All the technology available at our fingertips and the way information travels at lightning speed on the Internet is great to have, but let’s not forget the basic tools like our trusty whiteboard.
In our article Whiteboard Markers – Stinking Monsters or Life Savers? we examined the chalkboard vs. whiteboard dilemma, and yes, we agree that whiteboard markers have their weak points, but they also have an advantage that you can use to play some great, fun ESL games with your students. Playing games helps classmates to get to know one another, can be a source of motivation, refinforce positive learning, encourage speaking, and teach new skills.
How You Can Use A Whiteboard: 10 ESL Games
Based on the classic TV game show, this game will require your students to put on their thinking caps. Divide your whiteboard into columns for vocabulary categories and rows with different point values. Like this:
Divide your students into two teams. Each team chooses a category and the points they want to play for: We choose Countries for 25 points. Supply a clue or definition: This country is south of the US, and they eat tacos there. They must guess the right country in the form of a question: Where is Mexico? If they answer correctly you erase the points from the chart and add them to the team’s tally until they’re all wiped off. Adapt this game to any level of difficulty and include as many categories as you wish.
Suction Cup Ball
Buy one (or several!) inexpensive suction cup balls, and your whiteboard games will never be the same! These balls are made up of several tiny suction cups that stick to whiteboards. We love these inexpensive ones you can buy online. There are many games you can play – as many as your imagination will allow- but here are two:
– Draw a target with concentric circles on the whiteboard, each with a different point value. Quiz students and if they give you the right answer they get to throw the ball for points.
– Fill your whiteboard with letters or syllables and each student has to supply a word that starts with the letter or syllable they hit.
This is a classic game and can easily be adapted to any level or topic. It is fun and also one of the easiest games to play. Students are split into two teams and take turns drawing words, actions, or situations that they have selected from a pile of cards. Teammates guess what is being drawn.
This popilar game may be adapted to the needs of your class. Hangman helps students on any level to learn to spell. Include weekly words to help improve their vocabulary. Play the classic game where students have to guess a word or a more sophisticated version where they have to guess entire phrases, expressions, movies, or book titles.
If you’d prefer an altenrative to hangman, you can create your own Wordle, a disappearing snowman where you erase parts of the figure with each incorrect guess, or you can download a free fun spaceman interactive PowerPoint from here.
Tic Tac Toe
Too simple? Not really. Make it as challenging as you like. Say you want your students to practice the simple past tense. Draw a 3 by 3 grid on the whiteboard. Write a sentence in each square, with a gap where the verb should go. Write a list of 10 verbs on the side (one of them won’t be used). They must supply the right form of the verb to complete the sentence till one of the teams gets a Tic Tac Toe. Try it with any gap-filling exercise! And expand the 9-square grid to a bigger 16 or 25-square grid as suggested in this Tic Tac Toe worksheet.
Place one student in the hot seat in front of the whiteboard, with his or her back to it. You and another student stand behind the student in the hot seat. Write a word, the name of a movie, or book clearly on the board. The rest of the class must describe the word to the student in the hot seat, who must guess what it is.
Draw a 5 by 5 grid on the whiteboard and label each column from A to E and each row 1 to 5. Prepare a list of questions, one for each block. Each team chooses a square, say “A5”. Before starting the game choose three squares that don’t have any questions, and when a team chooses one of these, tell them an earthquake has just swallowed up some of their points – deduct 5 points.
This energetic game will help warm up students physically and mentally. The goal is for them to identify a barnyard animal from the sound it makes. Depending The goal is for students to identify a barnyard animal from the sound it makes. Depending on your students’ level, you can either draw the pictures of animals on the board or write the words for each. Give each team a different color marker and have them line up. Get students giggling by make the sound yourself, i.e. crow like a rooster, or spare yourself and have a YouTube clip or sound file ready with animal sounds. As they hear each sound, students race to the board and circle the right word or picture. You can adapt this game to all types of sounds, for example, transport: cars, trains, space rockets, and airplanes. You may also record expressions or phrases that they have to circle on the board, like “Thanks!” and “You’re welcome“.
This game is similar to the race mentioned above, but in this case students race to the board to write a letter, a word, or a complete answer to a question. You can have each student write the complete answer or play it like a relay race where each student in the team only writes one word, then races to pass the marker to a teammate who must write the next one, and so on.
Backs to the Board
Great for practicing numbers, especially those tricky ones like 16 and 60, 13 and 30, etc. Write several numbers on the board. Give each team a different color marker. Have students stand with their backs to board. Call out a number. Students turn, try to find the number and circle it. At the end of the game, tally up the scores by counting the different color circles.
Have fun playing these games with your students! And if you have any to suggest, then by all means, do so below!
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