Dice and graphing sheets might be more commonly associated with a maths or science class, but they are extremely useful for developing English skills too. I like them a lot, not just because they help us teach ‘the whole child’ in a STEM or STEAM way (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths), but also because they promote a lot of language use in small groups. Small groups = Big practice! The game-like nature of dice, adds to the motivation children have to use the language they know. I also love that they work with such a wide range of ages. Even my groups of 4 year olds love these.
In this article, I outline some popular activities for using dice and graphing sheets to teach English. Follow these quick links to jump straight to the section that interests you.
- Activities to do with dice (without the graphing sheets)
- Using graphing sheets
- Follow-up activities with graphing sheets
- Using dice and graphing sheets in the lowest prep way possible!
You can also see a demonstration of how they are made and the standard game play in this video. Teaching tips and activity ideas are in the end segment.
Activities to do with dice (without the graphing sheets)
There are lots of games and activities that you can use with just the dice. The fact that there is an element of randomness to it, makes it more engaging for the kids. Practising language from a list, just isn’t as fun! Here are a few of my favourites:
- Review common questions – Create dice with question prompts, images to represent common questions, or the full questions you want to practice. Simply set a time limit and have the kids take turns rolling the dice and asking each other questions. I like to start with one or two questions with the whole class in a circle, and then divide them into pairs or threes to continue. It’s a good way to listen in and see which questions are still a bit tricky and need more work.
- Reviewing lexical sets – Create a dice with images to represent vocabulary groups you’ve been working on. For example, it could include the image of an elephant for wild animals, an image of a house for rooms in the house, an image of a tennis racket for sports. You get the idea! Each time they roll, they might have to name 5 items in that category, or do an action for their partner to guess.
Pair and small group games
The variety of actions your students have to do when they roll the dice is only limited by your and the kids’ imaginations. Here are a few ideas:
- Mime an action
- Spell the word
- Make a sentence
- Run and touch a flashcard of the item on the wall
- Say 5 other things of the same colour
- Say the colour of the item, and touch something in the room with the same colour
- Ask someone a question with that word or words
- Recall a phrase or event from a story featuring that item
- Make a noise associated with that image or word (easier with animals but it could be interesting with other lexical sets too!)
- Tell their partner a fact they know about that item
- Describe what they see
- Say something else beginning with that letter or sound
Using graphing sheets
There are a few different ways you can conduct an activity with graphing sheets. The first time I use them with a group, I demonstrate the activity with the whole class. Everyone is in a circle and I nominate different students to participate. I then set them off to play in groups or pairs.
Basic game play instructions
- One student rolls the dice.
- They perform the action that you assign (see ideas above).
- The student colours in one square for that dice item. They colour in the square nearest the bottom of the sheet.
- The game ends when one line is completed up to the top.
Competitive play in groups – separate sheets
Each student has a separate graphing sheet. They play the game and when the 1st student completes a line, the game ends for the whole group.
Competitive play in groups – one sheet per group
Each group has one graphing sheet between them. Each student chooses a different colour. They should only use that colour for the duration of the game. The winner is the student who completes the first line.
Competitive play between groups – one sheet per group
In this version, students play together in groups as one team against the other teams in the class. You just need one sheet per group. To be honest, I never really make too much of the competitive element, but my very young learners seem to interpret it this way regardless! I like to make all the teams win in some way. For example, one group might reach to the top of a line first, but another group might have more squares completed in another section, another team might have been careful with staying between the lines while colouring, one group might have used more colours on their graph, etc.
Follow-up activities with graphing sheets
The activity doesn’t need to end when the graphing sheet is completed. There are plenty of opportunities to extend the activity to include more speaking practice, maths skills, or even reporting skills.
- Counting activities – Count the complete number of squares coloured. Count the number of green squares, blue squares etc. Count how many of a specific category (according to the dice) the whole class has completed.
- Survey activities – Get students to ask students from other groups about their graphs, e.g., “How many red squares do you have?”; “How many ‘kitchens’ did you colour?; “What was your shortest line?”
- Comparative activities – Get students to investigate and find similarities and differences between their graphs, e.g., “Your ‘shark’ line is the same, but it is blue. My ‘shark’ line is red”; “Their graph has more squares than our graph”; “Their graph has fewer colours than our graph”; “Their graph is ‘tidier’ / ‘neater’ / ‘more beautiful’ than my graph”; “There are only 5 ‘duck’ squares in the class, but there are 15 ‘fox’ squares!”
Using these activities in the lowest prep way possible!
You might be really pushed for time and don’t want to create dice and/or graphing sheets. We do have editable templates in our Templates Pack, which speeds things up, but if you’re looking for a no-prep option, try these options:
- Use normal dice – All you need is a reference key that is easily visible to the students. Just write or dictate numbers 1-6 or 1-12. Next to them, stick a flashcard or write the word, phrase or question.
- Kids write their own graphing sheets – Get the kids to copy a table you write on the board. All they need is a grid that is 6 by 5 (or 12 by 5/10). Write the numbers of the dice in the bottom squares.
- Make reusable graphing sheets – Not exactly no-prep the first time, but you can save time in future classes. Just pop your printed templates into polypockets or laminate them and the students can complete the squares by adding counters, or plasticine.
Less pretty but effective too! So, even if you don’t have templates ready, it’s easy to use all the activities above.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these activities and if you have any other ideas to add. Please add them in the comments below.