Number one for English language teachers

Imaginative materials: teaching with simple props: dice

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

Some of the most useful teaching props are the simplest. Most ELT teachers will have used dice at some time, perhaps when groups are playing a board game. Here are three ideas for more unusual uses of dice in class.


Story dice
  • Write the numbers 1 to 6 down the side of the board. Tell the first line of a story e.g. “It was a bright Tuesday morning and Alex was going to work.”

  • Pause, and ask the class to suggest various options e.g. you could ask “How did he travel?” Collect six answers (e.g. 'bus', 'car', 'skateboard', 'hot air balloon', 'tank' etc.) and note each one next to the numbers on the board.

  • Invite a learner to throw the dice and, depending on the number that comes up, continue with the story, inventing as you go, making use of the selected idea e.g. "He skateboarded down the hill …" and stop again fairly soon to elicit new options for a new question.

  • When the class has grasped the idea you could ask learners to take over your storytelling role – and later to play the game together in small groups.

Class decisions

You could use this same dice decision-making idea to break the "routine habit" and add an element of surprise or unpredictability to some duller classroom activities. For example – ask the class "How shall I take the register today?" and elicit 6 options (e.g. "whispering", "from outside the door", "pronouncing the names backwards" etc). Just thinking of such options may prove quite an inspiring and creative stage in its own right (so long as you're not too nervous of being asked to do something out of the ordinary.
Yarooh!
  • Draw six columns on the board. Ask the class to call out any words that come to mind.

  • Write these up randomly in the 6 columns, making sure that you get a good mixture.

  • Encourage the class to include small words (articles, prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verbs etc) as well as nouns and verbs (you could add items yourself).

  • Continue till each column has at least 10 items in it.

  • Learners now work in small groups of four or five. A student throws the dice and, depending which number comes up, chooses one word from that column on the board, which everyone then writes down.

  • The next player then throws and selects a word etc. Whenever someone in the group at the end of their turn thinks they can make a good English sentence (minimum 6 words) using some or all of the listed words (reordering as needed) they shout "Yarooh!" and declare their sentence.

  • If the rest of the group agrees it's a good sentence they get points for the number of words used (i.e. an eight word sentence gives 8 points).

  • The used words are crossed off the list and the game continues. The winner is the player with most points when the teacher calls time. You could then collect all the sentences on the board and check them!

 

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