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Elementary ESL Lesson: Drawing New Words!

written by: Makoto • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 9/11/2012

A fun drawing game to learn new vocabulary words. Leave a comment if you have any questions or to share your own experiences!

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    Making Learning Fun

    Learning new words can be a boring task if done through mindless repetition. There are ways to make learning new words interesting, however. Making activities interesting for the students is especially important for younger students as their interest can quickly dwindle if they find the task tedious. From my experience, the activity described in this article can be used for any words you would like the students to learn. Note that I strongly encourage using flashcards in the classroom if possible, as a picture is worth a thousand words and can sometimes save a lot of time when trying to explain what a word means.

    It is always a good idea to introduce the new words to the students first in a general way. This will allow the students to know what kind of words will be tested/used in the activities you will do with them. What I like to do is to simply give a translation of each one of the new words and take things from there.

    Whenever playing an activity, I would recommend using points to make things a bit more competitive. Students react positively to a fair challenge and will be more motivated to participate. Students might be tempted to guess every new word there is until they get the right answer, however. In order to prevent students from doing this, proceed the following way:

    • A wrong answer makes the team lose one point and a right answer makes the team win 3 points. Students will think twice before giving an answer if there is a risk they might lose points. You can apply this rule of thumb to many activities you will have in your classroom.
    • In addition, I would recommend having team numbers for each team. Have the students say their team number first and then their answer. This makes it easy to keep track of things and you will seldom be confused as to who gave the answer first.

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    The Drawing Game

    Separate the class in two teams if you have a smaller class, or more teams if you have many students in your class.

    A student from a team will go away from the rest of the students and randomly select a flashcard with a new word to learn on it. It is obviously important that the other students can’t see which card he selected. Note that if the student is not comfortable drawing what he has selected, allow him or her to choose something else which is easier for him, not everyone is great at drawing.

    The student then picks up the chalk and tries drawing the word. Both teams try guessing which word is being drawn.

    Once the word has been guessed, it’s the turn of someone from the next team to proceed. Try to make sure every one gets a chance to draw on the board, if possible. If the students can’t figure out what the word is don’t waste time, simply tell them you’ll give them the answer in one minute and then move on. Interest will waver if the whole class gets stuck on the same word for too much and it can also be embarrassing for the students who is drawing.

    You might also participate yourself to make things more interesting! Don't worry about your drawing skills, drawing perfectly doesn't matter and it's more fun if everyone participates! Enjoy!