The Internet TESL Journal

Language Learning Games: Gotcha & The Spelling Officer

Joan M Diez Cliville
Amposta, Tarragona (Spain)
jdiez123 [at]


You have been a teacher for some time and you can tell Ann from Mary but... do you really know your students? Getting to know your students is as important as getting them to work. Here's your chance to do both things at the same time in a new and challenging way, thus supplementing the 'Introduce Yourself ' session or doing without it altogether! Students draw pictures and write about themselves while you play the shrink for a day or two.

A word of warning before we go on: the activity is roughly connected to some projection tests psychologists give their patients to find out what is going on in the latters' minds at any given time. You do not have to be an expert to do the activity and enjoy it. However, as deep feelings and odd situations are occasionally revealed (once I learned that one of my students was a drug user), you are expected to keep your findings for yourself and/or refer them to a professional. The activity, though, is usually fun, as it gives the students and yourself a break from routine. You'll certainly be surprised to see the great number of first-class artists sitting in front of you.

What To Do:

Recurrent Pictures

As you will have understood, this is not a final character analysis, although the activity will no doubt enhance communication with your students if you play your cards right and, in any case, students do some writing in a new and original way.

The Spelling Officer

'Here today, gone tomorrow!'. That is often said of street vendors, but it is also true of words and grammar: whatever we teach will be forgotten unless we do some revision from time to time. This includes simple things, such as the alphabet or basic vocabulary. Here's a simple activity to revise both.

Start by writing the alphabet from A to Z on the blackboard and ask students to read the letters in order a couple of times. Then do the following:

Choose a student to act as the "Spelling Officer". This student will read out the letters according to the list below. These are not in order but, conveniently arranged, they form a word. Check that the students have got the letters right, give them the accompanying clues and ask them for the words. When that has been done, ask the class to spell the words correctly. Afterwards, practise with new categories and new words if you wish These can be objects in the classroom, vehicles, drinks, adjectives, toys, insects, adverbs, vegetables, and pieces of furniture. Happy spelling!

P - L - I - U - T                   A flower               (TULIP)
M - I - J                           A person's name        (JIM)
B - L - A - T - O - L - O - F       A sport                (FOOTBALL)
D - I - N - I - A                   A country              (INDIA)
N - D - L - O - N - O               A big city             (LONDON)
L - U - E - B                       A colour               (BLUE)
A - G - R - I - O - L - L           An animal              (GORILLA)
E - T - C - R - A - T - I  - H - C  A job                  (ARCHITECT)
O - Z - O                           A place                (ZOO)
N - O - E - P - L - H - Y - X - O   A musical instrument   (XYLOPHONE)
H - A - D - E                       A part of the body     (HEAD)
N - E - U - E - Q                   An important person	   (QUEEN)

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V, No. 4, April 1999