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Stuck for EAL ideas? Try this versatile game

It’s difficult to be on ‘top form’ with fun and inventive EAL ideas all the time. However, we have one classroom game in mind that will get your unsuspecting EAL students practising their grammar for hours on end, without even realising!

We call this game ‘Naughty Elf’. The principles are very similar to ‘Mafia’ and ‘Werewolf’ but more classroom-friendly, as the original content matter may be a trigger for some students, especially if they are from refugee or asylum seeker families. Plus, it ties in nicely with the festive period!

  • First of all, use marked cards to allocate students their roles secretly: the children, the Naughty Elf and Santa. You can be the narrator for the first round.
  • Start telling your story by instructing everyone to close their eyes and ‘go to sleep’. Tell the Elf to wake up. The Elf silently points at who is receiving a broken toy. Tell the Elf to close their eyes. Tell Santa to wake up. Santa points at whose toy they wish to fix. If Santa points at the same person, nobody receives a broken toy. Tell Santa to go to sleep.
  • Tell a very dramatic story about how on Christmas Eve, one of the naughty elves escaped Santa’s Workshop and broke someone’s toy from Santa. Unfortunately, that person’s toy was … *name*.
  • Now is the time to get your EAL students talking! Facilitate discussion, accusations, alibis etc. The more imaginative the better.
  • Finally, when everyone has participated, ask students to vote for who they think the Naughty Elf is. If they are correct, the children win! If not, they go back to sleep and the Elf continues. It may be a nice idea to end the game by fixing all the broken toys!

You can make this game a lot more complicated but for the purposes of ease and ensuring a solid focus on language production and correct grammar usage, we would suggest playing it a few times like this before adding in extra roles.

If you’re thinking, “How can I relate this to grammar?”, then here are a few language points you can focus on:

Past simple and continuous

“What were you doing when Santa came to town?” “I was eating a mince pie when I heard something smash…” Make sure every student gives a convincing and correctly structured alibi.

Narrative tenses

“All the children were asleep. Santa had just parked his sleigh when he received an alert through his snow globe…” Once your EAL students have got the idea of the game, give one of them the role of the narrator – probably the student who is always asking to play Naughty Elf to try to get out of doing their work!

Making predictions

Add a stage after the vote and ask students to predict what they think will happen tonight when they close their eyes again… “I think the Elf will break the teacher’s toy!”

Making deductions

“It must be Vlad because…” “I think it might be Ana because…” “It can’t be Mario!” Give students different modal phrases to use to extend their repertoire for making guesses.

Question tags

“It was you, wasn’t it?” “You believe me, don’t you?” “It can’t be the teacher, can it?” If you’re feeling brave, you could challenge your EAL students to use a question tag every time they say something (bound to put them off the game for a while if you’re sick of it). Alternatively, explain that you’re keeping a tally of their question tags and declare your question tag winners at the end.

Why not use a game of Naughty Elf to reinforce whatever grammar points you’ve covered recently? If you think of any other language focus that we could incorporate in this flexible grammar game, share it on the EAL Success Facebook group or tweet us. We’d love to hear your ideas!

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