English Language Learning Games

Jumbled letters, jumbled words. Choose your sentence John quickly left just before the man woke,

Now change the letters between words. Change the first letter of each word with the last letter of the word in front and vice versa.

Johq nuickll yefj tusb tefort ehm eaw noke

Now mix up the words

ehm tefort noke nuickll Johq yefj eaw tusb

Starting from Just students should be able to work out the order of the words if they can recognize the spelling. So if they recognize ‘Johq’, they know they need to look for an n to replace the q. they also know that the next word begins with q. They know that John is the first word because the first letter, j is correct. This means there is no other word in front of it.

Mixed double sentences

Write two sentences

He plays football with his friends every Friday after school

I am cycling to Brighton this weekend with the cycle club

cycling he with his friends school after I am plays to this weekend the cycle club football every Friday Brighton with Mix all the words up an write them on the board Divide the class two teams, A and B

Write ten spaces for each sentence.

A____ _____ ______ ______ _____ _______

______ _______ _____ _______

B____ _____ ______ _______ _____

______ _______ _____ _______ _______

Teams take it in turns to nominate words which they think belong to their sentence. Each word they nominate correctly is written in its place. However, if they nominate a word from the other team’s sentence, it is written in the appropriate place in the other team’s sentence. The first team to finish their sentence wins. This is good for

contrasting structures e.g. simple vs. continuous, active vs. passive, present perfect vs. past.

Newspaper sentences

Here’s an activity for more advance learners. Give one newspaper between two students. They have to make a sentence using words from the paper as follows: The first person chooses one word from the first page, the next from the second page, the first from the third page and so on. Alternatively use text books, reading passages (alternate paragraphs)

The reckless taxi driver roleplay.

A native English speaker arrives at an airport in a non-English speaking country, and takes a taxi into town. During the ride, the driver starts a conversation to practise his English, asking present perfect questions such as: Have you ever... visited (the country), heard of (famous place/person from the country), tried/tasted/drunk (food/drink from the country), heard (singer from the country)?

The taxi driver sits in front of and slightly to one side of the passenger, and turns round while asking the questions, and the passenger answers while warning the driver: Look out!, Please slow down!, Watch that bus!

Past vs present pictures. Take a picture and look at it for a minute, then give it to a student and make some statements as follows: There was a man, he was standing by the road. Because you have not got the picture, you are describing from memory, using past tense. Ask the student with the picture to repeat, using present tense. There’s a man, he is standing by the road. Include some statements that are not true, eg A dog was lying on the grass. The student should reply: A dog is not lying on the grass. Teach the students still, not....anymore, so they can use these in their parts: The man is still standing by the road. The dog is not lying on the grass anymore. Give out pictures to pairs of students for further practice. School for butlers Explain that using past tense in an offer makes it very formal and polite. Tell the students they are trainee butlers and that they should change your sentences into past, replacing you with Sir/madam, using appropriate intonation (slow and dignified), and body language (arms at the side, perhaps a bow).

T. Do you want anything else? Ss. Did Sir/Madam want anything else? T. What time do you want lunch?

Ss. What time did Sir/Madam want lunch? T. Are you ready to have tea now? Ss. Was Sir/Madam ready to have tea now? Court room questions In pairs, students roleplay a lawyer and a witness in court. The lawyer gives a picture for the witness to look at for a very short time, just a few seconds, and then takes it back and asks questions, as if questioning a witness. Example:

Lawyer: How many people were there? Witness: (hesitant) err... three? Lawyer: Are you certain/sure/positive there were three people? Witness: ...err not certain, no

Lawyer: What was the weather like? Witness: (confident) Sunny

The lawyer asks a direct question first, and, if he hears any uncertainty in the answer, he can ask a follow up, indirect question, to find out whether the witness is really sure. Of course, the witness will guess the answer if not sure. The focus is on intonation as well as direct and indirect questions.

Logic puzzles Solving the following logic puzzle depend on understanding the meanings of verb tenses. The focus is especially on the perfect tenses.

The book is 240 pages long and I am half way through. I read twenty pages a day. How long have I been reading? Answer 6 days

I have been reading a book for 3 days. On Monday I read 6 pages, Tuesday 14 pages, Wednesday 25 pages. I am half way through the book and I am planning to finish the book tomorrow because I have to give it back. How many pages will I read tomorrow? How many pages will I have read in total? Answers 45, 90

I finished a 250 page book last night,. Yesterday I read 100 because it became very exciting. Before then, I had been reading the book rather slowly for ten days. How many pages had I read every day, on average, during that time? Answer 15.

For a follow up, ask the students to write their own simple problems for each other.

The determiners game Write the following on the board: everyone, nearly everyone, most people, many people, some people, not many people, a few people, very few people, noone. Read sentences such as: ___ think football is boring, ____ can drive, ____ have got a TV, ____ live in a hole in the ground, ____ would like to be rich, ___ want to get married, ____ can sing very well, _______ live to be 100, _____ have been into space, ____ have climbed Everest.

Ask students to write the words that they think best fills the blank for each sentence. The best answer is likely to be the one chosen by most students. Eliminate people who have different answers from the majority each round until only two or three are left.

Real or unreal A real conditional, eg If we go to London we’ll have a good time, shows that something is though possible or likely, whereas an unreal conditional means it is thought unlikely: If we went to London, we would spend a lot of money. Three people are having a discussion about whether to do something: The person in favour (S1) uses a real conditional, seeing it as a real possibility, and the person against (S2) uses an unreal conditonal, believing it should not happen. They try to persuade a third person (S3), who responds appropriately with will or would, and decides at the end whether to go or not.

Put the main ideas on cards: eg A: Visit Big Ben/Go on a river trip/ See Buckingham Palace. B: Spend a lot of money/Not have enough time to see everything/Get very tired. Example:

S1 If we go to London we’ll see Big Ben S3 Yes, we will S2 Yes but if we went, we’d spend a lot of money S3 We would, wouldn’t we? S1 We’ll go on a river trip, if we go. S3 We’ll enjoy that! Etc.

Picture games Al Do vs. Al B. Doing

Stick two pictures of 2 different men on the board and introduce them as Al B. Doing and Al Do. The more confident looking one should be Al B. Doing. Explain that we use I’ll be (doing) for something we know we will be doing at a certain point in the future, whereas we use I’ll (do) for spontaneous predictions, which of course may not come true. Put the students in pairs and assign one role to each. Point to Al B. Doing on the board and say next week/ traveling to America to elicit: Al B. Doing: Next week, I’ll be travelling to America. Al Do: Err... I’ll be here next week. Continue with other prompts. Tomorrow/climb a mountain, next year/move to Canada Friday/pick up my new car september/learn chinese Note: Al Do does not have a cue because his predictions are spontaneous, so a hesitation is completely natural. Similar pictures.Give out pictures with similar themes, to groups of four. Have one stand at one end of the room and the others face him at the other. The student by himself says Take a step forward if theres a bird in your picture and describes other objects in this way. At the end, the student nearest him should be the one with the most similar picture. Past vs present Student A describes a picture in the present. He should add things that are not there and say somethings that are not true. There’s a man riding a bike, he’s wearing a green hat. Then he gives it to student B. Student A a now describes it from memory in the past because he can no longer see the picture. After each sentence Student B says the equivalent present tense sentence. Eg A There was a man riding a bike B He’s still riding a bike A He was wearing a green hat B He’s not wearing a green hat any more (The second sentence was not true.) Thus, you not only practice past and present tenses, but create a context for still and not... any more

An extention is ‘he must have lost it.’ Alphabetical order Give out one picture card to each student. Tell them to call out the object on their card. Then tell them to stand in a line (or around the edge of the classroom) according to the first letter of their picture. This could be used as pair/group formation activity, as people standing next to eachother can work together. Eg they could talk for a minute on the subject of their picture for one minute. Same words different meanings. (Can also be used as a spoken exercise, for tone, modulation and difference) Choose two pictures, one of a confident person and one who looks rather timid. Repeat these sentences in two ways, which may be said by the people in the picture with different meaning each time. The assertive person sounds strong the other iw wek and complaining.

I’ll never do it : refusal vs defeatism I can do it : determination vs volunteering for a job. I’ll do that: determination vs spur of the moment Don’t kid me: threatening vs pleading

I don’t have to: refusal (= I’m not going to) vs someone opting out of doing something (=I don’t have to go if you’d rather I didn’t) I’m allowed to! (strong assertion vs. question intonation= Are you giving me permission?) I’m always here assertion= I’m here to help vs I’m always in the same place complaint) What are you going to to about it? A challenge aggressive vs a genuine enquiry Get out of the way or you’ll get hurt threat vs real warning eg theres a car coming You shouldn’t have done that threat, criticism vs simply acknowledging the wrong thing was done

Don't move threat vs warning. Say each sentence then ask studnets to say which person is saying it. Say sentences in a neutral way and point at a picture and get students to say it in the way they are saying it. Vague descriptions Describe pictures using stuff thing, ie omitting all the nouns, students have to guess what the picture is, eg There’s big red thing next to a green thing. The green thing has yellow bits on it. There's some blue stuff under the green thing. (a red bus next to tree with green and yellow leaves, in front of a lake.) Talking pictures, speaking activity. Take two pictures of two different people and hold them up. Put students in pairs. One role plays each person. Hold one picture up as a sign for the student playing that person to speak, then the other, and so on. Use contrasting people (age, appearance) for an interesting conversation.

Mnemonics Some ways to help students remember words using rhymes, alliteration, puns and words within words.

It has been suggested that trombone has a subconscious link with bone- when we see the word trombone, it might recall the image of a bone in our minds. Following this principle, we could draw students’ attention to words within words.

Manage: A man of a certain age. Sexist, perhaps, but a strong subconscious image.

Destroy: The link here is the image of the ruined city of Troy after the Trojan war.

Restore: Having a rest, to regain health, for example.

Enterprise: Enter the market to win a prize (this is how it is pronounced), ie to earn money.

In no sense guilty: This is a play on words, because the first three words sound like Innocence, which is the opposite of guilt. So someone who is in no sense guilty is innocent.

Spelling and word structure Sometimes the spelling and letter position give a clue to the meaning:

Parallel has two ls next to each other.

Level is a palindrome, and so well-balanced.

D comes in the middle of middle and at the end of end.

Letter is read from left to right. Letter begins with l and ends in r, which are abbreviations of left and right. This example helps students to remember which is side is left and which is right.

To listen, with a silent t, is an anagram of O, silent t!

Tongue and language are not exactly the same, but they have meaning that overlaps, and they have three letters in common, too.

Associating words Another technique is to pair words that look or sound similar, or have some other connection, and strengthen the connection with a meaningful link:

We can link sight and sigh with a rhyme:

Sight from the eyes, But from the mouth, sighs.

Maintain and mountain. Maintain collocates with high eg maintain high standards /levels/quality. Hence the connection with mountain.

Note and notice, which has an extra ic (I see!) are similar in meaning.

Rob and steal can be confusing, so here is a way to remember:

You can rob Rob, and you can steal steel, But you can’t steal Rob and you can’t rob steel.

i.e. you can rob a person (Rob) and steal something (steel), but not the other way round.

Choose and chose: write chOOse on the board, with two large Os. Say to a student, choose one ‘O’. Then rub out the one not chosen: chO se. Point to the remaining O and say you chose that one. Get the students to do the same in pairs.

Two tall stories. We could also make connections between words and images based on spelling or sound in short stories:

A hundred years ago, nobody except the very rich could buy a car because they were so expensive. Then Henry Ford started massproducing cars, the prices came down, so more people started to buy them. In fact so many people could buy one, a new expression came into being: I can buy a car! A Ford! I can buy a Ford, a car! I can, a Ford, a car! I can afford a car!

There was a lion in the jungle.‘I’m the most impoRRRtant animal!’ He roared, with a loud roar on the R! (Write impoRtant on the board) And all the animals were afraid of him. Then one day he lost his voice. He couldn’t ‘roarrr’ any more, and he lost all his power to frighten others, and all the other animals laughed at him, so he became Impotent. (Rub out R,and change a to e)

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