Published 12th October 2015

Games and adults are an interesting mix. We often think that adults are too old for games and while this is true for a lot of games, but you’ll be surprised how open adult learners are to games in the EFL classroom. Language games can be challenging and fun provided they are age-appropriate: Simon Says probably won’t go down too well! Language games are very useful to have up your sleeve in case of having an extra 5 minutes in the lesson if your activities don’t take as much time as expected, or if you’ve just finished some serious work and everyone needs a bit of a break.

So too at the beginning of the class it’s a good idea to have an activity or two to get your learners focused and in English-mode. Usually these activities are an opportunity for revision of work done in the previous lessons. It shouldn’t involve any new language structures, as it should ease the learner into the headspace necessary for the lesson.

One very well-known game is Back to the Board (B2B). Divide the class into pairs (or groups) and assign each student in the group a letter or number (A, B, C or 1, 2, 3). Each letter (or number) – A, for example – takes a turn to sit with their back to the board. The teacher writes a word or phrase on the board, which the other learners in the group must explain to A. When an A guesses correctly, the game starts again with B sitting with their back to the board and a new word or phrase.

Scrambled words is a very easy and quick – but surprisingly challenging! – game to wake up the brain. Choose some vocabulary words and write them in jumbled circles on the board. Students must unscramble the letters to find out what the words are. Crossword works similarly in that learners need to work together to create a crossword on the board (like Scrabble, with no clues) using only a set of words given to them.

Completely unrelated to any revision is 2 Truths and a Lie. Each learner must think up 3 facts about the weekend or the previous evening – 2 of which are true and 1 which is a lie. For example: Yesterday I played PS2 for 7 hours, I went out until 4am and I bought a laptop. The learners can chat in their groups and ask clarification questions to try and guess which is the true fact.

Basically, if you need to energise the class and help them focus on the lesson, anything that will get the learners talking and thinking will do the trick!