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15 zero-preparation games with scrap paper

By Alex Case
Sheets of paper that you would otherwise throw away can be the most adaptable resource for classroom games. This article gives 15 ideas for using whole pieces of scrap paper.

The games described here use a resource that is easy to get your hands on and would otherwise be rubbish, and are therefore easy to add to your class with minimal or zero preparation. Many of these can be played with paper that has already been used on both sides.

1. Drawing games

Students can use the blank side of some scrap paper to design and draw something (e.g. a theme park), race to draw the thing you say, or try to identify the thing that their partner is drawing. There are so many things that you can do to practice language that involve drawing that I have published four articles on the topic- three in the most recent editions of Modern English Teacher magazine and one on TEFL.net here.

2. Chain writing (= Consequences)

In this well-known game, popular also with native speakers, people write part of a story, fold the paper so little or none of what has been written can be seen by the next person, and then pass it on to be continued. You can add particular language points to this by asking them to make a chain of conditionals, e.g. a string of consequences of a different choice in their past, by giving them sentence stems for each line of a business email, or by asking them to finish each part with a linking word or expression.

3. Picture consequences

It is also possible to play a similar game with students drawing part of something, e.g. a person from head to toe, and then folding and passing for the next team or person to continue. It can take some thought to add language to this, but that can be done at the instructions stage, or by getting students to discuss the finished pictures (e.g. explain why yours is the best of all of them).

4. Screwed up pieces of paper

Almost any game that can be played with a ball can be played with a screwed up piece of A4 or A3 paper. For example, students can throw it to each other while asking and answering questions, throw it at the thing in the classroom that you shout out the name of (e.g. a close table for “This is a table” and a distant book for “That is a book”), throw it at the two halves of the board depending on what you say (e.g. the half that says “countable” if you say “steak”), and throwing it over their shoulder and asking questions to find out where it went (without turning round).

5. Paper aeroplanes

Any of the games above for a screwed up piece of paper can also be played with paper aeroplanes. You can add language to this by giving them spoken or written instructions on how to make those aeroplanes. They could also predict which of several instructions will make the best plane and then make them and check. A similar game can be played with the finished planes by asking students to predict which one will go further or where a plane will land from its appearance, who is throwing it, how it being held etc.

6. Origami

Students can also follow written or spoken instructions to make shapes from folded paper. Again, they can try and predict what the finished thing will represent and then make it to check. They could then make their own shapes and write explanations for other students, starting with an already folded shape or watching a video of someone doing it if it will be too difficult to come up with their own ideas.

7. Scissorsgami

You can do the same with written or spoken instructions on how to cut up a piece of paper, e.g. telling them how cut off the corners to end up with a diamond shape.

8. Cut and place

You can also ask them to cut up the piece of paper, place the cut up bits next to each other on the table in a particular way, and then see what shape comes out.

9. Cut and place 2

In this variation, students follow the instructions on how to cut up the pieces of paper, but then use those shapes to make as many different things they can, e.g. a house, aeroplane and bird from a square and triangles.

10. Cut and stick

Cutting up, folding, ripping, screwing up etc can be combined with sticking with sellotape or glue to make 3D models.

11. Scissors race

Another game you can play with scrap paper and scissors is to shout out the name of the thing you want them to cut out the shape of (e.g. “Cut out the shape of a snowman with a long nose”) and give points for the quickest and best efforts. This is most fun if the thing is a challenge to cut out, e.g. “A tiny square”. It might also be possible to play this game by ripping the paper rather than using scissors.

12. Scissors Pictionary

You can also play a version of Pictionary with scissors and any scrap paper, with the student whose turn it is taking a card that tells them what shape to make and

13. Board race

Almost any game that can be played with a blackboard can also be played in groups with a piece of scrap paper. One that converts particularly well is a board race, which is where students work together to brainstorm as long a list as possible (e.g. of uncountable things in a bathroom) in the time available, passing the pen to their next teammate each time they write something. Their completed lists can then be passed to another team for checking, with the team with the most correct things being the winner of that round. For more whiteboard games that you might be able to adapt see 15 Things to Do with a Whiteboard.

14. Make your own board game

There are many possible fun board games for learning English (see 15 Variations on TEFL Board Games for some). You can make the games more motivating to play and add extra practice as the setting up stage by getting students to make their own.

15. Cut up pieces of paper

I’ve written another whole article on games that can be played if you cut the A4 scrap paper into little pieces, and it is available here.

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET April 2010
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
© Tefl.NET


  • noona says:

    how can i practise using of the present simple tense to a class of adults using games..

  • Hazel says:

    I’ve used coloured paper, scraps of old wrapping paper, things cut out of junk mail and other paper that would otherwise go straight into the recycling to do creative things with my young kids. They love doing creative things and it’s good because they have to follow the instructions in English so they have to listen carefully to be able to join in. With small groups, paper maché is messy but fun and they’ll probably remember whatever they do in that class.

  • Hazel says:

    Thanks, I’ll use some of these ideas in my classes this week.

  • TESS says:

    i love this …i guess i will try to incorporate some in my classes but will surely make some adjustments when it comes to the grade level and lesson

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