Express Yourself!

by Michael
(Liverpool, England)

Resources: Some plain A3 cards, a selection of coloured card, some form of 'marker' to use for moving around the board, a dice and a stopwatch.

Target: 10-11 years of age.

Time-frame: 1 hour (can be adjusted however you wish).

Summary: A game where children had to describe or spell words and finish phrases in order to move up a board in an exciting race to the finish. A fun learning tool to encourage quick-thinking and aid with vocabulary building.

I worked at a school where we played this game with children around 10 years of age. I don't have a specific name for it necessarily, we generally referred to it as "Express yourself!" - using it in the context of "What time is it?" or "What are we going to do now?" with the answer of "express yourself/ourself!".

It sounds cheesy but it's great fun to get the whole class shouting it back and getting into the spirit of things.

It was very easy to set up, we actually got the children to draw a board themselves (with our help). We used a couple of sheets of A3 card and drew a fun little path through a forest.

Then, the path was drawn into sections enabling us to colour each one differently. We chose...

  • blue for easy vocabulary,

  • red for challenging vocabulary,

  • green for grammar,

  • yellow for spelling.

Of course, remember to use the first block as start and the final one as the finish. These colours corresponded to some cards we (the teachers) had made earlier.

Basically, we had a pile of small coloured cards.

For the vocabulary and spelling cards they just had a single word on each.

On the grammar cards was a short phrase with a blank, for example: "We _____ shopping on Monday."

For markers, we let the children draw their own little faces and drawings on a small piece of card. So that's preparation done.

Playing the game: We split the children into groups of two in order to make teams and had them put one marker per team on the starting block.

They rolled the dice to see how far they would move. Whatever colour they landed on, they selected a card of that colour.

For easy vocabulary: One of the children had to describe the word to their team-mate, without using “sounds like...” to actually encourage them to think about the meaning of the word.

For example, if the word was just “car” the child would have to say things like “you can drive it” rather than “sounds like bar”.

We learnt our lesson quickly! They get two minutes to answer and if they get it right they move a step forward on the board.

For hard vocabulary: Same principle with harder words, but if they got it right they moved two steps forward. However, the catch is they could either decide to play it or pass it to another team.

If the other team got it right they moved one step forward and the original team had to move two steps back.

For the spelling cards, one team-member read the word on the card and the other had to spell it out-loud.

For the grammar card, one team-member read the phrase, “We blank shopping on Monday” and the other had to fill it in with a relevant word. In this case, “We went shopping”, or “We are shopping”.

Again, a correct answer meant moving one step forward on the board. It is also worth mentioning that the team-member reading the card swapped each turn, so both had the chance to answer questions.

We found that the kids were really able to get into it and it really encouraged them to think on their feet. They got so into the game they didn't even realise they were learning all those “boring” words.

It's amazing what a little competition can do!

Of course, you can always make it more interesting by rewarding the winner in some way, giving them a gold star or piece of candy. That's pretty much it!

A simple variation: You can choose to play the game with only dice and without the board if you wish to cut out most set-up.

You would do this by assigning each card colour to a number and rolling a dice, along with giving the children points for each correct answer rather than moving them up the board.

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