Games and Starters

1 June 2020 0 By miriam

Describe the picture: This is an MFL exercise to get them talking. It’s super easy and effective. All you have to do is to put a funny picture up, preferably involving vocabulary that’s already familiar, and preferably something that has a bit of action going on, something that lends itself for description. Everyone has to come up with a sentence about the picture, and this is also great in terms of differentiation, because high achievers can show off more complex sentences, while students who struggle a bit, can make simple sentences, and still revise.

Running dictation: text outside or around the room, different teams need to report back (running, or fast walking for health and safety 😉 ) and one person from each team writes down sentences. First team wins. Make sure the rules are very clear, and that the teams have the same distance to their (differentiated) texts. This activity is easy to differentiate, as you can adjust the difficulty of the texts according to the groups, however: Make sure to distribute the same amount of words to each group, because they can get very competitive about it. Once the first group is done, you’ll have to have a mark scheme ready, with points to be deducted for misspelled, or missing words. You can have them peer-mark their work and award a merit for the winners.

Repeat a word (for drilling vocabulary): Take whatever you have at hand, e.g. two different colour markers. There are two teams, each says a word that needs to be repeated by every member of the group and go round (with the marker) and be returned to the teacher. First one wins, no throwing of items.

Bin ball: Pupils line up. They​ have to say a sentence in the target language (TL) and try to throw a ball in the bin. If it doesn’t go in, one repetition.
Make up your own point system 3 points if sentence is said correctly and ball goes in etc. Two teams competing. Be encouraging.

4 corners:
Different themes: countries, food, colours, sports. Teacher says a word, pupils have to run to the right corner and repeat the word. If they don’t get there quickly, they have to do a happy dance/dab ;).

Class lines: Two groups form lines with items from the classroom. The longest line gets extra points, they need to be able to name all the items, the other group has to remember at least 5 items and vice versa. Points get allocated accordingly.

Musical questions: Two balls, or stuffed toys go round the classroom to music. When the music stops, the person with the ball asks a question in the target language, the other person with ball/stuffed toy has to answer.

Dominoes: Students have to pick up their piece from you, each child gets one. They get two minutes to find their pair. Differentiation: To make it easier for them you can put the words on the board for those who need it.
After counting down, you ask them ‘who has this word’? And they have to repeat it and the meaning.
If you don’t have words, you can put pictures on the dominoes, so you can adapt the game for the future.

Starter Match-up: Go to
Type in the topic and the year. This creates language flashcards.
Students match them, as they walk in, and then sit down. Once everyone sits, they have to say the word they found and make a sentence with it, each. In order t keep the pace, tell them in advance that they’ll have to come up with a good sentence.

This game can be hilarious, but doesn’t work with every class . Students have to perform something (dialogue, any type of text), using different emotions. So you assign them a text, and then pick an emotion with which they have to read / perform it. You can generate the emotion with a wheel, or just say them.

Coloured sentences: you say the sentence, the students have to shout the colour. Once they’ve got the hang of it, you can appoint someone with good pronunciation to read the sentence.

Slap Board: This is a great game to drill new vocabulary. All you need is a nice set of pictures on PowerPoint, a freeze button, two teams, and maybe two fly swatters in different colours. Here’s how it works: First of all, you display the images with the words and articles and have the students repeat them multiple times. The next step is to take the words and articles away and let them say them. You can split this up per row, or single confident people out to do it, and finally, you appoint two teams with two contestants at a time. You say the word, and whoever slaps the board first, wins this round. Have three goes per round and give points to the winners. Insist on reasonable noise levels. They usually enjoy this game very much. Extension: Have a student call out the words (give them a list), or flip the game by pointing to an image where the two contestants have to shout out the word (plus article). You can get a lot out of this without a lot of preparation, and it is great for manifesting vocabulary.

Here’s a Pinterest link to some great ideas for Primary:

And here’s a download link to Mike Gershon’s starter generator.