elt games

Twist on a classic: Harry the Hippo

A nod to TESOLTOOLBOX here…

Harry the Hippo is a fun guessing game to use in the class. It can be adapted for practicing various grammar structures. I can’t remember where I first played the game or who taught it to me, but I’m sure it’s well-known by many TEFLers! (more…)

Quizlet Teacher account – worth it?

I’ve been using Quizlet in class for a while. This term I’m getting to grips with it a bit more as part of a project for my MA.

Huh, Quizlet?

Quizlet is a site which allows you to create your own online flashcards and games all for free. It’s really easy to pick up for both teachers and learners. Here’s what learners can do with it:

Flashcards – Learners can revise words from a lesson using digital flashcards made by the teacher. Flashcards can be words + meanings or words + images. You could also make question and answer cards. Students could also make their own flashcards if they want.

Learn – Read the meaning/look at the image and type the correct word

Spell – Type the target word you hear

Test – An auto-generated mix of written, multiple choice, and true and false questions based on the vocabulary set

Match/Gravity – a couple of games using the vocab set. Match works well on an interactive whiteboard

Live – play a live game with multiple participants


Lesson idea: should and shouldn’t…

A repeat of the must/mustn’t game I mentioned a while back. I used this for should/shouldn’t the other day, in the context of illness.


Choose an illness, or some kind of problem related to your context. Prepare three pieces of advice, keep them hidden. Students work in pairs/groups and write down as much advice as they can using ‘you should/shouldn’t’. Allow a few minutes. Reveal your answers. If students’ ideas match the advice on the board (or it’s close enough) they get points.


Always seems to be fun and engaging. Let me know if it works for you.

Breaktime games

Does anyone have any good suggestions for break time games? I have an interactive whiteboard and I’ve started to leave a game on the board (if I can trust the class with the equipment!).

I prefer using things like Quizlet as I can make vocabulary review games like the Scattergram one – I’ve posted this example before. Sporcle’s alright but you often need a designated typer so it’s a bit limited.

For random word games I use some variations on a similar theme. There’s Word Shake from the British Council:


That’s always fun. I used to play Text Twist online a lot, that was similar.

I like Multipopword a lot, you need to go in the easy room though otherwise it can get quite hard.


So, any ideas? It doesn’t have to be interactive, as long as students can get on with it themselves. Well, the students that want to claw themselves away from their apps anyway…!

Classroom games – Dobble!

Dobble is a great card game for quick thinking and bit of new vocabulary. I trialled it during a ‘fun and games’ social club last week and it went down well. Actually, the students enjoyed it so much that they invented their own variation of the rules!

The game looks like this:


It’s just a load of cards. However, each card always shares a matching symbol with any other card. Here’s one way to set the game up (for 4 players). See if you can notice the matching symbol on each card:


There are plenty of ways to play the game, but all involve either trying to get the most cards or losing all of your cards. You must call out the matching symbol before you win (or give away) a card. Of course, a flaw in the game is that you could easily lie as it’s fast-paced, but who would do that…?!

Our social club is quite relaxed. The students just looked through the cards and identified symbols they couldn’t explain. I taught what was needed…


We played 3 or 4 variations of the game which were lots of fun, although the students kept ganging up on me! Then the group decided that they could think of some more interesting rules. These slowed the game down, but led to plenty more language use as first they had to explain the rules to me, then we needed some process language rather than just the name of each object:

A: Have you got a clover?

B: No, I haven’t…


A: I think you’ve got….


(pronunciation of weak forms and contractions was a good point to come from this)

Overall this was a fun game for the classroom, the students definitely got something out of it. There are 55 cards so you could easily break things up into smaller games between teams in a young learner class. It would be a good reward or break time game (if your students aren’t still glued to Pokemon Go).

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Introducing travel – student quiz

This came up again recently. There’s nothing wrong with ‘Where the hell is Matt?’, that will always be a classic. However, I like to mix things up, personalise, find different ways to engage my students. This worked well…

First up, a bit of teacher/student rapport building. Stick pictures of your own travels around the room. Get students to guess the country where the pictures were taken. You can make them obvious…


or not…


Anyway, good for checking prior knowledge, and gets the class doing something straight away.

Then do a bit of sentence completion:

My top travel destination would be…  because…

Get students to complete the sentence in their notebook first (this will help you gather info!)

Then do a whole class mingle. Tell the students they have 5 minutes to ask as many people as possible about their top travel destination. They should make notes to remember what they hear – after the activity you will give them a quiz…

While everyone is chatting, listen/ask questions/look at notebooks etc. Gather info on each of your students’ responses during the 5 minutes.

When time is up put the students in pairs. Tell them to share their information. Then look at the data you’ve gathered and ask them 10 questions, e.g.

  • Which student’s top travel destination is Brazil?
  • How many students said that England was their top destination?
  • Who said they would like to see Big Ben?
  • Etc…

Obviously some students will hear questions about themselves – encourage them not to give the game away. When you’ve finished check scores and announce winners.

It’s fun and personalised. Young learners enjoy it! These stages take about 20 minutes in total, depending on level.

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Comparatives and superlatives – Top Trumps

This is a classic. I find Top Trumps are a fun way to practise comparatives (mainly) and superlatives with young learners. Here’s something I did recently…

The topic was ‘Wild World’, but talk of animals like polar bears feels a bit far removed from hot and humid Bangkok! I tried to give students vocabulary to explain the nature around them. I selected about 16 animals you come across in Bangkok, and introduced/practised the vocab in various ways. Then I gave students these blank Top Trump cards with each animal on:


I went overboard with the animals… I’m a birdwatcher so some of the vocab was a bit specific (i.e. Brahminy Kite, ha!).


  • I elicited adjective forms of each category (power = powerful, danger rating = dangerous, etc). Adaptability was a bit of a stretch to be honest – needed quite a bit of concept checking!
  • Students worked together to give each animal a score from 1-10 (1 least, 10 most) for each category.
  • They used target language to do this (How fast is a… A tiger’s faster than… Buffalo’s the biggest… etc). They found it easier to order the cards in their chosen ranking first, then write in the numbers
  • I gave them a bit of process language for the game: ‘Buffalo. Power, 6. What have you got?’ etc.

If you have no idea what Top Trumps is, here are the rules.


A lot of good language use. Quite a few new words. A lot of fun (I think). I can finally explain all my stories about insects to the kids now, so I consider it a successful activity.


I wanted to make things personal to the student’s environment. Let’s be honest though, Pokemon Go Top Trumps would have probably worked even better!

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Vocabulary review – fortune tellers


my current chapter of Incredible English

Did you ever make one of those origami fortune tellers when you were a kid? They were pretty cool. Anyway, I’ve just planned a lesson on shapes with my young learners (from Incredible English), and thought the classic fortune tellers would come in handy for a bit of a vocabulary review.

I bet plenty of teachers have used these before as a fun review tool – Svetlana at Elt-cation is one for crafts so it might have come up on her blog already. Here’s a picture of my model fortune tellers for class this week:


I first thought the students could make these for their original purpose, so I put colours on the front and numbers in the middle. Then I realised they’d be good for reviewing vocabulary, so I started putting that on instead. Under the flaps I added questions or challenges based on our topics this term, which were animals, food, jobs, etc. Examples were things like ‘name 5 mammals’, ‘name 4 jobs beginning with C’, and ‘how do you spell hedgehog?’ All the questions will be created by the students, meaning they need to flick through their class books and notes to revise the topics.

If you don’t have a clue what these fortune tellers are, just look on Wikipedia. Here are the photo instructions from Wiki on how to make them if you’ve forgotten!

fortune teller

from Wikipedia

Lesson tip: Wheel Decide

Wheel Decide allows you to create instant decision/scoring wheels in class. You can change the categories to anything you want, meaning the wheel could choose who goes next, the next topic of discussion, class groups, anything you want! I plan on using it to decide who makes the coffee in the staffroom…

Click on the image below to visit wheeldecide.com. Scroll down on the homepage to create your own wheel (Wheel Builder). The instructions are easy to follow.


Lesson idea: the youngest person ever…

We recently looked at an article in English in Mind about a child genius. She was the youngest black female ever to get a place at an American university. I created a few activities based on information in the text which went down ok, but it was the follow-up task that was really successful.

youngest ever

Before class I prepared 16 slips of paper, each with a ‘claim to fame’ written on it. Each started with ‘you were the youngest person ever…’, for example:

  • You were the youngest person ever to grow a beard longer than 2 metres, aged 15
  • You were the youngest person ever to sing with One Direction, aged 10
  • You were the youngest person ever to complete a solo skydive, when you were 5!
  • Etc.

My classes are normally organised into four different groups of four students.

I gave each student one slip of paper, and allowed a few minutes for them to make some notes, think of their story and the facts around it, etc. Then students had 10 minutes to mingle and listen to each other tell their crazy stories. They always started off by asking their partner:

‘So what’s your claim to fame?’ / ‘so what’s special about you’?

Students had to remember as much information as possible about each of their classmates’ stories. They returned to their groups and told the people on their table who had the most interesting story. I did a brief class feedback but didn’t want students to share too much information.

Then came the fun part! (more…)