But now, my Year 5 pupils and I have devised a five-star version of Hangman, an engaging and pedagogically sound EFL activity that genuinely helps learners notice language. It’s called Sentence hangman for points.
Sentence hangman for points
1 When, on the board, you draw the dashes that represent each letter in your sentence, include any apostrophes, question marks and other necessary punctuation.
_ _ _ _ _ ‘_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ?
2 Divide the class into two (or even three) teams. They will take turns to guess which letters are in the sentence.
3 Instead of drawing the hanged man, the game is played for points in the following way:
- When a team correctly guesses a letter in the sentence, they win a point. If the letter appears in the sentence three times, the team wins three points.
- Teams win an extra point for every word in the sentence they complete. In the example game below, a team has just guessed the letter O. They will receive a total of five points: four points because the letter appears four times in the sentence and an extra point for completing the word frog.
W h e r e’ s t h e _ o i s o n o u s f r o g?
Note that contracted words also enter this rule. So the team that guessed the letter S would have received four points: three points because the letter appears three times in the sentence and an extra point for completing the contraction of is.
- In addition to points for letters and points for completed words, a final extra point is awarded to the team that guesses the letter which completes the sentence. In the example game, the team to say the letter P will complete the sentence. They will win a total of three points: a point for the letter, a point for completing the word poisonous, and an extra point for completing the sentence.
- If a team guesses a letter which is not in the sentence, they lose two points!
4 When the sentence is complete, congratulate the team with the most points. Then focus on the meaning of the sentence. Is it affirmative or negative? Is it true or false? If it’s an interrogative sentence, get the children to answer the question. In the example game above, a flashcard of a poisonous frog has been hidden in the classroom, contextualising the meaning of the sentence and leading the pupils to ask questions such as Is it in the bin? or Is it behind the board?
Sentence hangman for points is not only more engaging than traditional versions of Hangman, it is also pedagogically superior. The reason for this is simple: the game is not about guessing the answer as quickly as possible, which often allows only one or two quick pupils to win. Pupils must share their linguistic knowledge with their team mates; together they must calculate how to get more points than the other team(s). This means that by the time the sentence is complete, all pupils will have had time to focus on, think about and notice the language used: the grammar, the word order, the spelling of words and the function of punctuation. As a teacher, it is gratifying indeed to observe them using linguistic knowledge acquired from one game to win points in the next.
If you haven’t yet played Sentence hangman for points with your pupils, try it! You’ll never want to draw the hanging man again. And if you think about it, why would you want to hang a man in class anyway?