When you look online for grammar or vocabulary board games you often find simple ‘roll and move’ games. This post will look at ways we can expand this style of board game to make it more fun and a better tool for language acquisition.
As an example I made a game board to practise the future perfect and future continuous which can be downloaded here as either a PDF or a Powerpoint.
Players place their counters at the start and take turns rolling the dice. You follow the instructions of the space you land on; in this game you have to complete the sentence using the future continuous or future perfect.
Students shouldn’t repeat themselves or copy another player’s sentence. Students should consider each sentence and whether it’s valid before moving on to the next turn, helping each other to overcome mistakes.
Early finishers look back at the board and make sentences together using prompts that nobody landed on during the game.
A basic ‘roll and move’ game can be boring on its own so we want to increase the level of interaction and get students to be more invested in the game. Try one or more of the following ideas when you play (but be selective and don’t overload students with too many additional rules):
- Teams – Students play 2 vs 2 with three pieces per team. After they roll the dice they choose which piece to move so they have a choice of which sentence they answer. Pieces cannot land on a currently occupied space. This slight change allows for collaboration in pairs and increases the number of different spaces that will be used during the game.
- Vocab cards – Prepare cards with recently learnt vocabulary. Students draw a card after they move and they have to use that word in their sentence. This could also be done with words on the board where they choose a new word each turn.
- True/false – After each sentence the other players guess if it’s true or false. They move forward one place for a correct guess (this can’t be used with future tenses for obvious reasons).
- Return lap – Whoever finishes first has to turn around and go back. They have to get back to the start before the last player gets to the finish.
- Two dice – players roll two dice and can pick either number. This gives students some flexibility if one space seems harder than another.
- Bonus cards – Each team/player gets a bonus card that they can use once during the game. These can give players more options, helping players at the back catch up or rewarding players for correct use of the target language. Here’s an example set that would be suitable for upper-intermediate players.
- Move trading – If a player needs assistance they can ask another player for help with their sentence. They then move back one space while the player who helped moves forward one space. This might help keep players who fall behind to stay invested in what the players in the lead are doing.
After playing the game there are a few ways to help students share the sentences they’ve produced and recycle the target language.
- Swap groups – move the students around so that there is one player from every game in each group. Students review the board and try to remember sentences from each of their games so that they have a sentence for every space. Feedback as a class.
- Sentence writing and matching – students work in pairs and write sentence endings on slips of paper, reviewing the board and remembering what they said during the game. The teacher monitors and helps with corrections. When all of the students have 6-10 sentences they pass them clockwise. Every pair then has to match the sentence endings to the first halves from the board. The sentences can get passed along a few times.
- Missing words – Students make gap fills from their sentences and test each other. You can collect them at the end and type up a worksheet for revision next lesson.
- Team sentences – split the class into two teams. They each make sentences using different prompts from the game. You award 2 points for a perfect sentence and 1 point if they’re close. If the other team can correct a mistake they can steal a point.
Finally here are a few additional ways to add some variety to the games you play.
- Big board – Use A4 pages for each square and stick them to the whiteboard. Play the game with the whole class in teams of four students each. The pace will be a little slower but this may be better for lower level classes or mixed ability classes where you want to encourage collaboration.
- Cycle the players – At ten minute intervals move players between games, making sure they remember which space they were on before they moved. This is ideal for conversation based board games. You could also do this if you were playing a few different games at once with different grammar points – perhaps when you’re revising at the end of a term.
- Students make the board – Once students have seen the format allow them to make their own boards with their own additional rules. They can make them in groups and then present them to to the class before playing them.
Links and references
Thanks for reading!
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If you’re interested in some of the game design theory behind decision making and increasing player interaction a friend of mine, David Newton, wrote about it on his blog recently in reference to Snakes and Ladders.
For more posts on adapting board games for use in the classroom check out the front page and the links below:
May 17, 2016 at 8:25 am
Great ideas, thanks so much, Mike. Some of these ideas I will use for variety in my classes.
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May 18, 2016 at 7:11 am
Brilliant idea Mike. Keep sharing these innovative ideas so that we , the teachers can make a better English class, a better society. Hats off.
May 18, 2016 at 12:24 pm
Genius! I’m very impressed with the many variations you suggest, too! Well done and thank you for sharing!
June 3, 2016 at 7:53 am
Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be putting up a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.
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June 3, 2016 at 8:18 am
June 19, 2016 at 4:27 pm
Brilliant variations! Thanks for sharing!
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July 17, 2016 at 4:13 pm
Thanks Mike for your wonderful, innovative and interesting blog posts. I will definitely suggest my friends to use the suggested games and activities. Thanks for helping me to be a better teacher.
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September 3, 2017 at 5:20 pm
Playing scrabble is really enjoyable and it’s really effective way to improve vocabulary.