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ESL forum > Games, activities and teaching ideas > ESL Olympics    

ESL Olympics

United States

ESL Olympics
Hello, all.
One of my students gave me a wonderful idea for an end-of-the-semester activity: an English Olympics. In other words, a group of different English-related activities that use different English-related skills. My students are Low Beginning adults, by the way. They have some English, but it isn �t great at this point.
So far, for events, I have thought of
Writing: the students get a subject, a verb, a verb tense, and three minutes to write a sentence. They get a point for each word, using the correct tense, each correctly spelled word, two points for a correct negative or question, and five points for a perfect sentence.
Spelling: a list of 10 words, a little above their level, as a written test.
Pronunciation: (hubby gave me this idea) the class is divided into two halves, not teams. One half acts as judges; the others try to read a sentence and pronounce it as well as possible. I �ll read the sentence out loud first. Then the halves switch and I read a different sentence. The top two of each half, as decided by points from the judges, then get to pronounce a third sentence.
Reading: I �ll give the students a list of instructions and ask them to read the instructions all the way through and do the items on the list. The last item, of course, will be "Write your name on the paper, and don �t do the other items on the list." Students will be judged on how quickly they are able to do this.
Verb tenses: I �ll probably give them a short worksheet asking them to use the correct verb tense, based on the context of the sentence. At my level, that would only be simple present, present continuous, simple past, and future with "going to."
Pentathlon: each of the participants will get 3 points for gold, 2 for silver, and 1 for bronze. The overall highest totals will get special prizes.
Attendance: the students with the best attendance in the class by percentage will get awards. My students are adults, and they started on different days.
Students will get prizes for individual events as well.
I have a three hour class, and I expect maybe 10 students that day. (I have about 15 active now.) I invited another class at the same time and level, but I don �t know if they will participate or not. Do you think these are enough? Do you have suggestions of other activities? What can I improve? My last class is Friday, December 7, so I don �t have a lot of time to put this together. Thank you for any suggestions you have!

29 Nov 2012      


This is a fantastic idea!  Maybe you would want to do something with listening.  Listen and write numbers, letters or something.  I sometimes do "Phonics Chairs".  I one chair as a "B" for example and a "V" (students here find these difficult to distinguish between).  Then I say "Ban" and they have to sit in the right chair.
Have fun!  Keep up the good work.  (I �m going to steal your idea")

29 Nov 2012     

United States

EstherLee, you can �t steal the idea! I �ll give it to you freely! I was trying to think of a good listening exercise. I might try a variation of your Phonics Chairs. I can �t do it as you would because I have a couple of elderly students and I don �t want them to fall. I also have mixed languages; Spanish speakers have trouble with b-v, but Arabic speakers have trouble with p-b, for example. So maybe I �ll make cards with different minimal pairs and read a word and they have to show me the correct word. Thanks for the idea!
A listening exercise would also allow me to make a heptathlon instead of a pentathlon, if I include attendance.

29 Nov 2012     


Here in Ukraine subject Olympiads (that �s how we call them) are held every year and are taken pretty seriously. They have different levels: school Olympiad, city Olympiad, Regional Olympiad, Republican Olympiad. The winner from each level gets to participate in the next level. If you as a teacher have students who won any level higher than school level, that even gives you extra credit when you are accredited for the next level of professional qualification. It also gives you extra points on the Teacher of the Year contest. Moreover the overal number of Olympiad winners during one year adds points to the school rating among schools in the city.
I don �t know much about other subjects, I guess, you are more interested in English, so I �ll tell you how it �s done in Ukraine and maybe you �ll like some ideas.
Students can participate starting from grade 8. Each level/grade has different topics/tasks.
The Olympiad has the following stages:

three topics to choose from
time: 1 hour
assessment: points are given for vocabulary (which has to be appropriate for their level), use of connectors, structure, style, content, grammar, extra points for sayings/quotations

one topic (is read/played twice), up to 4 difficult words can be written on the board and explained
either True/False +multiple choice
or True/False + open questions (with no answers given)
Time: 40 min

Use of English:
multiple choice
time: 40 min

30 conversational topics to choose from
assessment: points are given for vocabulary, pronunciation, general erudition, grammar, content and understanding of the topic, extra points for asking the oponents questions
There are four teachers in the jury for each grade/level, sometimes one of them is a native speaker (e.g. a PC volunteer)
The students come in fives, they take turns in pulling out three tickets with numbers (they can �t see them), then they look through the topics (in the list of topics) with the numbers they pulled out and choose the one they are more confident about and they have to speak on it right away, after they �ve finished, their oponents ask questions which are relevant to the topic, the jury can also ask questions at this point. While the student is speaking, the jury make notes but they never comment or interrupt. The jury have charts with assessment categories where they fill in the students � names and give points in each category and then count the overall number of points. The chart is then signed by all members of the jury and also by the chairman of the Olympiad level. The jury �s notes are attached as well.
time: depends on the number of participants.

There are three winning places for each grade/level (3 awards for 8th graders, 3 - for 9th graders, 3- for 10th graders, 3- for 11th graders). The winners are chosen according to the overall numbers of points in all skills. There can be several students with the same number of points and they get the same place.

Every three years there are manuals with tasks published for the students to be able to get ready for the Olympiad. There are 100 conversational topics, 50 sample assays, about 30 texts for listening and lots of tests for the use of English with explanations. Therefore the students and their teachers have the necessary materials to prepare for the Olympiad.


30 Nov 2012     

United States

Thanks for the advice, Sophia. My Olympics is on a much smaller scale, and with low level students, but it �s nice to hear how it �s done in the Ukraine. I have convinced another teacher to participate, but since all contestants (maybe 20 total) will be doing the same thing at the same time and there will be only two of us to adjudicate, I think I �m going to have to remain scaled-down.
I participated in my state �s Science Olympiad back when I was in high school (mumble, mumble) years ago, and actually took bronze as a sophomore and gold as a senior in the Periodic Table Quiz. That was a bit more on the level that you �re talking about, but I should have thought of an Olympic-style competition long ago.

30 Nov 2012