While it’s true that most native-speakers of English don’t know what each and every grammar point or structure is called, I find it immensely helpful when my students know things like what a “verb” or a “past participle” is… It makes the more complex structures so much easier to explain and memorize, don’t you think?
I haven’t come up with a golden goose of a solution just yet for getting my students to remember these useful names but I have come up with a fun game that will help them to review. Also, it will shame them just enough to make them pay more attention to grammatical terms!
Here, I’ve modified a resource from Les Zexperts FLE to create my own version of poker to play with any level of students. There are 4 levels of cards to play with: A1, A2, B1, B2. Each card corresponds to a relevant grammatical term they should be aware of at that level. Of course, you can sort through the cards to be sure they are concepts they already know before playing.
First of all, download the PDF below:grammar-poker-A1-C1-esl-expertz-
How to play with an A1 group
Print out the A1 cards and cut them out. Print as many copies as you need so that every student can have 5 cards each and there is a small discard pile available (between 4-10 cards). There are 24 cards per sheet. Repeated cards are perfectly fine! Each card has a rule, word, phrase, or grammatical structure.
The point of the game is to build a group of constraints within which students will need to create grammatically correct sentences. To begin, choose a student to “place a bet” by putting one of their cards in the middle of the table. Going clockwise, the next student has 2 choices:
- Challenge: If the next student declares a “challenge!” then the previous student must create a grammatically correct sentence with the constraint they just played (along with any others in the betting pile). If they can create a grammatically correct statement, they take all the cards in the pile. If they cannot, the student who declared the challenge takes the cards in the pile and starts the next turn.
- Discard: A student can discard 2 of their cards and retrieve 1 new card from the discard pile. This effectively creates a “pass” situation. The next student takes their turn and can challenge, discard, or play and bet.
- Play and bet: The next student must create a sentence within the constraint played by the previous student (along with any others in the betting pile). If they can create a grammatically correct sentence, they can place a new constraint on the pile. Going clockwise, the next student has the same 3 choices: challenge, discard, or play and bet.
Therefore, you could end up with a few constraints that make sense together such as “past simple,” “irregular verb,” “ask a yes / no question,” “2 adjectives,” etc. This chain of constraints creates more and more complex sentences as you play. If a student puts two constraints together that cannot work, this is a good opportunity for a challenge if your students are paying attention. If not, the student who plays and bets will fail.
The game ends when one of the players runs out of cards. The student with the most amount of cards at the end wins the game. Is there a tie? They both win!
Playing with higher levels:
Play with the same rules as above, except with the other level cards as well. If you are playing with A2 students, you can use A1 and A2 cards. With B2 students, you can play with A1-B2 cards (or any combination you would like).
- The game also comes with “theme” cards. For every round, or for every game, you could have a student draw a theme card at random to add to the constraints of their sentences.
- We recommend starting with 5 cards, but don’t hesitate to start with more if you want the game to last longer!
- The constraints are based on different grammatical points found in my various English textbooks I use with my students. I tried to pick out those which are most important for each level. Check the cards before you use them with your group and sort out anything they don’t already know.
- Do you have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments!