I’ve had several requests to compose a list of resources, games, ideas, etc. I use in order to create and incorporate effective and successful lessons while teaching in France. I am going to do this in multiple parts, and am thus starting with Part 1: A list and descriptions of my most successful websites, games, and icebreakers. For Parts 2, 3, and 4 I will compile a list of Lesson Plan topics/ideas I have used as an assistante in a lycée, at BTS level, as a lectrice at the university level, as a private tutor here in France, and as an ESL teacher in the United States.
- islCollective– This site has an infinite amount of worksheets, games, resources, and ideas. I get the vast majority of my private lesson (tutoring) materials from here.
- Teachers Pay Teachers– You need to create an account, but it is free and you can access/download the free stuff!
- Pinterest– Again, this is free and you can find A TON of stuff on Pinterest
- LinguaHouse- I started using this website when I became a lectrice— I use this a lot with my university students, and a bit with some of my more advanced tutoring students. A year subscription is $49 but for me was completely worth it.
- IE Languages- Jennie has since become a personal friend of mine, and she runs a fantastic blog for aspiring and current assistants/lecteurs. In addition to posting available lecteur/lectrice positions, Jennie has also taken the time to post her past lesson plans, audio recordings, and resources, available for downloading, many of which I have used with my own students.
- BBC English- Great ressources, especially videos!
- Story Cubes- Available for less than 10 euros on Amazon and with multiple versions, this is a fantastic icebreaker to use during any lesson, with any amount of students, at almost any level (I have 3 different boxes to mix up the pictures.) Basically, each box is filled with 9 separate die, each side containing a different photo, ranging from a door knob to a spider web to a shovel to a person crying, etc. Depending on how many students you have, you can do one big group or several smaller groups. First, you have someone roll all 9 die. Then, you discuss the vocabulary for each photo, making sure each student knows all the words. Then, you set a timer for 2 minutes (or however long you want) and have a student tell a story using all 9 photos on the cubes. Other variations of this game include giving each student 2,3,4 cubes each and having them tell a story together within the allotted time. This gets them working on speaking, listening, and fluency.
- Banana Grams- This is a game best used with intermediate to advanced students, and can be used with any amount of people. It can be described as an individualized Scrabble; each person is allotted X number of letters and then has to form words (excluding proper nouns) in English. However, with banana grams you are allowed to put letters back, exchange letters, and completely change your words around, never having to keep the same ones. I’ve used this game with new tutoring clients in order to get the students comfortable with me– it puts everyone at ease! It can also be a scaffolded game which you complete together; you can even have students work on teams in order to help each other brainstorm and check spelling!
- Taboo- Although this is a board game, it is definitely a game you can make yourself, simply by googling “Taboo.” It is a game of cards; the objective of the game is for a player to have the other players guess the word on the player’s card without using the word itself, in addition to five additional words listed on the card, in the allotted amount of time. The game is similar to Catch Phrase, in which a player tries to get his or her teammates to guess words using verbal clues, or Headbanz, where each player has an unknown word attached to their head and they have to ask questions to the other players in order to correctly guess the word. This is a great safe and fun way for students to use their English Vocabulary in another way. For Taboo, make sure they know all the vocabulary on their card!
- Speech- This game works just like story cubes, except that each player is given 6 cards with a different animated photo on them. Then, within the allotted time, the student must tell a story in English using their chosen cards. If the students are more advanced, you could differentiate the game in order to make it more challenging. For example, have them tell a story more spontaneously, by only allowing them to flip over one card at a time. Students could also tell a story with another student (or several), because this way they are forced to listen to each other.
- Time’s Up!- This is a charades-based game. Before the game begins, each player chooses several cards featuring famous historical or fictional characters, and shuffles them into a deck. Then, the rounds begin. In each round, team members take turns trying to get their teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. In round 1, just about any kind of clue is allowed. In round 2, no more than one word can be used in each clue (but unlimited sounds and gestures are permitted). In round 3, the clue giver can use no words at all, and teammates are allowed only a single guess.
Ice Breakers / Fillers:
- “Going on a Picnic…”- This game forces French students to start thinking about patterns in English words. Basically, you as the teacher must think of a theme of words in your head (ie: first letter of the object must match the students’ first name, or each object must start and end with a vowel, etc.) Then you demonstrate: “My name is Dana, I’m going on a picnic, and I’m going to bring doughnuts.” Each student must follow in unison, and you must tell them either “Yes, you can come,” or “No, sorry you can’t come.” Many visual learners benefit from you writing the “Yes” objects, as well as the required phrase, on the board. Eventually, students may be able to guess the theme, but give them some hints or re-enforce the “yes objects” after a few rounds to get them thinking again!
- “This or That”- This is a great game for a weaker collège class with limited speaking abilities. Have students stand up and go to the middle of the classroom. Then, announce, “If you prefer football, go to the left side of the room. If you prefer rugby, go to the right side of the room. If you do not like either, or like them both equally, stay in the middle of the room. Students then must choose and go to whichever side of the room suits them best. If they can, try to ask one or two students to defend their opinion. (ie: “I like xxx because…“) Be sure to use a lot of gestures with this game, such as pointing to the left when you say, “left,” etc.
- Who Am I?- Either buy a set of index cards or cut up a few pieces of paper, and brainstorm popular Anglophone / Francophone celebrities, politicians, cartoon characters, etc. who are popular or well-known with the age group you are teaching (ie: Stromae, Louane, Hollande, Obama, Taylor Swift, etc.) Try your best to make the list as diverse as possible, using an equal amount of male and female names, and both white people and people of color. Then, have students come up to you one-by-one, and tape one of the index cards to either their back or their forehead, not allowing them to see who they are. Once everybody has a card, have the students walk around the room and ask each other Yes or No Questions in order to guess their identity: (ie: “Am I a man? Am I dead? Am I a cartoon? Am I a politician?”) This activity may require some pre-teaching; I recommend demonstrating and writing down examples of Yes-or-No questions on the board (or better yet, have the students teach you and give you the examples). Just do not assume students know how or already understand how the game works. When the students have guessed their identity, have them come find you and say, “Am I xx?” and then you give them another card to continue playing.
- Find Someone Who…- This is a great game to do on the first day of class; it gets students up and moving around and speaking English. It also allows them to talk about themselves. Create a worksheet with a header that reads something such as, “Find Someone Who…” and then a list of statements, such as, “Has a younger brother: ____________” or, “Wears braces: __________” or, “Has been to Spain; ___________.” Then, students get up, walk around the room, and ask each other questions in English. “Have you ever…” or “Do you have…” Again, this will probably require a bit of pre-teaching. Review with students how to ask and answer questions in English (“Yes, I do,” or “No, I haven’t”) for example; it may even be a good idea to write them down or put them on the worksheet for the visual learners in your class. Perhaps demonstrate with your co-teacher. Finally, instill a rule that the students can only have each student answer one question on their sheet, so they are forced to ask everyone in the class, and everyone in the class is forced to participate.
- Numbers- Have the students stand in a circle facing each other. The goal is to practice saying numbers in English, and skip any multiples of 7 or numbers which contain the number 7 (you can change this.) Each student goes round robin stating a number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.) However, when you reach a multiple of 7 or numbers which contain the number 7, you must skip that number and go on to the next (7, 14, 17 21, 27, 28). This is quick and easy because students get to listen to each other and practice numbers. If the students messes up, s/he is out, and the game restarts.
- 4 Corners- This game is best with primary students and requires an entire classroom. Label each corner of the room 1, 2, 3, 4 respectively, perhaps also labeling in between walls 5 and 6 if you have enough space and students. Have either a large dice or a virtual dice on the screen in front of you, or a volunteer who covers his or her eyes and stands in the middle of the room (this can be the teacher for the first round.) Students must quietly choose a corner. Then, when everyone is in a corner, either roll the dice or have the person in the room shout out a corner (since their eyes are shut they can’t see who is where) and the people whose corner is called are out. Remaining students must shuffle and find a new corner; process of elimination continues.
- Heads Up, 7 Up- Again, this is best with an entire class. Seven students are chosen to come to the front of the class. The teacher announces, “Heads down, thumbs up!” and the remaining students at their desk put their heads down, cover their eyes, and put up their thumbs. Each student at the front selects one other students thumb by walking down the room and touching it. If a student’s thumb is touched, they must put it down. The seven students who chose must quietly come back to the front of the room. When everyone has finished, the teacher announces, “Heads up, Seven Up!” The seven students whose thumbs were chosen must stand up, and then one-by-one, guess who put their thumb down. If they guess correctly, they replace the student at the front. If not, they must sit back down. This doesn’t do much for English except listening, but I find it calms down an excited class at the end of a day.
- Charades/Pictionary- Most of us know how this works. In order to get your students involved, have each person choose 2 or 3 objects or people and put them on a piece of paper and then into a hat. Depending on which you decide to play, divide the students into teams, teach and demonstrate the appropriate game before beginning, and then play!
All-in-all, there are a few key strategies in making sure that these ideas are successful:, the most crucial being this: Do NOT assume that students know how to play or understand what’s going on. Teach and demonstrate EVERYTHING. Write things down. Ask questions to clarify. Have students explain it back to you. Most importantly, make it fun, and do not be afraid to change or adapt the rules depending on your students’ needs or abilities.
Do you have any other ideas or suggestions to add? Do you have any feedback on these games? Leave a comment below.