Anything you can do, I can do better.
A team oriented acting game.
About an hour before class one of my 2nd year teachers informed me that this class had English twice that day. She wanted a game to play for the entire 50 minute class. OK. No problem. That worked around the grammar point on page 76 of New Horizon 2. Oh. I sat and thought for about 10 minutes and all I could think of was Annie Oakley.
Andrew, get your pen.
Purpose: A listening exercise using good, better and best.
Secondary Purpose: To add a little levity to the class.
I have only done this activity once and about 90% of the students in that class responded very well. Boys in particular really like this game because they can show off but even some of girls had a good time. However, there was a small cadre of students, 3 or 4, who refused to cooperate. After the class the JTE and I found a solution to this problem if we used the game again the future. Overall this game was awesome. The students were laughing and having fun. Nearly all of them let their “English is hard” shield down. I would definitely do this game again with a few modifications. This is also very similar to the game, “Prove it!” which you can play with the 1st year students using New Horizon 1.
Prep: There is not much needed to prep for this activity depending on how complicated you want to make it. The main preparation is creating a list of actions that are A) easily understood by Japanese students and B) relatively amusing. For “A” asking your students to imitate Barack Obama is going to result in a lot of blank stares and nervous fidgeting. Asking your students to imitate Spiderman will get you further. As far as “B” is concerned the humor will manifest itself if you pick things that are fun, but if you ask them to imitate something that isn’t fun like taking a test or drinking tea, you’ll get more boring versions of those two actions. I have attached my list of actions.
Also bring a deck of cards.
Execution: To start the class, I told each of the students we would be playing an amazing game, but that it was really important that everyone plays. Once they understood ( I had the Japanese teacher explain it too) I started by giving them the vocabulary for the game. On the board I wrote: Act, Make sound like, and Imitate. Imitate was the only word that they weren’t already familiar with but it is important to review to make sure everyone understands. Probably the most important part of the whole activity is the ALT (you!) doing something in front of the class to help loosen them up. I imitated Anpanman, made a noise like a seagull and acted silly to demonstrate the requirements of the activity. Demonstrate at least one of these with the JTE if possible.
Have the room break up in to roughly even teams, 5 to 6 students each is ideal. I had them play rock paper scissors to see who goes first but you can choose any method for determining a turn order. Have one student from each of the first two teams come up and give them some sort of action. After they each perform the action independently I had the class vote to on, “Who did it better?” Which ever team’s player did the action “better” got to draw a card and that was their points for that round. Eventually you can get into good-better-best and change the way you call students up each round, as long as each student is from a different team.
I had a brilliant idea after playing this game, of course, so I’m including it here for your future benefit. Instead of having a winner and loser for each round, I could have used the cards and rewarded them both for doing something way outside of their comfort zone. Each student who does an “action” gets to draw a card and earn points for their team.
After going about 4 rounds total we wrapped the game up with about 5 minutes left in class. Long enough for the JTE to say something or to have a quick review and have them move the desks back. At the end of the class have the teacher give out a stamp, extra credit point or even your own stickers, anything really, to every student who made an effort to do the activity. This rewards everyone, even those who didn’t do “it” better.
A final thought: Another key to making this activity work is having way more “actions” than you will need for the class. I had several instances where students passed on the original action because it was too embarrassing for them or they weren’t sure what to do. Be mindful of the fact that some students do better at the front of the class and others are completely petrified. For the more nervous students I had tasks that didn’t involve speaking as well. Regardless there were still two students who just refused on principal to participate. I did find that even some of my badly behaved students stayed engaged in this activity but even so, a few bad apples made a couple moments of this class super awkward.