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Using Communication Games to Teach English

written by: Nikei Meade • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 11/8/2012

Are you in need of a good communication game for your classroom? Learn how to play four easily manageable and creative games with your ESL students right here.

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    Exercises for the ESL Classroom

    Regardless of what country you are teaching in, speaking and communicating in a foreign language with confidence is something that is very difficult for many English second language learners. Students may fear being embarrassed by not speaking correctly or by making grammar mistakes. You do not want your students to be scared to speak; in fact, you want them ready to speak at every opportunity given. Playing a game is a great way for students to be more relaxed and eager to practice speaking.

    It is always a great feeling as a teacher to see your students active and blurting out answers and opinions in English in class. This article will introduce four communication games that are easy to implement and fun for both students and teachers.

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    Make a Story with These Five Words

    This game, for lack of a better name, is called "Make a Story with These Five Words." It is a great way to review how to use English vocabulary that is being learned as well as how to learn how to tell an organized and funny story in English. Some of the stories students come up with will have you laughing as well. The students should create a chain story; this means the second student must start his story where the last student ended her story. This forces students to listen to each story and keeps the class on their toes.

    Here is a quick summary of how the game works. You give the first student five words. For example, you give him these words: zombies, gun, nightmare, baseball game and frightening. Then the student will most likely make a story about a nightmare, in which frightening zombies appeared at a baseball game and he had to protect himself with a gun. Then the next student will continue this nightmare story with a new set of five words you give her. The game continues until all the students have told a short story.

    This game can suit upper elementary to advanced learners of English. Kindergarten students and new learners will have a more difficult time with this.

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    Survey Game

    The "Survey Game" is a great way to get students up and moving. It can be played among all levels of English students. It is also a great method for letting students get to know each other by communicating in English. All you have to do is create a questionnaire and have students complete it by asking other students the questions on it. Here is an example of how it works.

    You have a class of first graders who have an elementary grasp of English. You create a questionnaire that asks questions such as the following: How many students in the class like to eat watermelon? How many people in the class like to sing? Who in the class can play the piano? Who in the class likes to eat hamburgers?

    Arrange the questionnaire according to the English level of your class. After students finish the questionnaire, have them present their findings to the class.

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    Guess the Object

    This ESL communication game requires your students to listen to the student talking and use creative thinking to guess the answer. This "Guess the Object" game works like this: you put an object inside an opaque bag and ask one student to come to the front of the class and describe the object to the class. The student should not say what the object is, but rather should use English to describe the object. The other students listen and guess. It is a great way to review vocabulary and work on English-speaking and listening.

    For example, if the object is a toy witch, the student can use phrases like "mean lady who does magic" or "ugly evil woman" to give the rest of the class hints. This game works for upper elementary to advanced ESL learners.

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    Role Play

    Role play scenarios are wonderful for teaching students useful, everyday English. It also works for all ages and levels. I have done role play activities with students as young as three years old and as old as 30. Be sure to adjust the difficulty and complexity of this communication game according to the age and level.

    Role play can simulate a variety of activities and scenarios, such as going to the bank, visiting a doctor, or hanging out with a group of friends at a bar. Simulating real life scenarios in this way greatly increases English communication ability among your students.

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