We’re all familiar with the games teachers habitually play in the EFL classroom: hangman, 20 questions and so-on. When your students have a high level of English, though, it gets a bit tricky – those games may be fun, but they present little to no linguistic challenge for your students and as such don’t have much value.
Just because your students are upper-intermediate or advanced, it doesn’t mean they don’t want some fun every now and then (especially if they’re kids or teens!). So, what can they play?
Also known as Stop the Bus (although I’ve never figured out why!). The aim of this game is to be the last player remaining by correctly spelling words under pressure.
Nominate a student to begin the game. The student must say a letter. The turn then passes around the classroom, with each student saying a letter to continue spelling a word.
Student 1: C
Student 2: A
Student 3: T
The student who completes a word then begins a new word. However, if a student thinks that the person before them has made a mistake, or has given an impossible letter combination (eg. C-A-L-T) they must question the student by saying ‘Challenge!’. If the challenged student fails to produce a correct word, they are out. If they can answer correctly, then the challenging student is out (and the subsequent rounds skip that player). The last player remaining in the game wins. The teacher monitors, provides a countdown time limit if students hesitate too much before providing an answer, and optionally can provide additional support by writing the letters on the board (if desired).
2. Word Squares
Put the students in pairs, or ask them to play on their own if you think they fancy a challenge!
Draw a grid on the board, 3×3, and ask the students to copy it down (one grid per pair).
Then elicit a 3 letter word from the students, and write it diagonally in the grid, one letter per square, starting from the top left hand corner and finishing in the bottom right hand corner. Explain to the students that they must race to complete the square with words that read left to right.
If for example you start off with:
The students’ end result might be:
When the first group finishes, stop all the pairs and collect feedback. I normally play three rounds of this game (the fastest pair to complete the square correctly getting a point each time), using a different variant for each round.
Possible variants include:
Using a bigger square – 4×4, 5×5 and 6×6 all work
Students may only write verbs (although any form is acceptable)
Students may not use the letter ‘e’ (or another commonly used letter)
3. Word Tennis
This can be played as a team game, or with each student playing individually. The teacher selects a topic (eg. vegetables, sports, the environment). The turn moves around the class (or alternates between the two teams) with each student (or team) saying a word connected to the topic. The last student (team) to be able to say a word each time wins a point.
I’ve played this game with students at pre-intermediate level or above, but it still works well for upper-intermediate or advanced levels – just make the categories harder (and perhaps include things more relevant to topics they have studied).
Teacher (and students!) select 4 or 5 categories and writes them on the board.
Eg. Place Food Personality Adjective Outdoor Hobby Job
Put the students into pairs or small groups. Each group needs a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
The teacher says the alphabet in their head/randomly draws a scrabble tile/any other way of choosing a random letter. The students must then think of (and write down) one word for each category beginning with that letter. When they have one word for each category they must shout ‘stop!’ and the scoring for that round begins.
There are plenty of different ways to score this, but usually I award:
0 points for no word/ a word that does not begin with the correct letter
5 points for a correct word that is the same as another team’s word
10 points for a correct word that is different to other team’s words
20 points for a correct word if no other team has a correct word
Repeat for 3/4 rounds and tally up the scores at the end.
No, that isn’t a typo. For students who love hangman (but who honestly find it too easy) here is an extra challenge (which also gets them thinking about letter patterns). Hangmanagrams is played in almost the same way as hangman – a word is chosen, dashes drawn for each letter, students guess the letters, a new part of the drawing is added for each incorrect answer etc (less bloodthirsty versions can be substituted). Why almost? Well, that’s where the ‘anagrams’ part comes in.
Correct letters are written up on the board – but they can be written in any order. For example, if the chosen word is ‘APPLE’, and ‘P’ and ‘E’ have been guessed, the student/teacher writing the word may choose to write ‘P P E _ _ ‘, ‘_ P _ E P’ or any other variant. As well as guessing the letters correctly, the students must guess the (unscrambled) word – even if they’ve guessed all the letters, each incorrect word guess counts as another life.
What games do you play with your high level students?