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Test-try games

Test-try games are fun games that combine learning with an activity. These games work with any set of flashcards.

Also see flashcard games.


What is a test-try game?
Ball toss
Jenga test-try game
Hooks test-try game
Make you own test-try games


What is a test-try game?

These games are called test-try games for a good reason. The name tells us what these games are all about:

TEST: The first part of the game isn't a game at all. As the teacher, you get to choose a set of flashcards that you have already introduced to the students in class. You want to know how much your students have learned, so you "test" the students one by one by showing them a flashcard and seeing if they can say it from memory. After you have tested them with several flashcards, it's time for the next part of the game.

TRY: In this part of the game, the students get to do an activity as a reward for their hard work. A simple example of an activity is ball toss: Students see if they can throw a ball into a basket from a distance. The point is not how well the students do on the activity. In fact, the activity can be made harder or easier depending on the student. The point of the game is to give the students an activity that's not hard, but still a challenge.

TEST: The teacher tests the students with flashcards. "What is this?"
TRY: The students get to do an activity. Ball toss, ring toss, bowling...

A good way to think about test-try games is this: do a little work, and get a reward. By using test-try games and other games, learning English stays fun. Students don't get bored; instead they gain confidence without even thinking about it.

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In this test-try game, set up a basket on one side of the room, or a little distance away from the students. After you've tested the first student with flashcards, let him or her try to throw a ball into the basket. Either the small or big poof balls work well. We've chosen this kind of ball because they are totally safe even if they get thrown somewhere they are not supposed to. If the student gets the ball in the basket, praise them for it. If they don't, that's okay too. Let the next student try to get the ball in the basket, and keep the game going.

If you realize that the activity is too hard and students aren't having fun, make it easier. Don't let the students get discouraged. The idea is to have fun while learning. So if the students aren't having fun (or aren't learning) then it's time for a change.

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This test try game requires a squishy ball, open floor space, and something to knock down. One option is to set up paper cups in a pyramid, or a set of blocks.

As always, test the students with the flashcards, and then have them try to roll the ball and knock down the paper cups or blocks. The idea is to make it challenging, but not difficult. Students should be able to do it easily enough that they feel good about it.

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Jenga Test-Try Game

Materials: Jenga blocks (and flashcards)
Participants: Any number of students, three or more is best

TEACHER: Take Jenga blocks and build them into a tower, with every three blocks laid in alternating directions. Then, as in all test-try games, test the students with a set of flashcards. After the first student answers several flashcards, let the student pull a block out of the Jenga tower and place it on top. Then test the next student, and let him take a turn pulling out a block and placing it on top. This continues until the tower gets so tall and wobbly that it falls over when the student pulls out a block.

As in the official Jenga game, the only rule is that no one is allowed to take blocks from the second to the top row until all three blocks on the top row are in place.

Even though competition makes the game exciting, it is not the main focus. The purpose of the game is to have fun while learning. Be sure to keep this in mind and not let competition spoil anyone's fun.

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Hooks Test-Try Game

Materials: Mini plastic laundry hooks, table (and flashcards)
Participants: Any number of students (three or more is best)

TEACHER: Place plastic hooks so that they are about half on and half off the edge of a table. Give each student a hook that they can use to pick up other hooks with, and have the students line up.

Test the first student with flashcards as usual. After the first student answers several flashcards, let him go to the table and try to use his hook to pick up another hook. Students are only allowed to pick up one hook per turn. THE OBJECT OF THE GAME is to get as long of a string of hooks as possible by the end of the game. Students are only allowed to hold onto to their original hook while they are picking up other hooks. If students aren't careful they can easily loose hooks off of the end of their strings.

Continue testing the next students while the first student is taking his turn. Students can go as fast or as slow as they want while picking up their hook each turn. However, if the first student does not go to the back of the line before the second student does, then the second student can cut in front of the first student.

The game continues until you run out of hooks. The person with the longest string of hooks wins.

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Make your own test-try games

There are hundreds of possible test-try games that you can create. It's as simple as coming up with a new activity, and you have a new game. Some ideas are:

• toss a ball through a hoop
• use a long, skinny balloon to pick up paper cups
• use one poker chip to bounce another poker chip into a bowl or basket
• hit a ball into a goal
• slide a ball on a table, and let it get close to the end without falling off
• toss plastic rings onto a goal

Add your own ideas to this list as you come up with other ways to make learning English more fun.

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