How can I adapt games and activities to all levels and ages?

Making your lessons fun and interesting is very important, in order to keep students engaged and entertained. However, as the purpose of a lesson and the desired outcome changes, sometimes it can be a struggle to find certain activities for older children and/or adults that will both involve students yet still maintain a sense of learning. 

For the younger students and levels such as elementary, or A1-A2 students learning is all about fun. Engaging students into games and activities, which test their understanding of vocabulary, their memory on previous topics and constructing basic sentences are very important. This is why these games are a crucial part of EFL teaching. All of this, especially for very young learners, (age 3-7) should go un-noticed by the students themselves and implemented in a way which students feel comfortable with. A Game such as finding specific vocabulary around the room and repeating or saying the word out loud is perfect for this situation with young learners. You can do this activity with a range of different vocabulary, and is a perfect way to start the class, linked to the previous topic, activating the students’ memory. It also gets the students to be active within the classroom, and can be done alone, or in teams for a variation of skills. Other game ideas for these levels may include ‘hangman’, matching vocabulary cards with images, and basic word searches. ‘Simon says’ is also a great way to test students’ ability to listen and follow orders, as well as recapping vocabulary such as body parts, directions and orders. 

As student’s ability in English learning develops, so does the purpose and focus of the lesson. For higher level lessons (B1-C2), games and activities should be specifically designed to enable further practise of a topic or recapping previously acquired knowledge. Whilst it is still important to design fun, engaging lessons, the student’s needs should reach beyond basic vocabulary or simple topics, and therefore activities should match this. Also, the activities should be equally balanced between listening, reading speaking and writing. This is important factor when planning lessons for exam groups and higher ability students, which need to progress in all areas. 

Games such as ‘put out the fire’, where teams of students must name something within different categories based on the same letter, is a really good way to get students to understand topics and can also be a great focus for different word classes or grammar point. E.g. identifying the different between a noun, verb, and adverb etc is a really simple activity which activates the students’ awareness of the different word classes. This game can be adapted to different ages, levels and abilities, and is perfect for team or individual groups. Speaking activities are also essential as the students develop. Activities such as ‘Speed-dating’ activities, where students ask and answer questions within groups or pairs is great speaking preparation, especially for those students taking an exam. They can interact with different speakers and get chance to practise different question types.

Overall, the most important thing when designing a lesson plan and thinking about games and activities, is whether or not they will serve the correct purpose. Will they keep students engaged and entertained, or will students simply become distracted by the game and competitive towards others? The main thing is that all students join in and try to have fun. If the teacher notices that the game or designated activity isn’t working, the game can simply be cut or changed as deemed appropriate. All in all, games are a great way to make learning fun, and should be implemented throughout all ESL classes. 

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