Posted in Games and activities

Rolling Dice: Speaking Games for TEFL teachers

All you need for these fun speaking games are some dice. I recommend you buy a few sets and carry them around with you all the time.

Dice are a great resource for TEFL teachers because they are portable and suitable for adults and kids

Speaking games for TEFL students

What I love about dice is that the options are endless, only limited by your imagination and creative ability. Let’s look at a few ways to use them.

  1. Tense reviews : Choose which tenses you want to practise (Advanced learners can practise all 12, Elementary learners could practise 2 or 3). Assign a number to each tense, for example, 6 is Present Perfect simple. Students roll the dice and have to create a sentence using the tense that corresponds with the number. Experiment with different variations such as positive, negative, questions, active, passive, correct & incorrect, subject & object pronouns etc.
  2. Question formation: Choose a question word for each number on the first dice: 1 = Who, 2 = Why, 3 = Where, 4 = When, 5 = What, 6 = How. Choose a topic for each number on the second dice: 1 = Food, 2 = Sport, 3 = Hobbies, 4 =Jobs, 5 = Clothes, 6 = Travel. If a student rolls a 3 and a 1, they have to create a question such as: Where did you eat dinner last night? You could use a third dice roll to determine who answers the question. If you have been teaching modals, use should, must, can etc. Great for Business students who can practise interview scenarios and students preparing for speaking exams.
  3. Conditionals: The first dice represents the ‘If’ clause and the second shows the result. Let students choose verbs for each number on both dice. Choose a topic like Crime to practise verbs:1 = burgle, 2 = steal, 3 = murder, 4 = mug, 5 = deceive, 6 = lie. The second dice (the results), could be possible punishments such as 1 = 10 years in prison, 2 = community service, 3 = stand in the corner etc. Students can play judge and jury, a roll of 1 and 6 could produce sentences such as: If you burgled my house, I would force you to stand in the corner of the room for 10 minutes. OK, it sounds ridiculous but the students will have a lot of fun and activate lots of vocabulary. Create superstitions, threats, promises, regrets etc.
  4. Story building: Create stories using the dice. Get students to create 12 characters, 12 locations, 12 verbs. Each roll of the dice continues the story. Before long, they’ll be generating dozens of ideas and plot lines.
  5. Practising phonemes. Choose some phonemes you want your students to practise and assign them a number from 1 to 12 (vowels), 1 – 24 (consonants). They get points for finding words which have these sounds.
  6. Functional language: The first dice shows the context such as relationships, work, travel, health. The second dice can be used to practise functions (regret, giving opinions, apologising) and their exponents (I wish I hadn’t, In my opinion, I’m awfully sorry). Before you know it, students will be creating fantastic mini-dialogues, peer-teaching, discussing meaning etc.
  7. General vocabulary game: Match a letter to a number. For instance, p is 4. A student rolls the first dice. The second dice dictates how many words they have to say with this letter. This requires no preparation and great for recycling / activating vocabulary. Also, the categories game works with dice and students can play it in groups.
  8. Phrasal verbs: The first dice indicates the verb (put, give, take, stand, look, get), the second dice is used for the preposition / particle (up, away, in, out, under, over). Students win points for creating real phrasal verbs and using them in sentences (2 and 1 might result in a sentence such as: He gave up smoking after he visited the doctor.

Tip: Make the games competitive by having different scoring systems. Two I like are:

The Dice Bomb: If students complete task or use language correctly, they roll the dice to determine how many points they’ll receive. Get the other team to choose a bomb number, e.g. 3. If the first team roll 4, they’ll get 4 points; if they roll the bomb number (3), they lose all their points.

Dice Gambling: Teams or students can choose to get 3 points for correct answers. However, they can gamble and roll the dice again and this new number will give them their points.

Finally, use dice to nominate students to answer questions or do certain tasks. This random element keeps them engaged and on their toes.

Let me know if you have any other dice games to use with your English students.

Posted in Games and activities, Thoughts about TEFL Teaching

Be a Benevolent Dictator in the TEFL class

Why write things on the board for the students to write in their notebooks when you can dictate them to the students?

Dictation gives your students a clear model of pronunciation and allows them to practise their listening and writing skills.

Here’s an example:

Imagine you have a few topic questions you want your students to discuss.

You could write them on the board yourself or let them read the questions on the handout or in the coursebook, but if I were you, I would……


The teacher’s words are in italics. Note the use of imperatives to instruct the learners.

“Close your books”

“Write down what I say”

“When the hell… are you bunch of fools… actually going to learn English?”

“I’ll repeat. When the hell are you bunch of fools actually going to learn English?”

(Pause while they write down what they have just heard)

“Now, discuss what you have written with your partner. Don’t show what you have written.

(Make exaggerated gesture hiding your notebook from your partner).

(Let them discuss what they have written, spelling out words out to each other if necessary)

“OK, one more time. When the hell are you bunch of fools actually going to learn English?”

(Let them make any final changes)

You have 2 options here:

Option 1

“Paco (there is one in every class here in Spain) Tell me what I said.”

Option 2

“Paco, write the question on the board.”

“Everybody, is Paco correct?”

(If Paco is correct, proceed to the next step. If he isn’t, see if the other students can produce the correct sentence)

“Everybody, repeat after me. When the hell are you bunch of fools actually going to learn English?”

(Students repeat in a choral drill)

Paco, say the sentence. Juan, your turn, Carmen, Patricia. (Ask each student or several students to do individual drilling)

Now, in your pairs, discuss the question. You have 5 minutes.

Now, you might feel a bit uncomfortable dictating at first – and I wouldn’t recommend trying it out with the question used in the example above –  but, in my opinion, it’s a very student-centred teaching strategy which allows you to identify and deal with any grammar, lexical or pronunciation issues.

  1. Dictation is an effective teaching strategy for recycling lexis or grammar structures: if they are familiar with the language, why board it?
  2. Dictation is an effective teaching strategy for introducing new language: English is often cited as being a non-phonetic language but many words actually have a strong sound and letter relationship and students can benefit from predicting spelling patterns. And if the sound / spelling relationship is weak, dictating a word, letting students attempt to spell it, and then giving them the correct form may prove to be a vivid strategy for retention.
  3. Finally, dictation helps students develop their note-taking ability. A useful skill to have in meetings, conferences, lectures etc.

Try being a benevolent dictator for a while. Do it sitting down, standing up, walking around the room (although I would draw the line at goose stepping like a Nazi).

Let me know how it goes.