Motivational activities

20th October 2000 at 01:00

Phil Drabble is wary of games if they are used for the wrong reason. "Playing countless games of bingo to practise numbers doesn't achieve very much. Games should always promote language-learning." He advocates activities which encourage pupils to see connections and think for themselves. The following is an extract from a task aimed at Year 7 pupils. They collaborate in groups toidentify the odd one out:

sous sur devant difficile

aller vais allons regarde

la maison le jardin un lit

des livres

rue tu vous du

There is no "right" answer. What matters is the discussion and the use of appropriate grammatical terminology.


When James Stubbs projects a picture on an overhead projector to present new language, he reveals the image very gradually,accompanied by a running commentary in the target language. Pupils vie with each other to guess what it is as they listen to his description.

The same principle can be applied to other skills. Instead of setting questions on a tape or text, it is possible to ask pupils to predict what it might contain then tick off their correct guesses.

Alternatively, they could list some of the words or expressions they expect to hear or read.

Anything that involves guessing is more fun and focuses attention on what matters. The element of chance ensures that it is not always the brightest pupil who wins.

Stop watch

This is surely the language teacher's most valuable resource. It keeps up pace by preventing ctivities from dragging on and introduces an element of competition.

You could ask how many expressions on a given theme they come up with in a minute, or how many sentences they say which contain a certain word. They could play Mastermind with picture cards or role-play cue cards. You could show them 10 pictures to see who can respond correctly in the shortest time. The possibilities are endless.

Card and board games.

Noughts and crosses: place picture cards face up in three rows of three. Pupils take it in turn to choose a card and come up with a relevant response. If their partner agrees that the utterance is correct, they mark a nought or a cross as appropriate.

Snakes and ladders: use a board with illustrated squares or a normal board supplemented by a pack of cards. Pupils take it in turns to roll the die but they can only proceed if they respond to the stimulus correctly. Watch out for slippery customers who deliberately fail when they land at the top of a snake. This ruse can be countered by sending anyone who comes unstuck on a snake's head straight back to base.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Most television quiz shows can be adapted for language practice. Peter Rodgers replaces cash prizes with merit points. One pupil participates directly while the others listen carefully in case the audience is needed.

"Sometimes they are wicked and deliberately give the wrong answer," he says. "It's nothing to do with personality clashes. They are just having fun at the expense of their friends!"

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