So, back to gaming here on the ‘Teach them English’ blog! Having summed up everything I want to say about the theory behind the use of games in my best-selling e-book ‘Using games in the Language Classroom‘ (by which I mean I’m not going to go into great detail about the how and the why of using games in this post; please click on the link to download the book – it’s free!), I feel compelled to follow it up with a series of posts look at specific games. Consequently, I’m going to do just that over the course of a few blog posts during the course of the next couple of months (whilst also continuing my series of posts in which I re-imagine the classic grammar activities of the ELT world).
Let me continue this series with another old favorite of mine…
Who wants to be a millionaire?
Believe it or not, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ was a complete revelation when it first appeared on British TV. Never before on my island had a game show offered cash prizes of ￡1 million.
What really made the show so compelling was the slow pace of the Q and A delivery, which served to constantly ramp up the tension. As a result, the show became one of the most internationally popular television franchises of all time. Fortunately for us, this format is one that lends itself really well to the language classroom.
OK, I’m sure the first thing you’ll want to do s download the ‘Millionaire‘ template for the game. You can do that by clicking here. Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to business. As with my previous games post on the Blockbusters format, I’ve prepared a video which talks you through how to go about using the game.
In case you’re still confused and need a little bit more guidance, here are some directions on how to use this in class.
What do learners need to know?
This works really well as a grammar or vocabulary revision exercise, so learners should already be familiar with specific structures or vocabulary from the course book unit being taught, for instance.
What I often do is construct the questions from an end of unit quiz, play the game and then give the quiz as it appears in the course book.
What equipment do you need?
The ‘Millionaire’ template (which you have now downloaded) and an answer sheet for you to refer to (don’t forget this!).
Medium of delivery
I have projectors in my classes and so deliver this via PowerPoint, but you could also deliver it orally, if you think your learners are up to it. You could write questions and answers on the board, but this would be time consuming and might affect the pacing of the game.
How to play
- The way I play it is to get the whole class playing as one big team.
- One learner is nominated by the class to come and sit in the ‘hot seat’, i.e. they come and sit in a focal position near the front and answer that question.
- This learner then nominates another if they give the correct answer.
- Each ‘contestant’ gets 3 lifelines which help to alleviate the pressure and get everyone involved:
- 50 /50: the teacher randomly eliminates two of the incorrect choices.
- Phone a friend: the student may call any one of their friends. Phone-a-friends should try to express their certainty as a percentage.
- Ask the audience: All learners raise their hands to choose the answer they think is correct; this is the most popular lifeline because it usually offers the correct answer.
- Continue playing until someone gets a question wrong, or the class wins a million!
If you really want to make this a compelling and truly exciting classroom activity, remember the two key aspects of the show:
- The catchphrase: “Is that your final answer?” The template I’m sharing has a built in sound effect of this phrase: use it occasionally!
- You need to ham it up and make use of longish dramatic pauses before acknowledging whether the learner’s answer is correct. Obviously, the pauses should become more tense the higher the amount of money on the line; try and make it feel like the real thing!
This is a really flexible format, the difficulty / ease of which can be adapted to your situation. For instance, you can make your question all verbs, or all nouns. Alternatively, you can ask vocab questions in which the answers are the different parts of speech (of which either the verb, noun, etc. is correct) or offer four alternative spellings of particularly awkward words (healthy / heathy / healty / helthy, for instance).
- This can be a stressful task, so give your learners chance to study the vocab / grammar you’ll ask about before playing. As I mentioned, the game works well as a precursor to an end of unit quiz, so getting them to study formally for such a quiz is a good technique for preparing for this game.
- Start things off with easy questions and get the linguistically weaker learners to answer the first few. This way, you can give everyone in the class a sense of accomplishment while also grading the difficulty of each question according to the profile of your class.
- This works well as an end-of-day activity, but using it in this way can be tricky as the time limit for completing the game can vary a lot, especially if you’re strict about a wrong answer ending proceedings! Bear this in mind when you decide to use this game.
- Explain why you are playing, i.e you are getting them ready for their quiz in a fun and engaging way. As I mentioned previously, games are great only if there is a perceived reason for playing. Make sure your learners understand that they aren’t just paying, but are actively exercising their ability to retrieve the language they have learned.
- As with Blockbusters, don’t use this too often. While this is a motivating alternative to boring quizzes, learners will get bored if you use this too many times. You can probably get away with doing it at the end of every other course book unit.