Reading Activities Part 3

by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

 Focusing on Spelling

Slow Reveal: Use word flashcards and reveal the word a letter at a time. Only use this for words you’ve been studying that lesson. To make it more difficult, start from the end of the word.

Shark Attack: A variation of hangman. Have a shark flashcard and move it closer to a swimming flashcard/picture. When the shark lands on the swimmer, he gets eaten. Have learners ask “Is there a b?” Lower levels can use the picture dictionary to help. If it’s a bit confusing the first time you set it up, you can try using the magnetic letters. Hand out the whole alphabet and encourage one person to ask “Is there a b?” or a letter they actually have. If there is you can put the magnetic letter in the right place in the word. If there isn’t you can put the letter next to the swimmer (or whatever your scoring system is). This means the learners don’t have to `guess` a letter, but use what’s in front of them until they understand the game better.

Missing Letters: Write some target vocabulary in a list on the board. Rub out one letter in each word. Show the picture, learners have to race to find the word and fill in the missing letter.

Spell Relay: The teacher says a word or shows a picture and the first two learners run to write the first letter on the whiteboard. They pass the pen to the next person in their team, who rushes to write the second letter. Continue until the word is completed. For lower levels, you could have the words you want to practise written at the top of the board, or place a relevant poster with the words on it under the board. Private classes can also play this game – instead of passing the pen to another person, they run and touch the door or table in between writing each letter.

Broken Telephone: Choose a short word and whisper the phonics one at a time and the last learner writes the letter on the board. If teams can guess the word before the end they can get a point if they can finish it correctly. Instead of whispering the sound they could write the different letters on the back of the person in front. Alternatively, spell the whole word in one go and the last learners have to write the word on the board.

Run, Choose and Write: Write the target words, e.g. some basic nouns, in a line at the top of the board. Write the target structure of the lesson, leaving a blank for the noun. E.g. It’s a _______. You’ll need to write it twice to do this a team game. Put corresponding flashcards for the nouns on different chairs against the wall. The teacher says the target sentence, e.g. It’s a pencil. Learners run to write the word – you can play it as a spell relay like a previous activity – the last learner has to sit on the chair with the correct flashcard and say the sentence.

Battleships: This is good for private or very small classes as it can be quite time-consuming. Once you’ve set it up once though, learners get the idea and it doesn’t take as long. You need an 8 by 8 grid with letters at the top and numbers down the side. Before the class write in four words in one grid and four different words in a second grid. Learners will need a grid with words – demonstrate that they need to keep it secret – and an empty grid. Read out a grid reference (e.g. 3D) and encourage learners to say “no” if it’s an empty square or “yes” if there’s a letter and then tell you what letter it is. It’s a good idea to draw a small grid on the board and demonstrate there first. You can teach “hit” or “miss” if you want. Once learners have understood, they take it in turns to ask about different grid references and fill in the answers on their empty grid, then answer their partner’s question. This game should encourage prediction of spelling as learners race to guess what word they’ve uncovered.

Stand in Line with Letters: Hand out the alphabet cards to learners. Say a word or show a flashcard and learners have to find the letters they need and stand in order to spell the word. If you have a big class, you could play this in teams or you could time a smaller class for each word to make it more challenging.

Spelling with Numbers: Get a learner to write the alphabet across the board and another to write numbers underneath.
a b c d e f g h …
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 …
The teacher says a word, e.g. cat and learners race to write 3 1 20

Anagrams: Anagrams are possible if you give learners choices. For example: cat dog hat look ogd

Make the Letter Shape: The teacher shows a letter or says it and learners have to form or make that letter. So for a t a learner can extend their arms. Learners could work in pairs or teams to make letters.

 Focusing on Reading Sentences
Connect the Sentence: This is good for private classes, but could be played competitively with a group. Scatter words from target sentences around the board. You can do it with a question and answer. When you say the sentence, learners find the first word, join it to the second word and so on. Remember punctuation. You can also use this game for short answers. Scatter the words “yes, it is” and “no, it isn’t” several times around the board. Use the contracted from of “isn’t” instead of “is not”. Show a flashcard and ask a question. Learners race to connect the correct answer.

Round the Board Reading: Split a dialogue up into the individual words written randomly around the board. Drill the dialogue whilst pointing to the words on board. Pairs of learners recreate the dialogue bashing the words with a plastic hammer whilst rest of class call out words.

Stand In Line with Words: This is similar to the connect the sentence activity above, but this time the learners have cards and have to stand in line to make a correct sentence. If you’re teaching “He likes/she likes …” then prepare some cards with the words:
He chocolate . (remember the full stop!)
She cats
likes strawberries
To make it more difficult, you could include I like or She doesn’t like.

Obviously the length of possible sentences depends on the size of your class. If you have a big class, you could play this in teams or you could time a smaller class for each sentence to make it more challenging.

Cut Up Sentences: Use sentences from the lesson. Learners try to put words in the correct order. To build co-operation in the class learners can arrange the words in teams. This also helps learners recognize regularities in English, such as the reversal of word order in questions and short answers.

Letter Dictation: The teacher dictates in sequence the letters of a sentence, question or phrase individually. Learners write the letters down in sequence and when finished have to race to decipher what the sentence is. e.g. “W”,”H”,”A”,”T”,”I”,”S”,”Y”,”O”,”U”,”R”,”N”,”A”,”M”,”E”.

Clearly teaching someone to read is a complicated and time-consuming process. However, when the effects of your teaching start to pay off and your learners start reading it is an extremely motivating experience for both teacher and learner. Week by week, do some activities that build up these skills and your patience will be rewarded.

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