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Games To Practise Dates

Fun ways to practise the surprisingly tricky topic of saying years, months and days.

Even fairly advanced students can have problems understanding dates, given peculiarities like the uncertainty of how to pronounce the year 2010 and differences between British and American English. It is therefore worth spending a decent amount of time on this topic early on, and coming back to it once in a while. Below are some games to make that less of a burden.

1. Months Memory Flashcard Game
Lay out 12 flashcards and then turn them face down. Tell the students that the cards represent the months of the year in order and ask them to remember which card is which with questions like “What is March?” and “Which month is ‘waterfall’?” Should you have 31 words you want to revise, the same game could be used to practise ordinal numbers for the days of the month.

2. Calendar Race
Give students a calendar and ask them questions to make them search through it looking for the answer. Suitable examples include “When was the first Monday in June?”, “Find me a Friday the 13th”, and “What day of the week was the fifteenth of December?”

3. Fill Your Schedule
Give students empty diary pages for at least a couple of weeks stretching across two different months and ask them to make arrangements with other people in the class, avoiding scheduling two different things for the same day. You can also give them schedules that are already nearly full to make finding times when they are both free more challenging.

4. Calendars Spot The Difference
Give students two versions of a calendar stretching across at least three months, with about 30 events written on each version. Possible events include parties, holidays and deadlines. About 10 of the events should be different between the two versions, and students should ask and answer questions in pairs like “What are you doing on the twenty-fifth of April?” and “When is the deadline for your thesis?” to find the differences as quickly as possible , obviously without showing their worksheet to their partner.

5. Earlier Later
Students test each other on what date particular things happen, will happen or happened. These could be personal things (e.g. birthday or date of graduation), things from history, or holidays and festivals in other countries. After one guess, their partner should tell them if their guess is correct or whether the real date is “(much much/much/quite a lot/a bit/a tiny bit) earlier/later”. This continues with one hint after each guess until they get exactly the right date.

6. Dates Reverse Pyramids
The teacher reads out a date and students write it down as a number. They then add and add again until that number is reduced to a digit between one and nine, which they shout out. The first person to shout out the right one digit number gets a point. To give an example, if the teacher says “the fifteenth of November nineteen ninety seven” (15/11/1997), the students could start off by adding 1 + 5/1 + 1/1 + 9/9 + 7 to get 6/2/10/16, then add 6 + 2/1 + 0/1 + 6 to get 8/1/7. They can then add all of these together to get 16, but as this is still over nine they have to add the two digits of that number together (1 + 6) to get the answer, which is 7. The first person to shout out “Seven!” wins the game. It doesn’t matter how they add and add again, as it will always lead to the same answer.

7. Guess What Kind Of Day
Prepare lists of dates in different categories, e.g. public holidays in the country you are in, public holidays of another country, birthdays of people in the class, birthdays of famous people, national days, big sporting events, famous battles, and arts festivals. The teacher or a student reads out examples of dates from a category, giving extra hints if necessary, until someone guesses what the category is.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net August 2011
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Games, Speaking : Games To Practise Dates