Are you looking for fun and effective foreign language activities?
In this article, we will explore a range of classroom activities that have been proven to be both fun and effective for language learning. From using a smartboard, projector, or screen, we will introduce you to the 4 foreign language activities that you can use to engage your students and help them develop their language skills in a meaningful way. Easily adaptable and easily levelled, these activities will bring your lessons to life! So whether you’re a seasoned EFL teacher or just starting out, these activities are sure to inspire you and help you create a fun and effective learning experience for your students.
Learning a new language can be challenging, but incorporating fun and effective activities into your EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classroom can make a big difference. Language learning is not just about memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules, but also about developing critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and cultural awareness. By using innovative teaching methods and classroom activities that engage students and encourage them to participate, you can create a dynamic and stimulating learning environment that will help students achieve their language goals.
There are many reasons to learn English, and fun is just a single reason – but a very important one!
Let’s get started!
Foreign Language Activities: 1 – Back to Board
Level of students: All
Skills focus: Speaking, listening, vocabulary, numbers (adaptation)
Time needed: 5 – 10 min
Materials needed: Projector/display, prepared vocabulary
Who: Pairs or teams
This is one of the simple yet effective foreign language activities, and an excellent resource-free warm up or review activity. I especially recommend it for reviewing language, and for using those last few minutes of a lesson in an exciting and productive way.
This is a high-paced, extremely enjoyable game that brings out huge amounts of language. Here’s how to do it:
- Divide students into pairs or teams.
- Have one student from each team stand in front of the screen with their back to it, so they cannot see the display.
- Have the first word of your word list appear on the screen behind them.
- The rest of the team give hints, using gestures or English, to guide the student to the correct word.
- The student shouts out the word to the teacher, and wins one point for their team.
- All teams change who is guessing the word.
There is little that is different to traditional back to the board, where the word is written on the board using a marker pen, except timing. However, this change in timing has a major effect on student enjoyment and language production. Having students switch and the next word immediately appear adds a sense of pressure that really gets students communicating, forgetting any shyness or reservations they may have had.
Ensure you keep score, letting students see how close the points are between teams.
Remember: Prepare a list of words, one per slide, before the lesson: topic-based or every-day vocabulary. However, as the lesson progresses, add any words to the document that you would like to see reviewed, especially new and difficult-to-comprehend vocabulary. The slideshow you create acts exactly the same as a digital vocabulary bag.
- Use this as a question game, allowing only ONE answer before the team is eliminated. For example, make the topic ‘countries’ and the student with their back to the board must ask questions: “Is it in Europe?” “Is it famous for pizza?”
- Use this to practice large numbers: have a number on the slideshow, such as 999,999, and students can only say ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ as the student with their back to the board says numbers until they find the answer.
- Charades app: The smartphone or tablet computer is an invaluable resource in the classroom when used correctly. Search for a charades application that allows you to create and save word lists. These apps include timers, score keeping, and sound effects that make the game even more interactive and exciting for students.
Foreign Language Activities: 2 – Impromptu Presentations
Level of students: Intermediate+
Skills focus: Speaking, fluency
Time needed: 5 – 10 min
Materials needed: Projector/display, prepared random image slideshow
Who: Whole class, pairs
One of the best foreign language activities, and a good way for students to practise impromptu speaking and presentation skills.
Before the class, prepare a slideshow of as many images as possible, one per slide. These pictures may be of anything, some simple, some strange, some everyday and some crazy.
You can carry out this activity in two possible ways;
- Line the class up in two lines, half in each line
- Put the first picture up on the display
- The first student from each line runs up in front of the image and states three things about the picture. These could be simply ‘saying what you see,’ e.g. “This is a red motorbike, he is tall…,” or could be creative, for example “This is my Uncle George, he loves motorbikes, he owns 14 different motorbikes.”
- The first student to finish their mini-presentation scores a point for their team, and the two go to the back of their respective lines.
- The next two students race to talk about the next image.
- Line the class up in two lines, A and B, half in each.
- Have each line face the other, so that students are now in pairs.
- Tell group A that they are going to talk about the next image for 1 minute.
- Go to the first image, and the students in group A speak for the entire time about this image.
- Switch to the next image, and have group B speak about it.
- Move the lines so that each student now has a different partner, and repeat.
This is an excellent warmer activity and a good way to introduce students to the rest of their class, and a valuable fluency activity. Do not pressure students or try to lead them, but allow them to build up confidence in their own time. This is why in version 2 it is important to shift between partners: this allows students to watch and learn from each other.
For classes in which impromptu speaking is still challenging, begin this game as a simple ‘say what you see’ form, and only ask for creativity after several rounds.
Foreign Language Activities: 3 – Mystery Box
Level of students: All
Skills focus: Reading, listening, speaking, grammar, spelling, vocabulary…
Time needed: 15+ min
Materials needed: Projector/display, Mystery box slideshow
Who: 3 or more teams
Fair warning: this activity can make your class go wild.
The mystery box game is a way to make a slideshow interactive and competitive, and if sparingly used can become the highlight of a class. The idea is simple, but very adaptable.
Setting up this activity can take a fair amount of time the first time, but once you have created your first version you can use this as a template and preparation times decrease significantly.
Before the class;
- Prepare a slideshow of questions, one question per slide. These questions could be grammar-based, spelling or vocabulary-based, general knowledge, or any target you choose. It is advisable to keep the number of questions to between 12 and 20, timing dependent.
- Place a blank slide between each of these questions, and have a giant question mark or similar image beneath the phrase “keep or give?”
- After each blank slide, add a slide which announces what points the team has won or lost. Have a decent spread, for example ‘add 200 points,’ ‘lose 100 points,’ ‘add 400 points…’
- In later versions of the game, once students are familiar with the rules, add additional results – ‘switch points with another team,’ ‘steal 100 points from another team…’
- Place an easy demonstration question at the beginning of the slideshow, so that you can demonstrate how the game is played to students.
During the class;
- Divide the class into teams, usually between 3 to 4 teams is best, though 5 is also possible.
- Have each team choose a name and record this on the board, with space to record their scores.
- Demonstrate and explain how to play using the example question on your slide.
- The first team is presented with the first question and given a time within which to answer. For the first few questions you should allow a little more time, to ease students into it. Emphasise that they may only offer one answer, so must agree as a team on the answer.
- If they are incorrect, pass to the next team until it is correctly answered. If they are correct, or when the next team answers correctly, move to step 6.
- Move to the next slide, showing the mystery box/question mark, and ask if the team would like to ‘keep or give the box.’
- If the team chooses ‘keep,’ they open the box.
- If the team chooses ‘give,’ they select one of the other teams to open the box.
- Move to the next slide, with the points awarded/taken, and write this score on the board under the relevant team.
- Continue until the end of the game.
It is strongly recommended that you set a time limit for teams to choose between ‘keep or give.’ The game can become so intense that teams spend far longer debating this choice than actually using language!
The style of questions can be changed to focus on many different skills.
- Spelling: Have pictures instead of written questions on the slides, and students must provide the correct spelling
- Vocabulary: Again, have pictures but this time students must identify what they are
- Reading: Have teams answer questions based on a substantial text that they all receive and spend time analysing and making notes on
- Grammar: Have students rearrange words or identify the missing words in a sentence
- Listening: Record listening samples on your tablet/computer and have these play along with a question about the listening
You may also change the way the game is played, for instance by allowing any team to answer any question using a buzzer or bell.
Finally, as stated above this game should be used sparingly. Though students may become very enthusiastic about the game, this should be tempered with the realisation that the game can become very time-consuming and is better for review and reinforcement than introducing new language.
Find what works for you, and enjoy!
Foreign Language Activities: 4 – Picture Dictation
Level of students: Lower intermediate – Advanced
Skills focus: Speaking, listening, descriptive vocabulary, prepositions of place…
Time needed: 10 – 15 mins
Materials needed: Projector/display, paper and drawing materials
This activity involves one student in a pair describing an unusual image on a screen to their partner, who attempts to recreate the image on paper.
- Prepare several unusual pictures before the class for the projector/screen. These should be linked to the lesson topic.
- Have students form pairs, one student facing so they can see the screen and one, with paper, who cannot.
- Show the first picture.
- The student who can see the screen must describe the image to their partner. They can use language, gestures, and any other communicative means to describe it except for pointing at the paper. Allow them to see what their partner is drawing and give agreement or state when the picture is incorrect.
- After a relatively short time limit, pairs switch seats and move on to another image.
- Repeat several times, always keeping the time limit slightly less than students may like to encourage fluency development and prevent empty time in the class.
- At the end, have both students compare their pictures to the images on the screen.
This does not have to be the end of the activity. The drawings and images are useful materials in themselves. For instance, if the images are of unusual rooms students may discuss what kind of person lives in each one. Consider the ways in which your images can be linked to the overall lesson topic, and look for ways to exploit the material further.
Enjoy teaching English as a foreign language!
Give these great activities a try! What do you think of these foreign language activities?
There’s plenty you can do in the English language classroom – and have you considered teaching online