A simple Idea
For me, the best classroom activities are usually the most simple, requiring little or no preparation time and few or no materials. They are activities that can be adapted to use effectively with groups of different sizes, levels or ages and they can be used again and again even with the same students.
The Weekend Game
‘The Weekend Game’ falls into all of those categories. It’s an activity I’ve been doing for decades. I didn’t invent it but I think I might have given it its name, just so that I could tell other teachers about it because it’s good!
Preparation time: 0
Suitable for: Most ages, most levels
Playing for the first time
The first time you play, it’s a good idea to demonstrate the activity with a volunteer student and to write a few rules on the board. It’s also a good idea to explain that although you won’t be interrupting the activity to correct their English, but you will be monitoring them and making a note of any errors to be dealt with later*.
How to play
Put students into pairs, A and B and explain that they are going to do a speaking task. Student A has to tell Student B how they spent the previous weekend. It’s a good idea to write an actual time frame on the board such as Friday 18.00 – Sunday 23.00.
Explain that students have a limited time. You can decide how long but 4 or 5 minutes works well. The object of the game is for Student A to start at Friday 18.00 and to get as far as possible through the weekend and as near as possible to Sunday 23.00. The object of the game for Student B is to stop their partner from progressing through the weekend by interrupting to ask questions. A typical dialogue might be something like this:
Student A: I had dinner at nine.
Student B: Who made the dinner?
Student A: Me.
Student B: What did you have?
Student A: Spaghetti. After that I watched TV for an hour.
Student B: Where did you watch TV?
Keep a note of the time or appoint a student to be the ‘Time Keeper’. When the time is up, ask each Student A to tell you how far they got in their weekend. Then students change roles and play again, with Student B talking about their weekend and Student A interrupting to ask questions. The ‘winner’ is the person who manages to get closest to the end of the weekend.
A couple of simple rules
1 Questions have to be asked in full but answers can be shortened.
2 Students have permission to invent their weekends. I usually encourage my students to make things up, especially teenagers who might not want to talk about their personal life.
3 Give students some thinking time before they start speaking!
Adapting the game
1 Shorten the time span being described or change ‘the weekend’ to the previous day for classes which fall later in the week.
2 Do the activity in small groups. One student describes their time and the others take turns to interrupt and ask questions.
3 Give younger students/lower levels ‘prompts’ on the board (What, Who, Why … etc.) to help them think of questions to ask.
1 *Don’t forget to give students feedback when you finish. I usually make a note of glaring errors and then address them with some board work without drawing attention to ‘who’ said ‘what’.
2 These follow-up writing activities work well:
Students write an email to a third person describing their partners’ weekends.
Students write a list of (ten) things their partner did at the weekend.
Students write a list of (five) questions to ask their partner about their weekend.
Don’t let the simplicity of this activity fool you. It provides an excellent opportunity to get students talking in a controlled environment but in a fun way. They also revise the past simple and in particular ‘question forms’.
It’s also worth mentioning that students from all kinds of groups have asked me if we can play ‘The Weekend Game’ in class. That fact alone should be reason enough to give it a go. I hope it works as well for you as it does for me! Good luck.
Katherine Bilsborough is an experienced teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer, curriculum developer and regular contributor of lesson plans and articles to the TeachingEnglish website
This game transforms the beginnings of classes (where students say "nothing special" every time you ask about their weekend and have to coax them to answer fully), into an absolute riot. I tried this with several classes this week and they all loved it. In fact, I just did it with one of my classes and I've never heard a group of middle aged Spanish guys giggle so much. The cockles of my heart are very much warmed!