Ice breaker – Word Cloud

First impressions.

Some might say they can define the whole nature of a relationship.

So how to facilitate student-student or teacher-students first impressions to be favourable and make sure it stands as a solid foundation for further positive rapport in the classes to come?

As part of classroom management, establishing rapport and dealing with different cultures and moods in the classroom are always a challenge.

One suggestion is to initiate every course with an ice breaker and keep stimulating students to create and strengthen a social bond between the whole class (teacher included) throughout the course.

This does not mean everyone has to become best friends, or even keep in touch outside the classroom.

What is key here is to promote rapport via respect of each other’s individuality – which can be fostered by simply having students not hearing, but truly listening to each other and civilly handling differences in the classroom.

Sounds complicated?

Do not fret though, my friends. The games are here for you.

Today’s post is a very special ice breaker that not only has a social aspect to it, but can also help you to check language level placement. Making your life easier by killing two birds with one stone: do you like the sound of that? Me too.

Drama Game: Word Cloud– Ice Breaker

Type: Ice breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Create a social bond and check level placement

Interaction Pattern: individual / whole class

Material: Board, A4 paper

Timing: 10-15 min (depending on size of the group)



Draw a cloud almost as big as your whiteboard and write some words (names, places, occupations…) or numbers that reflect truths about you. However, don’t write sentences. Just leave all of those scattered pieces of information on the board for students to see once they enter the classroom.





Have the word cloud drawn beforehand, so that you don’t waste class time and also when students arrive they can be curious about what’s on the board.


Greet students and welcome them to their new English course.

Tell them that before starting, you should get to know each other and this is the chance they have to meet you.

Point out that on the board there are some pieces of information about you. However, you are not going to tell them what they are. THEY should ask you questions and the answers should be the words they see. They cannot use the words on the board, though.

E.g.: “What do you do?” is a valid question and the answer is on the board (teacher). Whereas “Who are Tania and Roberto?” is not a valid question. They could ask “What are your parents’ names?”, for example.



Write information on the board according to questions you expect students to know by now. Bear in mind their language level and age when thinking about what you will present them with. Also, make the range of information wide enough so that students have an idea of who you are and what you stand for.

Remember: you can only ask for what you have.


Students take turns asking questions while you answer ALL of them.

Cross out the words and numbers they ‘get it right’ from the board until they have guessed all of them.

After it is over, invite them to draw their own word clouds on an A4 sheet of paper. Give them a few minutes for that.

Depending on the size of the group, decide if you will ask every student to show their cloud and have the whole group play the game together or divide them in smaller groups. If you go for smaller groups, make sure you ask them to report information they found out about their colleagues with the rest of the class in the end.

This activity is multifaceted due to the fact that you are not only giving your students the opportunity to review vocabulary and structure they have previously learned, you are also creating a personal bond with them. All of this while you assess their use of language through question formation.

And it’s fun, of course!

Lesson Plan – Drama Games on TV

Whose line


Television: this magical light box that has so many times kept me company during those lonely only-child afternoons. We have been buddies for a long time now.

Numerous hours have I spent zapping channels in search of something fun and entertaining to watch.

And it was during those adolescent times that I discovered that those games I used to play at theatre class also existed in the magic box!

Shows like ‘Whose line is it anyway’ were part of my weekly schedule, never ever missing an episode.

Little did I know that not long after, all those goofy games would become part of my very own weaponry in the classroom.

Nowadays drama games are largely used on TV shows for pure entertainment. However, they come directly from very serious theatrical techniques and can surely be applied for educational purposes as well.

Below are some examples of classic and more recent shows displaying very famous drama games. I tried to adapt them into content-oriented lesson plans that can be applied in language learning.

I hope you can be inspired to adapt more games you see on your day-to-day lives for ELT.

As usual, enjoy it and have fun with the games!



Drama Game: Word Sneak – Vocabulary practice



Type:  Vocabulary Practice

Age: from teens up

Language level: all

Aim: Controlled practice of specific vocabulary

Interaction Pattern: pair work

Material: Sentences / words written on paper slips

Timing: 5-7 min


Tell your students that they will play a game to practice what they have just learned.



Since the main goal here is for this game to be played as controlled practice, it would be a good idea to propose it right after vocabulary analysis.


Rearrange students in pairs and give each pair a stack of slips of paper with the language you want them to practice.



Some ideas are:

Linkers (First, Then, Consequently, As a result, Nevertheless, ect…)

Expressions for agreeing and disagreeing (I see eye to eye with you, I see it differently, etc…)

Expressions for giving opinion (I think, I believe, I suppose, To my mind, etc…)

Vocabulary elevation (wealthy instead of rich, etc…) Words taken from a specifically difficult text students have just read


Tell students these words/sentences have to be used secretly in the middle of the conversation they will have with their partner.

As soon as they use one word/sentence, they have to discard the paper and get another one from the stack. The student that uses the last paper ‘wins’.

Write on the board a topic for the whole class to start their conversation.




Don’t forget to link this topic to the activities done before in class and also to the language you want them to practice.



Remember that on the show, Jimmy Fallon is a comedian and his objective is to be as absurd as possible.

Your objective is different: it’s to get students using those words in semi-spontaneous spoken discourse. The game may result in laughs in the classroom, but that’s not the goal. Depending on the topic and the language you provide your students, the outcome can be very serious meaningful exchange of ideas.


Walk around the class as take notes as students perform the activity. Provide help if necessary, but in general let them do most of the talking.

Since this is controlled practice, take a few minutes in the end to promote correction with the whole class based on your notes in order to move on to your next activity more smoothly.


Drama Game: Heads up – Relative Clauses



Type:  Grammar Practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Controlled practice of relative clauses

Interaction Pattern: pair work or group work

Material: Flashcards with faces and names of famous people

Timing: 5-7 min


Tell your students that they will play a game to practice what they have just learned.



Since the main goal here is for this game to be played as controlled practice, it would be a good idea to propose it right after grammar analysis.


Rearrange students in pairs or in 2 large groups and hand them over some flashcards with names and faces of famous people.

Place all flashcards face down so no one sees who are on them.



If you choose pairwork, students will have more chance to practice individually, but it’s harder for you to monitor their production.If you choose 2 large groups against each other, students will have less individual talking time, however you can supervise more thoroughly.

Choose either one or the other depending on what is better for them at that moment: a bit freer practice (if they have already gotten the hang of relative clauses) or more controlled practice (if they are still struggling with using the structure properly).


Tell students one member of each group will have to get a flashcard without looking and placing it over their head.

Heads Up


Then, their partner/people from the other group should describe who that person is using relative clauses. (e.g. This is someone who….. He was in a movie which…. He came from a place where…. etc.)




If you feel your students are not yet ready to produce such complex sentences by themselves, you can provide them with some models on the board.




Walk around the class as take notes as students perform the activity. Provide help if necessary, but in general let them do most of the talking.


Since this is controlled practice, take a few minutes in the end to promote correction with the whole class based on your notes in order to move on to your next activity more smoothly.

Drama Game: Scenes from a hat – Functions practice



Type:  Functions Practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Freer practice of specific functions

Interaction Pattern: group work

Material: Slips of paper with situations

Timing: 5-7 min


Tell your students that they will play a game to practice the topic they have just learned.



Since the main goal here is for this game to be played as freer practice, it would be a good idea to propose it at the very end of the class. This is a good way to wrap up all the content of the class in one single activity.


Rearrange students in 2 large groups to compete against each other and have them stand up.

Tell them you have a few cards with situations on them. All the situations have to do with what they learned and they are expected to use the language seen this class.

Groups take turns acting out the situations given. Students can decide spontaneously if they will act that situation by themselves or with in unison.

Present a situation in which the function you want them to practice is needed and ask students to respond to it.

Each group has the chance to act the situation once.

After each group has presented their scene using the functions, you ask collectively which scene they think used better language.

Repeat the procedure as many times as you have cards and time to do so.

Help students notice that they were able to use the language learned in a ‘more real’ way.

Lesson Plan – Wordganize – Grammar analysis


How can we get students to notice and analyze new grammar structures?

Writing model sentences on the board, using colour coding, asking them to read an example from the textbook… We’ve all done that.


How about asking students to BE the words and try to organize themselves into a sentence?

That’s Wordganize, a fun and effective way to promote active analysis of a grammar structure while fostering group integration, the development of managing skills, real life argumentation and the increase of STT (student talking time) during new language exposition.

It can be used to analyze all sorts of grammar points, from A1 to C2. It is very versatile and gets students moving a little, which is a plus for days in which we have to provide too much input.

As usual, I hope you and your students can benefit from this different way to discover new structures.

Enjoy it and have fun with the games!

Drama Game: Wordganize – Grammar analysis


Type: Grammar analysis

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Notice and analyze new structures

Interaction Pattern: group work

Material: Words written on paper slips

Timing: 5-7 min


Since I am not familiar with the kind of method every reader of this post follows in class, this post was designed to follow the most common formats of language input that can be found in world renowned textbooks, in which language analysis comes after a brief discussion on the topic and sometimes a passive input of the language to be analyzed in the form of a written or spoken text.

After providing students with some passive input of the topic in the form of a reading or listening activity, tell students they will try to remember a few sentences from the text.

The idea here is to prepare in advance sentences students have just been exposed to during the reading/listening activity, cut the sentence into words or chunks and give each student a piece.

Ask them to close their books and stand up in a line.

Hand out words to each student.  They have to either hold the word, clip it to their clothes or stick it to their foreheads – depends on how outgoing your students are.

While they get their words, write on the board some model sentences to help them get through the next phase of the game – since this is not the aim of the activity and they shouldn’t focus on THIS language, but the one on the sentence they have to build.


Tell students they ARE these words now.

They have to organize themselves into a sentence and you CANNOT help.

They can use the language on the board to help organize themselves.

When they think the sentence is correct, they can call you to check it.


If you teach in a small classroom or you have a group that is not really into getting up and moving around, you can ask them to switch places, sitting in the ‘right order’. Another variation is for them to move the pieces of paper around, and hold them up for everyone to see.

Also, if you have few students in class, you can give them either two words per student, or cut the sentence in chucks rather than individual words.

Students start organizing themselves as a group.

At this point, usually students with leadership-inclined personalities will probably take the role of managers.

Observe and interfere as little as possible.

At the end, ask CCQs (Concept Check Questions) to the whole group to raise awareness of the structure you want them to focus on.

(If you are not familiar with CCQs, click here for more information)


Make sure you prepare your CCQs in advance. It is quite challenging to attempt to formulate effective ones on the spot, at least I think so.

You can repeat this game two or three times, asking students to Wordganize themselves into different sentences demonstrating the same grammar topic to provide more practice and cater for students that might not get the idea the first time around.

At the end of this game followed by well-designed CCQs, students should be prepared for controlled and freer practice.

Wordganize is a way to learn a structure through concrete and active means and enables students to get a hold of their own acquisition. All followed by the guidance of the teacher in the form of pre-designed CCQs.

It’s quite effective and fun.

Lesson Plan – Paper Balls – 4 variations



This is the full lesson plan of the game Paper Balls which was part of the great content exposed by Mary Patricia Schnueriger during the workshop Learner-tainment in Geneva. If you want more information about the workshop, click here.

Paper balls is a very lively game that can be used and adapted to cater to a plethora of teaching goals. On this post I will depict some of the uses I came up with after analyzing the original idea from the workshop.

I developed lesson plans with 4 different goals in mind: ice breaker, vocabulary review, grammar practice and fluency practice.

However, if you have found other interesting uses for this game feel free to comment below!

Drama Game: Paper Balls – Vocabulary Review/Practice


Type: Vocabulary Review/Practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Revisit and personalize previously taught vocabulary to facilitate retention

Interaction Pattern: individual + whole group

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 7-10 min


Each student gets a piece of paper large enough to be molded into a ball (1/5 of an A4 should suffice)

Students write words or expressions they learned the previous class or previously during that very class on a piece of paper


You can direct students here to write what you want them to practice. Let’s say you have an A1 class and you’d like them to practice vocabulary regarding worklife, you can write on the board


On the other hand, if you have a B2 group, you could write on the board ‘verbs followed by infinitive, gerund or both.


After writing their chosen piece of vocabulary, students make a paper ball with it.

Tell students they are to throw the balls around, so it’s gonna get kinda messy.


Depending on your group profile, you can either ask your students to stand up in a circle and throw the balls at someone across from them (more proactive, outgoing group profiles), or remain seated and throw the balls at anyone they’d like (more introverted, self-conscious group profiles), or even have a ball fight for 10 seconds and when time is over, students read the paper they ended up with (kids, teenagers and very open-minded adults).

Whoever has the paper ball reads it and executes a task. This task can be previously designed by the teacher to enhance language production of the topic to be reviewed/practiced.

For example, the A1 group practicing work-related words can be asked to come up with a TRUE sentence using the word they have (the truth in the sentence enables students to make the idea more memorable). As for the B2 group, they could perhaps come up with a question on the spot using the verb they have as a way to generate discussion and provide students with fast response practice (an ability B level students sometimes lack).

When the teacher sets previous specific goals for this game, it is a great tool to revise and practice vocabulary. However, if the students have no guidelines when they are either writing the words and phrases or elaborating sentences for them later, the chance you get words that are totally unrelated to your teaching point or useless sentences spoken just for the sake of completing the asked task is pretty big. So use it cautiously and runthrough your instructions carefully before applying the game.


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Ice breaker


Type: Ice Breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Promote group integration and notice students’ previous knowledge

Interaction Pattern: whole group

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 5-7 min


This is a good alternative for an activity on the very first day of class, so that the group can get to know each other in a lively way and you can also observe their production while the game is going on so that you can figure out what you will be dealing with during the course.


In order for both of these goals to be achieved, this is a no-correction version of the game. I wouldn’t correct a student on the very first moment of the very first class. It could feel rather intimidating, to my mind, and the idea here is to lower everyone’s anxiety and promote bonding amongst everyone in class.

Tell students you will play a game to get to know each other. In this game, everyone will receive a paper ball that they CANNOT open.

Hand out one paper ball with previously written questions to each student.


Write the questions beforehand to save time, incite curiosity and promote a more realistic response from students since they don’t know what the questions will be about.

Also, grade the questions in relation to what you want to observe in terms of production from your students. It could be just personal questions, but it could also be discussion starters to higher levels.

Ask students to stand in a circle and make sure everyone can see each other.

Tell students they will throw the balls at each other once. They can throw at whomever they want (usually they throw to someone directly opposite to them, but if anyone ends up now being thrown at, there’s always going to be a ball left from them. Ask them to go and get it.)

They will then have 30 seconds to talk to someone about the question they got.

After the 30 seconds are over, they throw the balls again and choose a different person to discuss the new question with.

Even is they get a question two or three times, the person they are talking to is never the same, so there is always room for authentic discussion.

Walk around and listen to what they are saying. This is the moment you assess their previous knowledge privately.

Repeat 3 or 4 times and then bring the group back to their original places.


It could be nice to have e brief feedback moment after the game, asking how the students felt, what is hard or easy during this kind of exercise. For higher levels, elicit from stidents the connection between this game and real life. Ask them situations in which they are ‘bombarded’ with questions and have to answer quickly and elicit strategies to perform better under pressure.

By the end of this activity the group should be a lot more integrated and aware of the importance of not only studying the book , but also drawing parallels to real life use of the language they are learning.


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Fluency practice


Type: Fluency practice

Age: all

Language level: from A2 on

Aim: Promote freer practice

Interaction Pattern: individual + whole group (small groups) / group work (large groups)

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 7-10 min


This is a variation of the Ice breaker in order to be used at the end of classes to promote freer practice of the language learned that day.


Since this the goal here is practicing, make sure you allocate some time after the game to promote public correction on things you heard during the game. Don’t forget to make notes as the students play the game.

Tell students you will play a game to practice what you have learned today. In this game, one by one, students will stand up and all the other students will throw them paper balls – either one by one or all at once, depending on your group profile.

Each student gets a piece of paper large enough to be molded into a ball (1/5 of an A4 should suffice)

Students write questions about what they learned previously during that very class on it

Tip: Walk around and try to correct the questions before students throw the balls.

Ask students to throw the questions at the student who is stading.

This targeted student has 1 minute to answer as many questions as possible. Then he/she sits down and it’s someone else’s turn.


If you have large groups, instead of conducting the activity with the whole class, allocate students into smaller groups and have them play the game.


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Grammar Practice – Sentence structure


Type: Grammar practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Facilitate sentence structure analysis through concrete practice

Interaction Pattern: group work + whole group

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 5-7 min


This is a good activity to raise awareness to sentence structure and word order. Students should be able to ‘see’ the structure and actively think about it, instead of just passively receiving input from either the teacher or the textbook.

Also, the collaborative analysis of language has proven to foster the information to be more memorable, enhancing learning.


Since students will have to discuss a few things during the game, it would be nice for A1 students to be provided with model sentences to express their opinion. Otherwise, the activity will be either too challenging for them, or the main focus will shift from focusing on structure to struggling with expressing opinion. You could write on the board:


Tell students you will play a game to practice the grammar they just learned. In this game, everyone will receive a paper ball that they CANNOT open.

Hand out one paper ball with previously written words to each student. The idea is that the paper balls contain words that can be arranged in sentences – or you can also use it for adjective order.


Write the words beforehand to save time, incite curiosity and promote a more realistic response from students since they don’t know which sentences they will have to form. Don’t make it too hard, though. Keep them short and simple. Remember, the objective is not for the game to be a challenge, but for student to experience the concrete formation of sentences in English.

Also, grade the questions in relation to what you want to observe in terms of production from your students. It could be question formation for A2 students or inversions to C2 ones.

Ask students to have a paper ball fight for 5 seconds (to mix the words up)

Divide students in small groups and assign them 2 or 3 minutes to try to build a sentence from the paper balls that must be all around by now.

Walk around and listen to what they are saying. This is the moment you help them, make sure they don’t use (much) L1 resorting to the models on the board and foster further analysis of the language.


It could be nice to have e brief feedback moment after the game, asking how the students felt, what is hard or easy during this kind of exercise.

By the end of this activity the group should be more aware of that class’ teaching point and ready for controlled and freer practice.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the ideas.

And as usual, have fun with the games!

Workshop review – Learner-tainment

Last Saturday the 21st of February I had the privilege of attending the workshop ‘Learner-tainment’ in Geneva, Switzerland that was organized by E-Tas (English Teachers Association of Switzerland).

The workshop was brilliantly conducted by Mary Patricia Schnueriger – an ESL/EFL teacher and ELT consultant at Pearson Switzerland – who was kind enough to give me her blessing to report here at ESL Drama Queen the content of what was discussed.

Here is an overview of the event and my personal take on it.



21.02.15 – Bell School Geneve – E-TAS


Mary Patricia Schnueriger – Pearson Switzerland

Subject and scope

Suggest and facilitate the elaboration of games to be used in ELT

Intended audience

EFL/ESL Teachers with students of all ages and levels

Schnueriger was throughout the workshop the very definition of a facilitator for a hands-on workshop: she proposed many activities and promoted several discussions to attendees and kept the focus on the subjects discussed rather than her personal views on the ideas. The overall feel of the event was that the participants themselves were active in the delivery of the talk – which I personally think is great.

She started with a quote that set the tone for the whole afternoon: “There is no right or wrong, only ideas’. Since it was a very heterogeneous group of people from different parts of the world with diverse views on what the ELT classroom should be like and also with eclectic goals, this first moment was quite important to make sure everyone felt welcome and all ideas would be heard and respected. As one might say, everything is try and error – many activities may work for one group and not for another, and vice versa.

During what I can surely refer to as a very pleasant afternoon, many games and activities for the ESL/EFL classroom were mentioned by both Schnueriger and the participants.

Although no one mentioned the word Drama during the workshop, there were lots of ideas that emerged and were clearly connected to the idea of Drama Games. That makes me both happy and worried: happy because there are lots of teachers out there willing to use this amazing technique to teach their students a foreign language; and worried because I guess this approach is still fairly unexplored academically and very poorly advertised.

Next is a brief description of the ones I personally felt more inclined to trying out due to its proximity to Drama Games. For full lesson plans of the games below, stay tuned for the next posts.



Paper Balls


Students write questions on a piece of paper

Make a paper ball with it

Throw it at someone (teacher or other colleague)

Whoever has the paper ball reads it and answers the question


Elfti with Art


Present students with a painting (connect the theme of the painting to the topic you are covering in class)

Elicit from students single words that the painting evokes from them Show students the structure of an Elfti: an 11-word poem



Ask students to come up with an Elfti based on their feelings towards the painting and the topic of the class


Candy Topics


Offer colourfully-wrapped candy to your students

Each student can get as much candy as they like

Show them the colour code

Candy topics


Arrange students in groups

Each student should talk about the topics they have (depending on the colour candy they picked)


‘TABU’ variations


  1. Writing the description without using the tabu words instead of speaking (can be used in unison with Paper Balls)
  2. Vocabulary Box: at the end of every class students come up with a word they learned that day and 3 tabu words; they write it down and place it in the vocabulary box; the next class starts with a TABU game with the vocabulary they came up with.
  3. Tabu poster: teacher writes a few words per class on a poster and students are not allowed to say them (can be used for advanced classes to use more elevated vocabulary instead of simple words)

Word sneak


Arrange students in groups or pairs

Give each students a set of words or phrases

Students should engage in natural conversation, trying to sneak in the words or phrases without the other students noticing

(Jimmy Fallon, an American comedian, plays this game on his TV show. For the Youtube video, click here)


I hope this post could be as helpful and enlightening to you all as the workshop was to me and I’ll just leave you with a last quote from Mary Patricia Schnueriger: “Any games you see can be adapted into language learning”.

As usual, see you next time and have fun with the games!

Lesson Plan: Grammar (Reported Speech/3rd Person Singular) – Gossip


Finding activities to have your students practice Reported Speech or 3rd Person Singular is not hard. There are lots of great approaches out there.

However, I have often heard from teachers that sometimes the practice of these grammar topics in particular can be a challenge because, depending on how it is conducted, it can be a little artificial and mechanic.

Bearing that in mind, I decided to test several Drama Games in order to promote a more natural and fluent practice moment in the classroom.

One of the games that worked the best with several age and language levels was “Gossip”.

I like it especially because it can be adapted for either outgoing or introverted groups of people, eliminating the dreaded feeling of being on the spot as one has to report something to the whole class.

Caution though! During this activity students will be doing a lot of talking and it will be up to you, teacher, to monitor their performance. It is important to have a correction moment afterwards, but not during the game, since it can impair fluency and foster anxious behavior from students.

Well, that being said, I hope you and your students have lots of fun gossiping in your classroom!

Drama Game: Gossip


Type: Grammar practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Acquire and report information

Interaction Pattern: Pair work

Material: Set of pre-written questions, paper to make notes

Timing: 7-10 min


Have students either sit or stand in a circle, depending on how outgoing or introverted they are.


Assign partners for pairwork. Partners should be sitting next to each other. This is “Pair 1”.

Ask students to look at their partner “1” in the eye and say “Hello, partner ‘1’”.



Ask students to look at the person sitting on their other side. That’s “Pair 2”.

Ask students to look at their partner “2” in the eye and say “Hello, partner ‘2’”.

(This brief activity of looking people in the eye and verbally expressing who they are enables students to better comprehend the logistics of the game, and it tends to loosen them up too)


At your command, students look at their partners, either “1” or “2”. Say: “1”. “2”. “2”. “1”. “1”.

(This is a warm up to keep them alert and responsive.)


Tell them now it’s for real.

Tell students that they will interview their partner in “Pair 1” and they can take notes of their partners answers.

Tell students that they will gossip about their “partner 1” to their “partner 2”.

You will say the number of the partner and they have to either interview or gossip about their partners.

Model with some students. Check if everybody understood the intructions.

Have students do the activity as you give them the command “Talk to partner ‘1’” or “Talk to partner ‘2’”.

PS: Don’t forget to walk around and take notes of positive and negative production. At the end of the activity, you can conduct correction and praising with the whole group.

PS2: As for the content of the pre-written questions, you can grade and adapt them according to your groups’ needs and level.

Article Review: Using theater games to enhance language arts learning


I recently came across this article by Sharon Fennessey where she disclosures a few drama games to be used in the classroom and I though it was quite interesting.

The text below is my take on it and a few addaptations of the excercises she proposes to be used in the ESL/EFL classroom.

Have fun and enjoy the games!

Language acquisition through arts is Sharon Fennessey’s academic field of expertise. Thus, her article Using theater games to enhance language arts learning attempts to convey to readers not only the importance but also the use of theater games in the classroom as a tool to enable students to better master English as a second language.


In order to achieve her goal, the author leads the subject in by sharing personal experience with her fifth grade class and the learners’ reaction – which according to her testimony is exquisite. Furthermore, Fennessey points out that drama is taken seriously by all of those involved, teacher and students, and it is also recognized as an equally valued subject when compared to math, reading and writing, for instance.


That being said, a number of reasons why these games ought to be integrated in the lesson plan are mentioned, together with authors that support these beliefs:


  • Improvement of social skills: concentration, confidence, and cooperation (Fennessey, 2000).
  • Development of fluency in language and non-verbal communication skills (Cornett, 1999).
  • Improvement in fluency and pronunciation, especially for ESL learners who are not able to practice much for lack of speaking opportunities outside the classroom (Burke & O’Sullivan, 2002).
  • Development of language and language-related abilities through drama, based on the widespread view of linguists “that language is primarily a spoken art”. (Stewig & Buege, 1994).


Since the article is clearly not aimed at teachers who have previously had any sort of theater training, it unfolds by soothing inexperienced professionals and reassuring that “the classroom teacher does not need to be a creative drama specialist to successfully lead a drama activity”.


Moreover, the aims of drama games are exposed through the theory of one of the most renowned authors on the subject: Viola Spolin. The aspects of Spolin’s work (Spolin, 1986) which were brought up are:


  • Drama games are meant to facilitate actors’ awareness of their work instruments: body, voice and intellect.
  • Drama games are designed to help actors better focus on characters’ tasks, solve problems, interact with the cast, be alert, among other aims.


The purposes above-mentioned may also be applied in the classroom for the sake of verbal and non-verbal communication development. This framework of attributes is by no means unimportant or irrelevant to the ESL teacher and learner. It is well known that learners who are focused, have a sense of belonging in the group, feel at ease in the classroom and are alert have a much better outcome in terms of actual learning.


Though Fennessey presents only a few points on Spolin’s work, even the most unfocused of readers could grasp the link between acting techniques and abilities that are vital to the success of a language class. In fact, since this link has been disclosed, now there would be a golden opportunity for exposing practical ways in which these two universes could be put together. And that is precisely what the author does.


Much similarly to the outline on Spolin’s well-known book Theater games for the classroom, Fennessey chooses to first set the scene to readers and introduce the topic theoretically. Only after that, games and practical tips are given in the form of several short paragraphs leading readers through the steps of the games.


Until this point, theory, reasons and relevance have been presented. From this moment on, a series of descriptions of drama games which the author has successfully used in the language arts classroom are exposed and a summary of their aims and possible applications (my own theories) is as follows:


  • One-line improvisations:
    • Aim: coordinate body and voice creatively
    • Possible application: vocabulary practice – sports, professions, food, among others.
      • The teacher can narrow down the possible ‘transformations’ of the given object to the pieces of vocabulary learned during class.
    • Identify the object:
      • Aim: enhance concentration and develop “the use of sensory detail in descriptive language”[4]
      • Possible application: grammar/vocabulary practice – modals and verbs to express uncertainty.
        • The teacher can use this game as a less-controlled or freer practice of the language to express uncertainty.
      • Minefield:
        • Aim: developing trust amongst students
        • Possible application: grammar/vocabulary practice – directions and locations.
          • This can easily be incorporated to a class in which the main goal is to enable students to give and ask for directions and locations.
        • Role-playing book characters and Improvising a scene from literature:
          • Aim: promote understanding of traits and developing a character
          • Possible application: post-reading activity.
            • Schools that include readers in their syllabus can surely benefit from this kind of activities. Instead of just demanding students to express themselves in writing, teachers could add these games as wrap up activities or moments to assess them on reading comprehension skills.


Last but not least, the author enlightens the readers on the subject of balance. Surely a class which is enriched by having drama games added to the lesson would be enjoyable and effective as opposed to one that is not. However, it is wise to bear in mind the idiom ‘moderation in all things’.


Seatwork should also be included, especially since paper and pencil are still most valued by school systems. Actually a balance must be the aim, and the effort should be to combine stirring and settling activities alternately.


Overall, the article meets its purpose of introducing the topic of theater games in the language classroom. Nevertheless, had the author indicated more theories or stuck to one with more depth, I suppose the reader could have benefited more.



FENNESSEY, Sharon M., “Using Theater Games to Enhance Language Arts Learning” (2006). Faculty Publications. Paper 68. Page 689.

Spolin, Viola. (1986). Theater games for the classroom. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Lesson Plan: Ice Breaker – Pictorial Presentation

ice breaker

Ice breakers are  a fun way to get to know your students and for them to get to know each other better too.

Also, you can take advantage of the situation to assess the learners’ level of language in a welcoming and relaxed environment.

(I love it when the teacher can assess/evaluate students’ production in a way that students don’t even realize they’re being observed. I think both the classroom environment and the learning process are improved this way.)

So here is a drama game used by many actors to develop characters adapted to the ESL/EFL classroom that I humbly named Pictorial Presentation:

Drama Game: Pictorial Presentation


Type: Ice Breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Exchange of personal information, Introductions

Interaction Pattern: Whole group

Material: A4 paper

Timing: 7-10 min


Show students your Pictorial Presentation (prepare one beforehand so you can spare some time)





Tell them this is you! Your interests, your characteristics, your preferences.

Point out that there are no words in your presentation. The idea of this exercise is to try to guess what other people are like based on images only.

Options to go about the activity:

  1. Ask students to ask you questions based on the images you have on your presentation. This way you can observe question formation.
  2. Ask students to describe you based on the images you have on your presentation, while you show them a thumbs up or down, depending if their guess is true or false. This way you increase STT (student talking time) and you can observe language for making assumptions.
  3. Ask students to present you to yourself, while you show them a thumbs up or down, depending if their guess is true or false. e.g. “This is Michelle. She likes going to the movies and hates Math.” This way, you can observe the use of 3rd person singular conjugation. Also, this approach gives a “role-playiy” (sic) feeling to the activity.

After students perform one of the options above (which was your modelling for the activity), hand out a sheet of paper to each student.

Tell them it is their turn now to make their pictorial presentation paper. Elicit one more time what they have to do to check if everyone knows the instructions. Assign them 3 minutes for it.

Ask students to perform the same option you modelled, but now for each classmate.