Rolling Dice: Speaking Games for TEFL teachers

All you need for these fun speaking games are some dice. I recommend you buy a few sets and carry them around with you all the time.

This blog won a British Council award in September 2013. 

Dice are a great resource for TEFL teachers because they are portable and suitable for adults and kids

Speaking games for TEFL students

What I love about dice is that the options are endless, only limited by your imagination and creative ability. Let’s look at a few ways to use them.

Tense reviews

  • Choose which tenses you want to practise (Advanced learners can practise all 12, Elementary learners could practise 2 or 3).

  • Assign a number to each tense, for example, 6 is Present Perfect simple. Students roll the dice and have to create a sentence using the tense that corresponds with the number.

  • Experiment with different variations such as positive, negative, questions, active, passive, correct & incorrect, subject & object pronouns etc.

Question formation

  • Choose a question word for each number on the first dice: 1 = Who, 2 = Why, 3 = Where, 4 = When, 5 = What, 6 = How.

  • Choose a topic for each number on the second dice: 1 = Food, 2 = Sport, 3 = Hobbies, 4 =Jobs, 5 = Clothes, 6 = Travel.

  • If a student rolls a 3 and a 1, they have to create a question such as: Where did you eat dinner last night? You could use a third dice roll to determine who answers the question.

  • You can adapt this with other words used in questions, such as modals (could, should, must etc.)

Great for Business students who can practise interview scenarios and students preparing for speaking exams.

Conditionals

  • The first dice represents the ‘If’ clause and the second shows the result.

  • Let students choose verbs for each number on both dice. Choose a topic like Crime to practise verbs:1 = burgle, 2 = steal, 3 = murder, 4 = mug, 5 = deceive, 6 = lie. The second dice (the results), could be possible punishments such as 1 = 10 years in prison, 2 = community service, 3 = stand in the corner etc.

  • Students can play judge and jury, a roll of 1 and 6 could produce sentences such as: If you burgled my house, I would force you to stand in the corner of the room for 10 minutes.

OK, it sounds ridiculous but the students will have a lot of fun and activate lots of vocabulary. Can also be used for creating superstitions, threats, promises, regrets etc.

Story building

  • Create stories using the dice. Get students to create 12 characters, 12 locations, 12 verbs.

  • Each roll of the dice continues the story. Before long, they’ll be generating dozens of ideas and plot lines.

Practising phonemes

  • Choose some phonemes you want your students to practise and assign them a number from 1 to 12 (vowels), 1 – 24 (consonants).

  • They get points for finding words which have these sounds.

Functional language

  • The first dice shows the context such as relationships, work, travel, health.

  • The second dice can be used to practise functions (regret, giving opinions, apologising) and their exponents (I wish I hadn’t, In my opinion, I’m awfully sorry).

Before you know it, students will be creating fantastic mini-dialogues, peer-teaching, discussing meaning etc.

General vocabulary game

  • Match a letter to a number. For instance, p is 4. A student rolls the first dice to identify the letter.

  • The second dice dictates how many words they have to say with this letter.

This requires no preparation and great for recycling / activating vocabulary. Also, the categories game works with dice and students can play it in groups.

Phrasal verbs

  • The first dice indicates the verb (put, give, take, stand, look, get)

  • The second dice is used for the preposition / particle  (up, away, in, out, under, over).

  • Students win points for creating real phrasal verbs and using them in sentences (2 and 1 might result in a sentence such as:

    He gave up smoking after he visited the doctor.

Tip: Make the games competitive by having different scoring systems. Two I like are:

  • The Dice Bomb: If students complete task or use language correctly, they roll the dice to determine how many points they’ll receive. Get the other team to choose a bomb number, e.g. 3. If the first team roll 4, they’ll get 4 points; if they roll the bomb number (3), they lose all their points.

  • Dice Gambling: Teams or students can choose to get 3 points for correct answers. However, they can gamble and roll the dice again and this new number will give them their points.

  • Finally, use dice to nominate students to answer questions or do certain tasks. This random element keeps them engaged and on their toes.

Let me know if you have any other dice games to use with your English students.

68 Comments

  1. I found huge soft dice that I use for this, it means that there is a lot of moving around because they have a tendency to bounce off the table etc, but that is good, gets us active. Mine are yellow and red. Kids love my dice games and I even make them make their own to practice their own vocabulary voids

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  2. Great article, very useful. Thanks for the tips. We can also use the dice when students playing shopping game. They throw the dice to know the price of an item they are buying.

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  3. These are wonderful. Another great game is “maniacal months madness”…particularly great for kids. They form groups and one student rolls the dice in each group. Then they must say the month that corresponds with the number rolled (3 = March, 4 = April, etc.) Whoever is first in the group with the correct month, gets a point and rolls next. They’ll play all day, if you let them, so I usually have them play until someone gets, say 20 points. It can also be played using a single die for the days of the week.

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  4. Great ideas!!!! I loved very single one of them and that does not happen often. I will use them in my classrooms, txal!

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  5. Great idea. I will definitely be getting myself some dice. Probably will get some big fluffy ones that all the students can see and no-one will get hurt

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  6. Great to meet another ‘dicey’ teacher! I use dice a lot with primary kids for simple language practice. An example is that each number represents a room in the house or a place such as a shop, a garden etc. They roll the dice and answer the question on the board, which could be ‘what can you see in the Xroom?’. To make it more difficult and to learn about the senses the second dice could be introduced to represent the 5 senses (what can you smell etc) and the number six is what can you do here? The students have a game board of 9 places/rooms and if their answer is correct they may place a counter in that room. The first to get 3 counters in a row (noughts and crosses) wins the game. The groups decides whether or not the answer is correct.

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    1. Hi Helena, I love how you use a board with dice – it’s so versatile. I’m going to ‘steal’ your idea (hope you don’t mind) but use phrasal verbs rather than rooms in a house. They roll a dice and have to create a sentence using the phrasal verb on the board. Thanks for a great activity.

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  7. Il really like the idea of dice. I think I’ll use them with 2 or 3 different colours for each group using dice (one colour for one topic, another colour for another purpose… so as to clearly get the mission. Thanks a lot

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    1. Good idea Nathalie. You could even give each group a dice and ask them to create questions or tasks for the other groups. That would make it a very student-centred activity.

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  8. Thanks. Great šŸ™‚

    I have used dices on the iPad, a simple app, where you can design your own sides and then shake the iPad when using.
    I’ve used it for deciding which activity a pupil should do (today).
    The pupils like to shake it themselves.

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    1. Yes, I think it’s really important that learners have some level of control over what they do in class. The dice app sounds great.

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  9. Hi, great ideas! I’ve also used a dice with snakes and ladders in a young learners setting. Normal rules applied until reaching a ladder when the ss had to spell out a word using the phonetic code that we had been studying. Obviously, the counting had to be done in English too so we also revised numbers. Great fun was had by all and the best part is that as it’s such a ludic activity, they don’t realise they are studying!!

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    1. Thanks Clare. I love the snakes and ladders idea! Getting students into the ‘flow’ zone where they don’t realise they are studying is vital for young learners and adults too.

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  10. Really it is an exellent way to teach language. I have a mastery degree in English , i work as an English trainer in the private sector I need these ways to be more successful in my work. I always seek for new ideas like that to be innovative and to motivate my learners and to make training easier for them. Thank you for the clear explanation for the dice game.

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  11. Thanks Dylan, always a mind of information and ideas. As any TEFL teacher will tell you, there will come a day when the tech fails you so it’s great to have such simple and flexible games to hand – you will look like a pro and your students will really enjoy a traditional game.

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