If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, than it could mean that you’ve been playing the ESL game of Hangman for too long. This children’s favorite has been around for ages, but it’s rather staid and even a bit hokey. While your younger ESL students still might get a kick out of it, your older ESL students are sure to grumble and complain each and every time you draw those gallows on the board.
So what’s a new, or even experienced, ESL teacher to do? Why, come up with the same thing, just with a few slight variations. Over my years of teaching ESL games, I’ve had to change a lot of existing games to make them a bit more interesting and fun. Even a few tweaks to the format or how the game looks can go a long way, even when the rules and fundamental play are still the same. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Students Try: This game is just your simple hangman game, but the difference is that you can sit back and let the students do all the work. Most ESL students, especially the younger ones, love to get up in front of the class and strut their stuff, especially if it means stumping their classmates. Draw the basic hangman setup, but call on a student and let them come up to the board. They can come up with their own word from their book or your lesson, and then you’re off. Or at least sitting down for a bit.
- Shark: I simply call this game “Shark” because that’s what my students call it. I got this idea about 3 years ago and routinely pull it out when I’ve got 10 minutes and nothing to do. Draw a parachute on the board, and a man under it. Next draw some water and a large shark under the man. Finally, draw some strings to the man and the parachute. Put a word up and let students start calling out letters. Each time they get a letter wrong, take away one of the strings from the man to the parachute. When they’re all gone, game over!
- Diwang Building: I named this game after the once-tallest building in Shenzhen, China, the Diwang Building. It’s an iconic structure in the city’s downtown, and my students all know it. This is best with an Interactive White Board (IWB), but you can manage it with a simple blackboard. Draw a tall building on the board, the uglier the better, and then draw a person at the top. Put some hash marks down the side to mark the boundaries, and then elicit letters. Each time a wrong letter is put forward, the person falls down to the next hash mark. If the ESL students can’t get the word, the person dies. They love it. I let all of the stick figures who didn’t die congregate at the bottom of the building in some kind of party-like atmosphere. And don’t worry about it being too violent; just take a look at what’s on their ipads the next time you take a rest.