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…
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.
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.
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.