Functions card games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 40)

As usual with this series of posts on the most adaptable activities in TEFL, this game is simplicity itself but surprisingly effective. If you like anything here and want more, please support TEFLtastic.

Updated 17 February 2020


Groups of two or three students deal out cards with each have the name of a function related to the thing they are studying. For example, if the topic is turn taking, then the cards could say “interrupt (politely)”, “end your turn”, “ask the other person to speak”, “active listening (not interrupting)”, etc. During a speaking activity such as a roleplay, students can discard the cards if they do that thing at the right point, with the right language, and with something different to what has been said before. Their partner can make them take the card back if their timing is wrong (e.g. interrupting when the other person has already stopped speaking), say something that doesn’t have the function on the card, or repeat something that has already been said (e.g. using “Can I interrupt?” for the second time, although small changes like “May I interrupt?” are fine). If they both/ all still have cards left at the end of the conversation, they continue with the remaining ones with another conversation. The person who discards all their cards first or has discarded most cards when the teacher stops the game wins.



A variation with less cutting up is to just give them a photocopied un-cut-up worksheet and ask them to use different coloured pens to tick the functions off as they do them, something that works with all the photocopiable versions below. It’s always more fun with actual cards though. And it’s just occurred to me that for even more fun and intensive practice you could get them to give the cards to their partner as they do the things on the cards instead of just discarding them, something that should also make them less shy about challenging their partner’s bad use of the cards.


When and how to use it

This game works best after students brainstorm language for each function, something I usually do Use Recall Analyse style after a different activity. If you have enough time, the best progression of all is to give them key words to help with the brainstorming, do Key Words Games with those words, and then do basically the same thing with just the names of the categories that they brainstormed (i.e. with the functions card game).

This game can be used with anything that can be split into between two and eight functions, with five or six usually the best number. Possibilities include:

Turn taking and/ or active listening

Telephoning (as described in this article)

Checking/ Clarifying (“ask for repetition”, “check spelling”, “check back”, “rephrase”, etc)

Emailing (if they roleplay email exchanges by saying what they would write)

Speaking exams (with cards saying “idiom”, “reason”, “thinking aloud/ filling silence”, etc)

Giving and supporting opinions (“strong opinion”, “personal experience”, “data”, “generalising”, etc)

Restaurant language (“recommend”, “explain”, “polite negative response”, etc)

Shopping language (as described in this article)

Presentation Q&A sessions (coming in a future e-book)

Meetings and negotiations (ditto)

Reviews of all the functions you’ve studied so far


Photocopiable versions

IELTS Speaking Part Three functions card game – NEW

Turn taking functions card game

FCE Speaking Part One functions card game

FCE Speaking Part Three functions card game

Checking/ clarifying functions card game

Sharing personal experiences functions card game

Intermediate functional language revision functions card game

Meeting people/ Starting and ending conversations functions card game – in this e-book

Recommendations and invitations functions card game – in this e-book

Small talk functions card game – in this e-book

Socialising functions card games – in this e-book

First contact functions card game – COMING SOON

Ending conversations functions card game – COMING SOONISH


Other photocopiable worksheets including this game

Speaker or listener simplest responses game (with turn taking and active listening functions)

Guests and hosts in restaurants review (including functions card game)

Supporting your arguments card games – COMING SOONISH

Functional language in Aptis Speaking Part One games


If that ain’t enough for you, it’s worth checking out my newly polished up collection of TEFLtastic Classic blog posts and photocopiables, all of which are here.

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Difficult to find TEFLtastic pages

When linking to the new indirect questions page in my last post, I suddenly realised how difficult it would be to find if I hadn’t mentioned it, what with being a sub-page of question formation, which for some reason I put in the grammar section. And here are many other TEFLtastic pages that I put in less than obvious places, along with where they are:

Likes and dislikes (for some reason in the functional language section)

Adjectives (in grammar, even though some are just using basic adjectives like “small” and so are more like vocab)

Adverbs (ditto)

Short answers (a sub-page of auxiliary verbs, for understandable but less than obvious reasons)

Purpose, cause and effect (in functional language, and not a sub-page of supporting your arguments, as you might expect)

Sharing personal experiences (ditto)

Meeting and greeting (in the functional language section, not social English where it probably should have been put)

Complaints and dealing with complaints (in the business functional language section)

Enquiries and dealing with enquiries (ditto)

Body language and gestures (in the cultural training section)

Festivals and celebrations (ditto)

Supernatural and superstitions (ditto)

Taboo topics (ditto)

Formal and informal page (it’s own page, not in functions as you might expect)

Directions page (in functions)

Storytelling page (in speaking, though there is a writing stories page in the writing section)

Days of the week (in time expressions)

History (in topics, a weird page which I created for stuff which isn’t quite vocabulary, but might scrap)

Social issues page (ditto)

Classroom language (in vocabulary, even though it’s half functional language)

Proverbs (in vocabulary, but not in idioms where maybe it should be)

Phonics (in young learners)

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New indirect questions PDFs and teaching tips

Recently added a new page with a new article and photocopiables on embedded questions like “Could I ask if…?”, “Do you happen to know…?” and “I was wondering…, including some stuff on the differences in meaning and use between different indirect questions stems, something I hadn’t noticed myself until I was halfway through writing the article:

Indirect questions games/ worksheets page


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The most TEFLtastic photocopiables of 2019

To go with my list of the best articles in 2019, here is a careful selection of last year’s prime crop of PDFs, in approximate order of how likely I am to use them again soon. If you really like this (or get so far down that you get past the good stuff), a similar list for 2018 is here.

Giving directions free and controlled speaking

Business communication prepositions and determiners pairwork speaking game

Business communication pairwork correction game

Social issues discuss and agree determiners practice

Direct, indirect and taboo Xmas questions

Countable and uncountable nouns in IELTS speaking and writing

Phrasal verbs storytelling game

Personality words bluffing game

Positive and negative business vocabulary storytelling game

Word formation list dictation game

Xmas vocabulary speculating games

Opinions on current affairs and media

Describing music things in common game

Good and bad body language roleplay game

Recommendations with movie vocabulary

Xmas going to games

Make your own conditionals discussion questions

Job applications line by line brainstorming

Present continuous small talk

Present Continuous plasticine shapes

Reporting verbs sentence completion games

Adverbs in CAE and CPE Use of English Part One

Adverbs in CPE Use of English Part Three game

First letter phonics miming game

Meeting people and indirect clarifying questions

Describing your company and job longer speaking games

Clothes and appearance recommendations

Reported speech discussion questions

Positive and negative language for reviews

Singular, plural and uncountable in IELTS Listening

Jobs drawing game

Phrasal verbs dice game

Likes and dislikes and countable/ uncountable practice

Present and past ability sentence completion games

Like and don’t like things in common sentence completion

Feelings drawing games

CPE Reported Speech key word sentence transformations

Gradable and extreme adjectives speaking card games

Please plus verb for offers and commands in emails

Present Continuous and like with -ing Xmas questions

Generalising about Xmas and the New Year

Abilities of animals can/ can’t games

Prefixes with opposite meanings jigsaw games

Quoting sources good and bad connotations

Small talk on the news

Travel English imperatives and requests practice

Likes and dislikes guessing game

The future in IELTS writing

Needs analysis and brainstorming

Needs analysis and Aptis Speaking Part One practice

Expanding Aptis Speaking Part One answers activities

Future forms in IELTS Speaking and Writing

Gradable and extreme adjectives practice discussion questions

Should have for past regrets and advice speaking

Possessives, body and adjectives pick and draw

Present Simple questions with be speaking

House and home likes and recommendations

Countable and uncountable pick & draw

Past, present and future in IELTS Writing Part One

Adverbs of frequency and times dice bluff

Travel plans bluffing game

Aptis Speaking Part One functional language games

Comparing places comparatives random pelmanism card game

Weather adverbs of frequency practice

Feelings and nouns pick and draw game

CPE Speaking Part Three on the future

CPE Speaking Part One on the future

Requests and future forms review

Describing people and things bluff

Like and be like Xmas questions

It is They are and adjectives Xmas pick and draw

Xmas vocabulary categories

Recommendations and embedded questions

News and media countable and uncountable

Experiences in your job extended speaking

Negotiating insurance roleplays

Insurance trends speaking

Communication trends and practice

Aptis Speaking Part Three longer phrases

Positive and negative education vocabulary

An Escape from Poverty TED talk numbers practice worksheet

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The most TEFLtastic articles of 2019

Happy New Year!

Last year was a super-motivating year for one, due to a rebound in blog stats and a huge jump in sales of my e-books, so many thanks to my generous (and hopefully happy) readers/ customers! That meant I was driven to polish up every TEFLtastic index page and add loads of new useful links, and I hope it is also obvious in my articles and worksheets. You can judge for yourselves, as here are all last year’s articles, in approximate order of how original, interesting and/ or useful I felt I managed to make them:

52 TPR grammar games

32 bad IELTS tips

Using body language and gestures to teach grammar

How to teach small talk

The 100 best small talk questions

The top six grammar points for IELTS

Teaching pronunciation through body language and gestures

How to teach international body language and gestures

How to teach advice, recommendations and suggestions

How to teach making and responding to invitations

How to teach restaurant language

How to teach positive and negative connotations

How to teach British and American English

How to teach small talk questions with how

The 100 most useful social English phrases

The 100 most useful socialising phrases

How to use body language and gestures in EFL classes

A guide to rude, offensive, insulting and taboo gestures for EFL learners

How to teach British and American vocabulary

CPE Use of English Part Three tips

CPE Use of English Part One tips

Aptis Speaking Part One preparation tips

Aptis Speaking Part Two preparation tips

How to teach British and American times, dates and numbers

If you’ve got all the way down here, you might also be wanting to look at the similar list of the best articles of 2018 and/ or 2019’s blog posts on classic TEFL activities. A similar list of the best worksheets of the year coming soon(ish).

May we all have a TEFLtastic 2020 too!

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New how questions PDFs and teaching tips

If your students, like mine, are likely to reply to “How was your Xmas/ New Year/ winter break/ vacation/ trip?” with “(Yes), I went to….”, then you’ll be wanting to look at this brand new page with an article and classroom materials to help change that into a learning opportunity:

How questions games, worksheets and teaching tips

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57 Xmas and New Year links for TEFL teachers

Just put up a new worksheet with games linking Xmas to going to for future plans and predictions, adding to a surprising number of seasonal grammar activities. Also Xmas vocab, songs, videos, roleplays, discussions, and practice of business skills like negotiating (a particular favourite that I’ll be using again this year), saying numbers, meetings and telephoning. All here:

Xmas and New year games, worksheets, flashcards, videos and songs for EFL classes

Posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training | 2 Comments

New positive and negative connotations PDFs and teaching tips

Not much more to say about this, it’s all in the title and in the article and worksheets, here:

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Meeting criteria games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 39)

Another instalment in my series on posts on the most useful and adaptable TEFL activities, for once for an activity that I (probably) invented. If you like anything here and want more, please support TEFLtastic.

This is one of the board games I wrote about here, but is worth another mention as it is one of best ways of making students listen to each other and pay attention to their own production, and I’ve come up with a card game version that works really well too.

In the original Meeting Criteria Board Game, a student does a speaking task written on the square that they are on, e.g. “Start chatting to someone in the lift”. Their partners decide how many of the criteria in the middle of the board game they meet with their speaking, and therefore how many squares they can move on. For example, if the other students decide that they started smoothly and showed interest (but didn’t end smoothly, etc), they get two points and can move on two squares. Examples:

Meeting people criteria board game

Dealing with foreign guests meeting criteria board game

Different kinds of business communication meeting criteria board game

Negotiating language meeting criteria board game

Small talk meeting criteria board game in this e-book

Social English meeting criteria board game in this e-book

It also works well for (chairing/ taking part in) meetings, travel English, phone calls, emailing, etc, all due in future e-books.

I like this game so much that I often want to use it more than once with a class, so I’ve also come up with a card game version. Create a pack of cards with roleplays/ challenges on each one, possibly just by cutting up or reformatting a Meeting Criteria Board Game above. Also make a different worksheet with the criteria on (“Right level of formality”, etc). Deal out the same number of cards to each student, e.g. five cards each. The first student chooses one of the situations on their cards, e.g. “Email back a customer who complained”, and roleplays it with someone else in the group (just saying what they will write if it is email communication). Their partners give them a number of points by how many criteria they met, then they can take that many cards from the pack, to give them more options next time (and to represent points if they will benefit from more competition). Example:

Small talk meeting criteria card game in this e-book

and, as I said, you can easily cut up the board games above into cards.


38 more highly flexible activities with hundreds of PDF versions here.

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New TEFL stuff autumn 2019

Not a lot of new PDFs and tips, as I’ve been concentrating on polishing up the TEFLtastic index pages, but still hopefully at least one useful thing for almost everyone. Newest of each kind top of each section.

New TEFL articles

How to teach making and responding to invitations

How to teach small talk

How to teach small talk questions with how

CPE Use of English Part Three tips


New lists of useful language for EFL learners

The 100 most useful socialising phrases

The 100 most useful social English phrases

The 100 best small talk questions


New TEFL photocopiables

CPE Reported speech key word sentence transformations – NEW

Reported speech discussion questions – NEW

Quoting sources good and bad connotations

Phrasal verbs dice game

Feelings drawing games

Good and bad body language roleplay game

Aptis Speaking Part Three longer phrases

Positive and negative business vocabulary storytelling game

Opinions on current affairs and media

Describing music things in common game


These also all on the relevant index pages (on invitations, small talk, socialising, social English, Aptis, feelings vocabulary, CPE, reported speech, body language, phrasal verbs, and positive and negative connotations) and in the relevant TEFLtastic classics blog posts (on dice games, longer phrases, drawing games, and things in common).

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