Playing games can contribute to the integration and motivation of students with all sorts of intellectual profiles due to the fact that they often incorporate logical reasoning, communication, kinaesthetics, visual simulation, spatial relations and hands-on experiences. Furthermore, children love rules and this is what games offer: enjoyable purposeful, goal-oriented activities.
The purpose of this article is to familiarise EFL teachers and students with multiple intelligences games which, in my opinion, can be a powerful learning tool, allowing for creativity, interdependence and personality development.
Moreover, they improve participation, self-esteem and vocabulary usage, bringing real world context into the classroom. This category of games is highly interactive and, as a result, they can remove stereotypes and barriers. My students love multiple intelligences games because they are friendly-competitive and, therefore, non-stressful; everybody is a winner in one way or another, including students with poor linguistic background or shy ones.
Each of the following games is appropriate for developing students’ interpersonal intelligence, but also addresses at least two other different intelligences at a time. By acknowledging the students’ strengths each game involves, teachers can understand why some students are naturally drawn to the game, while others lack interest. Moreover, teachers should always take the chance to join in, for their students’ great satisfaction.
I Spy With My Little Eye (spatial / linguistic / bodily-kinaesthetic / logical-mathematical / interpersonal)
The teacher designates a player which will be the spy. The spy selects an object that everyone can see, but does not reveal the object. He can announce the colour of the object by saying: “I spy with my little eye something red”. The other players take turns guessing the object. The first person who guesses correctly becomes the new spy. The teacher can change the characteristics of the clues. For the logical-mathematical students, she can ask the spy to use geometrical shapes instead of colours.
Chain Spelling or Biting Your Tail (spatial / linguistic / bodily-kinaesthetic / naturalist / interpersonal)
A student spells a word on the blackboard. A second student should say and spell a word beginning with the last letter of the given word. If someone does not know a proper word, misspells the word or comes up with a word that has already been said, he is out. The last student remaining in the game is the winner. The game can be made more difficult by limiting the words to a certain category, e.g., food, tools, school subjects or nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.
Ball Toss Games (bodily-kinaesthetic / linguistic / naturalist / interpersonal)
This is a fun activity for kids to practise vocabulary at any level. Students stand in the circle and toss the ball to each other to say a word. The teacher can select a category (e.g., colours, animals, fruits, countries, clothes, buildings). If the student holding the ball cannot say a word, he/she must say: “I’m sorry. I don’t know” and he/she passes the ball to the next student. The game can be adapted to intermediate students, by turning it into a question-answer toss game. Instead of saying a single word, the student who passes the ball asks a question. The teacher can allow students to use any tense or she can decide upon a certain tense (Appendix J, Fig. 30).
Spin the Pen (bodily-kinaesthetic / linguistic / interpersonal)
The students are sitting in circles. The teacher puts a pencil in the centre; then he/she chooses one student to ask a question. It can be a get-to-know-you question or any question students can think of. To make the game more difficult, a tense or a grammar construction can be required. After one student asks a question, he/she spins the pencil. Whoever the pencil is pointing at when it stops must answer the question. After answering, the student asks a new question and spins the pencil.
Erase! (bodily-kinaesthetic / interpersonal / linguistic / logical-mathematical)
The teacher divides the class in two teams and then she writes a dozen words in big letters on the board. Students are lined up at the back of the class so that there is an open space between the students and the board. Then the teacher gives the first student in each team an eraser. When she yells out one of the vocabulary words, two students race to the board to erase the word. The first student wins a point. The logical-mathematical student from each team keeps the score.
Charades (bodily-kinaesthetic / linguistic / interpersonal)
This amusing vocabulary game can be played by students of all ages and levels. Before playing it, the teacher has to prepare a list of vocabulary items; then she takes two chairs and place them facing away from the board. The class is divided into two teams. One student from each team comes to the front of the class and sits facing their team with their back to the board. The teacher writes one word from the list on the board. The students in the teams are asked to use actions to describe the word. They are not allowed to speak or spell the word in the air. The students in the seats try to guess the word. The first student to say the word gains a point for the team and gets to change places another member of the team. The other team has to keep the same player in the seat until he or she answers correctly first. The team with the highest number of points is the winner.
Vocabulary Hopscotch (bodily-kinaesthetic / spatial / verbal/ mathematical)
This is a dynamic outside game highly enjoyed by my elementary students. After drawing a hopscotch board, the teacher writes one English word in each of the squares or on the board. While hopping on one foot from square to square, students have to read, spell or translate the vocabulary word. The game can be played in teams and have two hopscotch boards drawn. The teacher can race the teams at a time to see who can say all their vocabulary words the fastest as they hop through the board without falling over.
Who Am I? (linguistic / intrapersonal / interpersonal)
Students are given a piece of paper and writing utensils and are asked to write three things about themselves. They fold the papers in half and hand them in. The teacher redistributes the papers. Each student reads the statements and guesses who wrote them. In a more difficult variant of the game, each student writes sentences about him/herself that use various adverbs like always / frequently / often / sometimes / occasionally / rarely / usually / never. The game turns into an enjoyable way of practising adverbs.
The Objects Game or The Professions Game (linguistic / spatial / intrapersonal / interpersonal )
Students are organized in ‘complementary profile’ groups. Each student is asked to choose a profession. It is very interesting to see how students choose professions compatible with their profile of intelligence (e.g., linguistic students want to become journalists or writers, logical-mathematical students want to be engineers or science teachers, while naturalist ones dream of becoming forest rangers or Biology teachers. Each group has a pack of cards – each card depicting an object. The cards are turned over one by one. The students, in turn, have to convince the others of why they might need that object. The student who is most convincing wins the card. The winner is the student with the most cards at the end. The game allows for creative expression and skilful persuasion and can be easily adapted to different intellectual profiles.
The Potato Game (linguistic / interpersonal / naturalist / logical-mathematical)
In groups, students take turns to think of a vegetable and answer ten questions on a list without naming the vegetable (e.g., “Can it be boiled?”, “Does it grow in the ground?”, “Can you eat it raw?”, “What colour is it?”). After each question, one of the others in the group will have a go at guessing what the vegetable is. Whoever gets it right wins 10 points on the first guess, 9 on the second and so on. The logical-mathematical student in the group can keep the score. The game is a very good opportunity for students to practise asking questions and to develop their naturalist intelligence.
The Martian Game (linguistic / interpersonal / bodily-kinaesthetic)
One student in the group pretends to be a Martian who lives in a human body to study human nature. He asks about different objects in the classroom and students in the group answer (e.g., “What is it?” It’s a pen. “What’s a pen?” You use it to write. What is ’write’? etc.). The game should be made as difficult as possible.
Animals for a Day (linguistic / spatial / naturalist / intrapersonal)
The teacher shows the students pictures representing different animals and asks them to choose, individually and without speaking, an animal they would like to be for a day (mammals, amphibians, reptiles etc.); then she asks them to write down a few sentences about their day or their thoughts as the animal they have chosen. Teachers will be surprised by the imagination of their students. The game is highly enjoyed by students with spatial intelligence and by shy students, who love pretending they are someone else.
I hope that this journey into children’s creative and re-creative play will raise EFL teachers’ awareness of the fact that playing games in class should become their second nature. I strongly believe that games have the power to make us feel more comfortable and motivated while working with a wide range of students. To put it differently, it is necessary that playful activities should be placed at the core of EFL teaching.
Gardner, H. (1993a), Frames of Mind – The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (2nd edition), London: Fontana Press
Scrivener, J. (2011), Learning Teaching (The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching) (ed. A. Underhill) (3rd edition), Oxford: Macmillan
Seymour, D., Popova, M. (2003), 700 Classroom Activities, Oxford: Macmillan Education