Posted on December 11, 2019 | By Lisa Triani
09th Oct 2019
EFL teachers sometimes panic at the idea of managing large classes. While it can be difficult to monitor, inspire and also set boundaries for a class of 20+ students, there are some advantages to having so much energy and input in the classroom. The key is to get students doing all the work and to break the class into manageable groups where everyone gets to practise the target language. Of course, nothing helps you practise language better than games that are interactive and fun – so we’ve put together some ideas for games which will work well in a big classroom environment.
#1 Board games
These are a favourite when practising a variety of grammar points or functions. You could opt for a traditional board game like Scrabble, to practise spelling, or Balderdash, for higher levels, to practise making up definitions. Alternatively, you could design and make your own board games depending on your target language. For example, imagine you are teaching language about asking for permission or complaining about a service. To make a game, all it takes is one sheet of paper containing the pathway that the pieces will travel, with a variety of squares that, when you land on them, require a particular action or language point depending on the scenario given, eg. Your neighbour is playing loud music – go and ask him politely to turn it down. You can then copy the game per group of 4 – 5 students and they will each need a dice and counters to move with. You can use coins or cut out pieces of paper which you colour in to make counters. Lo and behold – your students are ready to play!
#2 Broken down telephones
This is a handy exercise for a large group as you can break the class into two or three or even more groups if necessary. The ideal number for this activity is around 8 – 10 people per group. Get each group to sit in a circle and whisper a sentence (it can be related to the target language from the lesson if you want) into the ear of one of the students. That student then whispers it into the next person’s ear – only once, no repeats – and the process continues around the circle until the last person says the sentence they heard out loud. It is often not anything like the original sentence, which can be very entertaining, but also an interesting lesson in listening and pronunciation.
#3 The memory game
This is a fun way to practise vocabulary and also stretch your students’ concentration. Put your class into pairs or teams and then explain that they will have one minute to look at a picture (you can either display it on a screen, hold up a picture or you could even create a live scene using realia that you have brought and then cover it up with a cloth). Show them the image or display for a minute – and remind students that they are not allowed to write anything down or take notes. When the time is up, hide the image and give the teams two minutes to write down all the things they saw. You can make this more challenging by adding colours (eg. a red car/ a black hat), or by using a pictures of activities and they have to list the verbs that were displayed. The team or pair with the most correct answers wins.
Write a long word on the board, for example INTERNATIONAL. Students then have to work in pairs to write down as many words as they can using the letters from that word. If you want to, you can agree on a 4-letter minimum or, to make it really challenging, they have to write only verbs or nouns. The pair with the most correct words wins the challenge.
#5 Running dictation
This is an activity which is particularly effective at getting a class energised and moving around. Students will work in pairs and will practise both reading and writing accurately. You will need to stick up some cards around the room – they can be parts of a story or a song, or sentences practising a particular language point. The cards should not be in any particular order. Each pair then takes turns for one to sit in a chair (the chairs need to stay in one place for the whole activity) and be the “scribe” while the other person runs to one of the cards and then comes back and dictates – word for word, with exact punctuation – what they see on the card. When they have finished dictating the card, the pair swaps over and the “scribe” then becomes the runner and vice versa. When they have done this with all the cards, they need to figure out the correct order of the story/sentences/song. The first pair to show you a complete text with perfect spelling and punctuation wins.
#6 Who am I?
If you want your students to mingle and to practise asking and answering questions, this game is a great go-to. You will need some sticky labels and lots of ideas of culturally-relevant celebrities or fictional characters which you write on each sticky label. Stick a label on each student’s back, so that they can’t see what it says, but their classmates can. Then, get the class to mingle and ask one another yes or no questions eg. “Am I a man?” “Am I a politician?” and so on in order to discover who they are. If they get a “no” or “I don’t know” answer, they have to move on to someone else. If they get a “yes” answer, they continue asking the person they are working with. This ensures that students work with many people and it keeps the game dynamic. If you find it difficult to think of so many famous people or fictional characters, then you could also do a version in which students themselves decide who they are and others have to guess by asking questions, eg. “Are you a character from a story?”. You could also add in some fun aspects like getting students to walk or talk like the person or character, to give the others a clue.
#7 Convince me
This game is great for higher level students. You can divide the class into two or three groups (depending on the size) and each group gets a chance to ‘convince’ you of something: it could be something to do with school rules or the best film or car brand. Before you start, you will need to go over some useful language like “on the other hand”, “but, consider” etc.
You can either set the opinions yourself by giving each team a card or piece of paper that outlines their position (eg. you are against wearing school uniforms/you think BMW is better than Audi) or you can let them choose their own position. Give the teams some time to discuss their argument amongst themselves before the game begins. Each team then takes a turn to make an argument, then it’s the next team’s turn and so on. Each time a team has a turn, someone different has to speak – to ensure that the game isn’t dominated by a few people. In the end, you will have to say whose argument was the most convincing.
#8 Story writing
This is a fun way to practise writing and to create a story together. With a very large class, you could divide them into two or three smaller groups. Give each group a piece of paper and a pen and explain that everyone is going to write a part of a story, but that each time someone writes, they will fold over the top part of the paper and the next person will only be able to see the last three words left below where the paper is folded. The next person then continues on from those three words and then does the same thing: writes another sentence and folds over the paper to leave only the last three words visible… and so on until everyone has had a turn. The last person needs to end the story. Then the story is read out loud – the results can be hilarious!
This is a winner for large classes as teams can have anything from 2 to 15 people, or even more. One person picks a card (you can prepare scraps of paper with any topic you want your students to practise – verbs or sports or idioms or film titles) and then draws it while the rest of the team guesses it. If you want, you can add in a time limit. Make sure your students know they are not allowed to talk or use any written words. If the team guesses correctly, they get a point and the team with the most points wins. Make sure the players swap around so that everyone gets a turn to draw.
#10 Hot seat
Divide the class into two large groups. Put one group on one side of the classroom, with an empty chair facing away from the board. Do the same with the other group on the other side. Get each team to choose a team name and a person to sit in the ‘hot seat’. Explain that you will write a word on the board and that the person in the seat cannot turn around to see it. The group members will need to explain (in English, of course) the word to the person in the ‘hot seat’ without using the word or any part of it. The first team to get the answer gets a point. Then the person in the ‘hot seat’ changes around – it is good to give as many people as possible a turn.
All of these activities can be used to break the ice, introduce a topic or review the vocabulary or grammar point from the lesson. The important thing is that students are working together, speaking English and learning while having fun! We hope that with these games in your toolbox, you and your students will have a successful and memorable time – good luck!
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