A speaking game for primary school children learning English
Category: A speaking game for vocabulary, grammar and revision.
Class size: Use with 2 players to a class of up to 60
Level: Beginners to intermediate
Materials: You need a sheet or blanket and flashcards
Age: 4 to 12
Pace: Calm down, & lively version
1. HOW TO PLAY
First, create a barrier for someone to hide behind. Do this by setting up a clothes line and pegging a blanket on it. Two students could hold the blanket up, or drape it over a couple of chairs so someone could hide behind it.
Now you have a barrier, here is an example of how to play this game using clothing vocabulary. A child hides behind the blanket and puts on a selection of clothes, or props, such as a hat, belt, tie or scarf. The class asks in unison, ‘What are you wearing?’ The person behind the blanket replies, ‘I'm wearing a hat’ or ‘I'm wearing a red hat.’
Each student decides whether he or she thinks this is true or false, and whoever thinks it is true stands up; whoever thinks it is false sits down. Now the person behind the blanket reveals whether or not he is wearing a red hat. (If you don’t have real clothes, or if this is too time-consuming, use pictures.) If a red hat is correct, then all those who sat down are out and only those standing up are in. If it’s not a red hat, but a black coat, then those standing up are out and have to sit down. Those sitting down, who are still in, stand up again for the next round.
Continue and then swap over the person behind the blanket. Only allow that pupil a few seconds to dress up, to ensure that the others are not bored waiting. The class can count up to 30 or so or say the alphabet while the person puts their prop on. Of course, dressing up is only one idea for this game. It could be played with animals, with the question being ‘Do you have any pets?’ or hobbies and so on.
IDEA Another way to play is for each class member to hold up a paper with either ‘true’ or ‘false’ on it. Everyone starts the game standing up. The person behind the blan-ket chooses whether or not to wear the red hat and students hold up either a true or false card. (A tick and a cross would be easier for younger children.) Everyone who is wrong sits down and stays seated during the next rounds until only a few students are standing.
Simple vocabulary repetition variant – small class
For beginners, or to revise vocabulary, place two pictures (or word cards) on the floor behind the blanket. For example, a picture of a plane and a truck. A pupil stands on one of the cards and says ‘plane’ or a sentence such as ‘I’m going to Paris by plane.’ The student may stand either on the plane or the truck and the class must guess whether what he or she says is true or false, as described above.
Simple vocabulary repetition variant – large class
If the class is fairly big then there will not be time for everyone to go behind the blanket. So once the person behind the blanket is standing on the chosen picture, say ‘Ready, go!’ The class call out the picture they think is correct. They may also call out the sentence you are drilling. This way, everyone has a chance to say the words, rather than just the person behind the blanket. Students award themselves points if they are correct. Some of the children will cheat and pretend they said the right word, but does it really matter? After all, we want them to speak English and feel good about it!
Question drill variant
This isn’t a true or false variant, but while the blanket is out we might as well use it to the full. Put one class member behind the blanket, along with a few picture or word cards. Lay out three or four picture cards for the young children, and up to twelve for older children. The words should all be on the same theme. If you need to, have a set of the cards in view of the class, but not with older children. Too easy and it’s boring, too challenging and students are defeated! Allow the child behind the blanket five seconds to select a picture to stand on. He or she now cannot move from that spot. See below for how to continue depending on whether the class is large or small.
Question drill – large class
Display pictures or write words as well as having them behind the blanket. One pupil comes up to the front and points at one of the words/pictures, for example, car. The class asks the question form in unison, such as ‘Do you have a car?’ The person behind the blanket replies, ‘Yes I have’ if standing on the car and ‘No I haven’t’ if standing on another picture. Count how many questions students ask before discovering the picture the person behind the blanket is standing on (or holding, if you don’t have much room!). Alternatively, divide the class into teams. Each team tries to guess with fewer questions than the others.
Question or sentence drill – small class
Each student, in turn, asks a question and hopes to be the one to guess correctly. For example, the first student asks, ‘Do you have a car?’ Answer: ‘No, I haven’t.’ The second student asks, ‘Do you have a plane?’ and so on until the answer is ‘Yes I have.’ Give points if you wish. Adapt this game to ask any question. Choose a question form and then pick some vocabulary that goes well with that question form.
A lively variant
Here is a livelier variant of this game for smaller classes: One child goes behind the blanket, and the class says this rhyme, quickly and rhythmically.
‘What is it? What is it? What could it be?
What is it? What is it? One, two, three.’
It helps if the children clap on words in bold. By the time the class reaches ‘three’ the person behind the blanket must be standing on his or her chosen card. After the class have pro-nounced the word three, they are free to call out any possible word. Put up to twenty words behind the blanket with bigger classes. Students call out the words individually or together. There will be some noise! As soon as the child behind the blanket hears the correct word he or she jumps out and all those who called out that word award themselves points (mass cheating will take place, no doubt – not to worry). The next child to go behind the blanket heads over there while the class immediately start up the rhyme again. The pace should be fast and excit-ing with no time in between rounds. Picture prompts on the board will help keep the pace mov-ing.
Invent a rhyme to drill the vocabulary, sentence or question structure you need to teach. Here is an example:
Travel on a bus
Travel on a train
Ride on a bicycle
Fly in a plane
When played well, this game is noisy and fun, and the children have a chance to repeat the same words over and over so they will remember them.
Last time when I was playing one of your games I heard one my pupils say to another: This is the best teacher in our school. Before I used your games, my pupils didn't like my courses. Now, when I get into the classroom they greet me with a nice smile, and when we have break , they come to see me and talk to me with what I taught them. Naima Chraa, Morocco
Have a great time with this game, and do let me know how you get on, and what else you would like to receive in these free materials.
All the best,
Teaching English Games