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15 variations on a grammar auction

Grammar auctions (students bidding for the right to say whether a sentence is right or wrong and/ or correct it, doubling the money they bid if they are right and losing that money if they are wrong) make correcting errors fun and are therefore one of the most popular games in TEFL. Unfortunately, this can […]

Grammar auctions (students bidding for the right to say whether a sentence is right or wrong and/ or correct it, doubling the money they bid if they are right and losing that money if they are wrong) make correcting errors fun and are therefore one of the most popular games in TEFL. Unfortunately, this can mean they are somewhat overused and that your class might well have done exactly that same game with their last teacher. There can also be problems with the game as it is usually played, such as teams who win at the beginning of the game being able to dominate it or some slower or less confident teams not taking part at all. For these reasons, over the years I have come up with and tried out the 15 variations below:

1. Infinite grammar auction
Rather than being limited in their bids to the amount of money they have (in the usual version the teacher writes an amount of money such as a million dollars on the board by each team name at the beginning of the game and then changes that as they win and lose money), the teams can bid as much as they like and the teacher keeps tally only of how much money they are up or down. This variation is good for large numbers practice, for adding amusement by the ridiculously large amounts being bid and for making sure teams aren’t left out by losing all their money early on. The danger with this version is that for an easy question the bidding might never stop, so make sure you stick in some trick questions fairly early on in the game to make them a little cautious.

2. Reset grammar auction
Another way of making sure one team doesn’t dominate or get left out is to stop the game after a certain number of questions (perhaps five or ten), “save” the money they have at that point, and then give each team an equal amount of money to bid with from then on. This can be repeated three or four times, and then all the saved amounts added together for their final score.

3. Limited bids auction
A third way to stop a team with the most money just outbidding the other teams all the time is to set a limit on how much the bids can be raised each time, similar to limits in a poker game.

4. Sealed bids grammar auction
Rather than openly bidding against each other, the teams write down how much they want to bid somewhere secret (you can ask them to write it out in words if that is useful numbers practice), and then read them out to see who bid the most.

5. Take turns auction
This variation can be planned, or improvised if there are students who are too cautious to bid. Rather than bidding against each other, teams take turns being given a question and bidding (actually more like betting) as much or as little as they like on that question. Alternatively, they can choose which question they want to try and how much money they want to stake on being right about it.

6. Poker bidding auction
This is a variation on Take Turns Auction above. After one team bids for a sentence, the team on their left has the chance to bid higher or not bid. If they bid higher, bidding passes to the next team and continues round. If any team doesn’t bid, the previous team (the team on the right, the last ones who bid) gets the chance to say whether the sentence is right or wrong and/ or to correct it.

7. Double or quits error correction
In this simple variation, once a team has doubled their money by correctly saying that a sentence is wrong, they have the chance to double their money again by correcting it. Alternatively, they can just keep the money they have already won and the teacher will elicit the correction from the whole class.

8. Double or quits chicken
One team says whether the first sentence is correct or not and/ or makes any necessary corrections, doubling their money if they are correct. They then have the chance to just keep their money, or risk it all for the sake of doubling it on the next sentence. The same team can continue risking all that money in order to keep doubling it for as many questions in a row as they like, until they are sure the next sentence is too difficult or lose their nerve. Play then passes to the next team.

9. Grammar etc auction
Rather than saying whether a sentence is wrong or not, students have to identify which of two different categories the next sentence is in, e.g.  “Is the request impolite or a grammar mistake?”  or “Is the word or expression a false friend or doesn’t it exist in English at all?”

10. Grammar roulette
Rather than only one team winning the right to answer a question, each team can bet as much of their money as they like on whether a sentence has a grammar mistake or not (similar to red or black in roulette). They then double whatever they bet or lose it.

11. Test each other grammar auction
Students make up the sentences to be used in the game or select sentences from the textbook and add errors to them. They can then act as auctioneers while all the other teams bid.

12. Test each other grammar auction 2
Another way in which students can challenge each other is in putting a price on each sentence they have depending on how easy or difficult they think it is to correct or spot the error in. They can be asked to do this having been given the answer key or without it. The other team or teams can then decide which sentences they think are worth the price. To do this variation you will need different lists of sentences for each team.

13. Bids and hints
After buying the right to correct a sentence, the team can decide to buy a hint (e.g. “It’s the wrong tense”, “It’s a spelling mistake” or “It’s a trick question”) before they make their attempt. Money paid for hints is not refundable.

14. Playing cards grammar auction
Deal out 10 normal playing cards face down to each team at the beginning of the game. This can be done at random, or so that each team has the same selection of values. The students then bid using their cards, e.g. if the highest card put down for one round is a Jack, then that team have bought the right to say whether then sentence has a mistake in it or not.

15. Grammar auction board game
Teams bid a number of squares on a board game, and go forward or back that many squares depending on whether they got it right or wrong. As you can quickly run out of squares, either limit bidding to six or have a board game they can go round and round and make the winner the team which makes the most circuits.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net September 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

One Comment

  • عا طف خليل says:

    you must provide a video as an example (a demo)

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Games : 15 variations on a grammar auction