Pencils Out: 5 Simple Games That Need Nothing More Than a Pencil

Pencils Out: 5 Simple Games That Need Nothing More Than a Pencil

We are all busy, and we work hard to plan our classes just right.

The right amount of instruction. The right amount of discussion. The right amount of homework. But try as we might, there are still those times when things go faster (or slower) than we expected, and we have five or more minutes to fill at the end of class. That’s where these easy games come in. They don’t require any prep, and they don’t require any special equipment. Just a pen or pencil will do. So the next time you have a few minutes to fill in class, try one of these simple games.

5 Simple Games That Need Nothing More Than a Pencil

  1. 1

    Spin the Pen

    If you are familiar with the classic party game “Spin the Bottle” you will have a good idea of how this game works (though there will be no kissing going on in your classroom). Start by sitting your students in a circle and putting a pencil in the center. Then choose one person to ask a question. It can be a get to know you question, a question about something you have learned in class, or any other question your students can think of. (If you want to make this more of a learning activity, specify a tense or grammar construction your students must use in their question.) After the person asks the question, he spins the pencil. Whoever the pencil is pointing at when it stops must answer the question. After answering, she then asks a new question and spins the pencil. Continue asking questions, spinning, and answering questions until you run out of time.

  2. 2

    Draw a Pencil

    If you keep some spare pencils around your classroom or perhaps a set of colored pencils, this is all you will need for this conversation game. Start by collecting the pencils in your hand, making sure all the ends are at the same level and hiding the tips from your students if you can. Hopefully the pencils themselves will be of different lengths. Have each student come up to you and draw a pencil. He should look at his pencil but not show it to the rest of the class. (You can have him hide it in a book so others don’t see.) Then, without looking at the pencils themselves, students talk to each other and line up from the person with the longest pencil to the person with the shortest pencil. They can describe their pencil and guess the measurements, but they cannot let anyone else in class see their pencil. Once the class has lined up, have students take out their pencils and see if they were right in how they lined up.

  3. 3

    Whose Pencil Is It?

    This is another conversation game that puts one person in the hot seat. Have your students each give you a pencil without letting the other students see it. Then, put all the pencils out on a table where the class can see. Choose one person in class and have them come up front by the pencils. The rest of the class takes turns choosing a pencil and asking that person if the pencil is theirs. If the answer is yes, the first person sits down and the second person then stands up front and classmates try to guess which pencil is his. If the answer is no, the person up front must say why that pencil is not hers. She will also be giving the class a clue as to which pencil is hers. She might say her pencil is longer or shorter, a mechanical pencil, or a colored pencil. Keep playing until all the pencils are gone or until you are out of time.

  4. 4

    Did You Feel What I Felt?

    Whenever you can get your students’ bodies involved in learning language, you should. This simple game does just that. It is similar to the game telephone where the person at the front of a line whispers something to the person next to her, and the message continues down the line until the last person says the sentence out loud. In this version, students stand or sit in a line holding a pencil or pen backwards. Show the last person in line a written word, and that person should then use the back of his pencil to write that word on the back of the person in front of him. That person then writes it on the next person’s back and so on. Once the first person in the line has been “written” on, she writes the word on the board and students see how close they got to the original word. That person can then go to the back of the line and start a new round. If students are able to write the correct word all the way to the front of the line, reward them with a no homework pass.

  5. 5

    Simon Has a Pencil

    Simon Says is a great game to play in the ESL classroom. It is an easy and fun way to practice listening and vocabulary. You can play this game with a pencil also, with Simon including the pencil in all of his or her instructions. Simon might say things like put the pencil under your foot or hold the pencil parallel to your arm. This is a great way to work on prepositions of location and body parts, and even beginning level students can play this version of Simon Says.

Pencils are something your students will always have handy. They are also a great item to keep in your classroom – they don’t take up space and you will have one ready if a student needs to borrow one. And now you can use them in these five, simple, no-prep games that will fill a few minutes at the end of any class.

Do you know any great no-prep games that you can play with nothing more than a pencil?

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