TEFL games for large classes

Thinking of activities to do for a whole classroom can be a little daunting, especially if you are heading off to TEFL in China, in which your classes might have up to 70 students (don’t panic, it becomes all part of the fun.) I started and ended all my classes with a game or quick activity and they make up some of my fondest memories.

Here I have listen the four games I found most successful and the ones which the classes seemed to enjoy them most.


So I saw this as an option online while I was desperate for inspiration and then I took the basic idea and adapted it for a large class. I ended up using this once a week as it was definitely their favourite and I loved watching them get really involved and competitive with it. I had a no Chinese rule, which they found quite amusing as they either tried to recall English words desperately or sat furiously flicking through their dictionaries before the other team guessed correctly.

How to Play: Prepare some flashcards before the class with one word on each and choose a theme; sports, landmarks, food etc. Split the class into two teams and select two people from each to come up to the front of the class. Show them the word on a flashcard, they then each draw the word on the chalkboard and their teams have to guess what they are drawing, the team who guesses first, wins. One of my fondest memories of teaching is watching my students cry with laughter at how funny they thought this game was and watching them feel like they could be themselves around me. It was rewarding to see students who were usually quiet and not particularly engaged in classes get involved with everyone else and just have a laugh.


Describe it

This worked in a similar way to Pictionary but instead of drawing I would describe something to the class, such as animal or activity, and each team had to guess what I was describing. This worked so well as it improved their listening skills and also got them to think on their feet in English.

One sentence each stories

This was my idea but it might exist elsewhere, I just don’t know the proper word for it, but this game was hilarious. Alice and I (my volunteer partner) sat in our apartment after in stitches – not laughing at the students but amazed that they could be so inventive and wondering where this imaginative streak came from that I hadn’t seen in them before.

How to play: I drew a picture for the class to use as inspiration but you could alternatively start the story with your own sentence. Then simply start with one person in the class and they dictate a following sentence for you to write down and so on. I ended up with 12 stories that I will never get rid of because reading them reminds me of how much personality each of my classes had. With 70 students the stories had a beginning middle and end. I was a little worried that while one student was talking the others would get bored waiting for their turn but they were actually really good at listening to see what following sentence they could come up with.


Acrostic Poems

Admittedly this was me trying to convince the class they were playing a game while actually getting them to write poems, as their Chinese English teacher asked me to do this but they weren’t having any of it so I had to become more inventive. When I turned this into a game a lot of them came back to class the following week with acrostic poems they had written in their own time. I simply wrote easy words on the board such as EMILY, CHINA, etc. and I planned on them just putting their hand up and suggesting sentences. However this was another class that I will never forget as they engaged with this activity so much more than I anticipated – one student put his hand up but rather than calling out a sentence he came up to the front and filled out the sentence on the board himself. He  chose someone else from the class to write the next sentence who then came to the front and chose their own word for others to write a poem about. The rest of the class were amused that he had misunderstood but it worked so well that I followed the same pattern with the next class, and again this really encouraged them to be more at ease and use conversational English.

These are just four simple games that can be adapted to suit any class but they work particularly well with big classes as Chinese students love games and became really competitive so everyone got involved. I would absolutely recommend also searching the internet for TEFL games and activities. Ask your students how they like learning as well and make the most of what they enjoy doing, it will make classes so much easier for you and them! 

You can read my advice for teaching in China here:
Gap year advice from China 2013
Teaching in China, Part 2








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