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Using Games for Instruction

21 Mar

Games are frequently used in classrooms to review a broad stretch of material in a short period of time.  They’re exciting, keep momentum flowing, and tap into students’ competitive edge.  Jeopardy and Bingo are two of the more popular ones.  But what about using games during instruction before review?  In the language classroom, games are an excellent structure for providing context for language usage.  They can provide a scenario, or prompt students to use key vocabulary/grammar concepts.  While not ideal for first instruction, games can be used for practice and reteaching.  Here are three games that I’ve used successfully with Beginning ESOL students.

1. Go Fish–Disney Style!

I created my own set of playing cards using Disney characters.  Students had been introduce to grammar and vocabulary for describing physical appearance.  While playing Go Fish, instead of asking “Do you have any Cinderellas?”, the students had to ask, “Do you have a girl with blond hair and blue eyes?”  The weirder the characters, the more fun they had!

2. Simple Board Game

I created a board game that looks like Monopoly but is much simpler.  Students roll a dice and move their playing pieces around the board.  Each square has a question on it (“Where did you go last weekend?” )  When students land on a square they must answer the question.  I made each square the size of a post-it, so we can easily change the questions.  Sometimes I write new questions, and sometimes the students write new questions. 

3. The Betting Game

This is one of my personal favorites!  Students are given 10 questions.  They write down their answers for each question.  Then they are given $100 in pretend money.  They bet up to $100 on how certain they are that their answer to number 1 is correct.  For example, they may bet $50.  If they are correct, they add that amount to their original $100, so the student would now have $50.  If they are incorrect, it is subtracted, so the student would now have $50.  Then they place a bet on how certain they are that #2 is answered correctly.  They can bet as much as they have after the first round.  We continue betting as we discuss the answers to all ten questions.  The winner at the end is the student with the most money, not necessarily the student with the most correct answers!