Any party game can be used on the first day of class as an icebreaker and language warm-up. One of my favorite icebreakers is called Psychiatrist. You can use it with any level, even with beginners. A psychiatrist (one of the players) leaves the room to let other players decide, which common “disease" they will share. For example, the players decide that they are Napoleons. When the psychiatrist returns, she should observe players' behavior and ask them indirect questions to find out her patients’ condition. I remember once my students suggested we were nudists… I laughed for solid 15 minutes before I realized I misheard “Buddhist” for “nudist”.
2. international tandems
Last summer I tried classroom tandem language learning. My American-learning-Russian students were exchanging emails with Russian-learning-English students. It didn’t work very well and I spent hours contemplating for possible reasons. I think students perceived this project as a boring obligation and not as an exciting opportunity to exchange languages. What would bring more fun to classroom tandem learning is… a game to share. Surely enough, there is a game for a language exchange: welcome New Amigos! Created for speakers of different languages to play together, the game requires you to translate cards in both the mother tongue as well as the foreign language. If you succeed in translation you win the card. There are several language pairs available in addition to the online version of the game.
Have you ever thought of assigning your students a game to play as homework? Guess what, it works like a charm! Instead of 1-2 hours of study, your students will end up staying late playing and having a good time. In the target language! Just hand them a box of Imaginarium or Monopoly and a measurable objective: speak only in English for at least 60 minutes or put the words they have to look up in a dictionary into a Quizlet app.
4. assessment tool
Communicative games like LinguaPolis is a great alternative to OPI (the Oral Proficiency Interview). While playing it with your student, you recycle the same topics and structures, as you would do on OPI, minus speaking anxiety. A game is quite a different format from a formal interview, isn’t it? You student will speak more freely and confidently during a play session, than during the test, even if she knows there is a grade waiting for her at the end.
5. thematic vocabulary
Lotto is all about numbers; fruit and vegetable domino is all about… well, fruits and vegetables. Speaking of food! Kitchen Rush is a game about being a cook in a fancy restaurant and fulfilling orders fast enough to earn money and keep the business going. Yes, you have to know all this vocabulary for roasting and sautéing. Just covered a section on housing? Play Mr. House! Clothes? Play Prêt-à-Porter! Medicine? Play Hospital Hilarity!