Language Games for Children

by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)


Stand up/Sit Down: Young children enjoy this simple game. Give a command and the children respond as quickly as possible. Then give the wrong command i.e. stand up when they are already standing etc. This can be adapted into a Simon Say type game where the children respond only when the caller says ‘please’. Children can take the teacher’s role.


Greetings Theatre: Every lesson should begin with greeting but they can also be used as an acting/drama game. Have two or more children walking around the table in opposite directions. When they meet each other they must greet each other. This can be extended to incorporate other QAs. Note: ‘Theatre’ should be an event rather than random. Have the learners who are not participating to sit at one end of the room as an audience, they could clap in time, teacher ‘sells popcorn’ etc. Make sure all learners get a chance to perform.

Alphabet Relay: Line up the learners in two teams as far from the board as possible. The first person in each team are given a pen and on the shout of “go” should run to the board and write Aa before returning the pen to the next person in the team, who runs and writes Bb etc. The first team to write Zz and run back to the stating point and shout “Finished” wins. Note: Monitor stroke order and letter formation, if the letter is formed incorrectly have them do it again.

Sticky Ball Prepositions: Draw a large box on the board and write the word “in” inside. Mark a line above and below the box marked “on” and “under” respectively. Learners take turns throwing the sticky ball and stating where it landed e.g. it is under the box. Other prepositions can be added depending on level. Points could also be assigned to turn it into a competition e.g. two points for “in the box” and one each for “on” and “under.”

Chopsticks Game: Two teams stand at one end of the room, each with an empty box. On the other side of the room each team has a box filled with plastic food/blocks etc. the teacher calls out a colour and the first person in each team runs to their box and grabs a piece of fruit that colour with the chopsticks and run back to drop it in their empty box. The chopsticks are then handed to the next person in line. This game can be extended to numbers, nouns and other adjectives – long, short, hot, cold etc.

Switch: Select
three cards from a known set of vocab, show them to the learners and put them face down on the table. Shuffle the cards around so the learners might not know which is which then point to a card and ask “Is this a ..?” Let them take a turn at being teacher.

True/False: This can be used with any set of cards. Have the learners stand in front of their chairs. Hold up a flashcard and say e.g. “it’s an elephant”, if the statement is true learners sit down, if false they put their hands on their heads. Play it a few times with the teacher making the statements before letting them take the teacher’s role.

Rub Out..: Draw a selection of pictures, numbers or words on the board. Learners take turns to rub out items. This can be a team game. Variations are endless: coloured pictures, numbers, letters. For word recognition draw pictures with words underneath. First time round learners rub out pictures, second time they rub out the words.

Go Fish: A set of cards with 2 - 4 of each card is needed. Deal all the cards out to the group. The first person asks another person for a card. If the person asked has the card it is handed over. The first learner completes a set of cards, and lays them face down on table. The winner is the first one to be out of cards. When passing the cards learners can use, "Here you are" and "Thank you". There are several variations for asking for a card: the simplest is "Please give me a ..."; "Do you have a ...?"

Kim's Game: Put a number of small objects, flash cards, or pictures of objects on the table. Decide what you want the learners to remember, for example: noun only, noun + definite/indef. article, adjective + noun, etc. Uncover the objects for thirty seconds. The learners must say or write as many of the objects as they can.

Fruit Salad: Put chairs, or wondermat squares, in a circle and give each player a vocabulary item to remember from a single vocab group e.g. colours. One person stands in the middle of the group and says one of the vocab words, all people with this word must change places before the person in the middle. The person left standing continues the game.

Glimpse: Expose an object or flashcard for about one second, then ask questions about it. This can be used for practising adjectives (“Is it new or old?”), numbers (how many), and comparatives.

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