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A great revision game for the language classroom that a friend of mine once showed me on a summer camp is the Spider Game. It’s extremely easy to set up but will allow for lots of revision and fun of either grammar or vocabulary items and will add a Spark to your lessons!

Preparation

  1. You need some cards (I usually work with 12) with whatever language items you’d like the students to revise.

Set up in class

  1. Stick the cards on the board with some blue-tac and underneath each card (so that students won’t see) draw a picture. I usually use three or four different pictures:
  • a spider = 5 points
  • a present = 3 points
  • a lightning bolt = -1 point
  • 1 tornado or whirlwind = -3 points

How to play

  1. Divide the students into groups of 3-4 students.
  2. Create an area on the board to score points and ask the students to come up with a team name. (If you have a lot of students, you can divide the students into teams of 6-9 students and then divide them into smaller teams of 2-3 students. They then compete as three small teams against each other).
  3. Select a person from the first team and ask them to pick one of the cards on the board.
  4. Give them a set amount of time to complete the task (say 20 seconds), after that time you ask for their answer: they either write it on the board or on a paper that they then give to you or to team B.
  5. If the answer is incorrect, move onto the next team, there are no points for anybody. If the answer was correct, remove the card to reveal what is underneath the card to find out how many points they won or lost (depending on the picture, i.e. if it’s a spider they won 5 points, if it is a lightning bolt they lost a point).
  6. Keep track of the points on the side of the board. Winner is the team with most number of points at the end of the game.

Examples language points:

  • Spelling: flashcards (if you have any) or pictures to review vocabulary or spelling. Students have to name and spell the word correctly.
  • Grammar: using flashcards or a picture you give them a grammatical structure they have to use along with the word in a sentence. e.g. you have a picture of a whale and would like them to use the past simple: “George the big blue whale ate a buffalo on his way back from school.”
  • Grammar: instead of pictures, write a grammatical structure on the card and tell them to come up with a correct sentence including at least 8 words or ask them a question or gap fill related to this grammar point.
  • Idioms: using pictures, key words or a description, ask them to tell you the idiom you are looking for.

Conclusion

It’s a very easy game to play and requires very little preparation time, but the fact that the points are hidden (and could be minus points!) adds to the excitement of the students, which makes it a very motivational tool to review the language points.

Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.

When doing listening activities in class, a main problem I find is that students can get really nervous about it and then perform worse than they would have if they hadn’t been so worried about it. Weaker students especially can be affected by this and see it as a test they are bound to fail, worrying instead of using their skills and ability to grasp the main message.

A great game to counter these problems that is enjoyable and rewarding is Listening Snap, which makes a standard listening much more fun AND prepares the students for the material by identifying key words or chunks of the listening content before answering detailed questions about the recording.

Preparation

1. Find the transcript of the listening material and highlight the main messages or words.

2. Depending on the level and the type of listening activity, select around 8 – 10 words or chunks of language you would like the students to identify.

3. Put the items on a piece of paper along with 1 or 2 “distractors” for each word. E.g. if you are doing a listening on jobs and you want the students to identify the word “journalist”, then put in “journalist”, “TV-presenter” and “author” for example. You should have a list of around 20 – 30 words of which about 30 – 40% are real words from the listening, the rest are distractors.

4. Prepare one copy of the list of words for each pair of students and cut all the items up individually. (Alternatively the students can cut up the words in class if you have a lot of students!).

Set up in class

1. Give the students the topic of the listening activity in class and elicit what the recording might be about.

2. Explain you will be playing “snap” and go through the rules of the game: when they hear a word in the recording that they have on their table, they should grab the paper before their opponent does. (Ripped papers don’t count!). They get 1 point for each correct word they have and a minus point for each word they took that was not in the recording. The aim of the game is to get as many points as possible. Once they touch a paper, they must take it (to avoid them constantly trying to get all the papers).

3. Divide the class into pairs and give each pair a copy of all the words which they spread out on their tables. Allow time for the students to read all the items.

Play the game!

1. Play the recording just once, making sure students are doing the activity appropriately. Expect some excitement, raised voices and other expressions of students being engaged!

2. After the recording ask for feedback as to which words were in the recording and elicit what they remember about each word and what was being said.

3. Award points and minus points, announce the winner per pair and also the overall winner of the activity (the student with more points than anybody else).

The students have now listened for the gist of the content, and have been able to hear from others what they remember from the story related to the main items of the listening. Continuing with the listening follow up to listen for detail (usually answering specific questions in the book about the recording) should now be a little bit easier and less stressful for all of your students.

As you can see, this isn’t just a fun game, it also gives the students more confidence for the second part of the listening and (as long as you choose the words well) should have helped their skills to focus on the most important parts of the listening, instead of trying to understand everything!

Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.

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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.

Preparation

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.

Scoring

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!

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