English Literature Games

Literature can be fun.

Playing different types of games is an excellent way to keep students engaged, informed and confident in English literature. It is important to divide your objectives for each game into types of games that introduce material, work with material and review material by switching from independent practice to competitive, class-wide fun.

1 Introduction Activities

A "Sliding Scale" allows students to share opinions about new information while also giving the instructor a preview of the class temperature before reading a novel. Ask each student to stand at the front of the room and touch the board while the teacher retreats to the back of the room with a set of questions specifically geared for introducing a story. As you read each question, allow time for students to arrange themselves along the wall between the left (agree strongly) and the right (disagree strongly) to each opinion statement. For example, if reading a story about hunting, the following statements could stir a reaction:

  1. I enjoy hunting.
  2. I enjoy reading about hunting.
  3. It is okay to hunt for pleasure.
  4. It is okay to hunt for food.

The more controversial the statement, the more interest students will have in reading the selection.

"Silent Graffiti" is another way to introduce a new literature unit to students while exploring what they already know. In the center of a large chalk or white board, write a topic or question related to the novel or short story that the class is about to read. Ask students to contribute a new idea once and to comment twice on someone else's comment. Allow students to take turns with the markers or chalk and see where the discussion goes, keeping track of interesting points or comments to bring up in a class discussion. For example, if you are beginning a story about racism, hunting or the Great Depression, the center of your graffiti might read "Everyone is a little bit racist," "It is okay to hunt animals for fun," or "Everyone should save money in a bank," respectively. For the best results, aim for a statement that someone could agree or disagree with strongly.

2 Working with Concepts

Once you have begun a unit or concept, "Literature Circles" can help students develop independent reading skills. After reading a long or short assignment (classroom novel or short story), assign four different roles to a group of students: Vocabulary, Discussion Questions, Art Director and Personal Connections. Each student will then explore the text with a different focus. The Vocabulary member will be responsible for finding 10 to 12 interesting vocabulary words to define and explore. The Discussions Questions member rereads the text and creates five good discussion questions. The Art Director recreates important plot elements through art, and the Personal Connections person chooses and explains five personal connections with the text. After time to work, ask each member to share within his group of four.

A "Class Timeline" is a fun way to keep track of simple plot elements. Have the entire class summarize a previous reading, and then hold a competition for whose summary is the most succinct and includes the most important information. The winner can decorate her entry and paste it on the class timeline.

3 Review Games

"Author Fly Swatter" is a fun review game that gets the class active. For a final exam that covers a number of stories, genres and authors, have students line up on different sides of the classroom with fly swatters. Create a grid on the front of the room with the names or faces of authors as well as short story or novel titles. As you read the title of a story or novel or give an author's name; the first student to swat the correct answer wins and the loser sits down.

"Test Question Roulette" is a physically passive but mentally active team competition for literature review. Divide students into groups of five and provide a topic previously studied in class (romanticism, personification, hyperbole, etc). Each group has five minutes to come up with a plausible test question and four multiple-choice answers for that topic. Collect the questions and ask each group to answer each question aloud. The best questions can be eligible for inclusion on the test.

Sarah Greesonbach is a former teacher turned content and new media specialist whose career and personal finance writing has appeared on MSN Money, AOL Jobs and in the "Chicago Tribune" business section. She holds a Masters in Arts in teaching and a degree in English.