Write Me a Story

     This can be a very fun vocabulary building activity for an ESL/EFL Reading/Writing class.  It is easy to prepare, fun-for-the-teacher and fun-for-the-students activity.  Just write a list of new vocabulary words on the board. Preferably, the words will be from a list of target vocabulary. Keep the list to between 7 and 15 words depending on the level of the students.  Next, put the students in groups of 3 or 4 and tell them they have to write a story using all the words at least once. You may want to assign a time limit or have them finish the story for homework. Students then read their stories to the class.  If you want to make it a competition, have the class vote for the best story.

     Writing prompts can help students get started writing. Here are some prompts:

  1. Begin the story with, "When I walked into the room, I couldn't believe my eyes. / End the story with, "After leaving the room, all I could think is, 'What a relief!'"
  2. Begin: "It was raining when I saw her/him standing there."  End: "After he/she said that, I understood everything."
  3. Begin: "The situation looked hopeless." End: "All is well that ends well!"

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Going on a Picnic (3 Ways to Play)

This is a fun memory game and a great ice breaker or end-of-lesson filler.

1.  The easiest way to play it is one student begins with the sentence, “We’re going on a picnic and I’m going to bring a basket.” The next student follows by saying, “We’re going on a picnic. I’m going to bring some potato salad and she’s going to bring a basket.” The third student says, “We’re going on a picnic. I’m going to bring marshmallows, she’s going to bring a basket and he’s going to bring some potato salad.” And so on…

2.  An alternative is for the students to pick items in alphabetical order. For example, the first student says apple pie, the second student says a basket, the third student says cake and so on.

3.  An even more difficult way is to use the game as a way of remembering names. Each student must say an item that begins with the same letter as their name. “Hi, my name is Brian and we’re going on a picnic. I’m going to bring a basket, John is going to bring juice, Sally is going to bring sandwiches, Tabatha is going to bring taffy and Pablo is going to bring a pie.”

(Variations can be “Going to an Island” or “Going to Mars” or “Going on a Vacation”. )

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The Teacher's Cat

This is an old Victorian parlor game called “The Minister’s Cat”, but it is more fun in the ESL/EFL class if you rename it, “The Teacher’s Cat”. It is a fun game for practicing adjectives with any age students who have an intermediate level or above use of vocabulary. The game helps students develop vocabulary and an understanding of adjectives.

Students sit in a circle. The first studentbegins by saying, “The teacher’s cat is an adorable cat.” (Or, any “A” adjective to describe the cat.) The next person does the same but with the letter “B” and so on around the group. If a student cannot think of an adjective, they are out of the game. The final student not eliminated is the winner.

One variation of the game that may work for smaller groups is to have one full round with every student picking an adjective that begins with “A”, then move to the “B” adjectives and so on. This version is more difficult for large groups. Party guests played it this way in the 1970 musical version of Scrooge

Other variations are to choose words to replace “cat”. “The teacher’s car is an ancient car.” Or, “The teacher’s clothes are __________ clothes.” Or, “The teacher’s cooking is __________.”



What's the Word?

This game is is a good warm-up activity or a filler for the end of class.  Students can play the game in pairs or as teams. The teacher writes a word from a target list on a card. The teacher shows one player from each team (or pair) the word. The player that knows the word returns to the team and tries to define it. The player can only use English.  Synonyms, explanations and examples are all okay, but the player cannot use the word. The first team to shout the word aloud gets a point.  Playing to three points can take about ten minutes. 

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Beat the Clock

This is a game for two or three teams of students.  The teams race to fill their clock with words from a specific category. One round of the game takes ten minutes or less. First, the teacher draws one clock face on the board for eack team. However, instead of drawing numbers, the teacher makes a short line.  This line is where the students will write their words. The teacher then selects a category such as, food, amimals, furniture, jobs, words with six letters, descriptive adjectives, action verbs or words from a recent list the students have studied. Next, the teacher writes a word in the "12" position of the clock for each team.  Then the game begins.  Team members take turns writing a word in the following positions of the clock (1, 2, 3...11).  The challenge is that each new word must begin with the same last letter as the previous word and be in the selected category.  For example, if the category is food and the teacher writes "apple" in the "12" position, the students could write "egg" or "eggplant". So the clock might look like: 1 = egg; 2 = grapefruit; 3 = turkey; 4 = yam; and so on. The first team to fill the clock wins the game. Note: The more you play the game, the faster it tends to go.


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