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Subject: Good ESL Games rss

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Susie Rogers
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I am currently living in Japan and teaching English to a wide variety of students. I feel the best way to really get them to use English without fear or shyness is to play games with them. I thought I might give a list of great games that I use to with intermediate to advanced learners of English (or ESL students).

Obviously spelling games are good games to play with students who have a pretty sizable vocabulary. Scrabble is the first game that comes to mind, but my personal favorite spelling game is Upwords. Upwords is a little more challenging for the students because part of the game is adding or changing letters to a word to make a new words. It helps them think about their vocabulary and how to best use it. I wrote a session report of playing Upwords with middle school students (13-15 year olds). The students enjoyed the game and I could tell they were proud of playing a word game in English.

Another favorite is Apples to Apples. I was able to find a bilingual Japanese/English version of Apples to Apples that the students can play. I have played Apples to Apples with students ranging from Middle School all the way up to adults (14-50). Everyone loves it. They use the Japanese part of the cards to play but afterwards, we discuss the meaning of the words and hopefully it is helping their vocabulary grow a bit. It's also helped my Japanese vocabulary since it's Bilingual.

Scattegories is my favorite game to play with my high school students. Well, my classroom version of Scattergories anyways. I will say a letter (for example, S) and the students will race to write down as many words as possible that start with S. I usually turn it into a relay so they can work as a team. It's fascinating what words they will come up with. They also learned to bend the rules a bit by writing words like (swim, swims, swimming, swam etc). I let them do it though, because I feel it encourages them to think of all the ways to conjugate a word (plurals had to be outlawed though...little scamps!). For more advanced students, you can play closer to original games by giving them categories and a letter. I love this game and the students seem to get a big kick out of it.

On the last day of class in a semester, I like to play aCranium type game with my students. For my intermediate students, I usually just make my own vocabulary words that they should know. I have them roll (toss?) a d4 to decide which category they have to do (drawing (1), 20 questions (2), one word hints (3), and gestures (4)). Japanese students can be very shy and timid to play such an active game that has you get up in front of people, but once everyone gets into the game, they tend to lose their inhibitions and get really into the game.

Ticket to Ride is another excellent game to use. If the class is small enough, you can put them into pairs and have them play together. Since there isn't too much english or talking in TtR, students with very little English ability can play. It's a good way to have the students practice colors and numbers. It also helps the students get a little more familiar with American geography (yes, I know it's a little off but it still creates good discussion). The kids get a kick out of the game and it's a great excuse to play games while on the job.

For beginning students, Uno is a good game to play. As long as you make sure the students say the color and number of the cards they play, they are using English and getting more comfortable with it. I have a friend who always likes to play this game during elementary school or special ed classes. The students are excited to play an American game and able to use simple English. It's a great way to encourage students to keep trying. Bingo and memory match are also good games for beginners, but I think they are self-explanatory.

I love playing games with students. I love to play games in general and it's always exciting to introduce a new game to students. By the time we get into the middle of the games, the students seem to completely lose their self-consciousness and use English much better. As long as you have them work in pairs, none of the students seem to have much problem. They don't mind losing, either, which is excellent.

Anyways, if anyone is interested in becoming an ESL teacher, I hope this list gives you some good ideas of fun games that you can play in the classroom.
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Penny
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Hello. My sugguestion is Typo (a word game but compact and is very similar to Upword in a way). It is cheap and you can even get more than 1 set to have students play.

ANother one comes to mind is Attribute. It's like Apples to Apples but more fun. It trains vocabulary, as well as reflexes of words. Having gone through ESL when I was young I wish I had the chance to play games when I was learning, instead of just memorizing.
 
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Kevin H
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I've played Scattergories with my Chinese university students and it went over very well. Divided the class into 5 or 6 teams and they competed for chocolates.

I'll have to have my Apples to Apples shipped over...that would be excellent too. Actually most party games would be very good I think.
 
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Susie Rogers
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bestbandis wrote:
There's an adapted party game that works really well with small groups (3 or 4 students is ideal) of junior high/high school students. I forget the name of the game, but you get each student to write on separate scraps of paper the names of 3 or 4 well known people or animated/TV characters.

The bits of paper are all put into a hat and the game begins.

Round one: each student has 30 seconds to pull out names from the hat and can use two words as cues to help the others guess the name. If the name is guessed successfully, the guesser gets the paper (1pt) and another name is drawn.

Once the 30 seconds are up play switches to the next player. Continue until all of the names have been guessed, then tally up the scores and record them.

Round two: put the same names back into the hat. Continue as before, except that now only one word can be used as a cue. This round should move quicker because the names are more familiar. Once finished, tally up the scores again.

Round three: put the names back into the hat again. This time gestures must be used as cues.

At the end of the three rounds tally up the scores and a winner is declared.

For variation (or classes of differing levels of ability) score points by team rather than individual. It may be useful for the teacher to join in the game the first time it is played to give some good examples and relax everyone by playing silly buggers in the gestures round.

It gets students interested and is a good way to spend 15 minutes every now and then.


I don't know the official name of this game, but we always called it "The Name Game". I've played this with adult learners of English but never with my high school students. A shame, that's a really good idea. I can't believe I never thought to use it.

Excellent suggestion though, thanks.
 
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Mark McEvoy
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sujihime wrote:
I don't know the official name of this game, but we always called it "The Name Game".


In format, it sounds very similar to Time's Up!.
 
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wayne r
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How about Pictionary?
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Michael B
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How about PDQ: The Pretty Darn Quick Word Game?

For ESL students try a simple variant:

Draw two cards, and ask the students to name words that have those letters in them, or start and end with those letters.

More advanced students can play with the 3 cards as per the rules.

Even more advacned students can try 4 cards.

And as the game claims to be good for 1 to 12 players, I think that must work well in a classroom setting.
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Jeremy Birmingham
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"The exquisite corpse" and other surrealist games are great. You probably know the game (One person begins a sentence, folds paper, next person finishes the sentence) We got phrases like a friend is like a chocolate cake or water is my favourite gift for Valentine's day both from a class of 13/14 year olds. I follow up by printing up the best results, making a copy for each student and another to hang on the wall, then we try to explain why one thing is like another (because water is clear and pure, because a chocolate cake looks good on the outside and is nice and tasty on the inside) and when they have explained them, they illustrate one of the phrases with two or three explanations. This goes on the wall as well (mostly for when parents come). If you ever write an ESL book don't forget to give me credit.

I also make a lot of my own games, maybe one day to be published or released as print'n'play. But I need some long holidays to get them up to scratch.

The other day when teaching so and because I improvised an activity where we had two find two clauses which worked well with both so and because, points for the funniest. We buried the cat. The cat died. was the winner. A bit of a worry that.

Stacking scrabble games (don't know the name) are also very good, because the option of changing a word which was already placed makes it a lot simpler for more limited vocabularies.



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Jeremy Birmingham
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Oh, and scruples. I had to improvise because I haven't played since I was thirteen and didn't make it with a girl because she asked "A girl at a party wants to go home with you but you know she has a boyfriend, do you go with her" and I answered, "it depends", because, of course, it depends on the size of the boyfriend. It is a great class game because 1) you get them to make their own question cards (two or three per person, it doesn't matter if they have to answer their own questions, if they have been trying to make it difficult to answer for others, it is just as challenging for themselves) and 2) it provokes a great deal of discussion, and 3) you can gather up the best questions, print them up and have them on hand if you just want to get into a game and not have to go through the hassle of preparing, or your students aren't motivated enough yet to prepare their own questions.
 
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Simon Trahan
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My girlfriend is teaching Spanish as a second (actually third) language, and she's been playing The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow with her students for a couple of years now. It can be adapted to allow and entire class of about 30 to play all together, under the supervision of the teacher. It requires no equipment, as it can be played with a simple deck of normal cards if you wish (we actually made a custom set of cards for her). Since all the game is about convincing people of this and that (bluff, defense, accusation...), it's a great way to develop the ease of speaking in front of people, and allows all the group to be totally immersed in a second-language environment, where not only the teacher speaks this other language, but everyone (which means, a lot of different voices, accents, etc.).

For beginners, a set of ready-to-use sentences are teach before the first game. That way, the game is accessible for all, and before long, a lot of students are creating their own sentences.

A custom rule that has been added for more advanced groups, is that before the game, all players are matched one with another (in teams of two). Each time one player is accused, the "matched" player *must* say something, either to defend her partner, of to further enhance the accusation. This way, you avoid having always the same doing the talking, and a couple of students who never talk.

By the way, she's teaching to 14-17 years old (the three last years of high school here).
 
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Carolyn Burica
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xmoby wrote:
My girlfriend is teaching Spanish as a second (actually third) language, and she's been playing The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow with her students for a couple of years now. It can be adapted to allow and entire class of about 30 to play all together, under the supervision of the teacher. It requires no equipment, as it can be played with a simple deck of normal cards if you wish (we actually made a custom set of cards for her). Since all the game is about convincing people of this and that (bluff, defense, accusation...), it's a great way to develop the ease of speaking in front of people, and allows all the group to be totally immersed in a second-language environment, where not only the teacher speaks this other language, but everyone (which means, a lot of different voices, accents, etc.).

For beginners, a set of ready-to-use sentences are teach before the first game. That way, the game is accessible for all, and before long, a lot of students are creating their own sentences.

A custom rule that has been added for more advanced groups, is that before the game, all players are matched one with another (in teams of two). Each time one player is accused, the "matched" player *must* say something, either to defend her partner, of to further enhance the accusation. This way, you avoid having always the same doing the talking, and a couple of students who never talk.

By the way, she's teaching to 14-17 years old (the three last years of high school here).


There are several games that have great value in classroom settings. I am a language arts/science teacher and I have used the following game for help with building language/vocab/spelling skills:

Quiddler. It is a word building card game that also helps with math because the cards have points on them and you need to add them together at the end of each round to determine the winner. I usually divide the class into groups of 4 and give each group about 10 cards. They are given one minute to turn the cards over and make as many words as possible in that time. At the end of the minute, I say "Stop" and they have to rotate the group of cards to the next table. Then we begin again. That way, everyone uses the same group of cards. After the teams have gone through the cards, we count the number of real words on their list. The longest list wins. The kids LOVE this game.

Apples to Apples. I've used a very modified version of this game too -- even going without using the cards at all! Again, working in teams, I have the students come up with as many nouns as possible (strengthening grammar and vocabulary skills) in a set amount of time (3-5 minutes). I make sure they understand how appropriate the words must be, and that they aren't disrespectful of anyone in the classroom. Then, using an overhead projector and transparency, I write an adjective or adverb down and they choose a word from their list to match. Each team gets to debate how their word is closer than the other. This teaches team building, grammar, critical thinking and oral presentation skills. Incidentally, I had a student come up to me four weeks later (I'm a sub for now) and tell me that he thought playing that game was the best fun he had ever had in reading class.

For students who are struggling with the abstract aspects of math, I believe Blokus is an excellent game. It teaches spatial thinking, problem solving and critical thinking.

By the way, these are middle schoolers.
 
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Weaving Geek
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I teach English at a day camp in Slovakia every summer, so some of these suggestions will be helpful for me. However, my students are usually 9-11 years old with a very basic knowledge of English-- they usually know vocabulary words and that's about it-- so they're not ready for anything that requires them to put sentences together yet.

Some games I've used (not all of these are "board" games, but they all fall into the games category:

Memory (with homemade cards-- picture on one, word on the other)

Apples to Apples (junior edition)

Slovakia Ticket to Ride-- I made my own version of this, played on a map of Slovakia. Instead of train cards there are words, and you must make sentences to go from city to city. If you draw a locomotive, you must have a word ready to fill in. It's not a competitive game, but the goal is to fill up your board. You get a piece of candy/other small prize if you finish.

Go Fish

Bingo (with vocab words. This is a favorite! Have them make their own grids on a sheet of paper and then fill it in with vocab words).

Charades (with vocab words)

Pictionary (with vocab words)

Memory game (put a lot of little items on a tray, let students examine it for a specific amount of time [one minute], then list the items. Get two points for each item in English, one in Slovak.

Hangman

Seven Eight Nine Out. (A good one to practice counting. Standing or sitting a circle, each student may say 1-3 numbers. Whoever would say “ten” would be out. Example: Student 1: One, two. Student 2: Three, four, five. Student 3: six, seven. Student 4: Eight. Student 5: Nine. Student 6 would be out. It goes around fairly quickly, and last one standing is the winner. You can also do this with 11-20, etc. if they already know their low numbers and you want to practice higher ones).

Color game: when you say a color, students must find and touch something of this color.

 
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Charles Waterman
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Hi! I'm also an EFL instructor here in Japan (Kumamoto, actually). Still a bit of a newbie around the geek, but you might get some ideas from my beginnings of an ESL game list here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/32451

Chuck Waterman
Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku
Kyushu Lutheran College
 
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Kyle Schenetzke
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You've Been Sentenced!

I played a great new game at Gen Con called "You've Been Sentenced". It's potentially great for teaching grammar.

Each card is an hexagon with a base word - like "Eat" for example. Then on each side of the hexagon, there is a different form of the word like "eat" "eats" "eating" "ate" "eaten" "eatery".

You shuffle the cards up and make sentences with the words and score points by the length of your sentence. People can challenge your sentence, claiming that it's grammatically incorrect or too randomly nonsensical.

This would be EXCELLENT for teaching grammar to ESL students. The game also has bonus cards with famous Americans from history, sports, film etc. so it could also be a good chance to teach people some basic American culture.
 
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Diz Hooper
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When I was teaching in High School, I used Boggle a lot as a warm-up game. That seemed to work pretty well. Especially if you only had a few minutes for a game before moving on to more serious instruction.
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Ryan Trattles
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I used to work with some Korean middle school students and I used the Tree Game. It's an old game that parents often use to keep children quiet in a car, but adapted, worked well for me.

First, one draws a tree on a blank sheet of paper. The next player then draws something that is destroying the tree ie: a lumberjack chops down the tree. The student must explain what he/she has drawn in english.

The next player draws something to stop the first players attacker, so, continuing the first example one could draw a group of hippies chaining themselves to the tree, and again explain in english.

Play continues till basically everyone is tired of playing, alternating trying to destroy the tree and saving it.

Now, if you are planning to work on some specific vocabulary, you can change the object of destruction to be appropriate. So if you are teaching vocabulary about shopping, then you can change the goal to a woman buying groceries, and then the students can attempt to stop her with grocery related items, such as a spill in an aisle etc.
 
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Ron Gold
Japan
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The best ESL card game I've ever played is called 'Scratch My Back'.
It was made and published by an English teacher in Japan and a number of English schools are using it now, from what I can tell.
It's best suited for intermediate and above students and it's main strength is that it gets players roleplaying all kinds of weird and interesting situations using the language on their cards. It works really well because it's actually quite strategic. I've played it as a drinking / party game as well with other English teachers and it's pretty hilarious and good fun.
Anyway, here's the link: www.scratchmybackgame.com
 
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Martin Booth
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Banagrams is great if they can play scrabble, I've yet to try it with many students as I"m with a beginner class at the moment, and I think explaining the rules would be harder than the actual game in this situation!

Not sure how much it'd cost in your area, if it's even there.
 
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Charles Waterman
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I'm wondering if anyone has tried the new "Word on the Street" or "Chain Game" from Out of the Box. They both look like possible winners given the right class. After I get mine and try them out, I'll try to post here.
 
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Markus Hagenauer jr.
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Team Work is a great game to practice vocabulary.
I´d recommend the editons Urlaub and Feste & Feiern as well as the original, because the have the most common words.
 
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Hilko Drude
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Taboo is absolutely essential. I recommend filtering the cards a bit, though - and when I use it in the classroom, I just let one student describe and everyone else guess. If guessed correctly within sand timer timeframe, explainer and guesser score a point. If it takes longer, only the guesser scores. Leave out the sand timer for the first few rounds, though.
 
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Charles Waterman
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Well, folks - I have two strong recommendations and a couple more suggestions!

1) Word on the Street works great! You might want to get the junior edition to play with learners who have a very limited English vocabulary. It can be played with more than 8 people (2 teams, 4 people each), but I would only do that with people with developed vocabularies who are somewhat aggressive in games.

2) Brand new game: Snake Oil! Cross between Apples to Apples and The Big Idea. Basically, play with at least 4 people (5-7 would be best, I think). One player is the "customer", an she draws a card from the customer deck and shows everyone who she is (cheerleader / executioner / politician / teacher / beach bum, etc.) The other players have to quickly choose two of the 6 word cards in their hand to combine into a new imaginary product which they have to "sell" to the customer. After hearing each of the pitches, the customer chooses one of the products, and that player gets one point. It7s a LOT of fun even though students will stumble over words trying to think fast and communicate quickly!

3) Just came back from a great JALT workshop in Fukuoka, Japan. Prof. Margaret Orleans from Seinan Daigaku in Kitakyushu had several great games on hand which I hadn't seen before. One that I playtested and recommend is an old, out-of print (*sigh*) Hasbro game called Moods. There are still copies available at the BGG Marketplace and from Amazon's partner stores. You'll get the idea of the game if you look at the pictures on this page:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/images/thing/4659/moods

Chuck Waterman
Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku
Kumamoto, Japan
agapeesl@yahoo.com
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Dezza Hadei
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Most party games work well. Pictionary, charades, taboo are ones that I use (and someone made a lovely excel program with all the words of JHS curriculum plopped in it called 'Describe it!'.

I think Dixit can work well (I've only used a simple version of Dixit Jinx) especially if you have the students explain why they chose the cards that they did.
 
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Matt Ramsey
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I've been using Timeline and Fauna as well. Both are good games for small groups.
 
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David Larson
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Quote:


Chuck Waterman
Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku
Kumamoto, Japan
agapeesl@yahoo.com


Hey, I know that dude from the old days in Sepulveda!

Sing it with me, "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears/ It's a world of hope and a world of fears..."
 
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