Sharing ideas

Yesterday I attended a TEFL del Sur conference at Active Language in the centre of Cadiz.  I got some new ideas from Ceri for implementing vocab games which require minimal preparation time.  I can add this to my own small but vastly growing repertoire of games.  I use some of her ideas already, but her clear instructions and specific emphasis on meaning rather than just memorisation will help me to consolidate my own delivery.  I also have a firmer idea of what the focus should be when I use games in class.

The next TEFL del Sur conference will include everybody’s participation.  We have been told to bring an idea.  In this game, most ideas are borrowed and tweeked.  There is not a whole lot of brand new ideas.  Nevertheless, I’m confident that by January, I’ll have a few gems that I will have tried again and again and that will be worth sharing.  I look forward to this.

Being a new TEFL has been a very humbling experience in that I’m learning to realise that I can’t have all the ideas on my own.  I have always tried to have complete ownership over my work.  I’ve never wanted to take on board ideas, because it’s always seemed like admitting defeat.  This attitude, I now realise, is completely unhelpful.  Everybody has great ideas to share whether they are brand new CELTees or the experts  in the field.  As well as learning to accept ideas from others, it is recommended to offer your own ideas to others.

I said in my second post that I’d be willing to share ideas from my little toolkit, so here are a few:

1.  The Snail Race

You ask a question to three/four teams in the class.  Each team has a snail picture (or other animal) stuck on the white board.  This does not work with real animals!  For each vocab/grammar question answered correctly, the team’s snail moves forward a space.  Snails can move backwards if there is any shouting out of answers or incorrect answers.  After about five spaces, the snail has reached the finishing position and the winning team gets a point.  I wish I could take credit for this, but I learnt it on the CELTA course.

Variations:  Use different animal pictures.  I sometimes use butterflies for girl teams.  I use a flower prop to mark the finish as snails eat flowers, so it makes sense for them to race to a flower.  (Sorry, I’m starting to believe they are real!)  I also have a form of this game where two snails have a direct combat for the flower, facing each other.   There are two or three steps between each snail and the flower. Then you can have three teams, two matches each.  This makes the activity a little longer and perhaps more exciting.

2.  Bingo

When I was at school, my French teacher used this game to practise French numbers, especially the difficult ones like 72 (soixante douze = literally sixty-twelve) and 99 (quatre-vingt-dix-neuf = literally four twenty nineteen).  You can imagine how we needed the practice.  I think the Belgians have it right with their equivalents for ninety and seventy: nonante and septante.

My own way of using bingo is….anything.  Take as an example phoneme bingo if you’re teaching phonetics, or question tag bingo.  The teacher asks a question and the students cross out the appropriate question tag.


The students write down question tags like “doesn’t he?”, “isn’t it?”, “can’t we?” etc in a grid of nine.

The teacher asks “You’re brother’s a mechanic…”

The students cross out “isn’t he?” if he/she has written this particular tag.

Thanks again to Ceri for making me realise that one line crossed out is enough for a winner and not necessarily a full house.  That will save me tearing my hair out when I can’t think of anymore question tags and there’s still no winner.

A good piece of advice is to not ask the students to draw a grid of anymore than nine squares.  Can you imagine trying to get a full house of sixteen squares?

So there you are.  I humbly present two of my games.  They are not original, nor special in any way, but I have tried to use them to my advantage and maybe new teachers can benefit too.


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5 Responses to “Sharing ideas”

  1. Teresa Bestwick Says:

    Great post, Kirsten.

    You’re certainly right that virtually everything in TEFL has been through a process of tweeking and changing. I love going to conferences because sometimes you pick up new ideas, sometimes you find new ways of doing the activities you already do and sometimes it just reinforces the fact that what you’re doing works well, because other teachers are doing exactly the same thing.

    I have no doubt that you’ll have a little gem to share with us in January 🙂

  2. Ceri Jones Says:

    Hi Kirsten, thanks for the mention, and thanks for sharing! I love the idea of the face off between the two snails – hadn’t come across that one before 😉
    See you in January!

  3. David Warr Says:

    Idea for January: language plants!?

  4. Cintia Stella Says:

    Kirsten, I’m a new teacher who benefits from your ideas, so thank you for sharing them. I’ve just saved them in my “ESL activities” file.

  5. crazykites Says:

    Haha! Pleased to help.

    Do check out the blogs I sent you, especially Teresa Bestwick’s Views from the Whiteboard. Her posts are short and to the point, which is helpful to a busy teacher. She has been writing recently about ideas she learned from a local workshop we attended here in Cadiz.

    And David’s language plants are a fun and novel idea for looking at language concepts.

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