For higher levels, you could use nouns, adjectives, or verbs that have a particular theme, such as “a holiday” or “an interview.” You can brainstorm together on the board first, to get them warmed up.
  2. All students stand. Start the game by naming your category (‘artists’ or ‘vegetables’ for example) then begin by throwing the ball to a student. He or she catches it, names something of that category, and then throws the ball to another student, who names another one, then throws the ball again. If a student cannot think of a word, he or she has to sit down.
  3. The “last man standing” wins!

How to make it harder/different: The students can choose the category. To keep the game going, have the students preselect a new category, but only tell you once/if you ask.  This way you can switch the category mid-way through the game without pausing.  You can also play this game using word association, instead of categories, so there is no wrong answer.

11) TABOO

  1. Ask students to brainstorm some new vocabulary words they have already learned in class. Have a student write them on the board as you choose about a 15 of them and write 5 each on separate pieces of paper for each group. Erase the board.
  2. Depending on the size of the class, divide students into small groups of about 4 and give one student in each group a paper with the words.
  3. Of the four students:
  • One will be the one who describes the word (or, if you have groups of more than 4, then other students can help describe the word).
  • One student watches the time (two minutes)
  • One student has a “buzzer” (they can just hit the table or say “out!”) in case one of the words is said by mistake
  • One sits in the “hot seat” and tries to figure out the target word
  1. When you say go, the 2 minute countdown starts and the student in the hot seat tries to guess as many words as possible, as described by the reader. The reader cannot say the word or any form of it. If he or she does, then the buzzer is hit and the reader moves on to the next word.
  2. For the next round, rotate the list of words from one group to another and have students switch roles.

How to make it harder: You can have students come up with the words in groups at the start of the game. For example, have them think of as many adjectives or verbs as they can, or as many nouns from a chosen category. Then pass each group’s list to another group and begin.

12) WOULD YOU RATHER…?

In this game, students think about two scenarios and choose the one they would rather do. The “Would you rather…?” questions (a variety of which can be found online), can range from goofy to serious, such as:

  • Would you rather be poor and happy or rich and unhappy?
  • Would you rather have a missing finger or an extra toe?
  • Would you rather find your soulmate or find a billion dollars (and never find your soulmate)?
  • Would you rather eat your favorite meal for every meal for the rest of your life or never be able to eat your favorite meal again?
  • Would you rather speak all languages fluently or be able to speak to animals
  • Would you rather lose your wallet or lose your keys?

You can play this as a whole class or put students in groups and give them a stack of cards with questions and they take turns asking each other the questions. Either way, following up by asking “Why or why not?” can lead to some fun discussions.

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