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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Glossary of classroom games suggested in sample strategies

These games are designed to encourage interactive language learning. They originate from a variety of sources. Many others can be found in language learning texts, such as the Cambridge Language Education series and Oxford English: Resource Books for Teachers series. The purpose of each should be explained to students whenever the games are used, so that they are explicitly attending either to the language feature which is the focus of the game (e.g. imperative verb forms in Simon Says), or to the reading and thinking strategies (e.g. Listen Up!, which requires students to listen for the most frequent words in a text). Only the less well known and non-commercial games are listed here. The Facilitator notes to the Ministry of Education video ESOL in the mainstream, and Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4 and Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, contain explanations of other approaches and strategies. The DVD Making Language and Learning Work: Years 5-8 also provides guidance on working with English language learners in the mainstream.

Listen Up!

Purpose: To develop fluency in recognising word/sound correspondences and to identify main ideas in a text.

Process: Teacher prepares a list of words (about 10 at most) from a short text - about 200-250 words maximum. Students copy down the list (in a column). Teacher reads text a little more slowly than normal reading speed and students tick each word every time they hear it. At the end of the reading, count up the number of ticks for each word and this will help identify the main ideas in a text.

Hot Seat

Purpose: To develop oral confidence and fluency and to encourage students to process information and practise generating questions.

Process: One student sits in the middle of the class or group and the others ask him/her a question about the topic, or to spell a word, or to give a fact etc. Change after each question.

Advance/Extend (not suitable for Foundation/Stage 1)

Purpose: To develop oral confidence and fluency and to develop vocabulary.

Process: Class works in pairs or small groups. Teacher allocates a topic (e.g. give a description of a dangerous animal, or a recount of a class trip to the Museum, or a retell of a film seen in class) and one student begins speaking. When the teacher calls “Extend”, the student has to elaborate on whatever word or idea they were saying at the time. For example, if they are saying “We got on the bus” and they hear “Extend” they must give more details about the bus. After about half a minute, the teacher calls “Advance” and the next student carries on with the story/ narrative/description (It must be a shared experience or text, so the next person can talk about the same thing).

Story, Story Die

Purpose: To develop oral confidence and fluency and to develop vocabulary.

Process: A small team (of 3 or 4) comes to the front of the class and one begins to retell the story; teacher points to another person (in random order) after a sentence or two and s/he has to carry on from the last word spoken. If s/he can do this without (major) hesitation, carry on. If not, s/he must “die” by dropping to the ground. Team is out when all players have “died”.


Purpose: to develop oral fluency and confidence.

Process: Teacher selects two topics (e.g. an opinion topic, or a phenomenon which has been discussed in class - How earthquakes happen/How the Solar System works. If it is an individual topic, such as - “The place I would most like to visit and why”, only one topic is needed. Students have a short time (about 5 minutes) to think about some ideas, then they have 3 minutes to talk about the topic (as a speech, with no interaction) to a partner. After 3 minutes, the other partner speaks. The students then find a new partner and give the same talk for 2 minutes, but much less hesitation and more fluency are expected. They then change partners for a third time and have only one minute to deliver the same speech. This last talk could be peer assessed against given criteria.


These grids can be factual or imaginative.

Purpose: To develop vocabulary, to prepare students for writing, to enable students to speak from another viewpoint, to assist recall and identification of main points.

Process: Make up a grid of prompts (see examples - based on Stage 2 - Narrative How Maui played with Fire and Stage 3 - Explanation Life Cycle of Ants).

Class works in small groups. Teacher numbers members from 1-3 and teacher calls out “A2” (referring to the square number), “Number  1” and Number 1 answers in the first person - e.g. (Ants) “I am a soldier ant. I am larger than the worker ants and my job is to guard the queen and the larvae and make s­­­ure that they don’t get eaten by predators.”

How Maui Played with Fire 

     A    B    C 
  1  You are Maui. Explain why you put out all the fires in the village.  You are Maui’s mother. Say what you thought when you found all the fires were out.  You are Maui’s mother’s slave. Say why you don’t want to go to Mahuika to get more fire. 
  2  You are Mahuika. Say what you did when Maui asked you for fire the first and second time.  You are Mahuika. Say why you became angry with Maui.  You are Maui. Explain how you escaped from Mahuika and what happened to you. 

Explanation Life Cycle of Ants 

  A B C
1 You are an ant. Explain the phases in your life cycle. You are a Tapinoma ant. Explain what happens when the African queen ant invades your nest. You are a scientist. Give three interesting facts about ant larvae.
2 You are a soldier ant. Explain what you look like and what your job is. You are a queen ant. Explain how all the other ants look after you and how. You are a worker ant. Explain two of your jobs.


(also known as Grammar Dictation, Ruth Wajnryb 1990 0xford English: Resource Books for Teachers, Oxford University Press)

Purpose: to listen for main ideas, to produce an edited and accurate text.

Process: Teacher selects a passage of difficulty level relative to the class proficiency. Stage 1 might be two sentences and Stage 2 could be about three to five sentences. There should be some warm up activities before dictation and low frequency words or phrases should be written on the board and read to the class (see Wajnryb for examples of warm up activities). Teacher tells class that the purpose is to remember main ideas and recreate a grammatically accurate version of the text, not a word for word version. Teacher tells class to listen only (i.e. not write) the first time the text is read, at only slightly slower than normal pace. The second time the text is read, students individually note down main ideas as sentence fragments. They then pool notes in small groups (or pairs) and reconstruct a complete text from the fragments. They then edit this, takes turns around the group to read a sentence and share their edited version with the rest of the class and the teacher.

Published on: 17 Sep 2020