Ready to roll! 5 ideas for using dice in the classroom

What's your favourite dice activity? I bet one comes to mind. And, I bet you love it!

Ah, dice. Such a simple tool that often has a big effect on learner engagement and motivation in the English as a Additional Language (EAL) classroom. I love using dice because, with a little forethought, you can incorporate dice into almost any activity and yet it always ends up giving ownership of the learning process over to my learners.

Here are a few of my favourite dice activities. Let's roll!

Letter List Warmer (5 minutes)

This first activity is also the simplest.  It is inspired by a warmer by blogger, Marc Anderson, called 'Scrambleword'. In this variation, simply choose any letter from the alphabet and ask a student to roll the dice. Working in small groups, students produce a list of words beginning with that letter.  For example, if the letter is 'C' and the number on the dice is '3', learners might produce a list such as: cat, chocolate, classroom!

This activity works best with students competing in small groups, with scribes producing lists on the whiteboard or mini whiteboards at tables. Consider allocating points for correct spelling (1 point), creativity or word length (2 points), etc. Alternatives: choose a letter, suffixes e.g. -ment, -ism, or consonant clusters, the word must 'end' in e.g. -ch, -ck, etc.

Image from:  WordSpring Spelling

Roll the Topic of Conversation (15 minutes)

Looking for a spoken fluency activity with minimal preparation? Simply display a set of topics and corresponding dice numbers for learners on the whiteboard or visual display.  Have students sit/stand in rows across from each other to form pairs for discussion. Ask a student to roll the dice. Pairs talk about that topic for a few minutes each. For example, if I roll a '4', then the topic of conversation is, 'Have you ever been on a real adventure?'. Re-arrange the pairs and roll the dice again to determine the next topic. Click here to download the PPT below. 

Roll through a Reading Text (15-20 minutes)

Giving learners the opportunity to manage their own response to a text by rolling the dice works well with this template by K-12 educator, Andrea Knight.

I have used the alternative table below with my learners in an EAL classroom. Click here to download the template to adapt the questions for your learners.

Board Games for Language Review (20-30 minutes)

Matt Monroe from ESL MATT-erials blogspot designed this printable board game to review grammar points taught during his language program. I have also used it with trainee teachers to revise grammar terminology and tenses.

Game board designed by Matt Monroe from ESL MATT-erials blogspot.

Game board designed by Matt Monroe from ESL MATT-erials blogspot.

Matt also designed this printable board game to encourage learners to produce synonyms for high frequency words. For example, can you think of three synonyms for the word 'baby'?

Story Grids for Creative Writing (25-30 minutes)

The numbered word chart below by K-12 blogger, Chicho's Chichlets, was originally designed to encourage US primary school students to practise reading sight words aloud. Learners simply roll, read, and cross off their words as they go.

Pronunciation practice immediately springs to mind for English language classrooms but I have also adapted this grid concept with my adult learners to encourage creative writing. Each time learners roll the dice, they use the next corresponding word from the grid in their story. For example, if I roll a 1, I must include the word 'after' in the next few lines of my story. If I roll a 2, I should incorporate 'fly', etc.

It's easy to adapt the grid concept by eliciting vocabulary from the previous week on the whiteboard or ask learners to make grids for other groups by simply drawing the grid on paper. When stories are complete, groups can exchange papers to read their classmates' work. Tip: Include a range of parts of speech to aid story development.

Original grid from Chico's Chichlet's: Sight Word Dice activity. 

Original grid from Chico's Chichlet's: Sight Word Dice activity. 

K-12 reading teacher, Heidi Butkis, also uses sight words to make her own dice. See her template here to make your own paper dice - the possibilities are endless! Great for topics/questions for spoken fluency activties too. 

More Ideas for Using Dice

Check out these blog posts by TEFL Trainer Spain, ESL Commando, and ESL Lounge respectively:

Rolling Dice: Speaking Games for TEFL teachers 
Top Ten Ways to use Dice in the ESL classroom 
Fun Classroom Games that Every ESL Teacher can Use 

Thanks for reading through these ideas.  What's your favourite dice activity? Tell us in the comments below.

You're ready to roll! 


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