In need of a quick warmer / filler or cooler for a lesson? Don’t turn your nose up at word games, they are quick, easy and give students vital spelling and word practice.
Make words from these letters
This is an old favourite. Find a long word like ‘democracy’ and draw all the letters in a box like this:
Now get students to make as many words as they can from only these letters. You can use almost any long word you like
Make sentences from this box
Just the same as the above, but rather than using letters you use words and get students to make sentences. Like this:
The sentence is : The lazy brown fox jumped over the white fence because he wanted to get fit.
Put the sentences in the correct order
Another old favourite is putting words in the right order in a sentence. Even though this quite dry and boring -lots of language students, especially those who use a different written script, need to practise their handwriting – even just forming the letters. An activity like this allows students to do this as well as testing their sentence skills.
Here’s my sample PowerPoint for arranging mixed up sentences, save it and change the words to whatever you like http://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/arrange-the-sentences-directions.ppt
Online wordgames to show on your IAWB
Of course, the internet is abound with word games you can play in your browser. Send these to students as homework, play them in the computer room (in pairs is best) or play them together in the classroom on the interactive whiteboard or projector.
BBC Skillswise – many great word games here http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/words/spelling/
Blocks with Letters on 3 – Amazing game to play with the class http://www.gimme5games.com/play-game/blocks-with-letters-on-3
Bookworm – make words from letters – very nice – http://www.popcap.com/gamepopup.php?theGame=bookworm
Playing a board game is fun and requires more than a little bit of language. You have to explain the rules, give advice on how to play, ask for tips, encourage, cheat, discuss and generally chat while you play. All the perfect ingredients for a language activity that might not be good for a full class, but might be great to fill a tutorial hour with a small group or engage an ‘English Conversation Club’. Here are my best board games to play with your students
The king of board games where player make words to score points. This has the added bonus of already ‘looking like’ it will be good for learning English. Get students to play together and allow them to use a dictionary to help them – it’s not cheating!
The world conquest game is legendary. Simple, fierce and easy to learn, it will have your students engaged straight away. Use the goal cards with higher level students to encouarage sneaky tactics.
Complex, iconic and involved. What better way to learn a language than to engage in trade? Encourage students to make deals with each other by buying and selling the properties they have. Also, you must use the ‘Free Parking Rule’ – this puts lots more cash up for grabs.
Pontoon (or twenty one) – Quick game to encourage speculation and guessing. Lots of opportunity for fun and laughs, good for lower level students who need to practise numbers.
Games I wouldn’t recommend
Chess - too much thinking and not enough chatting. It’s a bit like boxing in that both players just want to crush each other – not good for a friendly language activity.
Poker - again, too much frowning and not enough chatting.
Purely dice games like snakes and ladders or ludo, there’s no chance to speak here.
Anyone know any other good board games to play? Or can I hear my voice echoing round an empty virtual hall?
If you can’t be bothered to read the blog, click here for the simple worksheet on olympic sports.
The Olympics are set to be held in London 2012 will be here sooner than you think. Here’s a really simple low level worksheet for English language students to practise the names of olympic and commonwealth sports.
For more lessons on this and other simple topics for your low level English students please visit www.englishlanguagespacestation.com
The DS is a great little gaming machine. It has a camera, two screens, Wi-fi and some clever built in tools. However, it is a gaming machine and without specialist software it’s pretty hard to squeeze any education use out of it. I’ve been lucky enough to get to try out this hardware as part of a MOLENET project in the UK which exploits mobile technlogy for education. I had 16 new DSi Nintendo machines to use with my English language and Maths students. In this blog I’ll talk about just one function of the DS – its ability to instantly connect with other machines around it.
A great feature of the DS is that it can connect and chat with other DS machines – see the picture on the right. This is a lovely piece of built in software, you can type or draw something and then ‘send’ it to up to 15 DS machines that are logged into the same chatroom. This doesn’t require connection to the internet and has great potential to be exploited in the classroom.
I gave my students a DSi each and asked them to go to the ‘sytem settings’ > page 2 > profile > username’. Here, they had to change the name of the device to their own name so everyone could see who wrote each entry. I didn’t allow nicknames unless this was a name that everyone used for this student. I then asked students to click on the box with a smiling face on the main menu ‘Chat’ and then choose ‘Chatroom A’. Everyone had to write ‘hello’ to show they were there. I also had my own DSi logged into the chatroom so I could follow what was happening, give feedback and also contribute if necessary.
The first obvious use is spelling, ask a student to spell a word and they can instantly spell it and send it so you and the rest of the class. I tried this in my intermediate English class and asked them to spell twenty of the most commonly misspelt words in English – click here for this list. I’ve done lots of spelling tests but this was much more fun and students could get feedback on their answers straight away. There was also and element of pressure, everyone was able to see if you had spelt the word wrong and so, some weaker students waited till stronger ones had written the answers and the sent it to the group – they could then copy the answer as their own. This backfired on a couple of my students as one of the cleverest decided to write an incorrect spelling on purpose which they copied.
Short Answer Questions
I’ve used short answer questions in internet chatrooms as a computer lesson before – click here for the blog, so I used the same lesson here and asked students to write down answers to quick, kind of pithy questions like ‘When did you last cry? Why?’ ‘Who do you most admire?’ and ‘Tell me a lie about yourself.’ (which isn’t a question – but it asks for a response). I also asked some stupid questions like ‘What did you have for your breakfast?’ and ‘What animal would you be?’. These were designed to generate fun for the class but they also had a more serious side. I noticed that most students were desperate to answer quickly and with good answers that were correct and/or funny proably because the whole class could see their individual response. As well as generating written English the quiz also generated a great deal of talking, asking for clarification and also follow up comments on individual answers.
Getting students to have conversations with each other on the DSi chatrooms seemed the logical next step. This time, I asked students to go to the ‘sytem settings’ > page 2 > profile > username’ and change the name of their machine to something that noone else would be able to guess – this could be ‘Student 1′ or ‘student 2′ or something more strange and memorable like ‘flower’ or ‘blue’. Importantly, they were not allowed to tell anyone their name. I then secretly put students into one of the four chatrooms on the DS by passing them pieces of paper with the letter of the chatroom they had to go. I have twelve people in my class and so there were three people in each chatroom. I gave students five minutes to chat to each other and guess who the other people were in the chatroom. Iasked them not to shout out their answer, but write the names of the people in the chatroom and their real life names on the paper I’d given them.
This was a fun lesson as students asked each other questions, gave each other false answers and pretended to be someone else. Whilst there wasn’t any specific focus of the lesson, dexterity in English reading and writing (and speaking) was tested to its full capacity in a meaningful way. Everyone enjoyed the task and not everyone guess correctly the other people they were talking to. I aim to try this on a group of teachers and find out how they get on.
One to One
I decided to spend a bit of time using this function with a very low level ESOL learners to practise not only reading and writing but also speaking. Both the student and I found this to be a very useful and rewarding way of teaching writing on many different levels. So much so that I feel this issue needs it’s own blog – click here to read this. I also decided to try using the DS to help my five year old son with his reading and writing – this deserves its own blog – click here to read it.
The chatroom is a real joy to use, as you write onto the DSi screen you can hear the soft sound of chalk onto board, the layout is clean and easy to use and although there aren’t any other colours to use apart from black and multi-coloured it’s got a real doodly feel to it. More able and younger students instantly fell into using it by trying out all the functions without asking questions, very much in the mold of Prensky’s digital natives and older as well as less able students tended to be slower. All of the groups I worked with enjoyed using the technology and it did help to make the classroom more dynamic and motivational.
- As I said with the PSP, charging up 15 DSi machines is a pain. Also, the battery life is too short!
- The classroom activities were very definitely a ‘once a month’ task. Students would quickly get bored of the chatroom function if it was used in the same way every lesson, however it does have a place in one to one or low level ESOL teaching where the benefits would be massive.
- In group activities the strongest and most able are the studenst who have the most to say. Anyone who is slow might not be able to keep up and runs the risk of not being able to participate, however with the correct classroom management this could easily be avoided.
- There doesn’t seem to be a way of keeping the comments made. It would be great to keep a word doc. of the things said and who said them. This would be particularly useful for the conversations lesson that I did.
- There are only four chatrooms. I wanted to split my students into pairs and send one half of each pair into different rooms, they would have to use written English to communicate with each other. I have 15 students and there are only four chatrooms avaliable on the DS machine.
Robin Hood Primary School in Wakefield are also using the DS to teach. Click here for their blog.
Japanese schools using the Nintendo DS. Click here for the blog.
Last Friday night our slim line play station two died. The disk stopped spinning and the games stopped working. My four and a half year old son began to cry, he’d been waiting all week for Friday night when he could play his snow boarding game and even his sister, who’s just two, filled up. Although she can really control the characters, she still loves to play. The tears brought it home to me just how much they loved video games – maybe too much, a bit like me.
My son once played ‘Little Big Planet’ for the Playstation 3 in an electrical shop, we don’t have a playstation 3. The effect of manoeuvring a sack character round a screen was quite profound on him and he spent a long time drawing what he’d seen. He even collected the coins from down the back of the sofa to buy it. This is the power of the video game.
I only let my kids play on a Friday and Saturday night and I always watch and play with them, even so, is it healthy for little kids to play video games and how much time should they spend doing it? It must be bad right? Do I want my kids to pick up my mild addiction to video games? Reading the forums on Yahoo reveals mixed results, some say that little kids shouldn’t play at all because it’s bad for their development and they don’t understand the ‘real’ world, others say that it develops their hand-eye coordination and helps them to type faster. Of course there is always the knee jerk desire to say that all new inventions are bad, this was said of the printing press, trains, computers and of course video games.
Someone who’s thought a lot about this is the educational specialist and writer called Marc Prensky, his book ‘Don’t bother me mom, I’m learning’ is an attempt to understand the relationship between computer games, children and learning. He calls children who grow up in the modern world ‘digital natives’ and sees computer games not just a fun pastime for children, but a vital part of their development in preparation for the modern age. So would I be doing my son a disservice by not letting him play?
‘The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and re-learn,’ posted one of my techie friends on Facebook. It’s a quote from Alvin Toffler’s Book Powershift in which he discusses the changing face of information and power. I thought about my little son playing his snowboarding game and how he learned to do the jumps and speed up or slow down, I didn’t ever show him how to use a playstation paddle, or even a mouse, he just went right ahead and did it.
I’m a computer gamer also and just fit into Prensky’s digital native mould myself, I’ve been playing games most of my life from the old BBC micro to the playstations and xboxes of today and I guess they have had a profound influence on my life. I find it really easy, almost natural to learn to use technology and I’m not smart. The people around me, at work and in my family are constantly asking me ‘how do I do this?’ ‘How can I do that?’ and if I can help then I do, but I almost always find myself saying that ‘in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king’. I really don’t know a lot about technology, I’m just not afraid of making mistakes. In computer games, you know that if you do it wrong then you can go back and have another go, you always get an extra life, but this isn’t necessarily true of the real world. In terms of health or relationships you might not get the chance to put things right if they go wrong.
Phycologists Hilarie Cash and Kim Mcdaniel are quick to warn of the dangerous of too much gaming, in ‘Video Games and your Kids – How you stay in control’ they descibe how older children can become heavily addicted and how exposure to video games might prevent children from learning through discussion or listening.
Of course they really are only games and it’s how we use them with our children that makes them useful or dangerous. Too much of anything is bad for us and that’s probably the case with video games. Being ‘digital natives’ doesn’t stop kids from being kids, they need to play football, run about, read books, draw monsters as well as playing on video games.
Will I be replacing our video game console this Christmas? Of course, I miss it more than they do.
Marc Prensky – Don’t bother me mom, I’m learning.
Hilarie Cash and Kim McDaniel – Video Games and Your Kids
Alvin Toffler – Powershift
…just discovered a wonderful site for low level ESOL and ESL learners, you need an Interactive Whiteboard or a projector.
Loads of different vocabulary games and presentations aimed at low level learners.
The new year is the natural time to think about changing the things that you do and the habits that you have. Most gyms will be full this week and empty by the end of February. Here’s a simple E2 ESOL lesson that will get students talking and thinking about the new year
Download the lesson here http://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/newyear_sresolutions.doc
All these lessons and many more can be found on my website
You can find some really good games at
Click here to play Desktop Defence. Defence games involve you building towers to defeat hordes of enemies. This one is quick, easy to learn and difficult to master. Desktop Defence is easily the best out there. Say goodbye to break time.
Fancy Pants 1 and 2
Click here to play Fancy Pants 2 This is a well animated and very simple platform game with added depth for more serious gamers. It’s got a great feel to it and the humour is nice. Try Fancy Pants 1 as well…
Click here to play Flash Tennis. Simple and yet demanding, this is a quality tennis game. With after hit control on the ball and a tight serving regime needed this quickly become maddeningly addictive.
Click here to play Dino Run Stylish retro gaming, guide your dinosaur at top speed in front of the crashing boulder of extintion. Fast and engaging, the multi-player option lets you race other gamers from around the globe. Simple and fantastic.
Dolphin Olymipcs 2
Click here to play Dolphin Olympics 2 Swimming around as a dolphin and performing tricks to earn points seems fairly amusing, but if you get really good at this game then you can get much further. Pointless, engaging fun.
Could you use these games in your ESOL/ESL or EFL classroom. I’ve got a few ideas… would love to hear how you would use them.
for more great games get on down to www.superduperflashgames.com
Hapland – Reading Instructions
This is a very frustrating flash game. I used it with my Level 1+/B1+ students to help them read for meaning.
Basically the idea of the game is to get the little man to safety byclicking on different parts of the picture in the right order.
How I ran the lesson.
1. All students had a computer. I directed them to the ‘Hapland’ website. Click here http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rallen/hapland.swf I asked the students to play it for two minutes. Then I elicited their opinions, did they think it was a good game? Would they play it?
2. Now I handed out the instructions (below) . They had to read carefully following these to complete the game. I encouraged them to help each other.
a) Open all the windows and turn the red arrow around.
b) Open the hatch on the right, click the yellow arrow to get a man out.
c) Click on the man to fire one round in the low position to drop the bridge down.
d) Click the cannon to move it up. Fire the second round up at the bell and click the spear thing so it goes the other way JUST after the round hits the bell
e) Fire the next two rounds at the bridge, but click the bridge to as they hit it to knock them in the air and explode without causing damage.
f) Click the light bulb a few times next to the man at the bottom to get him to smash it.
g) Fire the last round in the low position, and the bottom man will pick it up and open the door with it.
h) Now click the man by the machine so he gets in it, and click the yellow arrow to get another guy out, get him to fire the other man up at the bell.
i) The man by the bell will move the tower over if you click him. Then click the spear thing. Now keep clicking the bell till it falls. No more land mine.
j) Click the door in the bottom left so the man comes out and JUST as he goes in the door on the right, click the man at the bottom. A dog tries to chase him, but the falling concrete stops it.
k) You did it!
How was it successful?
- students generated a lot of natural language when trying to help each other. ‘What do I do?’ ‘You don’t do it like that’ ‘How do you do that again? etc. This kind of helping language is really useful, asking for clarification or explaining is also vital in speaking English is a real context. Maybe I should have made that more the focus of this lesson.
- They really had to read the instructions to be able to complete the game. It was a good test of their comprehension skills.
What went wrong?
- some people don’t like video games and without my help and explanation might have confused this task with- ‘having a bit of a laugh’.
- it was just too hard for some of the students although they were encouraged to ask for help from other students.
Facebook is so big and popular that it doesn’t care if you don’t like it. Like a clever and over funded football team it’s risen to the top the social networking scene and nearly levelled all the competition. So, this year I’m going to use it with my ESOL class.
I’ve created a Facebook profile with a general title, another email address and a pictrure of my classroom door as a profile picture. I also uploaded some pictures of the institution where I work. I posted my status as ‘starting teaching soon.’
What I hope my students and I will get out of using Facebook
1. I’ll have their email addresses in one handy place and will be able to contact them if I need to.
2. I’ll be able to post links to webpages, links to videos in youtube, links to files and homework that students can do at home.
3. Students will hopefully talk to each other. They might even link to other people on Facebook. This is okay though, any contact in English is ‘work’
4. Students might be ‘engaged’. As soon as they start using English to write to a friend, comment on a picture or update their status – they will be doing so because they want to and therefore really using the target language.
1. I don’t really want my students to be my friends on my Facebook page, so I made another. I want to maintain a healthy and professional distance – I’ll have to ignore their friend requests if they search and find me.
2. Students might not find Facebook engaging. They might find that reading other people’s status updates is boring, ‘Ana is making a cup of tea’ for example.
I’ll update you on how I get on.