How to teach answering questions with Criss Cross

Answering questions can be extremely difficult for language learners. Especially if their entire class is watching them. It is our opinion, that difficult does not mean impossible and if you do not require your students to stand up and talk in front of all of their classmates, you are doing them a disservice.

We love the game Criss Cross because it's a fun warm-up that requires participation from everyone in the class and focuses on a common objective (sitting down). If executed properly your students will be cheering each other on as everyone works together to achieve their common goal.

The Details About Criss Cross

  • This is a game for big classes. 
  • Criss cross works best for junior high school and high school students.
  • It works great as an icebreaker.
  • You don’t need anything to play Criss cross.

How To Play Criss Cross:

  1. Before the class, make a list of questions you think the students can answer. They can be about a topic you’re studying or a general English review. 
  2. To play Criss cross, you need to make sure the desks or students are lined up in rows. 
  3. Get all the students to stand up.   
  4. If they’re sleepy or not very enthusiastic, you could make them do some jumping jacks, or something.
  5. The aim of the game is to have the whole class sitting down.
  6. Ask a question.
  7. Any student can raise their hand to answer the question. If they answer correctly, they have 3 choices. They can choose "up and down", or "left and right". If they choose up and down, they and all the students in front and behind them sit down. If they choose left and right, then they and all the students on their left and right sit down.
  8. The last choice is "just me". That means, only they sit down.
  9. The last row standing has to choose just me.
  10. This is great because kids who are quiet or less enthusiastic, may have to stand up the longest, and answer a question in front of the whole class.
  11. You can use a timer to make the game more exciting.
  12.  Sometimes the choosing can cause problems, so be prepared to choose for them or choose randomly.

Criss Cross

  • It’s a perfect warmer for students in a large class. 
  • It’s excellent for practicing questions and answers.
  • It encourages everyone to play.

If you liked this ESL Game for High School classes you might also enjoy some of these classroom favorites!


Have fun in class!


A Relay Race is a great way to use teamwork to help motivate even your shyest students to speak.

A Relay Race is a fun game that gets your whole ESL / EFL class using new vocabulary and language targets quickly.  By emphasizing cooperation and more importantly fun, a Relay Race is all but guaranteed to be a class favorite.

 

The Details:

  • The only materials you’ll need are a few vocabulary cards.  Pretty much any topic will work.
  • A Relay Race works best with a larger class. Ideally 20 – 30 students.
  • Depending on how many variations of the game are used, it should take between 5 and 10 minutes to set up and execute this ESL game.

How to:

  1. Introduce your lessons target language.  E.g. “I like cookies“.
  2. Divide your class into equal teams.
  3. Have each team form a straight line.  Students should be standing about an arm’s length away from each other.
  4. Give the first student in each line a vocabulary card.  Students will have to pass the vocabulary card to the next student in the line while using the target language.ESL Games #003 - relay race
  5. The first team to pass the card from the front of the line to the back of the while making sure each student uses the target language wins.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 several times while increasing the complexity of the game.

 

If you want to make the game more difficult you can add personalization, questions, and answers (“What do you like?”, “I like cookies“.), more complex language targets, etc.

 

If you like Relay Race you’ll also love this other Easy ESL Game.  We call it Watermelon Race.

 

 Enjoy!

 

 

Hieroglyphics is a great alternative to charades you can use in adult classes.

This ESL Game is a twist on the classic ESL game Charades.   In Charades, Students act out a word or phrase without speaking while their classmates try to guess what it is.  Charades is a great game for kids. But sometimes in high school and adult classes, charades gets a little uncomfortable.


Hieroglyphics is the perfect solution!

The Details About Hieroglyphics

  • This game works with any class size.
  • It's a great alternative to charades that works very well in high school or adult lessons.
  • The only materials you'll need are a marker and a whiteboard

How To Play Hieroglyphics:

  1. I usually don't even introduce this game.  I find a short phase that uses the lesson's target language and then I write one diagonal dash on the board for each word in the phrase.
  2. Start drawing pictures that represent the first word in your puzzle.  Your students will figure out what you're trying to do almost immediately.
  3. After your class guesses the first word, move on to the second one.
  4. Repeat until your class has solved the puzzle.   After your students solve the puzzle, split them into teams, remove yourself from the game and repeat the activity.
  5. Enjoy!

Hieroglyphics:

  1. I works great with any size of class.
  2. There's almost no materials required   
  3. It's just about as simple as a classroom game can get.

ESL Game #028 – The Paper Crane (an exercise in circumlocution)

Making a Paper Crane was probably the first ESL Game (ish) activities I learned as a new teacher living in Japan and it hasn't let me down yet.   This activity is awesome for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, it really causes students to think about what they are saying and find ways to describe things that they aren't used to speaking about.    This activity is also highly adaptable.  You can use it in adult man-to-man lessons, small groups of high school students or with large classes of elementary students.   You just have to be able to gauge your students and make sure the language you're asking for is level appropriate.  

The Details About The Paper Crane

  • This game requires NO PREPARATION.   It's an awesome back up plan to always have in your back pocket.
  • The only materials you'll need are a few pieces of paper and a pair of scissors.
  • This game is highly adaptable but works easiest with higher level students.
  • A game can last between 10  - 30 minutes.  The length of the activity is entirely based on how hard you make it for the students.
  • How To Play The Paper Crane :

    1. To teach this exercise I find it works best to ask the entire class to each makes a crane.  This just helps them remember the process.  It also kind of puts students on the hook so that they have to speak.  They've shown you that they know how to perform the objective, so they won't be able to back out at a later point.
    2. Then, play stupid (this generally isn't very hard for me).  Say you don't know how to make a crane (or airplane, make coffee, etc) and ask your students how to do it.  They will instinctively try and pick up the paper to show you.  
    3. Simply smile and inform them that they are not allowed to use their hands.  Next, they all gasp in horror when they realise their lesson just got a lot harder.  
    4. When they try to give you directions, it will be very difficult at first.   Depending on your teaching style, your students ability and how much time you have, you adjust how much you're willing to help them.     For example, if a student tells you to "fold the paper" there is many ways you can fold it.  You can fold it in half lengthways, across the middle, make a triangle, etc.  
    5. It's important to let your class struggle a little bit.  If they have difficulty at first the payoff of completing the activity will increase the level of confidence they have in their own English ability by the end of the activity.   It's important you don't let your students struggle too much.  If they think it's impossible, your class will stop paying attention.
    6. At this point, I will usually take a step back and offer the class a few extra words that might help them perform the task e.g. fold, crease, turn over, repeat, etc.  I like to keep the list short just so that they still have searched for the right words.
    7. This ESL game can be as short or as long as you want to make it.  If your students are really advanced don't give them any vocabulary clues. If their lower level students work with them and act like you did it together.  Either way when students finish this activity they always have a real sense of accomplishment.  In reality, I've done this about 20 times already and I still can't figure how to make a paper crane.  

    Have fun in class!


    Teach the past tense with Fortunately / Unfortunately.

    Fortunately/Unfortunately is an awesome ESL game for teaching the simple past tense.  It requires listening, speaking and a lot of creativity.

    The Details:

    • There are no materials required.
    • You can play with between 2 and 10 participants.
    • A game should take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on your classes size and ability.

    How To use Fortunately/Unfortunately to teach the simple past tense:

    1. Pre-teach the words fortunately and unfortunately.
    2. Divide your class into 2 teams: Optimists & Pessimists.
    3. Tell your team of optimists that it’s their duty to always look on the bright side of things.  They must begin every sentence with the word “fortunately”.
    4. Conversely, your team of pessimists must always see the negative side of every situation.  They have to start every sentence with the word “unfortunately”.
    5. The teacher starts by making a random statement about something that happened earlier in the day, e.g., ” I talked to a famous actor at lunch today”.
    6. Then the optimists must then expand on the story by adding an extra detail about talking to the famous person while using the simple past tense, e.g.,  “fortunately, they looked really cool”.
    7. The pessimists must then add the next link to the story, e.g.,  “unfortunately,  they smelled really bad”.
    8. The process continues until one team cannot think of an appropriate response.  Depending on how the game is going you can either restart the game with a new story or end the activity.

    ESL Games_FortunatelyUnfortunately simple pastHere’s an example of Fortunately/Unfortunately that my students used in class (I’ve edited out the mistakes).

    Teacher: I saw Tom Cruz at the lunch today.

    Optimists:  Fortunately, he looked really handsome.

    Pessimists: Unfortunately, he didn’t speak to me.

    Optimists:  Fortunately, he smiled at me.

    Pessimists: Unfortunately, he kicked me in the leg.

    Optimists:  Fortunately, it didn’t hurt.

    This ESL game has little to no structure.  It’s fun, crazy and gets everyone talking while practicing the past tense.

    Enjoy!

     

    If you think that this ESL story chain is a great way of teaching the simple past tense you’ll love this game as well.