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The English Squares

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This is a game that I thought of when I happened to watch an episode of the TV game show “Hollywood Squares”. It is applicable to many aspects of learning English, including pronunciation, spelling, and grammar. You can also integrate fluency or accuracy into the game. One can easily modify it to fit the students’ needs and their language proficiency level. I recently (March 2004) tried it in my TEFL teaching practicum, and it worked very well in my pronunciation lessons, and all students enthusiastically participated.

- Draw a square table with 9, 16, or 25 cells on the board. (It depends on how much material you are covering, and how difficult you want it to be.)

- Designate letters on the left side of the tables and numbers on top of the table. For example: A to C & 1 to 3 for a 9-celled table, or A to E & 1 to 5 for a 25-celled table.

- Divide the class into 2 groups, Bells and Bills. (Use what is covered in the lesson)

- Throw a coin to determine which group starts the game.

The objective of the game is that:
- Each member of a group, as you call him/her, tries to fill a cell by producing the correct form of a sound, a spelling, or a verb form. For example: he/she says “Please put Ken in A1, or put kin in D5.

- Ultimately, you decide if the utterance was (is) correct. Write the correct answer in their chosen cell. Don’t forget to designate a picture in the cell, in my case a bell and a man, to show which group filled that cell. The correct answer gains that group a cell.

- The second group tries to fill another cell in the same horizontal, vertical, or a diagonal direction to block the first group from completing a straight line.

- The first group to complete a full line by itself wins that round of the play and gets a point.

- Make sure all the group members contribute to the completion of the table by asking them in their sitting order to respond to your call. Give 5-10 seconds for each answer.

- Try variety and change the number of the cells or the language point appropriately.

Start it with the easiest level such as using only one sound or one verb form, then use two sounds in a minimal pair. You may make it very difficult by having more than two language items, especially in a 9-celled table. I suggest that you stick with one item (for example: a single sound), or two in a larger table if you have to.

Your students will have a lot of fun and the classroom will get very noisy.

Shahram Ersali
Saskatoon, Canada
[email protected]

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