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10 Activities using Dice for ESL/EFL Students

10 activities using dice should be one of the secret weapons in every teacher’s arsenal. As dice are cheap, small, portable and their battery lasts forever. The fact that throwing dice results in only one of six outcomes, yet it’s always completely random, allows to use them for many exciting but controlled ESL activities.

In this list we’ve included activities tested by us in many different student settings, all of which work like a charm. Try them out and share your experiences in the comments below!

Stick Man

Level: A1 and above

This exercise is perfect for shy learners who are generally reluctant to talk. It’s designed mainly with the youngest learners in mind, however, it will work the same for all ages and levels. Great for individual classes or as a warmup. 

 

To finish this task student needs to complete a full body set of a Stick Man:

 

1. BODY

2. LEFT LEG

3. RIGHT LEG

4. LEFT ARM

5. RIGHT ARM

7. HEAD

 

Note: All the other parts are attached to the BODY, which means the student needs to first roll 1. to start the game, however, you still get to ask them a question for every missed attempt.

 

The procedure:

 

1. Student rolls the dice and you ask them a question. It can be anything from family to hobbies to dreams or thoughts on the Russian Revolution of 1917. 

 

2. If they answer, they get to draw the body part corresponding to the number on the dice.

 

3. If they rolled a certain number again, you still get to ask them a question but they cannot add any body parts. 

 

4. The activity ends when they’ve drawn a full Stick Man.

 

The best case scenario (for them) your student will answer max 6 questions. The worst case…well.

 

Variation: Pairs

You can also perform this as a pair work to have your pupils practice speaking and asking questions.

Roll the Letter

Level: A1 and above

This is a super simple exercise, perfect for reviewing vocabulary with young learners or as a quick warmer for the lower levels. 

 

What you’ll need is 4 dice

 

The procedure:

 

1. Write on the board all 24 letters of the alphabet (excluding X).

 

2. Roll the dice. The collective number of black dots will determine the letter your students will use.

 

3. Instruct them to write 5 words (or any other number) that start on this letter.

 

Variation 1: Let’s make it specific!

 

Make the exercise harder by giving them a category, i.e. nouns, words ending with -tion, words relating to occupations

 

Variation 2: How many words?

 

Include 1 more die of a different colour in the mix (or 2 more).

This die will determine the number of words your students must come up with.

Homework Penalty

Level: A1 and above 

Here’s a creative way to use dice in administering penalties. It’s my favourite go-to technique for dealing with lazy teenagers.

 

How it works:

 

During the first lesson (or one of the early lessons) sit them down and create a ‘Penalty Board’, which is a serious name for a simple A4 page with 6 punishments.

 

For example:

 

1. Do homework again…but double.

2. Sing a full karaoke song in front of the class.

3. Write 20 sentences.

4. Write 100 times ‘I will never miss homework again’

5. Teach the class for 10 minutes (or give a presentation).

6. Write a 400-word essay.

 

The penalties can be anything, so long they are hard (and frightening) enough to motivate your students to never take their chances tossing this die. It’s very important that all of your pupils give a consent to these penalties as their public obligation will later keep them accountable. 

 

The procedure is simple enough, whenever a student didn’t do homework, have them roll the die to decide their penalty.

 

If you use one dedicated die for this it will become a serious ritual-like activity.

I even bought a special large 10cm x 10cm die especially for that. 

 

Works like a charm.

Roll a Question

Level: A1 and above 

Here’s another simple yet effective speaking activity.

 

 

The procedure:

 

1. Put your students into pairs and give each pair one die (or 2 if you have so many).

 

2. Provide them with a list of questions and tell them to roll the dice and discuss the question that came up.

 

Questions:

 

Beginners

 

1.   What food do you like to eat?

2.   What’s your favourite animal?

3.   What did you do this morning?

4.   How do you make a pizza?

5.   What sport do you like the most?

6.   Describe your family. 

7.   Do you have any pets?

8.   What are your plans for the weekend?

9.   What are you afraid of?

10. What do you love doing?

11. Where do you live?

12. Why are you learning English?

 

Intermediate

 

1.   Where did you go on your last holiday?

2.   What do you usually do with your friends?

3.   What’s the plot of the film you last saw?

4.   Describe your daily routine.

5.   What apps do you have on your phone?

6.   What hobbies do you have?

7.   Describe a dream you recently had.

8.   What kind of people do you like the most?

9.   What kind of people do you like the least?

10. What’s your biggest dream?

11. Which celebrity would you like to meet?

12. Why are you learning English?

 

Advanced

 

1.   What’s the most important thing in life?

2.   What does it mean to be responsible?

3.   Which world problem is the most pressing?

4.   Who was the most influential person in history?

5.   What technology will we have in the future?

6.   What’s the best year in human history to be born in?

7.   What happens after death?

8.   What’s the advice you’d give to your younger self?

9.   Which area of life would you like to be the most successful?

10. Which city on Earth would you like to live in?

11. If you could change one thing in human history what would it be?

12. Why do you learn English?

 

Resources: 

 



Vacation Roleplay

Level: A2 and above 

This one is perfect for all your casual learners who want to improve their speaking ability before going abroad. 

 

The procedure:

 

1. Put your students into pairs.

 

2. Partner A will roll a place:

 

1. HOTEL

2. RESTAURANT

3. TRAVEL AGENT

4. AIRLINE

5. CAFE

6. TAXI

 

3. Partner B will then roll a specific issue:

 

1. Asking for information

2. Making a reservation

3. Changing something

4. Checking that the information is correct

5. Making a complaint

6. Asking for extra service

 

4. Students role-play. Partner A will be the representative from the company, whereas Partner B will be the customer. 

 

Variation: Email

 

Another way to approach this exercise is as a written communication exercise.

The Grand Dice Game

Level: A2 and above

This game can be played either as competition between groups or individuals.

 

What you’ll need: 1 die for each group/person

 

Setup: 

1. On the board write numbers 1-6.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

 

2. Assign a category to each number, i.e. occupations, food, pirates, Japanese Bushido

 

1. University

2. Transportation

3. Politics

4. Global Warming

5. Technology

6. Films

 

Note: this game is suitable for all levels, the lower the proficiency the more basic the categories should be, i.e. food, fruit, animals, and vice versa. 

 

The WINNER of the game is the group/individual who reaches 50 POINTS. 

 

The point system:

 

1. University (1 point)

2. Transportation (2 points)

3. Politics (3 points)

4. Global Warming (4 points)

4. Technology (5 points)

5. Films (6 points)

 

The procedure: 

 

1. The First individual rolls the dice and the number is 4

 

In this case: Global Warming

 

2. He or she has 10 seconds to give 4 associations to this category

 

In this case, i.e.: carbon, temperature, ice caps, leonardo dicaprio

 

If he or she succeeds, they will receive 4 POINTS. 

1. The next person rolls 1 and has to do the same for University. They have 10 seconds to come up with only 1 association and receive only 1 point. 

3. The game ends when somebody reaches 50 points.

 

 

Variation: Erase Category

 

When one person rolled a category, say, 3 – Politics and they provided 3 associations under 10 seconds the category is erased. The next person rolls and if they also got 3, they must skip their turn. This continues until all categories are rolled and then new set of categories is displayed.

 

Group Variation 1

 

If your students play this game in groups, the whole group has 10 seconds to come up with the given number of synonyms

 

Group Variation 2

 

To make it a bit harder each individual within a group would have 10 seconds to provide the given number of synonyms. This means that if the group has 4 members and they roll 5 then they essentially need to come up with 20 synonyms (5 each), and they cannot be the same.

Spot My Lie

Level: A2 and above

 

 The procedure: 

 

1. Put your students into pairs and give them 1 die per pair. 

 

2. Person A will roll the die and ask a question according to this guide:

 

1. Do you like…?

2. Do you want…?

3. Do you have…?

4. Do you do… every day?

5. Have you ever been to….?

6. Have you ever dreamed of….?

 

3. Person B rolls to decide their answer.

 

1. Yes, I do.

2. No, I don’t.

3. Yes, I do.

4. No, I don’t.

5. Yes, I do.

6. No, I don’t. 

 

4. Then the Person A needs to figure out whether that was true or not. They of course may ask more questions.

 

Note: To make it more engaging, Person B should always stick with the answer rolled by the die, regardless of its truthfulness.



Random Associations

Level: A2 and above

Prep time: 30 seconds to grab the dice 

What you need: 2-10 dice pieces 

 

The Procedure:

1. Divide the class into groups 2-5 people. 

2. Instruct each person to create a list of 6 random words. Tell them to number them 1 to 6. Each student should then have their own list of unique words.

3. Distribute the dice to all groups. Each group should have at least 1 dice piece, however, I found it easier for students to have more dice per group.

Variation 1: duel

Two people throw the dice and enter a duel. For example Student A threw 4 which is ‘4. Ice cream’ on her list, whereas Student B threw 2 which is ‘2. Airplane’ on his list. 

Now each person needs to create a scenario that involves both words, i.e. I never ate ice cream on an airplane!, I once was eating ice cream and a plane flew and scared me and I dropped it!

This could be enough or the whole group could vote on the best answer which would encourage students to be more creative.

Variation 2: story

The whole group casts the dice and then they have to create a story from all the words they got. 

Then all groups present their stories to the rest of the class. In my experience due to the randomness of the words most of the stories end up quite hilarious and students have a lot of fun during this exercise. 

Variation 3: link

Only two students cast the dice, however the whole group participates. 

For example the words drawn are ‘animal’ and ‘house’. The task for the whole group is to figure out a 1 word connection between these two i.e.‘pet’ or ‘nest’ or ‘jungle’

Some connections might be so vague that they will require an explanation from the author which encourages conversation.

Roll a Tense

Level: C1 and above

As you (of course) know, there are 12 tenses in the English language.

This poses the perfect opportunity to review them all with your grammar savvy pupils.

 

 

The procedure:

 

1. Distribute 2 dice to each pair and/or group and ask them to toss the dice. 

 

2. For each tense they roll they will have to write as many sentence examples as there are black dots on the die with the higher number.

 

2 – present simple

3 – present continuous 

4 – present perfect

5 – present perfect continuous

6 – past simple

7 – past continuous

8 – past perfect

9 – past perfect continuous

10 – future simple

11 – future continuous

12 – future perfect

 

(+ 1/13 – future perfect continuous)

 

All that said, we cannot guarantee that this will become your students’ favourite activity. It will probably end up as a one-off. Or hey, you can use it as a punishment for no homework 😉

Resources:

 


 

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