In the Classroom: Scattergories

If you try this activity , I’d love to hear how it goes for you- good, bad, suggestions etc. Leave me a comment below. Look forward to hearing from you!

I’m back in the classroom (as of last week) and am quickly learning students  names and getting to know teachers whom I’m working with. This year I’m going to make a tried and true effort to learn my students names and utilize the handy-dandy photo list of all my students in my 9 classes. 

Last year, I had my own classroom and was responsible for preparing all the lessons and activities and this year, I’m assisting or rather teaching with another teacher. I have nine classes, though I’m suppose to work 12. I’m not complaining. at. all. My time is divided between 5 English teachers and I’m mostly with the 16-18 year old students since the lower levels they tell me are very low and that’s their reason for only scheduling me for 9 hours. From what it seems I’ll collaborate with the teacher before class or during a prep hour and then “be the teacher” while the teacher sits amongst the students. So far, I don’t mind. I like the change and the challenge. I like being in front of the class, I like improvising and I like how everyday and every class is different. Some days I can see myself teaching for the long-term but alas,.. that’s another post. 

I’ve been thinking about the variety of lessons and activities I tried last year-what worked, what didn’t-and my lack of having a list because Teaching English was only going to be a year gig. 

Explaining how to play

One of my favorite games last year was a Spanish game I stole, er, borrowed and made it my own. Of course. Now I don’t know what this game is called  but if you can think up something better or know the original name, please let me know. 

How to play:

Take a half sheet of paper and make 5- 7 categories. I choose categories randomly such as: Animal, Food, Transport, Place, Thing, adjective, Verb*

Then I’ll give a letter, for example letter B, and students have a minute or two to come up with a word starting with this letter for each category.

For example:

 Letter B= Buffalo, butter, bus, basement, butterfly, beautiful, bring

Letter H=horse, hamburger, helicopter, house, hat, happy, have

If you’re like me and have to think of words on the spot, I don’t do well. I can’t think of any words so it’s helpful to make a list before or do it while your students are doing the activity  Some letters will be more difficult than others and you have to remember students are going to be translating from their native tongue to English. Some words start with the same letter in both languages, many don’t.

Depending on time, their level and their enthusiasm, I usually give them between  5-8 letters but not all at the same time. I don’t give another letter until everyone is ready to move on (or majority is ready to move on). Then I ask students what they came up with for different letters and categories  and write them on the board. Ok. Activity appears to be finished but this is when I extend the activity. Remember back in school, teachers would start out with something and you’d have no idea where the activity was going or why you were doing it? Yeah, now as a teacher, I get it. I always have a plan and my reasons and it’s all about building on an activity. 

Compare answers with your partner

I have students pair up, compare answers and write a story using the words they have in their charts. Writing a story gives them an opportunity to be creative (in a time when schools are more focused on testing than creativity, even in Spain), use their imagination, write in English, and give them freedom to make the story about anything they can imagine (and mention it must be appropriate for school).   Depending on how much time there is, they usually have 10- 20 minutes to write a story. I emphasis it’s about having fun, being creative and just writing. There is no right or wrong way. 

Some classes have been shy or feel silly but I find once they get started, some students get very excited about their story. (I also make sure to tell them, I’m not testing them for their writing ability or grammar, it’s simply about the ideas). At the end, I always try to allow time for one or two to read out loud to the class what they’ve written. This gives them an opportunity to practice speaking, pronouncing, and reading aloud. 

You may be surprised with the stories you’re students invent

* The beauty of this activity is you can modify the categories to what your students are learning in class. For example, one of my classes is learning about Health, Food and Exercise and another is focused on Fashion. This will be a great game to use when it’s time for review and I’ll change the categories/topics according to each class. Instead of having them write a story, I may ask them to write sentences about Health or describe a Fashionable or unfashionable person. The possibilities are endless.

Check out other fun ESL activities: Playing Charades, Role Reversal, and Music and Lyrics

Do you have a favorite activity or game you play when there is extra time in your classes?  Or if you have conversation classes, what are some activities you do or have tried that have been successful? 

Follow along on Facebook and stay connected to what’s happening! 

13 thoughts on “In the Classroom: Scattergories

  1. Pingback: In the ESL classroom: Music and lyrics | Roamingtheworld

  2. Looks like a really fun game! And one that goes on for a while. When I taught, I always cherished those activities that ate away at the time, but taught them as well 🙂

  3. You are such a natural teacher. I’m amazed at the creativity you bring to your classes. Your students are fortunate that you decided to return for a second year. So proud of you!

    • Ah, thanks mom. I’m happy to be back in the classroom and to a new year Basque Country.
      Will see how I’m inspired but who knew, that I would enjoy teaching so much?! Then again, I only work 9 hours… makes any job easier. : )

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