Any teacher knows students like to have fun, both inside and outside the classroom. And so we have to bear this in mind when planning our classes – lessons need to be fun. As Plato famously said nearly two and half thousand years ago, “Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to by what amuses their minds.” This is as true now as it was then, but I would also argue that this is as true for teenagers and young adults as it is for children. And so learning games and activities become an integral part of any lesson for a multitude of reasons – amongst others they bring language to life, involve all students, provide meaningful reasons to use English, encourage cooperation and collaboration, aid memorising and learning as well as aiding classroom management.
By the same token, teachers need to have a ready-made supply of minimum preparation games ready to go at a moment’s notice, not just for use as warmers, but for when they sense a class is flagging or for when they need to ‘fill’ 5 minutes at the end of the class. The more tools a teacher has at their disposal, the more prepared they are for dealing with different classroom situations. With that in mind, here are some grammar games that can be planned into your lesson or simply to have up your sleeve for when the times calls.
Blockbusters Grammar Game
This is a great way to include error correction in your classes and encourages the students to think about the mistakes they are making.
- Prepare a list of incorrect sentences taken from homework or class work and number them 1-16 (this could be more if you want).
- Draw a “Blockbusters” grid of 4×4 squares on the board and number each square 1-16.
- Split the class into 2 teams, with team A having to form a line from top to bottom and team B from left to right. Teams get points by choosing a square and trying to correct the corresponding sentence. If they get it wrong do not at first say why, and the other team can try again or choose another sentence to correct.
- At the end of the game, give points as follows: 1 square = 1 point. 2 squares in a row = 3 points, 3 squares in a row = 5 points. 4 squares in a row = 10 points. You can also include ‘mystery squares’. If someone chooses one of these, both teams have a race to write down 10 items of a lexical/grammatical nature to revise that week’s work. The winning team wins the square.
I Have Never
At some point you’re going to be teaching the present perfect and this is the perfect party game to practice it in class. As well as practising the grammar, it also acts as a great way for students to find out more about each other.
- Arrange the chairs in a circle with enough chairs for all but one student.
- The student without a chair stands in the middle and says a true sentence for themselves starting “I have never…”, for example “I have never eaten pork.” All the students for whom this is not true (i.e they have eaten pork) must change places, which results in a scramble for seats and someone different in the middle.
Last Man Standing
This is a competitive game for reviewing irregular past simple verbs and past participles.
- Ask the students to stand up and explain you will be calling out an infinitive and they should call out the past simple or past participle form (depending on what you’re studying/reviewing) as fast as they can. Tell them that when they have answered 3 correctly they should sit down and remain quiet.
- Using an irregular verb chart, call out different verbs until all the students have sat down, apart from one – the last man standing.
There are many variations on grammar auctions, but like Blockbusters they’re a great way to encourage error correction skills amongst your students and super quick to prepare.
- Divide the class into teams or pairs and give them a pre-prepared list of incorrect sentences taken from homework or class work. Give each team a £100 nominal money (Monopoly money is good) at the start of the game and explain the concept of an auction.
- Set a maximum bid. Teams then bid for the sentences one by one. If they bid the highest, they have the chance to correct the sentence. If they do so correctly, they win the amount of money bid, but if it is wrong they lose that amount of money. You can give a bonus £10 to a team correcting a sentence correctly after another team has failed. The winners are the team with the most money at the end of the game.
This is a good game especially for grammar structures where students can struggle with word order (conditionals, passives, adverbs of frequency).
- Before starting the activity, prepare sentences using the target language and re-write them for yourself in jumbled form.
- Put students into pairs and give each pair a mini-whiteboard and pen, or just some paper.
- Dictate the jumbled sentence to the students, asking them to the write down the words as they hear them.
- Once all the words have been dictated tell the students to re-order the words as quickly as they can. The first to finish get the points.
Do you have any other grammar games you use in your classroom? Let us know your favorite grammar games in the comment section below!
Author: Alex Warren
Alex Warren is a DELTA trained teacher trainer with over 14 years’ experience of working in ELT as a teacher, academic director and teacher trainer. Working for National Geographic Learning, Alex is driven by his passion for developing teachers on a global scale and helping them to reach their true potential. A firm believer in a communicative approach to language learning and student centred learning, Alex enjoys working with innovative, thought-provoking materials and presenting on a wide range of ELT-related topics.