How many words can you think of related to Christmas and New Year? To make the task more challenging, let’s add the rule that each new word should start with a different letter of the alphabet. If you think your students can write words to illustrate the whole alphabet, this can be turned into a nice activity if you add an element of competition.
Carol Read noted “games are essential integral part of children’s language learning”, which I’m sure we all agree with. Games help us make our young learners do something we want, i.e. they motivate them. I’ve recently considered different fun activities and I realised that most kids like alphabet games. What is more, adults find them useful and stimulating. These games are useful for revising vocabulary and focusing on spelling. Here are a couple of basic ideas that can be adapted to any teaching context.
Children work in teams and take turns to run to the board to write words for each letter of the alphabet. For very young learners, you can use flashcards so that kids whisper words to each other and take turns to draw or colour the corresponding objects. If you want to make this well-organised, start by setting the boundaries and explaining the rules, e.g. turn taking, no pushing, not copying words from the other team etc. Alternatively, this game can be played with A3 posters that kids will have to create instead of writing on the board. They may work at one desk, passing the poster to each other colouring or writing word in turns.
Comments and suggestions for mixed-ability and higher-level groups:
– To keep fast finishers busy, you can ask them to add one more word for each letter or starting with the most challenging letters.
– To challenge your higher-level students you can ask them to write words within a category, e.g. Christmas & New Year, sport, countries, food, animals, crime, free time activities, adjectives, linkers etc. The team with the most correctly spelt words will win the game.
The activity can work well if you have a board with letters, a dice (or a coin) and counters. Students will have to roll a dice and move. When they land on a letter, they have to think of a word or phrase within the given category and also to answer a question from a question card. Question cards can be provided or created by students before they start playing the game. Depending on the topic you can give question prompts like why/what/how/when was the last time/would you like to etc. The player who reaches ‘finish’ will win the game. Alternatively, this board game can be created on the whiteboard and played in teams.
DESIGNING A QUIZ
This is an example of a project based on the principle that students can generate activities for each other. Students collaborate to work out images, definitions or example sentences for the words within the topic and create a task for another team. If they lack ides, you can prompt them with quizlet cards or let them use dictionaries.
1. Divide the class into teams.
2. Set the task so that students work with their team mates deciding how to challenge another team. You can set the time limit or ask them to create a specific number of questions.
3. Students swap their quizzes and work on finding the answers. This may involve using the Internet, which turns the activity into a webquest.
So all in all whatever the alphabet game is, it’s likely to be multisensory and learners will have to move around, which adds variety and fun. This means that you are also helping your young learners develop physically, cognitively and work on literacy skills, which is definitely important. They will have to work on developing social skills by following rules and learning how to work with their partners. Helping them do that well will improve classroom management and ensure the overall success of the activity. As for older learners, they can work on expanding their vocabulary range and practise a range of integrated skills working with different partners.
500 Activities for the Primary Classroom by Carol Read
Speaking Games by Jason Anderson
Activities for Very Young Learners by Puchta and Elliott