One of the key components I looked for as I was assembling this collection of Teacherless Activities was to find activities that had some sort of built in repetition. Mingles were great because I could do a mingle every day as a review, or have students ask for and give key information such as their address 10 times or more. But after one student in a level three class said, “another mingle?” with a sigh, I realized some students might not be as keen on mingles as I was. I searched for alternatives and started using question cards as mingles in disguise. And then I found the grid game.
I’ve used several types of games in my classes over the years, but they all had a beginning and an end. The grid game had a beginning, but it had no discernible end and therefore had the repetition I was looking for.
This is a great activity I picked up at a CATESOL conference. The basic structure is a grid, which can easily be made using the table function of any kind of word processing document. You make a table and erase the cells in the center so that it looks like this.
Then, make the cells bigger so that they are more square than rectangular.
You can then insert questions into the squares, or use clip art. Students work in small groups (3-5 people). Each player should have a game pawn (these can be purchased in educational supply stores, probably online, or you can have students use something of their own) – each team gets one die.
Players start outside of the grid and then roll the die. They count in the number of squares they rolled, and land on a square. If there is a question, they read the question and answer it. If they are correct, they get one point. They can alternatively ask the question to the player on their right (or left). If there is a picture, they need to say what it is. Students will create their own variations, and for me that is more than okay as long as it involves going around the grid (teachers should definitely monitor this the first time they play).
There is so much built in repetition in this game, which is great. If they miss the question the first time around, they may hear someone else answer it before they land there again, this time, hopefully getting it correct. They’ll definitely see that they are learning. A completed game might look like this:
Of course all of these activities can be used in higher level classes. I like to use the grid game with higher levels for things like irregular verbs or vocabulary. My goal however, was to find Teacherless Activities that would work in lower level classes. Often teachers have great ideas for activities which are either too complicated to explain, or too difficult to do for beginners. All of the Teacherless Activities I’ve presented can be used in low levels and are easily adapted to higher levels.
It’s very easy to make your own Teacherless Activities, but when Amy and I sat down and started working on Out & About, one of the things we both agreed was priority was reducing teacher prep time. That is why we’ve included as many Teacherless Activities in the Out & About Student Book as we could. Then, in order to keep the price of the book down, we created the Teacher Resource Book and put extra activities, including a grid game for every chapter of the book. We know how hard teachers work, since we’re both teachers, and we wanted to provide books that would create dynamic, engaging, student-centered classrooms that reduced stress for students as well as teachers. Even when I am able to use Out & About, I still create my own activities beyond those provided. When using other texts, I almost always have to create my own materials that give students the practice they need. I hope you will get creative and try your own spin on these activities. Let us know how it goes!
How about you? In what other ways can you use small group activities like the grid game to spark conversation in your beginning-level class? Leave a reply below.
Rick Kappra has been teaching English as a Second language since 1983, beginning as a volunteer working with refugees in Philadelphia. He has taught in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Korea. Currently he is an ESL instructor at City College of San Francisco, where he is also the Civic Center Campus ESL Coordinator. His goal as an instructor is to create more opportunities for students to engage with one another in fun, meaningful exchanges. Finding that most ESL textbooks did not provide enough opportunities for interaction led him to co-author Out & About with Amy Hemmert. Rick and Amy also co-authored Out & About Photocopiable Resources for Teachers – one of ALTA’s best-selling resources for beginning ESL classes.