Ideas to liven up your class: Have a ball!
Simple objects can often be the most useful when teaching and can create a fun and relaxed learning environment.
Technology these days is a great resource but when it fails it’s always useful to have a backup plan.
A small ball can be a great solution to technology problems. It can be used for all sorts of different activities and with both young learners and adults. Activities can be used as a warm up, a review, a way to get learners speaking more or just a way to energise a lethargic group. Here are just some of the ways that it can be used:
- Getting to know you:
This can be used to assess students’ speaking ability whilst also allowing them to become more familiar with their classmates and feel more relaxed when speaking. The teacher will start with the ball, throw the ball to a student and ask a simple question such as ‘what is your favourite colour?’ The student answers and then throws the ball to another student to ask another question. Encourage the students to ask questions that interest them to find out more about their classmates. This activity can be used at any time to practise target language learnt during a lesson.
- The name game:
The name game is used as a fun activity in a first lesson for students to learn each other’s names (and also for the teacher to learn them). Firstly, the students will introduce themselves and then they can throw the ball to each other. The student says the name of the other and then throws it to them. After a few minutes the students should be familiar with the names and can start the game properly. One person stands in the middle of the circle and must try to escape. In order to do this, they must repeat the name of a fellow student before that student interrupts them with their name. For example, if the student in the centre is called Steven and the one is the circle is called Thomas, the middle student must say Thomas, Thomas, Thomas before Thomas says Steven!
This game is also good to practice new vocabulary especially with very low levels. Instead of using their names, students choose one of the new words to repeat. In this way, the students have to remember all their classmates’ words as well as their own and can practice their pronunciation whilst having fun.
- The spelling game:
This can be used to revise target vocabulary. The teacher shouts a word and the students spell the word, throwing the ball between them and saying one letter each. If someone says an incorrect letter then they are out and sit down. The last student left is the winner.
- Opposite adjectives/verbs:
I’ve used this game a lot to build up students’ vocabulary as quickly as possible and it’s been very effective. The first student says an adjective and the student they throw it to must say the opposite one. This can also be used to learn common opposite verbs such as lend/borrow or push/pull. To make the game more exciting you can set a time limit for the student to name the opposite which becomes shorter and shorter.
This is a good game to play before asking students to do a creative activity. I’ve used it as a warmer to poetry/song writing exercises. Students stand in two lines facing each other. The teacher chooses a word (usually a one-syllable word for lower levels e.g. cat) and gives the ball to the first person who must provide a word which rhymes. If they can produce one then they throw it to the person opposite and it continues across the lines until someone cannot think of a new word. This student is then out and sits down whilst the next student in line thinks of a new word. The game continues until only one student remains. (www.rhymezone.com can help if students are struggling for ideas).
- Where’s the ball?
This final game can be used with any simple object to practise prepositions of place. One student places the ball somewhere in the classroom (or around the school if available) and asks another student to explain where it is, they must give as much detail as possible e.g. it is under the chair, next to the bin, to the left of the computer.
These are just a few of the games and activities that the ball can be used for. You can create your own games or even ask the students for ideas, this can lead to a lot of interesting lessons!
I’ve also found that when you are teaching some difficult grammar or something a little dry or the students are just a little sleepy, getting them to stand up and a do a quick activity with the ball can really energise them and bring new
life to the lesson! It’s amazing how such a simple item can bring so much energy, creativity and fun!