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It's important that your classes be educational and enjoyable. A well placed game can do just that. Used as warm-ups or to focus on specific language structures, they are an invaluable tool for the English teacher. The following games are this month's best of. Please submit your own classroom-tested ideas and help us all do better as we go about this teaching of English in China.

Relay Spelling

Prepare 5 words in advance of playing; the words should be progressively more difficult to spell. Divide the class into two teams. Word 1 might be "apply". The way the game is played is that each team member responsible for giving just one letter of the word. The first student should say, "a" ; the next student would say "p", the third student in the team "p" ; the fourth student "l" and so forth as they spell the word. The trick is that the other team members must stay absolutely silent. No help is allowed from other teammates when the team has its turn. If anyone even mouths the letter to his fellow player, make the basketball buzzer sound and hand it over to the other team. When any one team is waiting for the other to spell, they can confer amongst themselves as how to spell the word. But, once they start, they have to keep absolutely silent. 

The other key here is to always chose a different person to begin the spelling; otherwise, they will just assign letters "O.K. I'm first so I say "a", you say "p", you say". If they have no idea who will be first, they'll have to think of the WHOLE word. 

This is a really fun game, best suited to warm up a class, especially of adults. It requires individual pressure, group cooperation and language focus. Give two stars to the winners and one star to the losers. For adult classes, choose industry specific words or commonly used office equipment. Look particularly for words with tricky spelling, like "flight", "cancel", "cartridge" and others.

The 20,000 rmb Pyramid

If its good enough for Dick Clark, its good enough for you. The name of the game, but it is comes from an American T.V. game show. Divide the class into two teams. The idea of the game provided two players to work together.. You write a word on the whiteboard. In the two-person teams, one can see the word, the other cannot. The one who CAN see the word gives single-word clues to the partner who cannot. 

If the word is jacket, the clue-giver says, "cold", the other guesses "winter". This being wrong it goes to the other two players. Their clue-giver says "weather", the other guesses "rain". It goes back to the other team, the clue-giver saying, "clothes", the other saying� to go back and forth until the answer is arrived at. 

It's tons of fun, and really stretches the connections of words and ideas. I usually write the clues and responses up on the board as the game goes, but at time that is a little too formal. Sometimes it's better to just let the words bounce around unwritten. 

After they word is guessed, the clue-giver becomes the clue receiver for one round, then 4 new players are chosen. Two full rounds is about as long as this should go. 

Logistically, I set up 4 chairs, two with their backs to the board, the other two facing these.

Word choice I try to use common nouns. Try salt, that's a good one. Or, marriage. Their associations will be wonderful and the discussion among the other team members as they watch really opens new doors to word acquisition and usage. 

Relay Writing

This is a terrific game for junior high & senior high classes. It's a race. Divide the class up into two teams. Draw a line across the floor in front of the board, but a few feet back. Name the teams, as always. Then, have them line up behind the line {if the class is too big, choose 5 from each team to line up}, and dictate a sentence: "My brother and I went to school early yesterday." Then, "Go!". First kid writes "My"; runs back and gives the marker to the second kid, and then goes to the end of the line; the second kid runs up and writes "brother", runs back and gives the maker to the third kid, who runs up and writes�

All the while you are shouting "Hurry!", clanging something on the desks and commenting on progress� "Oooooh! Team Dinosaur is already writing "early"!" Then, once they have finished. Check the sentence. Choose the obvious loser's sentence first, so yo can go over both sentences. Finally, the winner should be not who finished first, but who has the fewest errors. You can expand or limit your criteria to any number of issues: punctuation, spelling, neatness, capitalization. 

The kids REALLY like this game. 

The Best First Class Game EVER

So, you're going to meet an adult class for the first time. How to break the ice? Well, of course you introduce yourself. Tell details about who you are & where you come from. Marital status, age, etc. Then, ask this simple question. "When you first meet someone, what are the questions you ask?"

Elicit responses and write their questions on the board. Get as many as you can, quick and fast. After you have 6-9 good questions, stop. Then say, "Alright, now� everyone stand up! Ok, you must ask these questions to at least 4 other people in class." They will look at you in shock! Then say, "Go, go, go� !" with a big smile. Agents in their own demise, but they will really take to it. That way, everyone gets to know each other, and the class bonds quite quickly. Let them ask you. Offer no corrections of the various interviews going on, just let it flow.

Team Hangman

This old standard can be honestly riveting in an ESL class. Its fine as a warm up from grade school through adult. The twist with team hangman is that when a team gets one letter correct, the continue to choose. A bit like Wheel of Fortune. 

Divide the class into two teams. Name the teams, and write the names on the board. Remember, team names are a great chance to add or reinforce a new vocabulary word. Draw something they don't know or may have forgotten. What's this� then write the name under the team.

Then, put up the gallows and the spaces. First team chooses a letter. If they get it right, the same team chooses again. If they get it wrong, draw the first part of the unfortunate guy on the gallows, and it goes over to the other team. Winners two stars, losers one. 

Unlike relay spelling, team members can help each other.

The Hangman figure here is just an added means to motivate them to figure out how to spell the word; there's already competition between the teams. But, the evolving hangman on the board represents the whole class - if neither team can guess it, everybody loses; no stars, except for the teacher. :)

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