Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters

I‘m a gamer: I love using games in the language classroom. I find them such a great and versatile tool and, if used well, something that always goes down well with learners. I’ve discussed the role of games before on this blog and have probably summed up everything I want to say about the use of games in an article I wrote for Humanising Language Teaching back in April, 2011 (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 HLT link for my huge article on this subject, OK!).

So, why am I returning to this subject? Well, last night saw the triumphant return of EAP Chat, our bi-weekly discussion on Twitter relating to a subject of interest to EAP practitioners. Our first discussion of 2013 focused on the appropriacy of games in Academic English classes. As you can imagine, I came down heavily on the ‘for’ side! Anyway, during the course of proceedings, it was suggested that I share some of my favourite games. Consequently, I’m going to do just that over the course of a few blog posts during February. Let me start off with an old favourite…

The classic, easy-to-use Blockbusters grid

The classic, easy-to-use Blockbusters grid

Blockbusters!

Blockbusters is a British television game show based, I believe, on an American game show of the same name in which contestants answer trivia questions to complete a path across or down a game board of hexagons. It’s a very simple format, and one which lends itself very well to the language classroom.

OK, then, first things first. I’m sure you’ll want to download the template for the game. You can do that by clicking here.

Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to business. In the spirit of making things as simple as possible for you all, I’ve prepared a video which talks you through how to go about using the game.

In case you need a little bit more, here are some directions on how to use this in class.

What do learners need to know?

This works really well as a revision exercise, so learners should already be familiar with specific phrases or vocabulary from the subject being taught.

What equipment do you need?

The blockbusters grid (which you have now downloaded)
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 can just as easily draw the hexagonal grid on a board by hand.

How to play

  • Divide your class into two teams.
  • One team needs to connect the top of the grid to the bottom.
  • The other team has to connect the left side of the grid with the right.
  • The hexagons contain numbers, relating to your numbered list of questions (you can replace these numbers with the first letters of each word to make it a little easier).
  • Teams take it in turn to select a hexagon.
  • You give an appropriate clue for that hexagon, and the team works together to give the answer.
  • The winning team is the first to complete the connection.

Variations

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 could give the first two letters of the word as a clue. Another way I use this at upper intermediate level is to ask for a definition of a topic we’ve studied, i.e. ‘give a definition of short-term memory.’

Here are some suggestions from Gabrielle Jones (taken from the comments section, below):

I regularly use it at the university where I teach, just before their exam. I give them 25 typical mistakes they make with their academic writing and get them to correct them, then play in teams as a revision exercise. With in-company groups I use it to review the feedback I’ve given them every few months. I’ve also used it with language areas such as false friends, tenses, and I even went and bought an old copy of the board game for the more advanced groups – rather expensive but great for advanced vocabulary.

Warnings

This can be a challenging task, so give your learners chance to study the vocab / topics you’ll ask about before playing.

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. Bear this in mind when you decide to use this game.

Don’t use this too often. While this is a motivating group-based activity, learners will get bored if you use this too many times. On a sixteen week course, I might use this twice, for instance.

Explain why you are playing. 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.

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31 Responses to Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters

  1. Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters: TweetI‘m a gamer: I love using games in… http://t.co/G6j9EyDh #ELT #ELTchat #ESL

  2. RT @yearinthelifeof: Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters: TweetI‘m a gamer: I love using games in… http://t.co/G6j9EyDh #ELT #ELTchat #ESL

  3. Hi Adam,

    I love using blockbusters for teaching. I regularly use it at the university where I teach, just before their exam. I give them 25 typical mistakes they make with their academic writing and get them to correct them, then play in teams as a revision exercise. With in-company groups I use it to review the feedback I’ve given them every few months. I’ve also used it with language areas such as false friends, tenses, and I even went and bought an old copy of the board game for the more advanced groups – rather expensive but great for advanced vocabulary. Great post and thanks for making people aware of such a great teaching tool!
    Gabrielle

    • Adam says:

      Thanks, Gabrielle.

      This activity has been a staple of my teaching for many years, and I guess this post was meant to be helpful to all those newbie teachers out there who have never encountered it. Another bonus of posting your favourite activities is that there are always people such as yourself suggesting great new variations!

      Thanks again, ‘ll be adding your suggestions to the post, if that’s OK.

  4. @GJTeacher Thanks for the comment on the blog… I’ll add your suggestions to the post, if that’s OK?!?!? http://t.co/G6j9EyDh

  5. swisssirja says:

    Thank you for the great idea! I am a newbie when it comes to this game ;-) but no newbie when using games in the classroom! Eager to try this one out!

    • Adam says:

      Thanks, swisssirja.

      This is a really motivating activity which has always been a real winner with my learners. Let me know how it goes!

  6. RT @yearinthelifeof: New post: Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/AKXBqmBo

  7. Fine idea – I used this game ages ago and have really forgotten about it – so it’s great to find it here again! I’m going to use it after the holidays [this week there are holidays in Austria :-)]
    I adapted your powerpoint for my (smartboard)-class – I hope you aren’t too angry about it!
    https://www.box.com/s/afs7bmwtskh2ugn1ioyq

  8. I like it, sort of an expanded tic-tac-toe vs Chinese checkers. I have to admit that I’m n0t familiar with the American TV show on which this is based. Thanks for contributing. I think it’s a good blog challenge.

  9. Adam says:

    Thanks, Tyson.

    I’d always thought that this was a UK-originated game show format, but research (Wikipedia!) suggests not.

    This is a great game for non-gamers to get started with, due to its simple format and adaptability.

  10. Basil Ford says:

    This is a great resource. Thank you for sharing.

  11. @RichmondVE says:

    Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/l2gq3TMw

  12. RT @RichmondVE: Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/l2gq3TMw

  13. Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/LyG59mZo

  14. @crysrose28 says:

    Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/6HUhITXU #adultesl #eapchat #esl #edtech

  15. Great games for the language classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/Z2lAQt5y #EAPchat

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  17. I’ve got a very simple Blockbusters template on my eLearning Templates page.
    It might be useful for some

  18. veysel says:

    Firstly, thank you for this great template and the game information.
    before, i had some doubts about how to adapt it actually in my taeching environment but today when i had some difficulty with getting my students’ attention for a text, i just took out the blockbuster slide on the board after reading and get them into two groups, and asked questions about the text. It was amazing that they were trying hard to get the right answers for every single questions and the competition was just compelling and fun for them.

  19. @oyajimbo says:

    Great game 4 language classroom:Blockbusters http://t.co/usXPCdSk0T @yearinthelifeof download a must – hexagons are hard!

  20. @Hexagonbot says:

    RT @oyajimbo: Great game 4 language classroom:Blockbusters http://t.co/usXPCdSk0T @yearinthelifeof download a must – hexagons are hard!

  21. @Luna_Intnl says:

    RT @oyajimbo: Great game 4 language classroom:Blockbusters http://t.co/usXPCdSk0T @yearinthelifeof download a must – hexagons are hard!

  22. Great games for the #language #classroom: Blockbusters http://t.co/jYFl5whzjS via @yearinthelifeof #elt

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