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Competitive fun

Vocabulary learning can be a drag for most children, but not if you make it a contest! Spiders and Candy is a great game that you can always bring out, and that they will never tire of. It works best with a group of 4-6, but it's easily suited to a smaller group of 2-3. When I was teaching in Korea, this was a great game to play because even the shyest students would get competitive. It was also a great way to use play as education; kids thought they were getting a free day from the books, and they built their knowledge of verbs and basic English words.

Begin by printing and cutting out small pictures of candy and spiders. MES English was my go-to resource site for all ESL games and they have a printable set here: http://www.mes-english.com/games/spidersandcandy.php .You also need a deck of index cards with your target vocabulary words printed or written on one side. Place these face up on the table. While your students have their back turned to you, slip either a candy or spider picture under each word. I chose to add more candy under words that were more difficult. Students take turns at choosing a word, saying and/or defining it correctly. Once they have done so, they may pick up the card, and find out whether there is a spider, candy or nothing underneath.

They can play simply for the honor of having the highest score or for an actual prize- that's up to you. But the real reward is knowledge! This is a great game, because it reinforces target language taught by a school teacher or tutor, and it can be played by the entire family or with friends.