As part of a new series on making language learning fun with games for the foreign language classroom, this article describes how a standard grammar revision activity can be made fun with a sentence auction.
A sentence auction is a great way to review one or various grammar points just before an exam or as an end-of-unit activity and usually a lot more fun than the typical course book review.
1. Prepare sentences for students based on a grammar point that you would like to review or that the students found particularly difficult, say for example the conditionals. I personally aim for about 10 sentences of which around 4 are correct (e.g. If we have to listen to her singing much longer, I will throw something at her), and 6 incorrect (e.g. If I won the lottery, I will buy a spaceship and set up a house on the moon). Print the 10 sentences on a sheet of paper, you’ll need 1 copy for each team.
2. If you’re happy for your students to play using fake money, bring in monopoly money or poker tokens. If you don’t feel comfortable with this idea, just use points in class.
Set up in class
1. Elicit / explain what an auction is, act out if necessary pretending your are auctioning a famous Picasso painting for example.
2. Divide the students into pairs or small groups and appoint one student as the spokesperson of the group to avoid confusion when it comes to the bidding. The spokesperson role can be rotated after each sentence.
3. Give each group a budget of 2000 Euros / Pounds / Dollars or whichever currency you prefer. (Alternatively give them 2000 points to start with if you’d rather not have the students play for money).
4. Explain the basic rules of the auction:
- The aim of the game is to buy as many correct sentences as possible by bidding on them and avoid buying any incorrect sentences.
- Teams can only spend the €2000 they started with, they cannot spend any more than these €2000. Once they’ve spent all of their money, they can no longer bid on any other sentences.
- Each bid starts at €100 and can be increased by €50.
- The sentence will be sold (“going once, going twice, SOLD to team x!”) to the highest bidding team.
- The winner of the game will be the team with the highest number of correct sentences minus the number of incorrect sentences.
Play the game!
1. Give out a sheet with the 10 sentences for the students and give them between 5 – 10 minutes to decide which sentences they want to bid on.
2. Start playing the game, simply starting with the first sentence and asking for students to bid. I usually have each sentence on a slip of paper in big letters, in order to physically give the sentence to the students at the end of each bidding round.
3. Keep it fast paced and interactive and build up excitement.
1. When the game has finished once all the sentences have been sold, go through the sentences one by one asking whether they are correct or incorrect. Keep track of scores on the board (1 point for each correct sentence, -1 for incorrect sentences).
2. Announce the winners of the grammar auction based on the total number of points!
Alternative rules and options
- Give out bonus points for teams that can correct the sentences with a mistake. They only have one chance to write down the correct sentence however!
- With higher levels, teams can all come up with one or two sentences for the auction. Obviously they can’t bid on their own sentences!
- Students could place bids silently, meaning they all have to put in their bid silently, and the highest bid automatically wins the sentence.
- You could give extra points to teams that haven’t spent all of their money, for example 1 point for each €100 they have left.
- Instead of an auction, you could get the teams to place bets on the sentences. In this way more than one team can “win” a sentence. They start for example with €2000 and they play for a certain amount of money, e.g. €200. If the sentence is correct, they win this money, if it is incorrect, the money is taken out of their account. In this case you might want to set a limit on how much they can bet on each sentence.
- An auction can also be done with vocabulary items, idioms or phrasal verbs. Instead of sentences, have 10 vocabulary items up for bidding. Each item will have 3 or 4 explanations or descriptions. Students bid for the option they think is correct.
That’s all there is to it! It’s a fun an interactive way to review grammar, and enjoyable for both the students and the teacher, so give it a go when you can!