Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Alphabet Call and Response

Use the standard military marching call and response rhythm, call out the alphabet and the students call the response:

ABCDEFG abcdefg
HIJKLMNOP hijklmnop
QRSTU and V qrstu and v
WXY and Z wxy and z

(you may want to adapt this to suit you and the rhythm you use) 
I think the only way to do this properly is to get the students up out of the seats, in a line, and march around the classroom in and around the desks to the rhythm.

Repeat the alphabet call & response couple of times as you march around the room. Maybe get the students to try to make the letters with their bodies as they march for an extra twist?

The "and" should be in the target language too, of course!

After a few rounds, you could always try calling the alphabet backwards - but you may need to practice this beforehand! 

It's not a game exactly, but a great way to practice the alphabet, and possibly other vocabulary. Numbers spring to mind instantly, but possibly also daily routine words - and why not add actions to add an extra kinesthetic dimension?

This is another activity from the Langues & Terres course I did in France in April.

Good luck and have fun!
ps - if you're not sure what I mean by call & response marching rhythm, here's an example of a rhythm you could use / adapt

Count against the clock

A really simple and quick game. The students count - one student per number - going around the class.
But time it, to see just how fast they can go. After a few tries, count backwards to see if they can match their top speed. Students love it!
Once they have the hang of it, start with a higher number, count by 10s, 5s, or be really tricky and count by 7s or 3s :)
This could also be used for practice saying the alphabet in the target language - any other ideas or variations? Please let me know!

Top of the Mountain / Gunung Agung

This game is really similar to Ashurbanipal / Pak Totomoto / Babo, however it has one HUGE advantage - no one gets out, so everyone is involved for the whole game.
My Year 9s taught me this game (when I played Pak Totomoto for the first time ever with this class this week, a few of them told me that it was a bit like Gunung Agung - they'd played it when they were in primary school language classes)

For those who don't speak Indonesian, Gunung Agung is a mountain in Indonesia. I'd replace it with Mount Blanc perhaps for French, and maybe Kosciuszko for English (pronounced Koz -ee-osk-oh - it;s a mountain in Australia) - you want something of a couple of syllables and preferably a little tricky to pronounce! 

Basically, everyone sits in a circle and is given a number. I found it really helpful to have the numbers written (in figures) on a piece of paper in front of each student. One student is "Gunung Agung" (or relevant mountain name) and has that title instead of a number - this is the highest position. The aim of the game is to move as high up the mountain as possible.

Gunung Agung starts by saying "Gunung Agung" then saying a number. (eg "gunung Agung - 12")
The student with that number says their number, then another. ("12 - 23")
and so on, and so on ("23 - 4" "4 - 18")

Until someone gets out.

You get out if - 
  • you call the person who just called you
  • you call a number that is out, or isn't in the game
  • you call a number that is one higher or one lower than your own.
  • you answer out of turn (eg if you are in chair 12 but you answer when 20 was called)
  • you take tooooo long to respond - the snappier the game is, the more fun it is.
When someone is out, they stand up and move to the bottom of the mountain (seat 1). Everyone who had a lower number than that person moves up one chair to fill the gap.

Obviously, as the aim is to be at the top of the mountain (in the Gunung Agung chair at the end of the game), it makes sense to target the higher (and often harder to remember) numbers rather than the low numbers.

I'd suggest a clear time limit and possibly showing a timer so the students know when the end is near - the people near the top of the mountain get rather frenetic at the end! 15 minutes would be a good length for this game, but you could run it for anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes.

My Year 9s also suggested that instead of numbers, you could use picture flashcards for the chair places as a way of drilling other vocabulary, depending on the topic.  Numbers also would not need to start with one, or possibly could be not consecutive (but still lowest to highest).

Love this variation & think it will become a regular part of my classes!
ps - the mountain pictured is Gunung Bromo not Gunung Agung - I just love the photo!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Riddle me this...

A riddle game. I've seen a few versions of this around (such as The Green Glass Door). Basically, you have a secret rule which the students need to guess. Anything that follows that rule, you like, you don't like anything that doesn't.
For example:
"I like peas but I don't like carrots. I like pears but I don't like apples. I like ears but not noses."
Students need to guess the rule by asking yes / no questions - "do you like beans?" (yes) "do you like pants?" ("no, but I like jeans!") - in this case the rule is to do with spelling - I "like" things with an "ea" in them, and don't like things that don't.
A variation would be getting students NOT to say what the rule is when they have worked it out, but to give extra examples to help the others - generally the smug "I know something you don't know" feeling is enough of a reward. You could use a weak or new student to help you by secretly telling them the rule and they give some extra examples. If students work out the rule, they should keep quiet about it, but
It can be more simple (eg liking things that begin with S, ) or more complicated (words with a double letter, words that contain the letter y - as complicated as you want to make it!)

It's a good game to get students thinking about spelling, or grammar (feminine plural nouns? -ir verbs?)

A variation is to use different language instead of like / don't like. "I'm going to a party and I'm bringing peas. Would you like to come?" "Can I bring carrots?" (no) "Can I bring Jeanette?" (yes) (same rule as above)
or "I'm making soup and I'm adding beans" "Can I add bacon?" "Yum! yes!" "Can I add ham?" "Yuk! no!" (rule = words beginning with B)

Saturday, 19 July 2014


Another term is about to begin, so I've been thinking about ways to revise and get the students back into the swing of things. I've recently been to France for a French course for teachers, and by coincidence my old French teacher was there  for the same course. Obviously, this made me think about her classes, and why I enjoyed them so much. She used Ashurbanipal fairly regularly (I've written about Ashurbanipal here before) and I thought I'd give the game a new twist (new to me!), adapting it to other vocab rather than just sticking with numbers.

First, get everyone sitting in a circle then start a body drumming rhythm as follows - slap your legs twice, clap your hands twice, click your left fingers then your right fingers then back to the start. Don't go too fast!

The reason for the circle is so that it is clear who is next.  Here's a video of the basic number version.

For other vocabulary, give a topic (words beginning with M, sports, things that are small enough to fit in a pencil case, feminine nouns, part participles...). Start it yourself by saying "start" on the first click and give a word that fits the topic on the second click. Going around the circle, the students each in turn say the word given by the person just before them on the first click, then adding a new word on the second click. (That's why you want to make sure that the rhythm isn't too fast!)


so, it might go:
slap slap clap clap "start Mandarin" (first person)
slap slap clap clap  "Mandarin Man" 
slap slap clap clap "Man Magazine"
slap slap clap clap "Magazine Moon"

and so on. If you miss the rhythm, or say something that has already been said, you're out. It's basically a trickier version of "Think Fast" :)

I'm going to play the number version as a warm up first as I haven't played this version with my classes, but at the start of the term all revision & anything getting them speaking can't be a waste of time!

A bit of googling has shown me that this game is called "Babo" (fool) in Korea, but I'm sure there are other names around too.

What do you think? Any other variations? Would this work with your classes? Let me know!