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Writing Games for ESL Kids

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Category Writing Game

DogDivide the classroom into two or three groups. Each group chooses their "captain".  The teacher writes on the board a word like "FRUIT" or "COLORS" or "ANIMALS", etc.  Each group has to tell their captain to write down as many words as they can which belong to that category. They have 1 or 2 mins.  Each group takes 1 point for each word.  Correct Spelling is very important in this exercise!  (submitted by Eftychia Charalambous).

Label the Classroom

LabelsHave your Ss write labels for various classroom objects on post-its. Then stick them to the correct objects. At the end of the class as a review, get all the Ss to rearrange the labels and then put back on to the correct objects again.

Make Words Game

HatWrite a few random letters on the board.  Have the Ss work in pairs/small groups to make up as many words from the letters as possible (e.g. letters: g, h, a, t, p, e, c.  Possible words: cat, peg, tea, hat, get, etc.).  The team with the most words is the winner.

Stop the Bus

BusAll Ss need pencil and paper to play this game. The T writes a letter on the board, and shouts, "Start the bus." The students then write down as many words beginning with this letter as they can think of. When one S shouts out, "Stop the bus!" everyone has to stop writing. The students all get one point for each word. The S who has the most words wins an extra 2 point. This may or may not be the one who shouted, "Stop the bus."  (Submitted by Katie McArthur)

Story Pass

StoryPut up a picture or a first sentence as a writing prompt. Divide students into small groups and have them create a story from that prompt. Each student takes a turn writing one sentence to add to the story and passes it on to the next student. Keep it going around in the group until they have finished it (it may be helpful to have a length limit or time limit so the stories don't get too out of control!). Vote on the best story, based on creativity and flow.  (Submitted by Christina Deverall)

Yoghurt Pots and Vocabulary

Yoghurt PotsThis is definitely only for primary school children just learning to speak English.

You need a number of empty, clean and preferably identical small yoghurt containers for this game. Not more than 32 pots.

On the outside of each pot write as many different English words as you can using a black permanent marker felt-pen. Write the words legibly but haphazardly - some the right way up and others sideways or upside-down. Try and write between 10 and 20 words on each pot. Then inside the pot on the bottom of it write a unique serial number starting with 1. Be very sure you also make it clear which way up the number should be read - for example it is easy to confuse 6 and 9 unless you put a line under them.

Be sure to make a master reference list of which words you write on which pot numbers, otherwise you will not be able to manage this game very well at all.

When you play the game, each child will need a single, clean sheet of A4 paper. Get the children to fold and tightly crease their paper in half across its width, then fold it in half again and then again a third time. When the paper is opened out flat it will be divided into eight sections from top to bottom. Then have them fold it in half and crease it lengthways. This divides the paper into 16 sections.

Have them turn the paper around so that it is on the desk in front of them in 'landscape' mode. At the top of each of the 16 sections depicted by the paper folds, have them write the numbers 1 to 16. Make sure they are written quite small. Then have them turn over the sheet and write more numbers on the reverse side from 17 up to 32 (or to the highest numbered pot you have put into the game. If you wish, during the folding of their papers, you might have them rule some lines along its length.

Your pots MUST be in strict, unbroken numerical order so that your students are not confused.

Then you distribute the pots at the rate of one per child - or if you have a larger class, make it one pot between two children and let each pair of children have only one sheet of paper. This way they work as a team. If you want to introduce more pots than there are children (or teams) then keep the balance quantity on your own desk in their full view.

Their job is to write down all the words off EACH pot into the correspondingly numbered sections of their paper. The words from Pot No.3 are to be written only in Space No.3 on their paper and so on. Insist that they write legibly and neatly.

Once the children grasp this game - they will be off and away! Make their goal the first child (or team) to complete ALL of the pots in the game. Perhaps a small prize each for the first three?

Please note though that you MUST insist that they can have only ONE pot on their desk at any time AND that when they finish a pot and want another, they must return the finished pot to you and get another one from you - no direct swapping within the class or there will be fights.

Primary school children love this game. Because they all read and write at different speeds, and if you make a few of the pots very simple and a few of them very difficult - some of the pots will then become "collector's items" Your desk will quickly become the centre of the universe in your classroom.

Most children will not cheat in this game but make a point of at least appearing to check the words the top three children or teams have written, against the master lists that you should have made. Be sure they see you doing this.

I was very pleasantly surprised at how successful this game became with my primary school pupils. It completely turned them around and even the laziest and most troublesome among them were transformed.

If this becomes successful in your classroom then you could use this game to 'categorize' their vocabulary training by having different 'sets' of pots with different word lengths or subjects or words beginning with certain letters or containing certain letters. Names of towns, countries, rivers, animals etc etc.

It's simple, cheap and extremely fast-paced. Most importantly young children love it! Be prepared for a VERY noisy and active classroom and for children trying to climb all over you to get at pots they need to complete their papers.  (Submitted by Dave)


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