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Ten Words Against the Clock
I have used this game to get my upper-intermediate class talking. They get very competitive and forget about making mistakes.
This is a very simple game, but I've written down the directions in excruciating detail since sometimes I find simple directions can be confusing--so bear with me!
Fold a letter-sized sheet into eight rectangles. On each rectangle make a list of 10 common, everyday words--they must be words that students not only recognize but can pull from their own vocabularies. Each list should have ten words on it, five if the class is low intermediate. I usually do this by writing down one word of a certain category on each list (rather than ten words on the first rectangle, ten words on the 2nd rectangle, etc.) By filling all the lists simultaneously you make sure that each list has the same difficulty level and a variety of words. For example, start with a category like kitchen objects and write one object on each of the eight lists: fork, spoon, knife, plate, pot, napkin, glass, stove. Other categories might be animals, rooms in a house, places of business, clothes, body parts, months, numbers, classroom objects, etc.
Mark "team 1" on four of the lists and "team 2" on the other four.
Make 2 copies of these lists. Keep one for yourself and cut the other into the 8 lists. Keep them hidden until you are ready to hand them (one at a time) to a clue-giver when he/she comes to sit up front.
My classes are small, from 4 to 8 students, so eight lists are more than enough for each person to have a turn giving clues. You can make more than eight lists, but it gets harder to come up with easy words for ten or twelve lists.
Divide the class into two teams. One student sits on a chair at the front of the class and gives clues to his teammates so that they will guess his words. Each team has 2 or 3 minutes (you decide, depending on the level of the students) to guess all 10 words on their clue-giver's list. Use an egg timer or look at the clock. When the first team has guessed at their first list then the second team sends up a clue-giver to give clues about one of their lists. This continues until both teams have had a chance at guessing at the words on all four of their lists.
Clue-giving rules are 1) no using hand gestures and no looking at an object that might be in the room--students may have to sit on one hand and hold their list with the other 2) no "sound effects"--if the word is "dog" they may not bark 3) the clue-giver may not say any part of the word, for example if the word is swimming pool, she may not say "swim" as part of the clue.
You must keep a copy of all the lists to look at as students play. If any of the above three rules are broken, you tell the team that they have disqualified that word and the clue-giver should continue with the next word on the list. The clue-giver may pass any word and come back to it later. Encourage students to do "easy" words first and come back to words they are having trouble with. Check off each word a team guesses on your sheet and tally the points after both teams have guessed at their four lists.
This game is possible with lower intermediate students but you should give them a chance to work with a partner on their team (before playing) to come up with clues. Otherwise they have no idea what to say and use up their time with thinking.
Because the prepositions are so difficult to deal with and can make or break meaning, it is also a good idea to practice some sentence forms they might need beforehand: this is something you use to cook with, this is something you sit on, this body part is between your head and your shoulders, you put these things on your feet, etc.
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