The Welcome Code is a TEFL game adapted from an old drinking game – but without the drinking! It can be used to practice vocabulary and spelling and semantic fields amongst other things and so it’s very flexible. Once your class is familiar with the game you can adjust it and use it time and time again with small variations.
Although you can use it specifically to practice a language topic, since there is little preparation needed it is also ideal as a 5 minute filler or lesson starter.
Running the Activity for the First Time
Get all of the students away from their desks and standing at the back of the room. Then tell them that at the front of the room there’s a party going and you all want to go. But… to get in to the party you have to say the right phrase and take the right present and get past the mean looking bouncer on the door (one teacher I knew had a cut out of a bouncer which she propped up for this bit).
Write up on the board:
My name is _____ and I’ve bought _____ with me.
Explain that they need to give their own name along with the right present. The trick though is that there is a code in the phrase: the name and the present must have the same first letter – but don’t tell this to the students!
So teacher Catherine might say:
My name is Catherine and I’ve bought a cake.
And teacher Sam might say:
My name is Sam and I’ve bought a sausage.
And teacher Eddie might say:
My name is Eddie and I’ve bought an egg.
And so on. Simply say the correct phrase with your name and a matching present and you can walk into the party at the front of the room.
Now, one by one, you ask each of the students to say the phrase with their name and a present so they can come and join you at the party. The chances are that the students will not understand and say their name and a random present which doesn’t follow the code so they can’t come in. Simply tell them they’ve bought the wrong present and they’ll have to choose another one and wait their turn in line.
However, sooner or later one of them will get it right, accidentally or not.
My name is Veronique and I’ve bought some vodka.
And then welcome Veronique in with open arms!
When you play this for the first time you’ll probably have to start dropping plenty of hints and, of course, let your students know that there’s a code involved which they’ll need to find out in order to get into the party. If a student thinks they have found it then make sure they don’t tell the others but they need to test it out on you when it’s their turn to see if it works.
And then carry on until everyone is in the party… giving stronger and stronger hints to those who are left outside till everyone’s in!
NB: one rule is that no one is allowed to bring a duplicate present, so make sure that Vicky doesn’t also try to come in with vodka!
Variations on a Theme
One good aspect about this activity is that once you have played it with your class they will be on the lookout for the code and you can start to make it more complicated and involved.
- the present is a color
- the present is an abstract noun
- the present is smaller than a football
- the present can be found in an average kitchen
- (in a multinational class) the present begins with the same letter as your nationality
And then perhaps get very complicated:
the second letter of the present is the last letter of your name
- You also change the basic scenario and phrases to suit the class.
I’m delivering a jacket for John.
I’m delivering a pencil for Paddy.
I went to Singapore and bought some sweets.
I went to Bangkok and bought some bananas.
And so on. Only your imagination limits what the code can be!
The activity works on several levels. Firstly, once the class are familiar with it, it encourages them to analyze what is being said very carefully. They will go over the phrase in their minds and try to work out a pattern and then they’ll listen some more and test their theory and then either adjust it or try it out themselves.
Because you choose the code, the students will need to think about what they are saying and come up with the right words. Suppose each student needs to bring an article of clothing as a present; they will listen to what you say, listen to what others say (so they don’t try and take the same present) and then have to think carefully of something they can take which belongs to the same semantic field.