Top Free TPT Downloads of 2022

Continuing in the theme of Top 10 Lists, I’d like to conclude with the most popular free Teachers Pay Teachers downloads of 2022. I’ll provide you with a direct link to the resource on TPT, as well as to any relevant blog posts, so get ready for a lot of links! If you missed the lists for most popular blog posts, underdog blog posts, or most downloaded free blog resources, you can use the previous links to catch up.

10. Modal Verbs Four in a Row Board Game

Four in a Row games are popular in my classes and we use them to practice quite a few different skills besides modal verbs (including context clues, verb tenses, infinitives, adverbs of manner, and vowel sounds). You can get the modal verb version for free from TPT, or a general game board from the Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses post. More options for practicing modal verbs are described in the Modal Verb Practice post.

9. Playing with Homophones

Homophones require a lot of practice! This card set includes 44 pairs of homophones and two Old Maid cards. Directions for playing three different games are also included in the download. For practice with specific homophone/homonym sets, check out these blog posts: your/you’re, they’re/there/their, two/too/to, are/our/hour.

8. Escape! Games

Moving up from number 10 in 2021, are my Escape! games. There are several varieties, including irregular past tense verbs, question words, irregular plural nouns, and infinitives (and they’re all free!). There are even digital versions of the game for question words and irregular past tense verbs (still free!). You can read more about the irregular verb version in the blog post from October of 2021.

7. Regular Past Tense Verb Pronunciation Packing

Last summer I taught a class that was 100% focused on pronunciation for the first time. It was a big step out of my comfort zone but ended up being a lot of fun (I’m teaching it again this summer!). This game was one of the products of that class, and I guess a lot of other teachers needed to practice the same skill. You can get all the details in this blog post. If you need more free games to practice the pronunciation of the -d/-ed ending, try Spoons and Fishing. I even have a Spoons and an Uno-like game (both free!) for the pronunciation of final -s/-es. If you’re not familiar with my Fishing For… games, check out this post from July of 2021. For more details about how to play Spoons, give this post from April 2021 a read.

6. Operations with Integers Foldable Notes

Another repeat from 2021, and moving up a spot on the list, is this set of foldable notes. Teaching math was a challenge I reluctantly (and with a lot of help from more mathematically gifted colleagues) tackled. These notes were just as big a help to me as my students! I also have a poster/anchor chart we also referenced as well as a partner match up activity and several games. Integer Fishing (nothing like my Fishing for… games, use the link to read about how to make your own physical game or get the Google Sheets digital version in my store) was probably our favorite, though Integer Jeopardy ran a close second. We also played Integer Slap and War, as well as worked on task cards and a digital mystery picture. As an aside, you can learn how to create your own digital mystery pictures in this post.

5. Inferring Dialogue

This activity also made my list of top free blog downloads, though only at number ten. It was only posted in October of 2022, so it became very popular very fast. The download includes both a PDF and a PowerPoint (uploads to Google Slides well) version. You can get all of the details in the original post. I tend to start inference lessons by discussing the difference between an inference and an observation. We then use a set of pictures to practice making both (the pictures were a top blog download last year from this post). From there, I’ll use a variety of activities chosen based on the proficiency of my students and their other needs at the time. Another good inference practice activity that also includes writing practice is Ambivalent Inferences (a Google Slides version is available as well and both versions are free). If you need an activity to practice making inferences with lower proficiency students, I highly recommend Inference Picture Challenge.

4. Compound Word Guessing Activity

Yet another activity improving its top ten standing by one is Compound Word Guessing Activity. You can get all the details about this activity from the May 2021 post. Compound words being another activity I practice a lot with my students, I have quite a few different activities we utilize, from cards for our Match Up Boards to Spoons, to flashcards, and even things specifically focused on open compounds. I have tried to gather them into a single bundle so they can be quickly obtained (and at a discount).

3. Solving Equations Poster/Anchor Chart

Activity number four making a repeat appearance from 2021, and also moving up a spot, is this poster/anchor chart. The steps for solving one and two-step equations got reviewed a lot in my classes! This poster/anchor chart had a permanent home on my math bulletin board as part of my decorations with a purpose philosophy. It, along with a writing expressions scoot activity and a St. Patrick’s Day themed task card set (check out this post for alternative uses of task cards), is in my equations bundle.

2. Lesson Plan/Outline Sets

Maintaining it’s spot on nearly every top ten list (free TPT downloads of 2021, free blog downloads of 2021, top blog posts of 2021, free blog downloads of 2022, and top blog posts of 2022), these lesson plan/outline sets are in very high demand! I’ll link to the various blog posts, where you can find links to TPT and/or direct downloads from the blog. Once again, the available curriculums are: National Geographic Inside (middle school), National Geographic Pathways Reading & Writing (high school and adult), National Geographic Pathways Listening & Speaking (high school and adult), Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes (mostly LLI teal system and Reading A-Z). Also available are bundles of resources to go with levels A & B of Inside and Pathways (all eight books or separate sets for listening/speaking and reading/writing).

1. Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (original blog post)

And taking the number one spot are the resources from the 10th most popular blog post of this year and the 8th most popular TPT download of 2021: CER posters, graphic organizers, news investigation activity, and an advertisement investigation activity–all free! For even more practice with claim, evidence, and reasoning, see the recently expanded board game! You can also get everything in one easy download via the CER Bundle.

While you’re in my TPT store, be sure to check out the other free resources available, there are nearly 90 of them! If you missed any of the other Top 10 posts from the past month, you can use the following links to catch up on the most viewed blog posts, underdog posts, and top free blog downloads. Happy teaching, everyone!

Top Free Blog Downloads of 2022

We are looking back at the best of 2022. We’ve already listed the most popular posts, and the posts that probably should have gotten a bit more attention, so now it’s time to look at everyone’s favorite: free resources! This week we’ll look at the most popular free downloads from my blog and next week we’ll take a look at the most popular free downloads from my TPT store. Besides naming the various resources and linking the original posts, I’ll also provide direct links for most of them under the post images. Many of the posts contain links for other related resources and posts, so don’t skip checking them out just because you were able to download the one specific file.

10. Speech Bubbles Quotes Activity

Though only number ten on this list, this activity makes it to number five on next week’s free TPT downloads list. From the October Inferring Dialogue post, this version of the activity ended up being more popular than its sister version, Writing Dialogue. I provided links to the PowerPoint version of both activities for you under the picture and I encourage you to check out the original post for all the details and the PDF versions.

9. Was/Were Slap Game

Slap! is one of my students’ all time favorite games to play. Though the post this game appeared in wasn’t overly popular, this download was. The original post includes a description of how Slap! works and a bonus noun reference sheets download.

8. Grid Conquest Game Board

This download was actually included with two different posts in 2022, perhaps giving it a bit of an advantage of some others. It first appeared in Grid Conquest, where I described the game in full and explained some of the ways I use it. The download then reappeared a couple of weeks later in Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses. Even if it did have a bit of an advantage of other files, I think it earned its place on the list because it’s a very fun game and has become quite popular amongst my students. I encourage you to give it a try with yours as well.

7. Regular Past Tense Verb Pronunciation Chart

You’ll see the game I made this chart to use with next week on the Top Free TPT Downloads of 2022, though you can get it now in the original post for the chart download. I don’t spend a lot of time on pronunciation in my classes (except the class specifically dedicated to the skill), but the correct pronunciation of the -d/-ed ending is something we practice a fair amount. . If you need more free games to practice the pronunciation of the -d/-ed ending, try Spoons and Fishing.

6. Vocabulary Word Wall Cards

Dropping from their number 2 spot last year, these word wall cards I made for the vocabulary in National Geographic’s Inside (levels A & B) series continue to be popular. The original post describes how I organize our word wall and some ways we use it. For another fun (and free) use of your classroom word wall, check out Word Wall Spinner Challenge!

5. Phrasal Verb Chart

Ah, phrasal verbs! My students use them regularly but still get looks of confusion on their faces when I bring them up. Thankfully it doesn’t take much to wipe those looks from their faces, and I have a lot of activities for practicing phrasal verbs. This chart is one that my students find reassuring to have around though, so it usually gets shared every semester. Be sure to read the details in the original post for some teacher-specific information about the chart.

4. Lesson Plans and Supplemental Materials

These downloads occur on nearly every top ten list (free TPT downloads of 2021, free blog downloads of 2021, top blog posts of 2021, free blog downloads of 2022, and top blog posts of 2022)! There are more files involved than I want to take space for here, but you can get them from the original posts: National Geographic Inside (middle school), National Geographic Pathways Reading & Writing (high school and adult), National Geographic Pathways Listening & Speaking (high school and adult), Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes (mostly LLI teal system and Reading A-Z). Also available are bundles of resources to go with levels A & B of Inside and Pathways (all eight books or separate sets for listening/speaking and reading/writing).

3. 6 Quick and 2 Important Accommodations

Another frequent flier post, Accommodating ELLs was number two on the most popular list for both 2021 and 2022. This year I found and added the handout I used when giving this particular professional development session and I’m happy to say many of you have chosen to download (and hopefully use) it!

2. WIDA Common Core Alignment

The only surprise for me here is that this resource dropped to number two on the list. The file was number one on 2021’s top free blog download list, the original post was number five for views in 2021 and number six in 2022. In the post I talk about how students who are not yet proficient in English can still show mastery of state standards, including the Common Core. I also include this alignment of the old WIDA I Can Statements and the K-8 ELA CCSS.

1. Student Resources

And the top free blog downloads of 2022 were first offered on Helpful Student Resources, the number one most popular post for 2022. They are two PDFs that list ten different helpful free resources for students and eight free websites and apps to practice English. These lists are something I give students every semester and they are always very appreciative of them. I hope they are helpful for your students as well!

Thus ends my next to last Top 10 list for 2022. If you missed the Top 10 Blog Posts or Underdog Posts, you can still catch up. Don’t forget to come back next week for the final list, Top 10 Free TPT Downloads. Happy teaching, everyone.

Underdog Posts of 2022

We live extremely busy lives as teachers and that means we sometimes forget about things that are actually very interesting to us, especially blog posts. Hey, I get it! I’m guilty of it myself. I get an email or see a post I want to read, don’t have time to do it immediately, and by the time I do have a free moment I’ve forgotten about it. Well, consider this your reminder for these ten posts! All of them had low views in 2022, but I think they deserved a lot more attention. So, in no particular order, I would like to remind you to take a look at these posts you may have missed last year.

Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses

This one really surprised me, especially since it’s sister post, Sort Cards: Alternative Uses, came very close to making the top 10 list for 2022. If you didn’t read this post because you thought it would be the same ideas as the sort card post, you were wrong. The five ideas in this post are quite different from the eight previously shared. The post also contains a couple of free downloads of game boards that can be used with any set of task or sort cards.

Connected Vocabulary

This post has actually been getting a little more play since the start of 2023, so possibly it was a victim of timing, but I’m not sure. In the post you’ll find links and downloads for two free vocabulary graphic organizers (not the most exciting activities, I know), a digital vocabulary glossary template, labels to create CD spinners for a word wall game, and links to five other vocabulary practice activity ideas.

What to Wear?

This post may have also been a victim of timing as it too was released right about the time school restarted for the year. It contains the directions and cards for Outfit on a Budget Challenge (free!). This is a speaking or writing activity that is especially popular with female students, though most of my male students enjoy it as well. The activity doesn’t require purchasing any special materials and can even include some cross-curricular practice with percentages (another low view post from 2022).

Getting Perspective

The low number of views on this post really surprised me. It was shared right at the beginning of the school year, which probably had something to do with it, but it includes a free downloadable resource to practice writing from different perspectives and was reshared several times. Usually posts that include free activities (especially writing and speaking activities) and are reshared multiple times end up on or close to my top ten views list, but this one didn’t for some reason. I can’t explain it, but if you missed it the first time around, here’s your reminder!

Alphabet Pizza Pan

I suspect this DIY post didn’t get the attention it deserves because it didn’t get shared until the middle of December. Talk about bad timing, but something has to get written and shared then, and this one just happened to draw the short stick. The post talks about a fun activity you can make and use with students to practice matching lower and uppercase letters. Another teacher on Facebook did have the idea of using a label maker to create very small labels and use the basic idea to practice irregular verbs. I don’t own a label maker as yet, but I might have to buy one just to try this idea out!

Where do I need to go?

This is a fun activity that allows students to practice following and giving directions around town. Students use maps and brochures I get for free from the tourist information center or city maps from the local Chamber of Commerce and business cards from around town. I combine these with whatever game board and pieces I have available at the time and it is the perfect way to get in some unscripted speaking practice as well as good review of community place vocabulary and prepositions of place.

World Poetry Day: Shel Silverstein

OK, so a lot of us may not know about World Poetry Day, but how does the name Shel Silverstein get missed? He is easily my favorite children’s poet, and I suspect many of you feel the same way. I’ll never forget growing up on poems out of Where The Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic. Then there are all the great stand alone books such as The Missing Piece, A Giraffe and a Half, and The Giving Tree. Please don’t ask me to choose a favorite, because I can’t, and neither can my students–even my adult students love when I bring one of his books to class!

Eggcellent Activities

I’m cheating again with this one and including two posts. I use plastic eggs (the kind you find in stores around Easter) for quite a few different activities. In 2021, I shared about how I use them to practice contractions. In 2022, it was Scrambled Words (spelling/vocabulary) and Coin Eggs (USA coins). Fair warning, another eggcellent activity is coming in 2023, this one focused on the alphabet.

Match Up Boards

Another DIY post, these boards my dad designed and built for me have a lot of uses! The building plans are absolutely free and the cards are easy to design, print, and use. I probably use mine to practice question words the most, but I also have sets to practice academic vocabulary, parts of speech, occupations, USA coins, compound words, etc. They’d also be great for practicing math facts!

Advice for Future Educators

If I had a quarter for every time I have seen a social media post along the lines of, “What’s your best piece of advice for a new teacher?” I could retire! Since this question can’t realistically be answered in a quick Facebook reply, I wrote this post. It’s the five things I wish someone had told me (although if I’m being honest, someone probably did tell me) when I was first starting out.

If you missed it, last week I shared the exact opposite of these posts, Top 10 Blog Posts of 2022. Stay tuned the next couple of weeks for The Top Free Blog Downloads and Top Free TPT Downloads of 2022! Happy teaching, everyone.

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2022

Last January I shared four posts listing out the most viewed blog posts, the most popular free blog downloads, the most downloaded free Teachers Pay Teachers products, and the ten posts I felt didn’t get quite as much attention as they deserved for 2021. This year I’d like to do the same thing, beginning with the most viewed blog posts of 2022.

10. Morning Bell Work

This post described the morning bell work routine I followed when I taught a self-contained middle school class for beginning English language learners. In it I also included links to the various books, programs, and other resources from which I sourced the activities.

9. CER: Claim, Evidence, Reasoning

I’ve used the claim, evidence, reasoning strategy when teaching every subject from science to math and writing to speaking. It’s a great way to help students organize and communicate their thinking and understanding of any topic. Besides briefly describing the strategy, the post also has links to posters, graphic organizers, a couple of activities for practicing the use of it (one of which was a top free TPT download last year), and a board game I use regularly. The paper version of the board game has recently been expanded to include topic card sets for elementary, middle school, high school, and adult students.

8. Vocabulary Word Wall

Coming in at number 8 for the second year in a row, this post is obviously very popular. Our class word wall is one of the most used features of my classroom and so I agree that it deserves a lot of attention. The free vocabulary cards available in the post were among the top five free blog downloads of 2021 and came in number six for 2022.

7. Classroom Supplies

I chose to award this spot to two posts that are similar in focus and finished neck and neck in the rankings: New Teacher Classroom Purchases & Setup (which was #1 in 2021) and Out of the Blue Favorite Classroom “Supplies”. In the post for new teachers, I answer the often asked question, “What are the must haves for my new classroom?” In the second post, I share some of the classroom items that I and my students have particularly enjoyed and I continue to have (and replace as needed) in my classroom.

6. ELLs Can Common Core

Dropping only one spot from the 2021 rankings, this post covers a topic that is very close to this ESOL teacher’s heart. In it I talk about how students who are not yet proficient in English can still show mastery of state standards, including the Common Core. I also include what was the number one free blog download of 2021 (and the number two free download of 2022), an alignment of the old WIDA I Can Statements and the K-8 ELA CCSS.

5. Speaking Practice with a Side of Reading Comprehension

This post surprised me, not because of the topic (I know we all need more speaking activities), but because it didn’t hit the blog until December and it still gained enough views to land in the top five most viewed posts of the year. The post shares seven games my students and I enjoy that elicit less scripted speaking practice.

4. Lesson Plans

I again cheated a bit on my list and awarded this spot to multiple posts. I’ve had four different posts that introduce and offer links to download my teaching outlines for various curriculum I use and like. All of them made the top views list and the lists for top free blog downloads and top free TPT products. The available curriculums are: National Geographic Inside (middle school), National Geographic Pathways Reading & Writing (high school and adult), National Geographic Pathways Listening & Speaking (high school and adult), Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes (mostly LLI teal system and Reading A-Z).

3. Back to School Activities–Ice Breaker Alternatives

I know I’m not alone in my hatred of ice breakers. I also know we teachers are always in search of some fun new way to start off the school year. This post addresses both of these with five fun activities you can use to start off a new year or semester. The best thing is that they’re not specific to any season or time of the year, so they are also great activities for easing into a break or back into routine after a break!

2. Accommodating ELLs

Holding it’s position from 2021, the number two post goes over some quick accommodations classroom teachers can use with their ELL students that are actually reasonable to implement and benefit all students, not just ELLs. This one will also show up again on the top free blog downloads list as I found and added the handout I used when I presented this professional development session.

1. Helpful Resources for Students

Coming in number one on both this list and the top free blog downloads, this post has two PDFs that list ten different helpful free resources for students and eight free websites and apps to practice English. These lists are something I give students every semester and they are always very appreciative of them. I hope they are helpful for your students as well!

Stay tuned for more Top 10 lists this month, including underdog blog posts, free blog downloads, and free TPT products. Happy teaching, everyone!

Alphabet Pizza Pan

I am a middle school teacher turned adjunct professor, but when I returned to the USA after teaching overseas for multiple years, the only job I could find was teaching K-2 ESL. It was, to say the least, a long year. Now don’t get me wrong, I think little people are cute and I love playing with them–in small numbers. But they are scary in larger groups! Thankfully, the next year I was made head of program and the my first official act was to move myself to middle school and hire a phenomenal lower elementary teacher for the K-2 position.

While no one was mourning my leaving the lower elementary world, the year was not a complete disaster. I did get to know some great teachers, interact with some amazing students, and have some unforgettable experiences (ask me about the men’s bathroom at the Detroit Zoo sometime!). I also had the opportunity to learn some different teaching techniques (some of which I used when developing materials, such as Phonics Based Vocabulary Acquisition, for my older learners) and develop some fun materials and activities. Today I’d like to share with you Alphabet Pizza Pan, an activity for practicing upper and lower case letter recognition/matching.

Materials

You won’t need much for this activity, I was able to purchase everything at my local Dollar Tree, and the total cost to make 10 sets was under $20. You will need:

The color of the stickers and pins doesn’t matter. I chose to make all of the consonant upper case letters one color and vowels a second color to help students begin to remember which letters were which.

Preparation

To create the Alphabet Pizza Pans, I first stuck the capital letter stickers around the inside edge of the pans. Then I placed a lower case sticker on the closed (pincher) end of the clothes pins. I put the clothes pins into sandwich Ziploc bags, one alphabet set per bag, and I was finished. The entire process took me less than an hour, with placing the capital letter stickers taking up the bulk of the time.

Application

At school, I gave each student a pizza pan and a bag of letters. They then worked to clip each pin to the edge of the pan next to its corresponding capital letter. The kids had a blast! It was a great opportunity for them to practice matching upper and lower case letters, and there was the added benefit of some fine motor skills practice (something many of my students needed).

Since the students could be quite independent with this particular activity, it gave me the chance to do some individual tests for progress monitoring purposes. It was also a great activity to pull out when we had some extra time to fill, a student finished his/her work early, or a para/substitute needed something to do with some students.

Storage

I usually store my materials in gallon Ziploc bags and plastic containers, but Alphabet Pizza Pans is too large. I experimented with different options but the one that ended up working the best was an old magazine storage box I found in the back of my closet. It was the perfect size to hold both the pans and the bags of clips, and it was easy to carry back and forth to school.

When I left my lower elementary teaching role behind I quite happily donated my Alphabet Pizza Pans to another teacher, but it still remains one of the most fun activities to come out of my time in K-2. If your students are working on the alphabet, particularly if they are still struggling to reconcile the upper and lower cases of each letter, give this activity a try. Happy teaching, everyone, and I’ll see you in the new year!

Speaking Practice With a Side of Reading Comprehension

A consistent desire of my students is more speaking practice, and it is a desire I want and try to fulfill. The problem is that so many of the speaking activities I find, or are included in our book, are so scripted and stilted they leave my students bored and unmotivated. These activities are necessary, students need to practice specific grammatical formations and structures, but they do tend to be monotonous. Today I’d like to share with you seven games my students and I enjoy that allow for less scripted speaking practice.

I’ll give you a brief description of each game and link to a former post with more information. Hopefully, you’ll have enough information to make your own versions of the games. If not, you can always purchase mine by clicking the pictures (or buttons if you want the digital versions).

Compounding Conjunctions

Compounding Conjunctions

Beginning with one of the more scripted options, Compounding Conjunctions is a great game for practicing the formation of compound sentences. In the version I play, there are six simple sentences in the center of the game board. Each space has a different coordinating conjunction on it. Students roll the number cube, move their piece, and then use the conjunction to expand the given simple sentence into a compound sentence. While the original independent clause is given to students, the only creative restraints placed on the second independent clause are the conjunction to be used and that it has to make sense. It’s a great way for students to practice vocabulary and the creation of independent clauses. It also wouldn’t be difficult to change out the six simple sentences students start with so you could customize the game to fit whatever topic or theme you are currently studying. Or, if you want to make it very unscripted, simply remove the starting sentences all together and allow students to create two independent clauses of their own.

Connected Conditionals

Connected Conditionals

Slightly less scripted than Compounding Conjunctions, Connected Conditionals is a great way to have fun practicing any single type of conditional or mixed conditional sentences. The first step is to decide what conditional(s) you would like to practice and pull out the directions card for that specific game version. The directions card will explain to students what conditional to use for each sentence. The first student then states a sentence in the target conditional, rolls, and moves his/her piece. The second student then uses the first student’s main clause (then…statement) as their conditional clause (if…statement), rolls, and moves his/her piece. The third student

uses the second student’s main clause as their conditional clause, rolls, and moves his/her piece. This continues, with each subsequent student using the previous student’s main clause as the new conditional clause, until someone reaches finish and wins. For example, my advanced class played the third conditional version last week. One of the connected conditionals I overheard was:

  • If the weather had been nice, I would have ridden my bike.
  • If I had ridden my bike, I would have worn a helmet.
  • If I had worn a helmet, I might have messed up my hair.
  • If I had messed up my hair, I could have gone to a salon.
  • If I had gone to a salon, I…

This game is still slightly scripted because the conditional clause is determined by the previous student, but students still have the opportunity to be quite creative with the main clause.

Proverbs from Around the World

Proverbs from Around the World

Proverbs from Around the World Game is one that brings in a bit of reading comprehension. My version includes forty different proverbs from all over the world. To play, a student takes a card, reads the proverb, and then explains it in his or her own words. There are no required grammatical forms or structures to be followed and students are free to choose whatever vocabulary they think is best. My intermediate and advanced students particularly enjoy the game and it is not unusual for them to read a particular proverb and not only restate it in their own words, but share a similar proverb from their first language as well. That will often spark other students to share similar proverbs in their first languages and I often hear very rich discussions taking place while the game pieces lie forgotten on the table. I haven’t written a specific post about this game, but a sample of it is included in the reading section of English Skillology, Level 2.

Paraprosdokians

Paraprosdokians: A Figurative Language Game

Another game that brings in a bit of reading comprehension is Paraprosdokians. As I explain in my Back to School Activities post, paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the second part of the sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected, causing the reader/listener to reevaluate their understanding of the first part. Winston Churchill was known for using them, often in a humorous or insulting manner. My game includes 42 different paraprosdokians and, as in Proverbs Around the World,

students read them and then restate them in their own words and explain why the comment is surprising or funny. It is another good way to give students lengthier, unscripted speaking practice. This game is particularly good to use with intermediate and advanced students due to the linguistic complexity of these figures of speech.

CER: The Board Game

Claim, Evidence, Reasoning: The CER Board Game

Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) is a great way to get students thinking and practicing supporting their ideas rather than just making random statements. This game is almost completely unscripted spontaneous speaking practice. Each card has a claim on it that students must provide evidence and reasoning in support of (each claim has a positive and negative option so students can choose which they want to support). I base my speaking requirements on the proficiency of my students. When using the game with intermediate students, I ask them to simply state a couple of sentences. Advanced students are required to speak for as much as 30-60 seconds each. There are over 50 prompts included in the current version of the game (I have plans to add a second set of prompts for younger students), so if a student draws one he/she either does not understand, or has no opinion about, they simply draw another card. This game also produces a lot of good discussions and the conversations are generally much more serious and use richer vocabulary than some of the other options.

Picture Prompts

Picture Prompts

Picture Prompts is a game I originally developed to practice question words. Then I used it to practice cause and effect. Then I used it to practice types of sentences. Then I used it to practice…well, I’ve used it to practice just about everything! It is a favorite of my students and they always smile when I pull it out. While it can be used to practice very specific grammar constructions, it can also be very open ended. The game simply presents students with a picture that they then must talk about in some way (however you direct them). If you want to truly make this undirected speaking practice, you can simply tell students they must tell a story about the picture. How long the story must be can be adjusted based on the proficiency of the students.

Silly Shorts

Silly Shorts

Last on my list of games for today is Silly Shorts. This game is my students’ absolute favorite unscripted speaking game. The best part is that if you have a set of story dice and any game board/pieces, you can play this game tomorrow. To play, students roll the story dice, make up a story using the images on the dice, and then roll the regular number cube and move their piece on the game board. I adjust how long students have to speak, and how complete their story needs to be, based on their proficiency levels. For beginners, I ask them to simply name the things on the dice or say a simple sentence about one of the items on the dice. I gradually increase requirements until reaching my advanced students who are asked to tell a complete story (beginning, middle, end) that utilizes all of the

items shown on the dice and lasts at least 60 seconds. I love that the game can be used by all of my students, regardless of proficiency (even in mixed proficiency classes!) and my students love how fun it is. I will also freely admit that I look forward to playing this game with them because it is highly entertaining to hear what they dream up!

There you have it, seven games that encourage students to go beyond formulaic, scripted speaking and be more creative. All of the games encourage rich vocabulary and allow students to stretch their speaking muscles. The best part for me is seeing the looks on their faces go from boredom to excitement as they engage with one another and the various topics. Give one (or more) a try and see how your students react. Happy teaching, everyone!


If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own games, you can buy mine by clicking on the pictures and buttons above. If you’re looking for a bit of a discount, all of these games (and more!) are included in my Speaking Practice Games & Activities Bundle at a 20% discount. This is a bundle I still add to occasionally, so if you purchase it now you’ll receive all future additions for free.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect (Tenses)

I don’t know about your students, but mine do fairly well with the simple and progressive/continuous tenses. It isn’t until we start working on the perfect tense that the troubles really begin (though they are excited to finally understand what the words in the past participle column on their irregular verb charts are for). It is for this reason that I like to use a lot of different practice activities and games. I’ve tried quite a few over the years, but three have consistently been ones my students have enjoyed playing and have been able to get good practice with the perfect tense. You can get any of these games for yourself by clicking the pictures (or buttons, if you want the digital versions), or you can make your own versions!

Present Perfect Cover Up

Present Perfect Cover Up

Cover up games are very popular with my students! They are also very easy and cheap for me to create. They generally consist of twelve squares in a grid format. In this particular version, each square has a possible life event, such as winning a prize or telling a lie. The events are written with the verb in the simple present tense and all capital letters, to help students quickly identify it. To play, students roll a twelve-sided die and check if that square is uncovered on their board. If it is available, the student must form a present perfect sentence either denying ever having had the given life experience or telling about one such time. The square is then covered in some manner (X with a dry erase marker, use bingo chips, counters, or the ever popular milk jug lids). If the square is already covered, the student’s turn is over. The first student to completely cover his/her board is the winner. Each board has different life events, so students can switch boards and play again if there is time.

Past Perfect Travel Adventure Game

Past Perfect Travel Adventure

While we don’t use the past perfect tense quite as often as the present perfect, it still needs to be practiced. I was teaching a travel themed unit when I developed this board game, so I kept the theme for the game. The game uses a standard playing board that I enhanced with some travel clipart just for fun. To play, the student draws an experience card, which has a picture, location, and an activity one can do in that location. The student then states a past perfect sentence such as, “I had never seen a shark before I went to Australia.” If the student’s sentence is grammatically correct, he/she rolls the number cube and moves his/her piece. The first person to finish is the winner.

Progressive / Perfect Pronoun Pursuits Game

Progressive/Perfect Pronoun Pursuits

The newest game in our perfect tense practice repertoire was actually originally developed to practice the present progressive tense. Then I needed another practice game for one of my more advanced classes and I decided to give this one a try. It worked and I’ve since used it to practice the present perfect progressive tense as well (talk about a tense that really makes my students’ heads hurt!).

This game uses a different standard game board. To play, the student rolls a number cube to determine which pronoun he/she will use and then draws a card that lists a community place. The student must then use the pronoun and community place to form a present perfect sentence such as, “He has checked a book out of the library.” If the sentence is grammatically correct, the student moves his/her piece the number indicated on the number cube from the original roll. The first person to finish is the winner.

Of course I accompany these games with explanations of the perfect tense and its uses, exercises in our book, and other student resources (such as the Review Menu and There’s A Video About That resources I have made to accompany the Pathways Listening & Speaking texts we use), but the games do make things more fun. I’ve yet to teach a text that delves into the future perfect tense, and for that I (and I’m sure my students) am thankful! Maybe someday I’ll need to teach it, but I suspect I could use either Past Perfect Travel Adventure or Progressive/Perfect Pronoun Pursuits to practice that tense as well. Happy teaching, everyone!

Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses

I’m not sure when I first learned about task cards, it was sometime after college, but I am a big fan. They are a great way to save paper, add variety, and even assess student learning without it feeling like a test or a quiz. There are a variety of ways to use task cards and I’ve tried many of them. Sometimes I’ll

hang/place task cards around the room, give students recording sheets and clipboards, and have them wander the room and complete the tasks as they find them (also known as student scoot). Sometimes I’ll give each student a card, have them complete the card, and pass it to the next student (also known as card scoot). I’ve also placed task cards and recording sheets in centers and allowed students to complete them there. Since my students typically sit in groups, I’ll often give each group a set of cards and allow them to chat as they grab cards, complete them, toss them back in the pile, and grab another card. All of these methods are great, but sometimes you just want to do something a little different. Back in July I shared with you alternative uses for sort cards. Today, I’d like to share with you five alternative uses for task cards. In no particular order, here are some of the more unique ways my students and I have used task cards.

Bounce It In

To play this game, you’ll need a set of task cards, ten plastic drinking cups, and a ping pong ball for each group. On the inside lip of each cup write a number 1-10 with a marker. Each group should set their cups up like bowling pins, with the number 1 cup in front and a line of numbers 7-10 in back. Set the task cards face down in a pile on the opposite end of the table from the cups. Students take turns turning over a task card and completing the task. Correctly completing the task is worth five points and the chance to bounce the ball into the cups. If the ball lands in a cup, the number on the cup becomes bonus points for that student. The student with the most points at the end is the winner.

Jenga–Two Ways

About a year ago, I shared with you an out-of-the-box idea for using Jenga to practice building sentences. In response to that post, another teacher told me how she uses Jenga with task cards in her class. She numbers the Jenga blocks 1-24 (or however many task cards you usually have in a given set).

Students then play Jenga as normal, but when they push/pull out a block, they attempt to complete the corresponding task before placing the block on the top of the stack. If successful, the student earns two points. Students continue to remove and replace pieces, completing tasks and earning points. If the tower falls before the time is up, that student receives negative five points, and the game is restarted. The student with the most points at the end of the playing time is the winner.

The second creative use of Jenga is a game I like to call Tower Building. Divide students into teams (2-4 per team) and issue each team a set of Jenga or other building blocks. Team members take turns choosing a task card and attempting to complete it. If successful, the student gains two points for his/her team and the opportunity to add a block to the team’s tower. If a tower falls over, the team must restart their build. At the end of the game, the team with the highest tower earns ten additional points. The team with the most blocks in their tower earns ten additional points. The team with the most points (correct tasks plus any bonuses) wins the competition.

Grid Conquest

Two weeks ago I shared with you about Grid Conquest, a fun game inspired by Blokus. This is a great way to use task cards! The game board and some dry erase markers are the only supplies you need in addition to your task cards. The game board is a free download from below the picture in this post and I’m willing to bet you have more than a couple dry erase markers

in your classroom already. You can get all the details in the original post, but the short version is this: student takes and completes a task card, successful students color in a square on the board that is adjacent to a square he/she has already claimed. When all the task cards have been completed, or no students can claim any more squares, students add up the numbers in their claimed squares to determine their final scores. The student with the highest score wins.

Four In A Row

It’s been nearly two years since I first introduced my Context Clues Four In a Row game, and it’s a concept I’ve used to practice quite a few skills since. Four in a Row is also an excellent alternative use for task cards because once again all you need is your task cards, the game board (free download below the picture), and some dry erase markers. Played like

Connect Four, students must successfully complete a task card before making a mark on the game board. The first student to make four marks in a row is the winner.

Baseball Review

This particular idea takes a bit of work on the teacher’s part, but it’s a great way to review a lot of material. Take all of the sort/task cards from the time period you want to review (preparation for summative semester/year exams is a great time for this) and divide them by difficulty into four piles. The

easiest pile becomes your single questions, the most difficult pile your homerun questions, and the two in between are double and triple questions. Designate “bases” in your classroom (place to stand or desk to sit in) and divide your class into two teams. Team one sends a player up to bat who then tells you what type of question he/she would like to answer. If correct, the student moves to the appropriate base. If incorrect, the team receives a strike and the next player comes up to bat. Once a player is on base, he/she advances the appropriate number of bases as each subsequent player gets questions correct. Play continues until the team receives three strikes and then the other team is up to bat. If a particular type of question (single, double, triple, homerun) runs out, you can choose to either shuffle and restart them or state that no more questions of that type may be attempted (forcing students to try more difficult questions). This could also be an excellent icebreaker alternative for the first day/week of school. You could make your own questions with the previous grade’s standards, or ask the previous grade’s teacher for copies of their task cards and/or homework activities.

Now you know some of the more creative uses for task cards I’ve tried out in my classroom. I can assure you there have been other uses attempted that weren’t quite as successful, but it’s only by trying things that we can discover new favorite activities. What are some out-of-the-box uses for task cards you’ve found? Happy teaching, everyone!

Picture Prompts Sentence Challenge Game

One of my favorite teacher podcasts is Spark Creativity by Betsy Potash. A few months ago I was catching up on some of her episodes and I listened to episode 159, 3 Creative Ways to Teach Sentence Structure. Since I’m teaching our advanced grammar and writing course again this semester, I was very interested in this episode. I already have a game to practice compound sentences, Compounding Conjunctions, but I have long wanted a game to practice complex sentences, and one that would allow mixed practice would be even better. One of the ideas she described was a sentence challenge game in which you displayed a picture and challenged students to give a particular type of sentence (simple, compound, complex) about the picture. My mind immediately went to my Picture Prompts Game and I instantly knew that it would take next to no work to utilize this existing game for the purpose of practicing simple, compound, and complex sentences.

It was a little over a year ago that I wrote about Picture Prompts, a game I originally developed to practice question words and/or cause and effect. Since creating it, I’ve used this game countless times to practice forming and asking questions in every tense, cause and effect, and other skills. My students

enjoy playing it and I like how it allows for some less scripted speaking practice. The game includes 24 different picture cards and a game board. The basic idea is that on a student’s turn, he/she will choose a picture card and ask a question or state a sentence about the picture that practices the target skill. Students tend to get very creative and it’s always a lot of fun to hear what they say about the various pictures.

The only adjustments needed to use the game to practice simple, compound, and complex sentences were the addition of a couple items: something to tell students what type of sentence to make and a “cheat” card to help them remember the three types of sentences. To create the “cheat” card, I used the picture card template, replacing the image with a short definition for each type of sentence and a list of the conjunctions for compound and complex sentence formation. In order for students to know what type of sentence to create, I decided to make two different options: a roll key card for when we played with dice, and spinners for when we used CD spinners. Using dice is the easier option for me, especially when I’m traveling from school to school or don’t have storage in my classroom(s). However, my students of all ages love using the CD spinner stands my dad made for me and, since I have a lot of old unused CDs and DVDs at home, they end up being cheaper than purchasing dice for me. It didn’t really take me any extra time to create both options, so I did and now we can use whichever is most convenient for that particular classroom situation.

A few weeks ago my first group of students tried out Picture Prompts Sentence Challenge and loved it. They enjoyed playing the same basic game as before (we’d previously used it to practice making passive sentences) but with a new twist/challenge. I think next time we play (we have a review of this skill coming up), we’re going to try an alternative version of the game. I’m going to give each student a small whiteboard and dry erase marker. Rather than taking turns drawing picture cards and stating sentences, students will have a sentence show down of sorts. One image card will be turned over for the entire group to see and then the spinner will be spun. Students will have a predetermined length of time to write an appropriate type sentence for the image. After the time expires (I’m thinking 30-45 seconds), students will show their sentences to the rest of the group. Any student who successfully writes a unique (not written by anyone else in the group) sentence that is of the type spun (simple, compound, complex) will get to roll and move his/her piece. I’m thinking this will challenge the students to think beyond the obvious and create more inventive sentences for each picture. It also means no student is passively sitting and waiting for his/her turn, every student is creating a sentence for every image.

As I explained in my original post about Picture Prompts, it wasn’t a difficult game to create, so you can easily make your own version and use the files included with this post to play the Sentence Challenge version of the game. If you don’t want to make your own version, you can purchase mine using the links in this post. The download will include the dice roll card, spinner label, and “cheat” card for Sentence Challenge, as well as everything needed to practice question words and cause/effect.


Afraid you missed some of the links scattered throughout this post? No worries, here they are again:

Grid Conquest

Inspiration for games and activities often comes to me in strange ways and locations. One day, as I was walking the dog, I was thinking about the game Blokus. I have no idea why, I just was. Blokus is a fun game and it occurred to me that it might make a good game for the classroom. On it’s own, it gives great practice in spatial relationships and noticing patterns, but I

thought maybe it could be used to practice other skills as well if I employed a little Game Smashing (still not a real term, I know, but I’m trying). The problem was how to go about doing this. Blokus is not horribly expensive, but it is more expensive than I’d want to spend to get a class set, and it is not exactly the tiniest game in my closet. I briefly considered making my own sets but almost immediately rejected this idea for two reasons: first, it would violate copyright and trademark laws; second, cutting out all of those pieces was not something I was willing to do! By the end of the walk, this idea had been pushed to the back of my head to rattle around until I could come up with the answer. It took awhile, but eventually I created Grid Conquest, a game that has been gaining in popularity amongst my students for the last year or two.

The Game Components

One of the things I love about this game is it requires very few pieces and is easy to put together. The required components are a laminated game board (free download via the link below the picture, I recommend cold lamination as it is thicker and doesn’t peel when cut through), a dry erase marker for each student (a different color for each student sharing a single board), and task cards or directions for whatever skill you want to practice.

The Game Play

The objective of the game is to earn the largest amount of points. Students earn points by claiming squares (color them in) on the game board after answering a question or completing a task related to the target skill. The game can be played with two, three, or four students per board, but is best with either two or four. Before beginning, students each choose a starting square and mark it with their color. Some of my students just make an X, others prefer to color it in all the way. Each turn is played as follows:

  1. The student draws a card from the pile and/or completes the assigned task to practice the target skill.
  2. If the student successfully completes the task, he/she claims a score on the game board by coloring it in. The claimed square MUST share at least one side with a square he/she has already claimed (for the first turn that would be the start square). The card is then discarded and play continues. If the student was not able to successfully complete the task, the card is discarded and no squares are marked.
  3. Play continues in this manner, with students taking turns attempting tasks and claiming squares, until a student is no longer able to claim a square (there are no unclaimed squares adjoining his/her current collection). If a student is no longer able to claim any more squares, he/she is out of the game. Once no one else can claim any more squares, or all of the tasks have been completed, the game is over. Students add up their points and the winner is the person with the highest total score.

Another thing that I love about this game is how versatile it is. I’ve created versions of the game to practice the simple present tense, family relationship vocabulary, idioms, and abbreviations and acronyms. If I don’t wish to create a special set, I can assign students to complete task cards, use it with sort card sets for vocabulary/spelling practice, or even ask them to simply give sentences utilizing a particular grammar function.

Conclusion

Not all of my ideas turn out perfectly, and some end up in the “this was better in my head” pile, even after months or years of rattling around in the back of my head, but Grid Conquest is one of the successes. It’s easy to create, versatile, engaging to play, and doesn’t take up a lot of storage space. In short, it checks all of my boxes for a great practice game. Give it a try with one of your classes and let me know how it goes. Happy teaching, everyone!


Need some of those links again? Here you are: