Saving Board Games from “Classroom 101” – a Comment

Is this what Room 101 looks like? Naomi's Photos
Is this what Room 101 looks like?
Naomi’s Photos

Listening to podcasts is what keeps me sane (and happy!) when doing housework, particularly folding laundry or ironing. The fact that there is no visual input to distract me helps me be reasonably efficient as well.

I am delighted to be subscribed to several different podcasts (all free!), so I can choose to listen to whichever one suits my mood. But I only have one podcast exclusively for teachers who teach English as a foreign language – the TEFL COMMUTE! All those behind the scenes are experienced teachers, teacher-trainers and ELT writers, with a sense of humor!

In their latest episode they played a game of consigning annoying teaching practices , aggravating ELT terms and more, to “classroom 101″ (a spin-off of the television show Room 101”), then locking the door and throwing away the key. No gripes about things like salary or administrators allowed. Things such as teaching “inversions”, “reported speech”, playing certain ice-breakers or using too many acronyms when training teachers to use technology (BYOD is one I recall).

Thought provoking and good fun.

But I’m here to break into the locked “Classroom 101” and rescue BOARD GAMES!

illegal entry... (naomi's photos)
illegal entry…
(Naomi’s photos)

In the podcast they were unhappy with photocopying the board games and the pages of cards from the course book, cutting and pasting all that is needed, hoping for access to a laminating machine that probably wouldn’t work… In addition, they spoke about time wasted setting up the games and getting the students to understand the rules. In short, board games were described as more trouble than they were worth.

I disagree!

All you have to do is follow these simple guidelines:

  • Use just about any commercial board game you can get your hands on.  Talk to all your friends and relatives – unwanted games go to YOU! Games that require moving a marker from one point to another along some sort of track are the easiest to use. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a “road race” or a “space race” or “snakes or ladders”. They all have the player moving forward and backwards along the route (or missing a turn). Students are familiar with the rules to such games. Commercial games are attractive and are designed for multiple use and it’s great that different groups get a different board each time. Games like “Contact 4 (Tic Tac Toe with 4 discs in a row) will work too. Worth owning a few of these games. Adults like them as much as the kids.
  • All games are played with the exact same rule. Always. Very little time spent on explaining.  Whatever it is you want to practice by playing  the game is “the target”. Each player must answer the target question before throwing the dice and playing his/her turn according to the general rules of the game. Perhaps they must use a word in a sentence or complete a collocation. If they got it right, they get two turns. If not, they must correct it and play once.
  • Assuming you are teaching students who hear well (which I don’t..) you don’t have to make cards. In each group have one student be “the teacher” . The “teacher” presents the “target” and determines if the answer was correct by holding a question and answer sheet. Really smart to give your weakest students this role! They feel so good!

Simple! So don’t send board games off to “Classroom 101”!

11 thoughts on “Saving Board Games from “Classroom 101” – a Comment”

  1. Agreed – I like board games in class too! The best thing is when you get your students to create their own boardgames (and come up with the rules) and then play them!

  2. Wonderful advice. I get my kids to write their own bingo boards in order to minimize teacher preparation. If my target is using target words in sentences, I get my pupils to write their own sentences and then put them in a bag. When reading them out, I often need to modify them in order to make them correct sentences but that doesn’t matter. I read out the student’s name before reading out the sentence. The pupils don’t even notice that the sentence has been slightly modified and they feel very good about themselves as well as having practiced writing.

  3. Marlene!
    It’s great how many good things you get out of playing board games!
    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Firstly, Naomi, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. We put a lot of work into it and I’m proud of the show, so it’s very rewarding to get this kind of response 🙂

    As I’m the person who wanted to put board games into classroom 101, I feel I should clarify my position a bit! In theory, I really like the idea of using them, I’ve done it and I’m sure I will again in the future. But as I tried to get across in the episode, so they can be so labour intensive, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort most of the time. Which is a shame, I think as I actually think they have a lot of potential for learning, especially for review.

    But I take your point and I like your idea of using pre-existing board games with added questions that they have to get right in order to have their go.

    However, I must be honest and say that I did have an ulterior motive. I knew Lindsay is a big board game fan (he’s just released this: so I knew it would get a big reaction from him. The show is supposed to be entertaining after all!

    Thanks again for listening and for responding.

    1. Thanks for giving us behind the scenes information, James!
      You are doing great work with the podcast. It IS entertaining and thought -provoking!
      And its good to know that you haven’t given up on board games after all..

  5. Yay Naomi! Three cheers for board games. I’m Lindsay, another one of the TEFL Commute hosts. I think your suggestions are great, especially repurposing existing boards to use for your own games, and having the questions on a paper for the teacher. Thanks for listening, and nice blog!

    1. Hip Hip Hurrah for board games, Lindsay!
      Glad you enjoy them too and congratulations on the new board game you created!
      Keep up the good work on the podcast I enjoy!

  6. The personal anecdotes you shared about your experiences with students and board games really brought the article to life. It’s heartwarming to see how engaged and excited the students become when learning through play. Your dedication to finding the right games to suit different learning needs and styles is commendable, and it’s inspiring to see how it positively impacts your classroom environment.

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