The other week I wanted an activity that would allow students to have a controlled practice that could be done in small groups, but had a repetitive quality to really practice the target language.
I decided on dominoes.
Dominoes is another activity that is an old favorite in the ESL classroom. This article is just my thoughts on how to run the activity and some advice on how you can create your own custom domino sets.
As an example, I have chosen to use WH question words.
Click on the image to download a PDF copy of this dominoes set.
Playing Word Dominoes
You can play Word Dominoes, in the same way as a traditional game of dominoes, as a blocking game. Players lay down their tiles and try to connect squares with the same word.
Word Dominoes is suitable for 2-4 players, with 3 players being the perfect number.
Place the tiles face down on the table, move them about and mix them up.
Each player collects 7 titles and keeps them in their hand. The remaining titles are left on the table.
- 2 players = 14 tiles used, 14 tiles on the table
- 3 players = 21 tiles used, 7 titles on the table
- 4 players = 28 tiles used, 0 tiles on the table
To start the game, you can take a tile from the pile on the table and the first player can try and connect to that tile or you can start the game without a starting title. The first player has the freedom to lay down any tile.
The students can play rock, paper, scissors to decide who the first player is.
The first player lays down their tile and makes a sentence using the word on the tile or by asking a question to another player in the group. If there are any tiles left on the table, the first player picks up one to replace the tile he has just played.
The second player then looks through their tiles to find a connecting word. When they lay it down on their table, they have to make a sentence using the word on the tile or by asking a question to another player in the group. If there are any tiles left on the table, the first player picks up one to replace the tile he has just played.
The game continues.
When all the tiles on the table have been picked up, the players only have the titles left in their hands.
If a player lays down a double-blank or a double-word tile, they can connect it at the center point of the tile and players are allowed to place tile at either end of the tile. This creates a branch like effect.
If a player cannot lay down a tile, they have to pass and wait until their next turn to try again.
The winner is the first person to use all their tiles.
Adding a time limit can help speed up the game. For example, if a player hasn’t spoken within X number of seconds after laying down their tile, they have to pick their tile back up again. This will help create a little competition, prevent the winner of the game being determined by their position of play and improve on thinking time and fluency.
Creating your own Custom Dominoes
This dominoes set contains 28 tiles, which is large enough for 6 words, pictures or a combination or both.
Click here for more information about how the number or tiles is determined in a domino set.
Each word is repeated 8 times on the handout.
This example shows you the position of each word. Numbers 1-6 represent your target language and 0 represents a blank space.
Click on the image to download a PDF copy of the domino guide.
To create your own custom dominoes, just download and open the Word Dominoes template and add your own words in the correct position.
All that is left to do is to print out your custom tiles and cut them up so you have a set of 28 dominoes.
Now your students are ready to play!
Do you play dominoes in your classes? If you have any tips or suggestions, please leave a comment.
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Thanks for reading and take care!
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Star Interviews is a zero-prep activity and a change from a typical class survey. You just need a pen, some paper and 5 questions.
Word Dominoes was created in Microsoft® Word® 2016