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Thought Piece

8 Simple Learning Games You Can Play with Children

By Mikey
Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

Your volunteer teaching English abroad adventure is edging closer and now you’re beginning to think about ways in which you can keep your class of eager students entertained and learn at the same time. If this is you, then we have got some wonderful ideas for you that are simple and effective! TEFL needn’t be hard, and you also want to ensure that it is fun for both you and the students because when things are enjoyable, learning comes naturally. 

Find some inspiration with these eight easy games you can play with children in Africa while you’re on your overseas teaching adventure.  

1.     Bingo

Before you start to play Bingo with the class, you’ll need to buy or make your own Bingo grid with some words or pictures that you want to include. You can find some really good free ones on the internet that you could print off and bring with you before you arrive in Africa.  

Give every child in the class a grid, or put them in pairs if the class is large. Once they have their grids, all they have to do is mark off the words or pictures as you call them out. The name of the game is to get a full line first (they can raise their hand as soon as they have done this). Next, it’s a game to see who can complete their entire grid and call BINGO! to become the winner of the game.  

Give the winning grid a look over to check that everything is all present and correct before handing out a prize of your choice (nothing too extravagant). 

2.     Charades

Charades is always fun to get kids involved with as it helps them to use their imagination with their actions and it works for all ages too. To play, you simply have to take along some words on paper that the students can pick out of a bag, hat or envelope. Discreetly show one of the students a word and then instruct them to silently act it out. The job for the rest of the class is to guess what the person at the front of the class is trying to act out, to which they shout out their answers in English when they think they know.   

Be warned, this game can cause children to get really competitive and it’s often very amusing to hear the ideas they come up with! You can utilise Charades for all types of learning, so if you are trying to teach a range of vocabulary from sports to animals, jobs, hobbies and more, Charades can be incredibly helpful. 

3.     Pictionary

We’ve followed on from Charades with Pictionary. This is closely tied to the previous game, but instead, involves drawing pictures of the secret word instead of acting it out. The chance to get up and draw on the board and use the chalk/marker is something that the children nearly always relish. 

4.     The Name Game

Playing name games provides you with a useful opportunity to begin a lesson and remember everyone’s names in the class. Start by going through the classroom and asking the students to say their name along with one of their favourite things. You can make this harder by asking the next child who introduces themselves to say the name and a favourite thing of the student who went before them followed by saying their own. See if they can keep this going throughout the whole class until the last child says all of the names and favourite things of every other student in the room! If this is too tricky, you can switch it back to just saying their info alone. 

5.     Stand Up!

Start off the game of Stand Up! by getting all the children to create a big circle that you will stand in the middle of. Next, you have to shout out a sentence, for example ‘stand up if you are wearing a t-shirt’ and everyone who’s wearing a t-shirt must run around the back of the circle and switch places with someone else who has stood up all while you attempt to steal one of their spots. The child who finds themselves left without a place in the circle then gets to shout out the next question from the middle.  

The good thing about this game is that it can be used to teach many subjects. So, if you want to help to teach about family, sports, geography, for example, you can focus on questions related to those topics. 

6.     Colour Dash

This is a game that is well-suited to younger students who are at the stage of learning colours. This can be played outside or indoors, and it starts by gathering all the students together and then shouting out to ‘find something that is the colour…’ and the students then have to run to touch something of the correct colour as quickly as possible. It’s a really fun game that is ideal for getting the kids going in the morning (plenty of African children hate getting up in the morning for school too!). 

7.     20 Questions

This game is particularly useful for children to practice forming questions while speaking in English; what’s more, it helps them to retain their vocabulary. Begin by having a student come up with something like a word, place, sportsperson or animal while the rest of the class take it in turns to ask them questions so that they can guess what/who it is. They can guess from literally anything, so it might be worth setting a topic while they get the hang of the game. 

8.     What’s on the Flashcard?

Lastly, another simple but effective game for your students to play. You have to hold some flashcards - without showing anyone else in the class - before slowly revealing them one at a time while the students call out the name of whatever is shown on the flashcard. The student who gets the correct answer first and fastest gets to hold onto the flashcard – often a very popular thing – and when the cards are all gone, whoever holds the most flashcards is the winner! 

These are just a handful of ways to make learning fun and keep your students engaged while you’re teaching. It can be slightly daunting when you turn up to teach a class whose first language is different from the one you are teaching, but, by playing games, you can lower the nerves for yourself and settle the children too. If you are considering visiting Africa to teach overseas, why not take a look at the volunteering programmes we offer? 

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