Updated 5 April 2017
This is a revival of a long-running series of posts on TEFL activities that are so good and so adaptable that you have to stop yourself from using them too much. For the 25 other instalments, see here.
Like so many of the ideas on this site, this one was borrowed from Mario Rinvolucri and then adapted so many times over the years that I’ve probably managed to convince some young whippersnappers that I made it up myself. It’s a particularly good game for practising sentence transformations from FCE, CAE and CPE, but is also great for any language that students might want to learn two versions of, e.g. phrasal verbs and equivalent non-phrasal verb expressions.
The original game was simply TEFL Othello, with the same board and two-sided pieces in black and white. The TEFL addition is having words, phrases, sentences etc on either side of the card that can be converted to the other side of the card (in both directions), e.g. direct speech like “I said ‘I have too many bananas’” on one side and “I said that I had too many bananas” on the other. Students place their cards on the board like normal Othello pieces, but to be allowed to turn over pieces which are the other colour they need to say (exactly) what is written on the other side.
This is a great game for memorising because the students are motivated to repeat the same transformations again and again, but it takes forever to explain the rules, especially if they don’t know the original game of Othello. Then some groups can be so slow they don’t finish a game by the end of the class. I therefore have simplified it in two different ways.
A variation which is simpler to explain but even more challenging on their memories is for each pair/ group to put the cards on the table in a column, which is meant to represent a ladder. To win the game, a student has to go all the way from the bottom of the ladder to the top, saying what is on the other side of each card without making any mistakes. If they are correct about what is on the other side of a card, the card stays turned over so that the next person has to do the transformation the other way round. If the student whose turn it is makes a mistake on one card, e.g. the fourth one from the bottom, that card stays the same way round, they slip all the way down to the bottom of the ladder, and play passes to the next person. Everyone has to try to go all the way from the bottom of the ladder to the top in one go without mistakes, including when they try again (and again..)
Students tend to get tired well before the end of this game, in which case I allow them two minutes to memorise both sides of the cards and/ or ask them to work together to get all the way up with no mistakes (still slipping to the bottom and trying again if they make any kind of error).
If the ladder game is likely to be too challenging, students can play an easier one where they spread the cards at random across the table and are allowed to choose which one they want to guess the opposite side of each time. Similar to the ladder game, each student continues until they make a mistake, but in this game they have a choice next time if they want to do the same cards again or try different ones. There are two ways of scoring this game. One is for the longest string of correct guesses during the whole game, e.g. one person who managed six cards before making a mistake, winning the game. For bigger scores and so maybe more motivation, you can just give one point for each correct guess of what is on the other side of the cards during the whole game (likely to lead to at least 20 points each).
Any of the three variations on the game can be played with any of these language points (in approximate order of how often I would the use the game with that point):
– A mix of typical language points for exam sentence transformations (e.g. unreal past, reported speech, etc for FCE)
– Passive and active
– Reported speech and direct speech
– Formal and informal (e.g. formal and informal emailing phrases)
– Words and phrases meaning the same thing (e.g. different equally important alternative presentations phrases like “Yes, please go ahead” and “Yes, what’s your question, please?”, to stop them repeating the same phrases all the time)
– Phrasal verbs and non-phrasal verb equivalents (e.g. “look after” and “take care of”)
– Slang and more standard equivalents (e.g. “knackered” and “tired”)
– Other idioms and non-idiomatic equivalents (e.g. “out of the blue” and “unexpectedly”)
– Country and nationality words
– British and American English
– Opposites (e.g. “hot” and “cold”, or “cheaper” and “more expensive”)
– Gradable and extreme adjectives (e.g. “hot” and “boiling”)
– Different parts of speech, e.g. “type” and “typist”
– Countable and uncountable equivalents (e.g. “advice” and “recommendations”)
– Direct and indirect questions (e.g. “What’s your mobile number?” and “Can you tell me what your mobile number is?”)
– Infinitive and Past Simple forms
– Positive and negative sentences (e.g. “I have some time” and “I don’t have any time”)
– Question form and statement form (e.g. “Does he like cheese?” and “He likes cheese”)
– Unreal past and more basic tenses to describe the real situation (e.g. “I wish I hadn’t bumped into him that morning” and “I bumped into him that morning”)
– Male and female forms (“waiter” and “waitress”, “lion” and “lioness”, etc)
The formal and informal phrases and phrases with the same meaning versions can be useful for:
– Emailing language
– Telephoning language
– Meetings language
– Meeting people (and meeting people again) language
– Academic language
More explanation in an article of mine on the topic:
And here are some I made earlier:
British and American engineering vocabulary games (including miming, drawing, jigsaw, reversi, and dominoes, plus collocations practice)
Key word transformation reversi – Version from one exam, so includes more obscure points
Key word transformations for modals of speculation/ deduction (on Sandy Millin’s blog)
More coming soonish.