Splitting the class into teams and giving points to create competition is a great way to get kids enthusiastic about an activity. Kids love competition. But there are some things to watch out for.

  • Getting too competitive - Sometimes the students get really caught up in the winning and forget about having a good time. Some students may get so caught up that the put pressure on others who aren't so strong at English and if you are teaching in a public school, everyone needs to play.
  • Getting left out - Giving points can make the students who aren't so confident not want to put their hand up. They get left out or voluntarily opt out for fear of losing points or not getting points for the team by giving the wrong answer.
  • Losing teams, especially with younger students, can feel dejected and can get sulky for the rest of the lesson.

Possible solutions

Give points for the attempt - especially if it's a speaking activity. (In my experience, speaking is the hardest thing for students.)

Another option: start by giving points on a logical basis. 1 point for trying, 2 for the correct answer, etc. When things start to move towards being too competitive, start giving points out somewhat randomly.

Why random points work - my experience

I tried this recently and had great success. It was the last lesson for the term so we had a full lesson of review type games. I split the class into two teams and gave points throughout the lesson to add a little team style competition to the class. I started off giving points out in a normal manner. 5 points for a correct answer, 10 for a win, something like that.

Then as we got into the last 15 minutes (of the 45 minute lesson) I started giving out 100 points for a correct answer then 2 points for an equally correct answer, then 200. By the end of that little activity, it wasn't so much about winning points as about how many points I was going to give.

It took the edge off and made it quite fun. Announcing the winning team at the end of this lesson didn't leave the losers feeling so bad because everyone knew that in the end, the points didn't matter. But they still got to be a bit competitive at the start. Kind of a win-win.

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