Teaching english games
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Are you new to ESL, switching age groups or looking to motivate your pupils? Make your ESL teaching easier and more fun here.

Hello. I'm Shelley Ann Vernon and I specialize in teaching English as a second or foreign language through English games, short stories, songs, plays and more. I have already helped over 15,000 teachers take the stress out of teaching and put the fun back in. Now I'd like to help you too. I am here for you. I offer you personal support to get the best out of my resources. Every email is answered.

Here’s how to motivate your pupils, help them learn effectively and ensure you and your pupils enjoy your lessons more.

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Teaching English Games Blog

Useful ESL tips to solve teaching problems

18 January 2017

Today a teacher asked me for cartoons, activities and songs relating to castles. Rather than spending hours searching for those online use these instant ideas. Here's my reply to the teacher:Hello there and thanks for your question. Have you got my "English for Toddlers" small book? It's packed with great ideas on how to play with toddlers and teach them English at the same time.For a castle activity for toddlers I can think of rooms vocabulary and going through the castle to get to the treasure. You make a castle on the floor using coloured cloth or just the children's imaginations and minimum props.  Keep it very simple for toddlers, so your castle might have only three rooms. Each room has a different coloured piece of cloth. Each room has an over-turned plastic cup. Under one of these you place the treasure (not something they could swallow obviously).  As the toddlers go through different rooms you name them, Sally is in the living room...is the treasure in the living room? As you know, you can't "organise" toddlers the way you can with three year old children and up. It's more a case of getting them involved while you repeat the room words over and over, and use short sentences over and over while toddlers are engaged in the castle. Cardboard castlesCardboard castles are easy to make too. Take a cardboard box, cut off the lid and cut crenalations into the sides. Bingo, a castle! If you cut off the bottom too children can go inside the castle. "Who lives in the castle? Sally lives in the castle." Lots of toddlers will want to get in there!  The bigger the box the more toddlers you can get in!  Ideally have more than one to avoid frustration and have more toddlers involved at once.Then the toddlers can decorate the castles.  I couldn't find the perfect photo for this post but from the one below you may get inspired for your cardboard castle using scissors and a pen. Drawing CastlesToddlers each draw a castle.  Give them a basic model to copy, such as a rectangle with crenalations along the top. These can be coloured and spread about the room, on the floor or walls.  Play music. Stop the music and ask, "Where is the red castle?"  "Who can see a red castle?"  You won't be able to force them to show you a red castle, but some might. They will all be soaking up the word "castle" and the sounds of English just by being there with you.Learn how to teach toddlers English with my "English for Toddlers" small book? It's packed with great ideas on how to play with toddlers and teach them English at the same time. 

adult students motivated and happy
13 January 2017

Thank you for coming to this post with a game to get even the shyest students to join in. First let's hear from Elaine Lovell and hear about her experience with the game. And then lower down you will find a full description of the game from my games book for teens and adults. "I received your book just last night and read the Introduction at lunchtime (just before entering my ESOL/English class). I was keen to try something from your book because, though I have a reputation for being creative as a maths and music teacher, I have never had the responsibility of teaching English before and needed inspiration! I only took on the role of teaching English a couple of months ago and could not get my head around creating the atmosphere I normally encourage. Just from using your Introduction, where you briefly mention some of the activities and where and why they would be useful or appropriate, I undertook a version of your suggestion of verbally spelling words out for students to work out the word. I did it with two teams, started with the Dolch list (the 220 most common words) and progressed quickly, by student request, to speeding up the reading of the letters and then by making the words harder/longer. You were right – a very quiet student even took part by blurting out the word for his small team on two occasions! – this from a student that normally never speaks! My class was alive with cheering, clapping and counting points, and I felt great! Your book is my missing inspiration catalyst – thank you, thank you, thank you." Elaine Lovell, offender learning teacher in the UK. Thanks Elaine for sharing your feedback, it gives teachers inspiration to use games in the classroom. For the book please see this page: http://www.teachingenglishgames.com/esl-for-adults Spell and Speak from ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and AdultsPut players into teams and spell out a word such as ‘l-i-g-h-t’ or ‘b-o-u-g-h-t’. As soon as a student has identified the word, he or she knocks on his or her desk and gives you the answer, gaining points if correct. With more advanced players this is quite a good game to highlight certain words, such as ‘bow’, which can be pronounced in two different ways, with different meanings, and which can be a noun and a verb. Use this game to draw attention to words that have silent letters (as in light and bought) or that sound the same but have different spellings (such as whine and wine, heel and heal, flour and flower whether and weather, or that rhyme but have different spelling patters, such as den and when, graph and staff), or words that are frequently misspelled (recom-mend, apartment, principle/principal, practice/practise or exercise). Give a homework assignment where each person prepares a list of three words that he or she thinks are difficult to spell. Divide into teams and play Spell and Speak, each team selecting its own words. Each team member takes a turn at saying a word for the other team to spell. Award a point to the teams for correct spelling. Team members write words on the board simultaneously, which you check as you go along. With small groups, students can spell words out loud rather than writing them down, which is harder. Advanced students will get more out of the game if you tell them to prepare a list of words for homework. Give them some examples of good words to use, such as words with silent letters or strange spellings. With business students, include useful and frequently misspelled words such as recommend, necessary, amendment, fulfil, referral and unnecessary. Note that spellings may vary between North America and the rest of the world. Fulfil is UK spelling, whereas Fulfill is American. Order the book from here: http://www.teachingenglishgames.com/esl-for-adultsOr find it on Amazon from here: https://www.amazon.com/Shelley-Ann-Vernon/e/B00LZT28DW

4 January 2017

Imagine your pupils looking forward to a grammar lesson instead of looking bored. Teaching grammar with games not only makes the lesson more enjoyable but it's more effective than copying from the board and re-writing. Teaching grammar with games works research shows Authors Arif Saricoban and Esen Metin, in "Songs, Verse and Games for Teaching Grammar" discuss why games work for teaching English grammar, as a second or foreign language. They say, "Games...have a purpose beyond the production of correct speech, and are examples of the most preferable communicative activities." They add that grammar games help pupils understand grammar and apply and use it. In addition the repetition that many ESL games solicit means students "practice and internalize vocabulary, grammar and structures extensively." Repetition is the mother of skill!  It is only through repeated exposure to the target grammar that it can be memorized long-term. During the game, students are focused on the activity and absorb the grammar subconsciously.  Aydan Ersoz, author of "Six Games for the ESL/EFL Classroom" gives further reasons why games do work for teaching grammar. Importantly he says games allow meaningful use of the language in context. Games add excitement. They add challenge. Students co-operate because they enjoy games and are motivated to join in the lesson. Any teacher knows that when a lesson is engaging and effective a bond of appreciation is created between teacher and pupils. This is one of the things that makes teaching so rewarding. Intrinsic Motivation The theory of intrinsic motivation provides insight as to why teaching grammar through games is so effective. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual.  Most young learners will not internally decide that they want to learn grammar. They probably think it's boring and the relevance of English grammar in their lives seems remote.  You can tell them it's useful, but that is an external factor that won't affect them much. It's much more fun to play, and intrinsic motivation can encourage them to play games. If the games are good then pupils learn as they play. In "Play and Affect in Language Learning", author Joel Bacha explains how this theory works. Exposure to challenges piques the children's natural curiosity and, in turn, activates their mental capacities and stimulates neural networks, thus promoting learning and retention.   Which games work best? It's essential to use games with a linguistic purpose, not just a time filler.  Since you have a limited time with students a game has to do double duty! Lin Hong, author of "Using Games in Teaching English to Young Learners", suggests these questions to check if a game is educationally useful:- Which skills does the game practice?Tip: use listening games to introduce new grammar, speaking games to practice and reading and writing games to consolidate. - What type of game is it and what is its purpose?Tip: Vary the games you use to appeal to different learning styles. - Does the difficulty level of the game fit the students' ability level?Tip: If the game is a flop it is usually because students are hesitating too much and the game becomes a drag. If it's a speaking game, go back a step and drill the language through a listening game. If it's a listening game reduce the vocabulary and simplify the task. Build a firm foundation before moving forwards. - Does the game require maximum involvement by the students?Tip: Avoid games where only one student is involved while the rest of the class sit there. - Do students like it? Do you like it? To add to these questions make sure you know: - What specific vocabulary or grammar are you working on with this game?Tip: either teach new vocabulary, or new grammar, but not both at the same time. - Can you maintain good classroom discipline and use this game?Tip: Use exciteable games towards the end of the lesson.  Calm children down with a writing task if they have become too noisy. See my classroom management tips on this blog for concrete ways to control the class. - What materials do you need and are they easy to find?Tip: I often have the children make their own board game, chart or flashcards by sketching them. This saves time, money and involves children more in the learning process.  I also have nice colour flashcards. I use small sizes for table top games and A4 for display. - What controls, if any, will you use to ensure the children are on track?Tip: As well as observing the class yourself, walking around and listening in, use other pupils to act as referees and quality control during games. For example a student from one team listens and controls the other team. This prevents a team from cheating or rushing through without repeating all the required language. The easy way to find them Receive ideal games for teaching grammar with step by step instructions.  Just enter your name and email in the box on this page - look for the big "Get Free" button. To have a chance of receiving these free games, please add my emails to your contacts list otherwise you may not get any.  info@teachingenglishgames.com and games@teachingenglishgames.com. See my next blog for tips on how to use grammar games in the ESL classroom. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shelley Vernon has inspired thousands of esl teachers with her games. Get her free games now to find out how to enjoy your time in class more and make your teaching even more effective. Receive the games via the free sign up box on this page (bottom right) ReferencesErsoz, Aydan.  Six Games for the ESL/EFL Classroom. iteslj.org/Lessons/Ersoz-Games.html.Hong, Lin.  Using Games in Teaching English to Young Learners.iteslj.org/Lessons/Lin UsingGames.html.Bacha, Joel.  Play and Affect in Language Learning.Saricoban, Arif and Esen Metin.  "Songs, Verse and Games for Teaching Grammar."

1 January 2017

I had a new private student 1-2-1 last weekend and I used your materials, but I couldn’t really get him to memorize or learn the material. I know the problem is on my end, because your materials are really great. I just need some help implementing them. I’m a new teacher, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. The student is 5 years old. Solving this problem: The chances are this teacher is trying to teach too much in one go, and is not doing enough repetition. When I say 'enough' repetition I mean however much this child needs, and it might be a lot! That is why it is so important to have a massive stock of varied games and activities so one can repeat words as much as is needed without the lesson being boring. First start with three single vocabulary words, drilled through listening games. Work on those words until the student understands them and can respond correctly to them. Feed in a fourth new word and use more games to drill the four words, go up to six new words in a lesson if the pupil is doing well. If the student is struggling do not introduce any more new words, but if he is doing well add in a fourth word and continue the games to drill all four. Feed in up to two more new words, teaching a maxium of six in any one session. Any more than six new words in a lesson can mean the student can't remember any of them! Only move onto speaking games when the student has memorized what the words mean when he hears them. To make the lesson fun and effective the student will need to hear these words many times and games are a way to do that. In my ready-made curriculum of stories and lesson plans teachers only need to follow the steps to be successful. In story one, I'm Hungry you teach three animals first, ant, spider and bird. Play as many games with these three words as you have to until most pupils recognize them. For example you name one of the animals and students: - jump on a picture,- mime the animal,- make the sound of the animal- search for it hidden about the classroom- run over to it, point to it More ideas are: - Three students each mime one of the animals. Name one of the animals, the other students point to or touch the pupil miming the animal you named.- Students walk around the classroom to music, stop the music, name an animal and kids freeze in a mime. Once pupils understand these three words start to use a sentence from the story, such as "Hello ant, how are you?" Don't expect pupils to say the sentence at this point, just understand it and respond to ANT (through mime, or touching an ant picture, drawing an ant). Move on to speaking games where children start to name the animals themselves, always in the context of activities and games. Email me for help if you need it! And be sure to try out my free story with lesson plan made of games to learn this fun method of teaching. You can get it via the free sign up box on my home page www.teachingenglishgames.com or ask me for it via email and I will send it to you.  info@teachingenglishgames.com Happy new year!Shelley Ann Vernon

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Successful author and ESL teacher Shelley Ann Vernon has a passion for helping teachers make their job easier and more fun. Having been a dedicated teacher herself, Shelley knows exactly what it's like to spend hours preparing for a lesson, trying to make it fun and interesting for the students. She has shared her extensive experience as a fun, effective ESL teacher. She has two highly rated books on Amazon, plus other outstanding resources for teaching children. She always responds to fan mail and questions. Shelley speaks at conferences such as IATEFL Cardiff 2009, YALS Belgrade 2011, UCN, Hjorring, Denmark 2014 and Barcelona in 2015. See her upcoming events on author-central for the next opportunity to meet her.

Shelley Ann Vernon, BA, BAMus

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