Children love participating in fun activities in the classroom. Fortunately, teachers can use games to teach language and literacy skills to strengthen the academic outcomes of their students. Games are especially helpful when working with English Language Learners (ELLs) because they make learning enjoyable and help them overcome fears or embarrassment of not knowing something. Students will be heading back to school before you know it, so now is the time to start preparing for the new school year with these fun back-to-school games to use in your classroom.
Simon Says is a great game for ELLs as it helps them with listening and comprehension skills. Additionally, it helps them strengthen their vocabulary skills. Here is how to play Simon Says:
- For the duration of the game, stand in front of your students.
- Next, perform an action and say, “Simon says (a certain action),” such as “Simon says clap your hands.” The students will then clap their hands. Feel free to be as silly as you want, because the goofier you are, the more your students will enjoy the learning process.
- Perform the action once again, but this time do not say “Simon says.” Whichever students perform the action must sit down, as they are out of the game because they performed the action despite you not saying “Simon says…”
- The last student standing is the winner.
- Once the students begin understanding the game and gaining more skills, you can allow the students to play the role of “Simon.”
Pictionary is a fun back-to-school game to play with ELLs. This game helps children with vocabulary and memorization skills. This is an especially fun game to play after summer vacation because you can incorporate words from experiences or items used during summer vacation. Here is how to play Pictionary:
- Teachers and students can jot down a bunch of words and place them in a box.
- Divide the class into two groups. Draw a line down the middle portion of the whiteboard or chalkboard.
- Choose a player from each team and have them pick a word at random from the box.
- Said students will draw a picture of the word they pulled and have their team members guess the word related to their drawing.
- The group that makes the correct guess first wins.
- Repeat the process until each student has had his or her chance to draw a word from the box.
Snowman is truly a classic game for learning and practicing vocabulary. It should be played in short bursts of 5 to 10 minutes at a time, as it can be difficult and students can become uninterested. Here is how to play Snowman:
- Choose a word and write it on the chalkboard or whiteboard using dashes to represent the letters that make up the word.
- Ask students what letter or letters they think make up the word. If the letter is in the word, write the correct letter in the corresponding space. If the letter is not in the word, note the letter on the side and start drawing a snowman.
- Continue filling in the letters, until your students guess the correct word or until you complete the image of the snowman. There can be a total of nine mistakes – three snowballs, two stick arms, two eyes, a top hat, and a sad-looking face.
For more information on fun back-to-school games to include in your classroom as well as other ideas, visit the Latino Family Literacy Project. This organization provides workshops and other resources for teachers, school administrators, and employees who work with ELLs.
Fun Back-to-School Games