Hello everybody. I'm new to these forums, so please allow me to introduce myself.

I'm a 29-year-old English teacher in Shanghai (China), where I live for nearly 2 years. Until the end of this month, I teach different English classes for a company called LEC (Learning Education Center), where students ranging from preschoolers to adults go to have (mostly oral) English lessons.

I came up with a little game for my Friday evening class, not knowing whether it would catch on. I had tested each of them individually (monthly test), and there was about half an hour left, which I used to play this game. Since it appeared to be a huge success (students in this class range from 10 to 15 years old in a class of 11 students sitting in a semicircle), I'd like to share it with you.

I named the game "help desk". One student acts as the help desk, another student as a customer with a problem, calling the help desk. The goal of the game is to have a conversation going between the customer and the help desk with these simple but clear rules:
  • Using "Er...", "Uhm...", "Euh...", "Ah...", etc. is not permitted.
  • A certain word or phrased MUST be used every (other) sentence. Newly learned vocabulary or a certain grammar rule, for example.
  • A certain word, just like "Uhm...", is not permitted.
Before any student is being chosen to play either role, the class discusses what kind of problem the customer calls to complain about (yesterday, students offered problems ranging from "my computer doesn't work" and "the light is broken" to "I can't sing" and "my nose is stuck in a coca cola bottle"), and which word or phrase is and which isn't permitted.

I only played this game once, so I may alter some rules or procedures in the future. Yesterday, I had one person sitting in front of the class, being the help desk. The other person sat in his or her own seat, being the customer. As soon as the customer uses a word that isn't permitted, he or she takes the place of the help desk and another person is chosen to be the customer. When either of the two students says something which isn't permitted, he or she gets a point (obviously, the one with the least points wins).

When the word or phrase that must be used isn't used for a little while, I sometimes interrupt by saying "don't forget to use...", which is usually immediately followed by "er....".

This game, I'd imagine, also works great with teams, where opposing teams talk to each other.

Naturally, speaking the native language also counts as not permitted. In China, students have the tendency to use "nage" (literally: "that", can be translated as "thingie", but usually used in the place of "er").

If you think it's a good idea, or if you already know (an altered form of) this game, please let me know how it goes in the classroom!

Credit where credit is due: I got this idea from an old Dutch TV show (1980s), called Rapatongo. The rules were slightly different, but the basic idea is the same.