Learning English doesn't need to be a dreary undertaking. There are a lot of activities that activate language production skills and are fun for students of any age. Some activities involve competition and others co-operation. Anything that gets students speaking and using the new English they have learned is worthwhile.
Most of us like to compete, whether for points or small prizes, and almost any review activity can be made into a game. One successful format to use is a Jeopardy-style review, with categories and questions that are worth increasing amounts as they get more difficult. You can use this format to review vocabulary: use parts of speech as your categories. Or you can review grammar structures, tricky spelling, questions forms (tag questions, interrogatives, indirect questions), or any language point you have been working with in class. Another popular competition is a version of Beat the Clock, where each team tries to find the most words of a certain type while the clock is running out. For more advanced groups, they can try creating the most accurate sentences or questions.
Each individual student brings different knowledge to the class, and activities designed to pool that knowledge can really be fun. Chain stories are a great way to build confidence and get everyone involved. Chain stories involve each person in the group taking a turn adding to the story. They can be built one word at a time, 3 words at a time, or sentence by sentence, depending on the level of the students. Chain stories work best in groups of 5 - 8, if you have a bigger group, start more than one story. Ask one person in each group to record the story so that it can be read back to the whole class at the end.
Practice, practice, practice. How many times can you introduce yourself to the same people? It's a lot more fun to practice talking about yourself if you can assume a new identity. Collect (or make) a set of business cards, put the cards in a hat and have students each draw one out. This will be their new identity for the mixer. Give them a few minutes to add some other details about "their' family, home, and so on. Then start the party. Since they are all 'strangers' they will get plenty of practice introducing themselves and making small talk.
Ask students to invent a new product or service. Working in pairs or groups of threes, students will invent their product or service, decide how to 'sell' it and then present it to the class. Everyone gets to talk a lot, and the class can vote for the products and services they like the best.
- Lessons from Nothing: Activities for Language Teaching; Bruce Marsland; 1998
- Grammar Practice Activities: A Practical Guide for Teachers; Penny Ur; 1989
- Games for Language Learning; Andrew Wright; 2006
- muneer binwaber/Demand Media