Using Board Games with your language students

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

Scrabble
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!
Risk
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.

Monopoly
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.

Card Games
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?

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6 comments

  1. What about getting students to make their own Monopoly. There are lots of versions depending on how little/much you want to spend. Wiil create lots of debate on which streets they should use/how much they should be etc.

    http://www.ehow.com/how_5101292_create-own-monopoly-game.html

    http://ptf.com/make/make+your+own+monopoly+board/

  2. Actyally, there is a really good card game called ‘cheat’ which is all about a player’s ability to lie. This would make a really good language activity. Click for rules on how to play it http://www.wikihow.com/Play-Cheat

  3. Chris, I’d use Guess Who? and The Game of Life since they’ve been part of my childhood and they also require a lot of speaking. They’re both very fun as well. The problem with Guess Who? is that it can’t involve too many students at the same time.

    1. Thanks for this Eduardo, Guess Who is a top quality language learning game for lower levels and with the pictures avaliable to us online you could make your own set out of almost anyone you like.

  4. Top trumps are also quite good as a language learning game, especially at lower levels. My favourite sets are the Marvel and DC superhero packs.

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