Hoards of board games


If you haven’t seen this collection of printable board games, do check it out: there are 11 different boards with instructions, from simple ‘Name your favourite’ to the more challenging ‘Which one would the world be better without’ (I’m going to use this one today). Each board has a different look, and the instructions are quite comprehensive and even offer examples of lower and higher-level student answers. An excellent resource!

By the way, how do you play board games online? I’m going to ask the students to use the Annotate tool (dots or squares of different colours) for game pieces, and either online dice or my big orange plush die (yes, I actually have things like that at home) that would look good on camera. I don’t often play them, but somehow it feels right at the moment 🙂

P.S. There’s an old post where I linked to Marisa Constantinides’ take on board games – really worth reading.


Dungeons and dragons in the classroom


Have you read the latest issue of Humanising Language Teaching? There’s a fantastic article by Monika Bigaj-Kisala about using (real) role-playing games in ELT: with character creation, game mechanics, dungeon masters and all that. If you were wondering how to embark on an epic journey with your class, this may be the ticket 🙂 I am tempted too because Monika makes it sound really simple: have the learners create characters, engage with each other in casual, problem-solving or conflict conversations, and roll the dice. The benefits are many, both affective and cognitive, and can make RPGs a worthy alternative to projects. On top of all that, Monika’s story of how she started using role plays with an unruly class of six-graders is even more inspiring than sword and sorcery: it’s about a teacher who tried different tacks and never stopped until she reached the kids.

P.S. If this topic is close to your heart, here’s a reference to a post about using the Hero’s Journey for gamification.

The good old grammar auction


I’m not a big fan of spending time on games, but the other day I actually succumbed to Kahoot 🙂 So, there’s a time for everything, even for a grammar auction! Whatever your views on the value of ‘fun’ in the classroom, this great PowerPoint template by Tekhnologic is still worth checking out. The slides have gavel sounds and click-sensitive fields, look very nice and can be easily copied and adapted. There are also links to other posts about this activity.

P.S. I keep stumbling upon those cool older posts , and I hope the author of Tekhnologic comes back some day.

English through PC games


If you haven’t seen Nik Peachey’s latest post about a YouTube channel/website for learning English through multiplayer games, do check it out. Nik describes the website in enough detail for the reader to understand how it works, and then suggests how it can be used in the classroom. I actually went to the website and watched a few videos: it’s really great authentic material, and a lot of work has been put into it. You would still need to plan how to use it all best, it’s not something you could just assign for self-study or teach off-the-page. For example, what language in particular do you want to illustrate? Which games do your learners like, and which they hate? What kind of discussions do you think this or that clip is going to cause?

So, I’ve got a lot of questions, but I think it might be a good idea to experiment: after all, what do I see every time I go into my lower secondary class? A group of heroes squashing a zombie rebellion 🙂

Teaching paperless: 4 of 7 (non-tech solutions)


We talked briefly with several colleagues about how paperless doesn’t always has to be tech-based, so I’ve decided to look into really paperless activities available to any teacher anywhere without IWBs, mobiles, TVs – in short, teaching with minimal resources.

Here is the most interesting collection I have found, with activities described by Serbian teachers taking part in a competition. They experimented with ideas suggested by famous authors like Penny Ur and added their own descriptions and variations – really good stuff that will let you teach off the page. There is the good old dictogloss (well, you do need a bit of paper for this one!), ‘Feel the object’, an original activity called ‘Radio Programme’, ‘The colourful race’ (to be truly paperless, this should be done with mini-whiteboards I think), ‘The wise man’, ‘Silly questions’ (another original, it’s really great and doesn’t have to be done on mobiles) and a lot more. Now that’s a top-notch fallback binder!

Teaching paperless 2 of 7 (activities)


Now, a quick search for paperless teaching yielded this – an interesting collection of ideas for English language teachers by Scott Mallory. It’s not a real book and can’t be compared to the wonderful Humanising your coursebook . There are variations of tried-and-true ideas like ‘ball of fire’ or ‘talking lines’, and little gems like the TED circle, but all in all it’s just what says: a fallback binder, a thin folder of a teacher’s favourite activities to use when the printer’s out of order. And this is what makes it particularly valuable – it’s an inspiration to create a binder like this, update it regularly and share in its entirety with colleagues. Something to do on a rainy day, perhaps?

Story cubes, anyone?

story cubes

I’ve finally got my own set! And of course I’ve started scouring the Internet for interesting uses. Martin Sketchley has a lot of ideas that can be used as a starting point (make a story from one cube or nine, review grammar forms, play bingo…). Some of these activities are not what I would normally choose to do in the classroom: first, they can be very time-consuming; second, they are not always directly related to the lesson content (but awfully fun, of course :)).

My favourite suggestion can be found in this post by John Meehan: use the cubes to encourage reflection and deep learning. “Have them explain what they’ve learned from the current unit by creating a series of metaphors in which they successfully incorporate each of the images that they’ve rolled”? This is gold.

Oh, and, by the way, here is an interesting explanation of how the cubes work: our brain feels uncomfortable with unfinished patterns and seeks to complete them. I can’t wait to try them in my own classroom!

Never get enough of board games


As I was googling rules for word games for fast finishers, I found (or rather, remembered) this great blog by TEFLgamer. It focuses on ready-made board games rather than printables (see Big benefits of board games for that) and is a fantastic resource with advice about the best board games for our purposes, methodology and even extra handouts with functional language. I like the rationale the author gives for using board games: they are fun, authentic, cognitively engaging, restrictive in a good way, etc, etc. I can only add that games that save the teacher’s prep time are twice as valuable – and I really hope the blog will come back to life some day!

Now, where’s that new Dixit set I bought a few weeks ago? 🙂

Constraints and choices for reading


Here is a very recent find: an illustration of how a simple collection of facts can become an engrossing adventure. Tom Kuhlmann writes about converting an electronic template to create a gamified activity, but for me the tech side of things is not as interesting as the whole approach. Imagine you have a series of short bios, or other texts about several characters. Normally, you would add a picture to each text, and that’s it. What you could do, however, is to add an interesting context and a challenge: the texts become interviews after an incident or crime, and you are a police detective who has to put the pieces of puzzle together. And then, very importantly, you introduce some constraints: each text is worth a number of points, and you can read only about several people before you are ‘ousted out of the building’.  So, from static passive reading you are moved into the realm of critical thinking: who do I choose, how do I continue my search and not fail? Interesting stuff, and seems easy enough on the surface (probably not so easy when you start building those activities, but at least now I know how they work!).

P.S. The principle of the activity reminds me of one of my favourite educational games – The Quandary. Has anyone ever tried it?

When the test is over


Another practical post from my Twitter stash of ideas: two quick and easy activities to ensure that students take away knowledge, not just their grades. If you’re a fan of graphic organisers and printouts, the chart of strengths and weaknesses by Corinne could be the thing for you. (And the students can use a purple pen for this!)

If you need to sweeten the pill and there’s time for a game, you can follow Corinne’s recommendation to play Tornado (and check out the collection of interactive whiteboard games she links to – great stuff, I’ve played one already and it works for me).