Games-Based learning is a fantastic way of engaging students. Here are some tried, tested and popular games for the LOTE classroom.
Also, if you have a game that you like using in your LOTE classroom, please let me know and I’ll put it here. The more people contributing, the better the resource! I’d love to hear from you.
As well as being my school’s only LOTE teacher, I also teach 2 periods of Drama to half of Year 7 each week. I’m not a qualified Drama teacher by any stretch of the imagination, and our classes are usually spent focusing more on drama games than any serious acting! What I’ve realised as I’ve learnt a lot of these games, is that many of them can be used in a LOTE classroom. The following games are a mix of Drama games I’ve learnt and other games I’ve either adapted from books and other places.
1. Monkey King
One of my studentsâ€™ favourite games is â€˜Monkey King.â€™ Itâ€™s a game I learnt from listening to one of Silvia Tolisanoâ€™s podcasts last year. Itâ€™s a simple game where all of the students, except one, sit in a circle of chairs. The one student left is sent outside where she or he cannot hear anything that is happening in the classroom. Then one of the students is selected to be the Monkey King and the student outside is then called back in, not knowing who the Monkey King is. In order to find out who it is, they need to go around the circle asking a question. In Chinese I usually use â€˜What is your name?â€™ Whoever has been asked this question then answers â€˜My name isâ€¦â€™ The person who has been appointed as the Monkey King says â€˜My name is the Monkey King!â€™ when it is his or her turn. This is the sign for all the students to swap chairs as quickly as possible and for the student in the middle to hopefully grab a chair to sit on. The kids love it and itâ€™s a fantastic way to get usually very reluctant speakers to not worry about speaking a bit of Chinese. Itâ€™s usually my most reluctant students who are keenest to give it a go and ask to be it. I was rapt when that started happening!
2. Let’s Go!
This is a fast paced game that can use any language that suits you. Get all your students to sit in a circle on chairs, with one student starting in the middle (so there is one less chair than there are students). The aim of the game is for the student in the middle to find him or herself a chair to sit in. What the other students have to do is swap chairs with each other quickly enough without allowing the student in the middle to take their chair. They swap chairs by making eye contact with each other and then calling out ‘Let’s Go!’ in whatever language they are learning (in Chinese it would be ‘Zou Ba!’). If the student in the middle gets a chair, the student who lost that chair is then in the middle. One rule is that as soon as you leave your chair you can’t go back to it. Another is that if you have agreed to change seats with someone you can’t change your mind half way through and deliberately get them ‘out.’
I got this game from a drama games book and it is originally called ‘Kitty in The Corner’ and is played only with eye contact, no speaking. I added in the speaking part so that it was more relevant to the LOTE classroom.
3. Beetle (from Sharon Mann, Ballarat Grammar)
Beetle is played on a whiteboard with two students out the front. The aim of the game is for one student to finish drawing his or her beetle before the other. There are 8 parts to the beetle (6 legs, a body and a face) and each time a student answers a question correctly they can write 1 part. It is up to the other students in the class to ask the two students the questions and tell them whether they have the write answers or not.The six part Beetle I use looks like this, but you could definitely make up your own – more or less parts for a shorter or longer game.
4. Dog and Bone (Son Dinh – Indooroopilly High School, QLD)
This game requires two teams of students – about 8 in each team. Each student from each team is given a number from 1 to 8. Now, the teams line up opposite each other standing in number order, with the number 1s from each team being on opposite ends of the line. The students are the ‘dogs.’ Placed in between the teams is a ‘bone’ – this could be a ball, or hat. When the students are ready, call out one of the numbers. Both students who are that number have to run in and grab the bone as quickly as possible in order to win a point for their team.
This game is best played in a large space – outside or in the stadium – as it can get fast and noisy! You could also use any vocab you like for the game, not just numbers.
This is a flashcard game that involves fly swats. The class or group if divided into two teams. One student from each team takes a swat, comes to the middle and kneels beside the pool of flashcards that have been layed out. The teacher (or other students) then calls out one of the cards (in the LOTE or in English to test translation) and the student who wins that card is the one who swatted it first. Students should start with the swats held up beside their heads. This game can get furious and loud, but it’s great fun!
6. Around the World (Di Bryce, Hamilton and Alexandra College)
This is another flashcard game. The aim is for the student to move as far ‘Around The World’ s she or he can. Start with two students who are standing next to each other. Show them a flashcard. Whoever can tell you first what the word means in English moves on the the next person and challenges them. I find that it’s hard to figure out a real ‘end’ for the game, so I just say that if we do 1 1/2 to 2 rounds of the class, then it’s whoever has won the most challenges. Watch out, the kids can get really competitive and I find it’s a great game for those students who are sometimes reluctant to participate in LOTE class activities.
7. Three Words
This game involves improvisation and role play. Choose three key words – they might be ‘Oh’ ‘yes’ and ‘really’ (or the equivalents in whatever language you are teaching. Two or three students then need to come out the front and act out a scene. The only three words they are allowed to say are the ones listed (you might choose three totally different words depending on what unit you are studying). The idea is that they have to know exactly when to use the given words, and make it clear as part of their improvisation. The scene might be really short or a bit longer depending on what scene the students have chosen to act out. It could be as simple as a scene that shows two people looking at a book, pretending to discuss it (no speaking out loud yet though!) and one of them says ‘Really?’ looking at the other with wide eyes. The second person might say ‘Yes!’ to which the first person might respond ‘Oh’ and look back at the book thoughtfully.
8. Fruit Salad (or Colour Mash)
This game is easier to play than it is to explain! The students sit in a circle of chairs and each chooses a fruit or a colour (or items relevant to the unit you are studying) and tells the class what item they have chosen. Each student must have a different item and they must listen carefully to what others have chosen. Go around the circle a couple of times so that the students can hear what the items are more than once. Then, choose one student to start in the middle. The aim of the game is to stay out of the middle of the circle. In order to do that, the student in the middle (Student A) must call someone else’s item out three times. For example ‘apple apple apple.’ The person who is ‘apple’ (Student B) must then repeat the item Student A has chosen (eg ‘pear pear pear) three times BEFORE the Student A finishes saying his or her item. So, it’s about listening very very carefully! If Student B is successful in saying Student A’s item three times before Student A has finished saying Student B’s item three times, then Student A remains in the middle and chooses someone else. If Student B does not succeed in saying Student A’s item in time, then Student B then swaps places with Student A and tries to get someone else out.
The students have to listen very carefully to what the student in the middle is saying, and they have to remember what item they have chosen as well as what item other students have chosen. It can be very frustrating when the student in the middle has said your item three times before you even remember that it’s your item they are calling out!
I wrote a post about activities for bodily kinaesthetic learners which includes another 9 games and activities for you to try.
You can find them here.
The following games have been provided by Michelle Ladhams of Warrnambool College. A huge thank you to Michelle for sharing! Some of these are old favourites but you are guaranteed to find something new.
Students sit in a circle (or around a table) each are given a number or word (in the LOTE) and the teacher or one selected student â€“ is the president. The class slowly clap hands and then the table â€“ to create a beat. The president will then say their word (president) and then one of the students â€“ in time with the beat. The student whose word was said has to say their word (or number) and someone elseâ€™s word and they continue the pattern of repeating their word and they saying someone elseâ€™s with the beat.
You must stay with the beat, donâ€™t pause too long between beats once the students get better at it â€“they can only miss one beat. They must pronounce each word correctly. They cannot say the word of the person that â€“ said them or the people next to them. The idea of the game is to get the people out in front of you and become president!
Students can use flashcards â€“ so as the other students can see their word this is a great way to introduce new vocabulary.
Lots of questions
Students spread out around the room. I usually count down from 5 in the LOTE. If they are not standing still and quiet by the time you get to one they are out. Pacman is a game of elimination â€“ the aim is to be the last one standing. The teacher asks a question in the LOTE, the students will then raise their hands to answer. The first one with their hand up has the first chance to answer the question. They must answer it correctly if they donâ€™t they are out and return to their seat. If it is answered correctly they make take two steps and if they can tap someone on the shoulder they are eliminated. They can only get one person out at a time. Then the teacher asks another question and the same process applies. Until you only have one person left standing.
When you have a large class start by dividing the room into 2 so you can see all the players clearly.
- You can have â€œspecial questionsâ€ that are really difficult and if answered correctly the students can take two steps but can eliminate as many people as they can OR they can take four steps instead of 2.
If you ask a question and the students who are still playing canâ€™t answer it ask the students who have been eliminated and if they answer it correctly they can return to the game.
You can ask other students to become the person who asks the questions.
* I like to give the students an activity to do once they have been eliminated such as word puzzles.
Noughts and Crosses – A Team Game
Whiteboard / markers
Lots of questions under various categories.
Divide the class into two teams (one team noughts the other team crosses). Draw on the board a noughts and crosses grid. In each space write a topic.
The teams nominate a speaker.
The speaker will then select a category. You will then ask them a question related to that category. If they get it right they can put their mark in it â€“ but if they get it wrong the other team gets a go.
Then the general rules of noughts and crosses apply â€“ three in a row win.
Some possible categories:
Teachers choice (General Knowledge)
Current unit of work etcâ€¦
You and your students.
Students all stand up behind their chairs and take turns in counting in the LOTE. One starts with one and then the next student says two and so on.
However, every time they must say the number 5 or a multiple of 5 inside of saying the number the student must say BuZZ. If a student says the wrong number, or has bad pronunciation or they say a number instead of BuZZ â€“ they are out. The idea is to be the last student standing.
Snakes and Ladders
Snakes and Ladders board games.
Divide the students into small groups. Each group gets a board game, dice and question cards.
The winner is the one who is first to the finish line.
Always make the students call the numbers on the dice and the board in the LOTE and if the donâ€™t they must go back several spaces.
Bingo sheets OR scrap paper for the students to draw their own up.
Students draw up a four by four grid. They put a cross in the first box. Then in the next three space they put in the three set colours decided by the teacher; as the students all need to have the same colours.
Then the teacher calls out varies combinations of the object and their colours. The students then mark off the square as it is called. The teacher will call out all the combinations except one. If a student has one of the original ticks left in the box â€“ they have a chance of winning. They must be able to tell you in a sentence what combination was not called.
On the Crazy School Bus
Line the students up on seats in rows of seven. Each student is then given a name of the week (in the LOTE) and they need to put themselves in order. The teacher then calls out another day of the week and the students need to reorganise themselves so that they are in order â€“ starting with the day of the week called out. The first team sitting in the correct order quietly with their hand up wins a point.
The team with the most points win.
Eliminate some students so that each team needs to include an empty chair in their team.
Shhhhhhh! Itâ€™s a Secret!
Students sit in two rows facing each other. The two tows form opposing teams. Each team holds hands. At the end of the row there is a plastic mallet. At the opposite end of the rows is the teacher with a pile of flash cards. The teacher shows the first two students (one from each team) a flash card. The teacher will then say one word after another in the LOTE and when the words is said that was on the flash card, the students must pass the squeeze on Once the student at the end of the line has received the squeeze they hit the table with a mallet. The team to hit the table first and correctly wins a point. However, if students start sending the squeeze too early (and they will) and the mallet is hit at the wrong time the team will loose a point.
The winning team is the one with the most points.
A student or teacher thinks of a word in the LOTE and then draws lines on the board to indicate each letter of the word. The students then take turns guess what letter is missing. For every incorrect letter the teacher/ student draw a body part. The aim of the game is for the students to work out what word is going to be formed before a complete body is drawn.
Heads down thumbs up
Based on the Australian classic game â€œHeads down thumbs upâ€. However with a LOTE twist. First a small number of students are selected whilst the remaining students put their heads on the table, close their eyes and have their â€œthumbs upâ€. The selected students then sneak around the room and choose one person to touch their thumb. Once all the students have made their selection they return to the front of the room. The remaining students open their eyes. The chosen students then try and guess who picked them. Rather than guessing which students choose them, they guess in the LOTE and each student is given a vocabulary card. The students then guess using the vocab card. For example, â€œI think it was the purple car.â€ If they guess correctly (of course with correct pronunciation) they change places and the teacher introduces a new vocabulary card.
Give the students two minutes to write as many sentences as they can (in the LOTE). At the end of the two minutes the students swap work and get a point for every correct sentence they have written. Whoever gets the most sentences wins. Then discuss how basic sentences can be easily modified to write different sentences.
After a few rounds limit the number of times they can write sentences about peoples ages and names etcâ€¦
Once the students are familiar with the game, change the scoring system award extra points if students use current vocabulary or longer sentences that include â€œbecauseâ€.
This game works well if played once every week or fortnight as a warm up activity. By the end of a term or two you will find your students writing a lot in the LOTE.
Get the student to correct each others work. After a few rounds, errors can result in minus points.
The students get very good at correcting work and writing and start looking for common errors like word order.
Three or four students sit out in front of the class and the teacher or a student writes down various names of famous people above their heads, without the participating students seeing them. The students then take it in turns to ask yes/ no questions until they can determine who they are. This can also be done with stickers being placed on the back of students with celebrity names on them so that they can all play at once.
Write a word on the board, the student must then create a new word using the last letter of the word on the board. They then continue this process until they have created a long â€œword snakeâ€. The student who has used the most words in the set time wins.
For junior students allow them to use a dictionary or the back of the text book to try and race the teacher who has to rely on their own recall of vocabulary.
Whatâ€™s the time Mr. Wolf?
One student is selected to be the wolf and stands away from the class, with his/ her back to them. The remaining students ask â€œWhatâ€™s the time Mr. Wolf?â€ (in the LOTE). The selected student turns around and tells them a time e.g. 5 oâ€™clock and the remaining students then take five big steps â€“ whilst Mr. Wolf is not looking. This process is continued a few times until the students can either tap Mr. Wolf on the shoulder OR Mr. Wolf says itâ€™s â€œdinner time!â€ and tries to capture one of the other students.
Fun Activities for Senior Language Students
Show and Tell
For more senior classes, ask the students to bring in interesting objects and have a traditional show and tell session where they must explain their object to the class. Other members of the class are encouraged to ask questions
What is it?
Bring in a box with a mystery object inside it. Each student gets the opportunity to shake the box and ask a question about the object â€“ however the teacher can only answer yes or no. The students keep taking turns until they figure out what is in the box.
The students can then take turns in bringing mystery objects to class so they have to respond to the questions.
Each student is given a piece of paper folded into six. They then write (in the LOTE), once upon a time there was â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦. And they fill the gap with a character, including name, age, physical characteristics. They then fold the start of their story over so it canâ€™t be read and then pass it onto the next student. Then the next student writes about what the character is hoping to do/ achieve for the day once they have finished they once again fold the sheet of paper over and pass it onto the next person. The teacher then creates various scenarios that need to be completed to create a crazy story. Once all the sections have something in them, return the piece of paper to the first story and read out aloud the crazy stories that they have created. Here are some section ideas to get you started:
- Once upon a time there wasâ€¦ the outline the main character with name, age, physical characteristics, maybe likes and dislikes.
- What the main character is hoping to do for the day.
- Describes a very typical morning for the character
- A disaster occurs because of another person. Describe the other character and what they did.
- Describe how the main character copes with the disaster.
- Reflect on what the main character has achieved in the day, did they meet their goals?