Sunday, 26 July 2009

Snake words

Another vocabulary exercise: one student gives a word, the next word must start with the final letter or letters of the first word, and so on. The challenge is to see how long a “snake” can be created without repeating a word.

This can be done in writing individually or in small groups (2 or 3), on paper, on computers or on the board.

I have also done this as an oral activity going around the class, or as a variation on “think fast.”

A final variation – as a competition. Individuals or teams take turns to contribute words to the snake, with points awarded to the team that gives the final word (ie when the other team can not come up with a word that will work)

Write, Draw or Translate!

This game was taught to me by a prac teacher a few years ago (maaf, ya –saya lupa siapa!) and is one of those games that is surprisingly effective.

Divide students into 4 or 5 groups and give each group a whiteboard marker (it is easiest if each group has a different colour, but it’s not essential). Each group selects a representative who goes up to the board.

Using the target language, give an instruction – either “write *vocabulary item*”, “draw *vocabulary item*” or “translate *vocabulary item*”. Each person at the board quickly does as instructed, then squats down on the floor so it is clear that they are finished.

“Write” can be substituted with “Spell” as it is basically a spelling task. (With Indonesian, it can be good to give them unfamiliar words for this to remind them to listen to how a word sounds when trying to spell.)
“Draw” is asking for the meaning to be shown in a clear, appropriate drawing.
“Translate” – you can give the vocabulary item in either English or the target language, and they provide the translation.

If the first person to squat down is correct, then they get a point. Otherwise the point goes to the first correct or best answer.

Each person gets 3 turns, then swap to a different team member. Make sure every team member gets a turn and that teams don’t just send up their strongest player repeatedly.

This is a pretty quiet game, as any calling out is not permitted!

Variation – get a student to take over the teacher’s role (calling out instructions)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Board and card games that can be adapted

keeping this one short & sweet:

Uno! - students have to name the colour & number or instruction in the target language as they play. Useful & fun to add extra words such as "cheat!" "I win!" "whose turn?"

Guess who!
- great for encouraging students to learn extra words beyond the basicsto describe people, and to be creative with what they know (eg use of negatives). Also interesting if you have discussed / taught how people in the TL describe people (ie - Indonesian people don't tend to focus on hair colour and eye colour as much - they talk about face shape, eye shape - how can these be applied?)
Pictionary - you don't even need to own the board game for this one! Students need to draw a word that is given without using symbols or letters, other students have to guess the word. Can be quite challenging depending on the range of words they have learnt, and especially if you don't limit it to nouns and verbs...

and, of course, you can purchase games like monopoly in the Target Language. Even better: there is the option of getting your students to design board games - some of these are great and almost professional in standard!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

pak totomoto / asherbanipal / telephoning

This game has been around forever, and you (and /or your students) will probably be familiar with at least one version of it. I'll explain the simplest version first.

Each student is given a number (1 to 28 or similar - you can use higher numbers or a mix of non-consequetive numbers if your students are already pretty good with numbers.)

The teacher has a title (I use Pak Totomoto in Indonesian, my high school French teacher used Asherbanipal).

Start off by saying your title, then a number (eg, "Pak Totomoto, 2")
The student with that number then has to repeat their number and call someone else. (2, 18). And so on.
Any one who calls someone who is already out, or breaks one of the other rules you have put in place, is out. As students get more familiar with the game / vocabulary involved, you may want to add or tighten up rules.
The idea is to keep it quick - if a student takes too long they are out.
I suggest that you have a rule that restricts calling bask the person who called you, and watch out for students who just call the same number over and over.
You can also add a rule regarding mis-pronouncing words (I tend to give 3 chances here - but then you need to remember who has had a chance.)

An easy way to keep track of who is in and out is to write the numbers on the board (figures only) and cross them out as they get out. This way students can see also. You can make it harder by not letting the students see who is out.

* Add a rhythm (eg, click fingers, click fingers, clap. Need to say the numbers on the clicks. VERY hard with bigger numbers, at least in Indonesian!)

* Use different vocabulary. For this variation, I arrange the students in a circle. Each student is given a vocab item from a related set (eg, occupations or adjectives describing people). Students can either be given a picture that shows the meaning of the word, or can write their word clearly on a sheet of paper if you don't have pictures or you weren't planning on this game. They hold up the picture / sheet of paper while they are in, and place it flat or on the floor once they are out.

* Mix languages. Students say the first word (their own number / word) in English, then the second in the target language.

It can be useful to have something for students to do once they are out (eg a crossword or vocab activity on the words being drilled, or as "police" to watch for any over-long pauses etc), otherwise keep it really snappy.

You can also get a student to take over as the leader (Pak Totomoto)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

think fast!

No set up required for this one, although if you are going to have the students in a circle or U shape for another activity that can work really well.

You need a stress ball or other throwable, soft item. (I have a wide selection - kids' squirty bath toys like rubber ducks work well, as do squishy balls, and I know other teachers who use small soft toys for similar purposes - you don't want it to be too interesting though, or it will slow down the game.)

Safety rules - you throw TO someone, not AT someone. It can be useful to get them to call the name of the person they are throwing to.

You give the students a category, then throw the ball to a student. The student needs to give a word that fits the category, then pass the ball to someone else. It needs to be done quickly - the name of the game is "think fast" after all!

If they are too slow, or repeat a word that has already been said within the category, then they get a point. The student(s) with the fewest point win! For a shorter version, you can ignore the point system.
I change the category when someone makes a mistake (esp if the category is getting exhausted), or at a random point.

suggested categories:
things that are usually red.
things that would fit in a normal sized pencil case.
things that wouldn't fit through the door.
words that start with the letter ""
words you would use to describe a fantastic friend

also, standard categories such as food, hobbies, adjectives can be used!

ideas for games

I love using new games in my classes, and my students occasionally now make suggestions. I have adapted tv shows for the classroom (I am not as organised as some, so don't use the Millionaire powerpoints etc - my versions tend to be more adapted and changed.) Another great source of ideas is games used in other settings - not just board games, but ice-breakers and so on that we tend to run into from time to time. The Peer Support Program makes use of a wide variety of games, some of which can be adapted for use in the MFL classroom. Here is a somewhat random list of games that I have used with my students.

the classic tv game show where students are given the answers and need to provide the questions - I find students don't get enough opportunities to practice asking questions in the target language. (There is a template here though if you want to be snazzy and have the full set-up UPDATE: Or an even better version here)

Millionaire and Millionaire Hotseat: best as a team game or with a small group. am still tweaking the format of these for maximum participation from all students.

Go go stop (a children's tv quiz show - requires some preparation to make a "game board" on which the students step. I used laminated cards with one of the following printed onto the bottom / hidden side - in the TL: question, instruction, one step, two steps, sit down. The aim for each student is to get to the other side and sit down. If they land on a question card, they need to answer the question. If they land on an instruction card, they need to follow the instruction (given in the TL). The other cards are "free passes" - so there are very few "sit down" cards!)

will add others later!

Running "translations"

A pretty well known game. Students divide up in pairs. One has a piece of blank paper and a pen, the other is given a short piece of text. They are divided up across as large a space as possible (so this game is great for outside, but otherwise across a classroom with the furniture cleared in good also.)
The student with the text needs to help the other student to write down the text they have been given - but they can not move it. So, they must memorise bits of it, run to their partner and tell their partner what to write. Spelling counts. The runner can not touch the pen. The fun comes in as people invariably forget things, skip bits, miss-spell things, or run too fast and lose their breath so can't repeat it. Encourage students to use what they know about the spelling rules and syntax patterns that they have learned of the TL to help make sure they are on the right track.
First team to get it right wins. Switch roles between texts or at appropriate, teacher selected intervals.

variations -
1) as the name of the game suggests, the pairs need to translate not just transcribe the text.
2) for beginners, it can be a list of words rather than a paragraph.
3) "shouted translations" - each pair gas a different text / set of words. The partner with the original text must tell their partner across the space (ie shout). Their partner will need to listn carefully as all the teams will be shouting at once.

team bingo

There are lots of versions of team bingo, and lots of variations on each one - this is the one I use most often.

Divide students into small groups, preferably equally sized (3 per group works well, no more than 4 recommended.) Each group will need a piece of paper and pen / pencil. Get each group to draw up a grid of 9 squares (3x3), each square large enough to write in (approx 3cm x 3cm would be my minimum - or say 1/2 page for the total grid)

On the board, draw up your own matching grid. In each grid, write a word or sentence (depending on language level). Students must work as a group to provide a the TL equivalent if the clue is in their first language, or the 1st language equivalent if the clue is in the target language. But it must be perfect - spelling, word order, punctuation etc...
Because it students are required to give an equivalent, a translation won't always be right - eg bon voyage = happy travels not good traveling.

When they think they have it, they bring it to the teacher. You tell them how many they have correct (but not which ones) and they can go and make changes.

First group to get it all perfect wins!

You can make up grids for the students in advance and print out (either blanks or ones with the clues printed on it), or use a projector to show the clues (then you can use pictures as clues also) - depending on how organised you are!


My students think this should be called "hot seat", but it's nothing like the TV show, so I have called it Caterpillar to avoid confusion. This is a game that I devised & adapted over several years to its present form - no doubt I was influenced by other games though, so please don't feel offended if it has some similar elements in it to other classroom games!

Caterpillar is a team game, however it works even better when teams are uneven in size at it means that students get to "compete" with someone different each time around. It allows for everyone to contribute something - the student who is agile but not so good at languages can use that, the student with the great memory for vocab is an asset to the team, as is the problem solver, and even the maths whiz depending on your questions. The game allows for consultation among the team, but there are also rules that control the volume too.

It's a tricky one to explain - normally I use a hands-on approach to "teach" the game. Hopefully this will be clear enough... Otherwise, it's one I will demonstrate at the MLTAWA conference in August 09, so sign up!

here goes!

You will need at least 20 minutes for this one, and I suggest a full lesson (30 - 45 minutes) for the first time to give students a chance to learn, and to make sure that every student gets at least one turn in the hot seat.

Set up:
Get rid of all the desks (except two) - push them to the very edge of the room, stack them etc. You will need a large rectangular space. Line the chairs up in two lines facing each other at least one and a half metres apart (so there is space for 2 students to run back down the aisle at one time). You need one chair for each student.
Put two desks (with another 2 chairs) at one end of the aisle next to each other facing down the aisle.
At the far end of the aisle there should be a space that students can touch at the end of their run without knocking anything over - a wall, another desk or chair, a cupboard etc. (check the photo of my class for the setup)
Don't worry - the students get very quick at setting up the class for games once they know which set up you need!

The game:
Remember to go through safety rules (no pushing, tripping etc) as always!

Divide the class in two teams using whatever method you prefer (I may post a separate entry on different ways to divide teams that make use of the target language later if people are interested? Let me know!) and get them to sit in the chairs facing in each other. The two students who are nearest the two desks will go first. While they are sitting, call out a question. Now, there are two possibilities...

a) the students know the answer - they get up, run to the other end of the aisle, touch the wall / cupboard and run back and sit at the desk.

b) They don't know the answer - in this case, they get up, run to the person on their team who they think will know and consult. No one else is allowed out of their chair. When they have the answer, they must go back and touch their chair before running to touch the wall at the far end and then running to the front to sit at the desk. (so, needing to consult will slow them down.)

The person who is sitting at the desk first is selected to answer the question. If they get it correct, they get a point. If they get it wrong, the other team gets to try. If it's partly right, the other team can have a go at giving a "better answer" - eg, full sentence answer - up to you how you allocate points in this case. If they are both wrong, you can either let them run again with the same question (and same rules regarding consultation) or move on to the next question.

At the end of the turn, those students go to the far end of the aisle of seats and everyone shuffles up one chair so that the next student is in the head seat.

and so on! Hopefully that's clear - if you have any questions or suggestion for improvement, please let me know!

Extra rule for noise control:
No one can speak while their team's runner is running - otherwise they need to touch their chair and run again. This can reduce cheating also as it means they can't call an answer out.

Of course, these vary with the amount of Target Language that the student has learned. You can also adapt the questions for the different runners - easy qs for weaker students, a question that will require consultation for the athelete if she / he is matched up against the language whiz...
If you make it clear, you can also mix it up by:
(a) giving instructions that they must follow when they are selected (eg, "go out the door and dance" "put your pencil case on your head" etc)
(b) giving answers that they need to give a question to go with.
(c)team questions (eg, sing a song in the TL as a team - up to you how you give points for this!)

I occasionally give points for correct use of problem solving language (eg "I don't know", "I don't understand", "Can you repeat that, please" and so on.) But not always, otherwise I get someone who will always say "Maaf, saya belum tahu."

Sample questions (asked in the TL):
1) (my fav) "what is MY name?" - great to see if they are actually listening as they expect "what is your name?" (also fun to see students struggle with "how old am I?"- should they guess accurately, or flatteringly?)
2) what is next in this pattern? 2, 4, 8...
3) what is the capital of...
4) what is the name of the principal?
5) how many teachers can speak / teach Indonesian at this school?
6) what is your science teacher's name?
7) How many students / people / teachers / girls / boys are there in this room? (they rarely count teachers as people!)
8) who is the tallest in the room?

as well as all your standard drill / revision questions of course! It's also a chance to get to know the students, and for them to get to know you. My students all know my daughter's name, and the name of my cat, and some of my hobbies purely for games like this.