6 Ways to get your basic students talking

Face it, repetition is boring. But it is necessary for students to gain the skills and confidence to actually use their English in a practical way. Here are some ways to practice repetition in class without sitting in a circle and chanting sentence after sentence in monotone.

1) Jenga

Rules: If you have your own Jenga game, then write or place stickers with numbers on the sticks. Could be 1-4 or 1-6 like on mine. Then this makes a game that can be adapted for any grammar or vocabulary practice. First you write down the grammar or vocabulary theme that corresponds with each number. Whenever a player pulls out a piece, they see the number and have to make a sentence accordingly.

Advice: This is a great one to play with private students or three people. If you have three or more students, I don’t advise the teacher to play, just observe and correct when needed, or else it gets too slow.

2) Uno

Rules: There are four colors in Uno. Assign each color a grammar topic or a vocabulary theme. When a player wants to play a color card, they must make a sentence with the corresponding theme.

Advice: If you want to play brutal, then draw two or draw four cards make the next student say 2/4 sentences before moving on. If you want to speed it up, then make them only make sentences on numbered color cards. This is great for 3-5 students.

3) Board Game

Preparation: Download the excel document for board games. You can use one of the pre-made games for basic grammar or you can create your own. Insert questions or prompts into the boxes of the game and print it out.

Rules: Students role a dice and go to the space. Then they answer the question or follow the prompt on the space.

Advice: Print one for every 3-4 students in your class. You’ll need a dice for each game and game pieces. Dice apps on phones work just fine. This is a good activity for larger classes because more than one game can go on. Just make sure to circulate and correct as you hear mistakes.

4) Dice Speed Game

Preparation: You only need a dice and a timer for this game. I use the timer on my phone.

Rules: Assign different grammar or vocabulary to each of the six numbers. Then you set the timer for 3-6 minutes and one by one the students roll the dice and say the sentence that goes with it. The idea is to say the prompt quickly and move on because whoever’s turn it is when the timer goes off, loses.

Advice: If you want to make a tournament out of it, you can take the person who lost out of the game and play another until there is only two left. Then see who the winner is! Students tend to get into it and root for winners and it is quite the spectacle. If your class is big, then you can divide them up into different groups and combine once there are few enough left. If it is a basic class, give them more time, if advanced then they can do it in shorter time to add pressure.

5) Writing Race

Rules: Divide the class into teams. Each team gets one piece of paper. Give the teams a prompt, either a grammar topic or a theme. Give them 5-8 minutes to write down as many complete sentences as possible. At the end, they read the sentences and you give them points for correct sentences. The team with the most wins.

Advice: If you want, you can choose to give half points for sentences that are almost correct or for sentences that are correct grammatically but not exactly what you wanted.

6) Pictures

Preparation: Print out, or show on a device like a tablet, several pictures that have something interesting happening.

Rules: Show the picture to your students one by one. Each student has to make a unique sentence about the picture. The bigger the group, the more creative the students will have to be.

Advice: When doing this activity with individuals, have them think of as many sentences as possible about the picture. Urge them to think of more.

7) Describe the word

Preparation: Give each of your students one to six cards with words or phrases on them. I use Pictionary, Taboo, or Apples to Apples cards. You can also print out or write out your own cards according to target vocabulary.

Rules: Each student has to describe the word or phrase on their card,  without saying any of the words on the card, in order for the other students to guess what the target word is.

Advice: For more advanced students, you can include a list of words, related to the target word, that they are not allowed to use in the description in order to make it more difficult.

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