Six Olympic-style language games

The Irregular Verb Ski Jump and 5 other language games!

With the winter Olympics being 1) over half finished and 2) held in my homeland of Canada I thought it would be a good excuse to do an Olympic related six. Although I stopped my last class just before Christmas the following six activities are all fun sports-like games I’ve done with my students in the past, although perhaps not precisely on the winter Olympic theme. Anyway, see what you think. Many are suitable for adults and children!

1 Lexical Luge or Bobsled – For this activity you need a series of lexical categories (e.g. animals, food, clothing, crime) suitable for your students’ level. On the board draw an image of a steep hill and a luge track on it (it doesn’t have to be exact, a windy route down a big mountain side will do). Draw five different X’s at various points on the track. It should look a bit like this, but as a slide.

Start: _________X______X__________X___X_______________X – Finish

Now the game works like this. A student comes up. You give them the lexical category. He/she has to say 5 words (one for each X) in as quick as time as possible. Do this with a stopwatch. If they make a mistake, add 5 seconds to their final time. If they make three mistakes they have “flown off” the side of the track and are disqualified. Students could do this in teams of four, making it a bobsled race. The student/team with the fastest time gets the gold medal. Add more Xs to make it a more challenging track.

2 Irregular verbs Ski Jump – For this activity you need the ubiquitous list of irregular verbs. Draw an image of a ski jump on the board. A student comes up in front of the course. Give them three irregular verbs (e.g. make, go, eat). They have to say the past tense forms. If they make a mistake they sit down again. If they get them right they have made a successful jump. They then have 30 seconds to say as many pairs of infinitive and past forms of irregular verbs as they can, e.g fly-flew, teach-taught, buy-bought etc. Count how many correct they get in the 30 seconds (another student can time this). They score one point per correct pair. Their total points is the total distance jumped. At the end the student who has jumped the furthest gets gold medal.

3 The Olympic Rings Alphabet Game – Students play this in teams. They have to work together and make an alphabet of sports words. E.g. A Athletics, B basketball etc. Set a reasonable time limit (ten to fifteen minutes). At the end, check answers. For every five correct words in their alphabet each group gets an “Olympic ring”. Can any group get five rings?

4 Figure skating Recital – individual programme – This one takes a little more setting up, and you need students who are willing to “go for it”. Each student has to choose a short text, either from the coursebook or another source (a poem, an extract from a speech they find on the net, a paragraph from a novel). They need to memorise the text at home. The next class nominate a series of students as judges. Students get up and recite their memorised text aloud. The judges award points on choice of text, difficulty and pronunciation and award a final score out of ten points.

5 Figure skating Recital – pairs programme – Very similar to above, but this time students work in pairs and choose a dialogue to memorise. Other students act as judges and award points in the same way.

6 Spelling Halfpipe – The halfpipe, I learned this Olympics, is the acrobatic jumping you do on a snowboard. For this activity in class you need a long list of words that are difficult to spell (e.g. Wednesday, separate, writing…) It’s better if you have this list in different categories: hard, very hard and fiendishly hard. You can probably find lists of difficult to spell words on the net if you search around, or if you have Penny Ur’s Five Minute Activities there is a list in there. Run this like a typical spelling bee (spelling competition). Students choose the category and you give them a word to spell out loud. The more difficult the word, the more points it’s worth (you decide on points). Each student spells five words total. Calculate the points and decide how you want to award medals.

So there you have it. Now I know that some will say these are competitive, and maybe some of this activities will not work with a class of 175 (or insert your own “large number” here) students. But the ideas are surely flexible enough that with a bit of creativity you could make some of them work in some of your classes. What do you think? Do you have another favourite sports-related vocabulary or grammar game? Post a comment.

Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love the luge idea – I’ll be trying that out next week. As for them being competitive activities, they’re exactly what motivate my teenage students. Cheers.

  2. Was it something I said?

    • Hi there!

      No, not at all. I’ve been on the road and not tending to my blog over the last few days. Glad you liked the luge idea, and I have also found competitive games to work with some of my teenager classes. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Hi Lindsay – no, I didn’t mean you not responding; I just wondered where the rest of the world was. I always like this blog not only because of the interesting content but also because of the many interesting comments.
    Anyway, I tried the luge idea and it worked a treat – cheers.

  4. I’m here! Hi Lindsay and Teslacoil,

    Oooh, I might use the spelling halfpipe for numeracy related vocabulary. To be honest, I don’t do much spelling in class – at the moment I’m trying to check they know the numerical processes and can describe what they are doing in English. So I think spelling for this group would be useful.

    I’ll let you know how it goes should I use it


  5. Hi Lindsay,

    Just done a version of your number 6 with a group, where they all worked with the same text, and awarded each other points according to how many words they could recite.

    It worked well but I think it would work even better if they could have chosen the texts themselves like in your version.


    • Thanks for dropping by Nick, I’m glad it worked well! Excellent. Will pass this on to some teachers I was talking to about these activities.

  6. Sorry – I mean your number 4!

  7. I teach Intensive Reading to incarcerated boys. I was tasked to come up with four hands-on projects that they can do for the next four consecutive weeks related to reading. Any ideas? Remember that tools with sharp edges or dangerous chemical content is restricted (scissors, glue, etc.).

    • Was not sure if you were joking or not here Ami. But if you want reading lesson ideas, I would suggest as a good first stop. They have a whole selection of resources, some parts of the site are subscription only, others are free. Try also the elessons at to see if you find anything of interest there. No scissors or glue, promise!

  8. super HUGE ideas!!!Thanks!

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