The ‘yes/no’ or ‘stand up/sit down’ ESL game is very easy to explain and is good at encouraging students to be quiet and focus. It is excellent for listening practice. You can either use flash cards, or read a passage (for more advanced students) which every student has a copy of.
- Divide the class into 2 teams. A good way to do this is to use a stack of playing cards. You need the same number of cards as there are students, and the cards must be 50% black (spades or clubs) and 50% red (hearts or diamonds). The students take turns, turning over one card each. Write the names of the students underneath the team names (this will be useful later). Note: an odd number of students isn’t a problem – one team just ends up with an extra player!
- Introduce/review the flash cards or passage you will be using to make sure the students are familiar with the English you will be practicing.
- On the white/blackboard write down 100 next to each team name (the kids tend to like big numbers so this should get their attention!). It also avoids the potential need to use negative numbers later on in the game.
- Explain to the students that if you say the correct English they are to remain seated, and if you make a mistake they are to stand up as fast as possible. Note: from this point, if they are any unruly students hindering your explanation deduct 1 point for each time they interrupt or ignore you. Their team mates should begin dealing with discipline for you.
- The quickest student to identify a mistake correctly by standing up is rewarded either with 1 point for their team (more if you wish – but be consistent!), or an attempt at a fun challenge. I use little balls with suction pads on, which the students throw at the whiteboard. If you use this method, you should draw a target on the board at the beginning of the game, preferably with various rewards. I have a very small 10 point target, next to a slightly larger 5 point target, next to a fairly big 3 point target. Any throw that misses the target results in 2 points being deducted from the team’s score. Note: if one student is likely to dominate don’t just let that student throw all the time. I let all team members have a turn by drawing a little mark next to their names after they take a turn, this makes it easy to keep track of who is due a turn.
- If students from both teams stand up at the same time, both teams get to throw the ball at the target (or an attempt at whatever fun game you decide on).
- Students should always sit back down after a mistake has been identified. There are no points for being the first student to sit down for a correct word: this stops the game getting messy by having some kids sat whilst others are standing.
It is good to add humor to the game by saying a funny word instead of the correct word. Amused kids pay attention more than bored ones. You can also repeat the correct word a couple of times, increasing the volume, to indicate that you are expecting them to notice your imaginary mistake. The more you do this the less it will catch them out. They may be a little confused at first, but they do twig on quickly and usually find it funny.
Also is also good to use a reward system. My school gives out 2 red cards (which can be collected and exchanged for toys) to each student at the end of class (if they behave). I give the winning team 3 each and the losers 1 each (announce this before the teams are picked to avoid trouble).
Finally, it is often a good idea to pick the teams at the start of every class and immediately give each team 100 points. These points can be used throughout the class for discipline and various games.