Classroom playtime is a really useful tool for making difficult concepts in English more accessible to students. Whether you are young or old, everybody likes to play sometimes. Students love to play games in the classroom and a lot of lessons highly encourage the use of activities to learn a new language.
While there are numerous ideas for games incorporating the target language, keep in mind that some students find a highly energetic, fast-paced, competitive atmosphere a bit too distracting to learn. Here are some ways to still incorporate play into the classroom while remaining low-key and on your lesson:
1. Make Believe with Toys
This is especially popular with the young crowd. Choose a theme, pick up or make some props, and act like you’re really there! What’s easier than a trip to the grocery store in the target language? Purchase or make some fruits and vegetables, play money, and allow your students to be your customers.
Give them a recipe to shop for or switch it up so they can be the cashier. Take an imaginary trip to the beach, the airport, a clothing store, or restaurant. This is a great way to experience practical situations without a lot of pressure while having fun at the same time!
2. Draw/Write/Create books or posters
Let your students get creative for you! Have your students make a poster to teach the class a lesson, draw the vocabulary words, or create a game for your class to play. Teaching each other is a great way to learn a lesson yourself, allow your students the opportunity!
They will love having the responsibility and leadership in front of the class, working as a group, and creating games or drawing posters for everyone to see! It’s a little less work for you and a great way to see if your students actually understand the lesson themselves.
3. Dance and Sing
There are plenty of songs for children to learn to sing and dance. From ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ to ‘My Little Teapot’ lots of fun can be had by reciting these easy songs.
But whenever I talk to older ESL speakers, they will always tell me they learned their target language through some iconic English singer or band. Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, NSync—any variety of pop icons you can think of.
Students will love to listen to newer, trendier music people are actively listening to in another country. Introduce them to any number of the top 40 and allow them to dance freely!
What better way to incorporate play into the classroom than by an actual play! Either you or your students can create a script, it can be a fun reading and writing activity for your whole classroom.
Again, students will enjoy working together as a group, being creative, and having the opportunity to act in front of the entire class. This is a fun way to incorporate another subject into the classroom as well—pick a scientific theory to act out, a math problem, or a story!
Puppets can be a great way to introduce a practical scenario to younger students. Introducing fundamentals of English is always much more entertaining when told by someone else or in the form of a fairy tale!
Let some puppets tell your students why there is an ‘s’ at the end of a verb when the pronoun is ‘he/she/it’! They will feel encouraged to interact with the lesson and always remember it!
Your students will have so much fun with this sensory exercise! Say a word and have your students create it with Play-Doh. Have them spell a word out with Play-Doh.
Let them name the colors, mix the colors to create new colors, roll it, squish it, throw it, give them all sorts of instructions in the target language and see if they can do it! Just don’t let them eat it!
7. Board Games
Board games with simple instructions are an excellent low-pressure game for students to play together. You might have to have a hand in creating a board game to cater to your lesson—have them roll a dice and answer a question, correct a sentence, or define a vocabulary word on different colored squares.
These can be fun with single players playing against each other or teams and your students will still have some competition while not being overwhelmed.
Instead of a highly energetic and competitive game during a lesson, try incorporating some play into your lesson. It’ll keep the atmosphere calm, keep your students mind on the lesson, and incorporate some fun into your lessons without the pressure on both you and your students!