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Old Game, New Time Twist


Quick reading task: How many times does the word GAME appear here?

Everyone loves a game, don’t they?  

Traditionally, games are used in class to somehow ‘mark’ the end of term or end of a course. As a child, I fondly remember playing all sorts of games – word games, memory games and card games – with my grandparents at Christmastime, ones we only played at that time of the year. Funny how we associate f2f games with particular times, isn’t it?  That said, I think you’ll agree that computer and online games are very much a part of everyday life with anyone from the age of 8 upwards, but it’s the f2f ones that are still ‘special’.

They don’t have to take up a whole lesson…. (read on)

When it comes to learning, I think games can be used anytime. And they don’t have to take up a whole lesson with complicated rules and goals, either. I’ve heard teachers say in class, “Are you ready to play a little game?” and promptly hand out a simple gap-fill activity, leaving students feeling rather peeved.

Games mean excitement

No, games imply winners and losers. And also prizes – which I usually limit to glory.  Games mean excitement, all kinds of emotion, laughter, anticipation, competition, challenge, and are memorable  and more – but are these just the reasons why many teachers shy away from them? Lastly, games need to be carefully thought through. The game described below is based on a very familiar game, so you can elicit the basic rules.

For f2f classes of all ages: Here’s a nearly materials-free game students love to play. It’s is a take on noughts and crosses (or tic tac toe) and can be as simple or as complicated as your students can handle, for levels from elementary to intermediate, offering practice in telling the time using  forms from the present to the future and past.

Here’s what it’s all about: (speaking skills practice)


Aim: the winner is the first person to get a line of three Xs or Os  (just like the real game of noughts and crosses / tic tac toe) but in this game, students have to ‘earn’ their X or O.

Grouping: Put students into THREEs (not pairs). They’ll play three rounds, with two playing against each other while the third is a “questionmaster” and monitor.

Ask them to draw THREE noughts and crosses grids on a sheet of A4 paper (see below).  This in itself causes much excitement!

Then ask them all to write a time in each square (personalised) using  the AM and PM time format. Show an example on the board if necessary.  Even obscure times like 9.42pm are fine if you think they can handle saying ‘nine forty-two’ (and not an inappropriate “eighteen minutes to ten”). 


Rules of the game: Players A, B and C. Person C (the quiz host) assigns X and O to A and B.  There are three rounds, so each one has a turn in being C.

Round 1 (of 3):
Person A plays against person B to gain a line of Xs or Os (just like the real game).
A chooses a square and C asks them “what time is it?”/”what’s the time?” to which A must answer correctly (C and B check this).
Then C asks ONE other question, (depending on level), such as :

(present habitual) Where are you (usually) at …[time]….?    

(past) What were you doing at [time] yesterday/last Monday/etc?   Where were you at [time] yesterday?  etc

(future) Use any future form, e.g.: What will you be doing at [time] tomorrow/on Wednesday/ etc?   – (future plans) What are you doing tomorrow at [time]?    etc

If the class level is higher, you might ask the quiz host (C) to ask TWO questions instead of just one.

Peer-checking: Person C checks the answer is correct. If it is, the player can mark their X or O in the chosen square, if not s/he can’t write anything and play passes to B.

Continue like this, alternating between  A and B until one gets a line of three.


Examples of completed games:







Here are some other interesting unplugged games by David Dodgson.

This entry was posted in games, Lesson ideas, Post

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