Freelance English teacher, Mike Astbury, enjoys making effective teaching materials with a focus on learners’ needs. In this article, he demonstrates how to use an adaptable game that uses a range of language points and lexical chunks.
This is a highly adaptable game that can be used with a range of language points and lexical chunks. In the example we’re revising present perfect and present perfect continuous with an upper-intermediate class. The aim of the game is for students to write sentences in the target language. It works because the students have an audience, are motivated to perform well, and it’s easy to monitor.
All you need are some small pieces of paper, big enough for a single sentence. I use a guillotine to chop up some A4 paper as shown below:
Begin by writing some words and phrases on the board before the lesson or while students check homework. Students make some sentences in pairs that are true about themselves using the phrases. This is a quick speaking activity to give them ideas for the game. Then, divide the class into groups of four or five, ensuring students are not with their pairs.
How to play
Play a demo round of the game with a student from each group, giving them a small piece of paper each. Pick a phrase on the board and say that you’re going to write a true sentence about yourself using the phrase. The other players have to write a sentence using the same phrase that seems like you wrote it.
Write your sentence and collect the sentences from each group. Ask students to watch and listen carefully as you shuffle the sentences and then read them.
Afterwards, read the sentences and ask students to think about which sentence they think you wrote. Read them again, this time saying a number before each one, and ask students to write down the number of the sentence they think is yours. (e.g. “One: ‘over the last two weeks I’ve been working really hard.’ Two: ‘I’ve been to the cinema…”).
Now it’s time to work out the points. Students reveal their numbers and they get a point for choosing my sentence, which was “Over the last two weeks I’ve been very busy.” Then, they get a point if another student guessed that their sentence was written by you. Students therefore get points by guessing correctly and by writing sentences that fool the other players.
Students now play the game in their groups, following the same structure as the demonstration. The first player chooses which phrase on the board to use. All of the students in the group write a single sentence that will fool the others into thinking the first player wrote it. This works best with students who know each other well, but it isn’t essential as they write, monitor and assist where necessary.
The first player collects the sentences from the other players as they write them. It’s important that they carefully read each of the sentences they collect, so that when they read them aloud later on they don’t react to them or make a mistake. You may need to step in and help to read certain students’ handwriting.
Once the sentences are collected, the first player reads them out, numbering each one. Here’s an example:
Student A: “One: I’ve just gone on holiday. Two, I’ve just bought a new laptop. Three, I’ve just watched a film. Four, I’ve just finished writing a sentence.”
The three other players listen to Student A read them again and write down the number for the sentence they think Student A wrote. It’s important that Student A’s sentence about themselves is true. Then, students reveal their written guesses. Student A’s sentence was number two, so the students who wrote two get a point. One student guessed four, so the student who wrote sentence four gets a point. At the end of the round Student A keeps the four sentences for the next stage.
Every student gets a turn, so they play enough rounds for one turn each. At the end of the game students mingle with the sentences from their round, reading them out just like they did in the game, asking students from other groups to guess which one was their sentence.
At the end of the game, collect all of the sentences. You can review them to see what mistakes the class has been making and use them for delayed error correction in the next lesson.
The game can be played with a class at any level. With lower level classes I would have longer lexical chunks on the board and play an additional demonstration round. With a mixed ability group I would add an extra step to the game, where students review the four sentences after each round and suggest corrections.