Fun for all the Family 3- Games to Practise Articles and Determiners

Level: All Levels

Topic: General

Grammar Topic: Articles

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Type: Lesson Plans

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Lesson Plan Text

 

Fun for all the Family 3- Quite a few games for articles and determiners 
 
Articles in English is one of those grammar points that are fairly easy to explain the 
fundamentals of, but even Advanced learners can make quite “basic” mistakes with and 
almost no one can learn all the special little rules for. As correction of spoken errors 
seems to have little effect on the accuracy of this grammar point for most people, the 
best approach is often to: 

1.  Tackle this grammar point as early as possible in a light way 
2.  Come back to it quite often, adding a little more information to the rules each 

time (e.g. first time “much” and “many”, and the next time add “lots of” etc.); and 

3.  Repeat twice a year for many many years, with occasional correction in between 

to remind the students of what they have learnt. 

 
All the above means you will need loads of game ideas to keep this grammar point fun 
and motivating, and those games will need to be useable at all different kinds of ages 
from 4 (introducing “a”, and maybe “an”) to 104. This makes articles (and the larger 
group of determiners) an especially good grammar point to look at in a “Fun for all the 
family” way. 
 
The philosophy of this article, as with others in the “Fun for all the Family” series, is 
that giving ages for games is an arbitrary division that a good teacher will be able to 
completely ignore when choosing games depending on the characters, language levels, 
energy levels, preferred learning styles and previous activities of the particular mix of 
students they have in their own individual classes. The activities below are therefore 
suitable for various age ranges from pre-school kids to retirees:     
 

1.  Article Stations. Students listen to the teacher (or look at a flashcard with a 

word, sentence or picture on it) and run and touch something that represents the 
correct article for what they hear or see, e.g. they touch the left wall for “an” 
when the teacher says “apple” and the right wall for “a” for “pineapple”, or touch 
the floor for “the” when you say “teacher” (only one in the class) and the tops of 
their desks for “a” when you say “window” (touching one of several). This game is 
also suitable for practising “some”/ “any”, “much”/ “many” etc. To make the game 
purpose clearer, write the articles you wish to practice on A4 pieces of paper and 
stick them to the things the students have to touch, e.g. the walls. 

2.  Guess the true article. Students make true sentences about themselves that you 

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2008 

 

would need to guess something about their life to know and see if the other 
students can guess the right missing word e.g. “My bedroom is __________room 
on the second floor” would have the word “the” missing if there is only one room 
there and the word “a” missing if there are two or more rooms on that floor, and 
“There are ________ books on floor of my bedroom” would depend on how untidy 
and how much of a bookworm they think their partner is.  This game also 
works for “some”/ “lots of”/ “hardly any”/ “no” etc. Students will probably need 
quite a lot of help and perhaps a worksheet to do this activity in pairs, and you 
might want to prepare your own sentences in advance if you are doing it as a 
whole class, teacher lead activity. 

3.  Guess from the article. This is similar to the Guess the True Article game above, 

but this time you give the article and the students guess the object(s), e.g. “In my 
house the ________ is on the piano”.   

4.  Guess the number of articles. After students have read or listened to a text, get 

them to guess the number of times a particular word was used in it, e.g. “the”. 
They then listen or read again and check. This works very well with pop songs. 

5.  Listen only for the articles. A fun way of mixing up the order of how teachers 

usually do things with a text in class (listen for general comprehension, listen for 
specific information, listen for a particular grammatical form), get students to 
listen the first time only for how many times a particular word in used, e.g. “a”. 
After they have had a couple of times to listen to it for this simple task, the 
comprehension questions you go onto later should be easier for them than if they 
had to do them when listening the first time. If you also do another different 
language point with the same text after the comprehension questions, this is 
also a good way of revising one grammar point with a text and also doing 
something new, and so saving classroom time.   

6.  Find the articles race. Students race to circle as many of one kind of article or 

determiner (e.g. “few”) as they can in a text or whole magazine in 2 minutes. You 
can combine this game with the Guess the Number of Articles prediction game 
above by allowing different teams to choose different determiners they are going 
to look for (e.g. one team chooses to search for “some” and the other team chooses 
to search for “any” at the same time) by which one they think there will be most 
of. When the game is finished, you can then talk about which article there were 
more of in the text and why- possibly leading on to a grammar explanation. 

7.  Articles hints. Students guess which country or city is being described from 

clues with articles, e.g. “The tallest building has “the” in its name” (Answer: 

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2008 

 

New York, from “The Empire State Building”), or “A river with “the” in the name 
runs through it” (Answer London, from “The River Thames”) etc. If you want to 
do it as a team game or group activity, you will probably need to prepare 
information cards for suitable cities or let the students have access to an English 
language encyclopaedia (also available online through Wikipedia etc.) 

8.  Articles picture difference. Draw two pictures with some differences in the 

number of each thing in each picture, e.g. two dogs in one picture and one in the 
other. Make sure at least one of the multiple objects in one of the pictures is in 
the same position doing the same thing as in the picture with only one of that 
object, e.g. in the first picture one of the dogs in jumping on the table and the 
other is doing nothing, and in the second picture the only dog is jumping on the 
table. Without showing their picture to each other or saying the number of 
objects in the picture, the students have to find the differences between the two 
pictures by using sentences like “A dog is jumping” (if there is more than one dog 
in the picture) or “The dog is jumping” (if there is just one). If you also add 
several dogs doing the action and/ or have no dogs you can also add practice of 
“some” and/ or “any”. 

9.  Articles Picture dictation. To practice the language in a similar way to Articles 

Picture Difference but with less preparation for the teacher and more intensive 
listening practice for the students, describe a picture with sentence like “Some 
apples are in the bowl but an apple is on the floor” and “The fish is swimming 
from left to right”. When the students have drawn the picture you are describing, 
you can get them to describe what they have drawn using the same language. 

10. Articles picture drawing race. Students draw what they hear like in Articles 

Picture Dictation above, but in this game they race to be the first to draw the 
sentence you say, e.g. “A few apples are in the box, but most are on the floor”. 
The first student or team with a picture representing what is said is the winner 
(artistic merit not important!) 

11. Articles Find the picture. In a similar way to Articles Picture Difference, 

students search for a picture you describe using “a” or “the” and/ or “some” and 
“any” depending on the number of objects and how many of them are in that 
position or doing that thing, e.g. “There are some smiling people”. You can play 
the game with them finding which of a group of pictures you have prepared 
matches the sentence, or searching through a book or magazine for something 
similar. 

12. Articles Run and touch. When the teacher says “Touch the” and stops speaking, 

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2008 

 

students run and touch anything that article is suitable for, e.g. touching the 
whiteboard  or the floor is okay, but touching a desk is not (because there are 
many in the class). This game is also good for “lots of”, “a” and “an” (both 
contrast to “the” and contrast between “a” and “an”), “some” and “a few”. For a 
less active version with older students or in a more restrictive classroom, you 
can get them to point at the object or pretend to shoot it instead. 

13. Articles memory game. Students close their eyes and listen to a sentence about 

the classroom or a picture they have been looking at with the article taken out, 
e.g. “____ long ruler is one the teacher’s desk.” Students have to guess the right 
article from memory of the scene and grammatical knowledge. 

14. Articles Memory game correct the sentence. The same as Articles Memory Game, 

students close their eyes and listen to sentences about the room, but this time 
the person speaking sometimes deliberately makes a mistake with the articles 
(either a grammatical mistake or saying something that isn’t true in the 
classroom or picture being described) and students have to correct them. 

15. Word by word hangman. This game is a good way of making students predict 

when a determiner is coming up in the sentence, and so practice being able to 
hear it and notice it when it is used, and eventually gain the ability to use it 
more often themselves. Give students the first word of a sentence and ask them 
to guess the next word. If they are correct, write the word up. If they are wrong, 
still write the correct next word up, but draw one part of the hangman on the 
board. The students then try to guess the next word etc. Continue until the 
whole sentence or text is complete and the man is safe, or until the hangman is 
complete and the students lose. To make the task easier, you can use a sentence 
that describes something that they can see, or a sentence they have used 
recently in their books or a speaking activity. Most sentences contain a 
determiner, but even if the one you have chosen does not (e.g. “The man went to 
prison”), you can discuss why it does not. 

16. Letter by letter hangman. This is similar to Word by Word Hangman, but this 

time students guess which the next letter is each time. Note that unlike normal 
hangman, the letters are guessed in order through the sentence and students 
only get one guess at each letter before the answer to that letter is given.     

17. Shout out the article. This is an anticipation game similar to the two variations 

of hangman above, but with a bit more excitement and pressure to think in real 
time. Students listen to you slowly reading out a text and shout out “A!” etc. 
when they think that will be the next word. You can play the game with just one 

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2008 

 

kind of article, with many kinds of article, or with each team shouting out a 
different article. Take away points for students shouting out at the wrong point. 

18. Pairwork articles gap fill challenge. After finishing comprehension questions 

with a reading or listening text, get students to read each other sentences from 
it with one word they have chosen taken out, e.g. “Jane Saunders always feels 
tired by ____ end of the week”. People in the same group or a different team then 
have to try and guess the missing word with help of their memories and 
grammatical knowledge. The fact that students are challenging each other 
means they get much more involved in this task than if it was a textbook gap fill. 
You can tell them which kinds of words they can take out, but students usually 
choose quite a few determiners anyway, because they know it is difficult for the 
other students to guess.   

19. Articles grammar auction. Play grammar auction (students try to outbid the 

other students for sentences that are grammatically correct while avoiding 
sentences that have mistakes, with the aim of buying the most correct sentences 
within the total money limit you have set them by the end of the game) with 
sentences illustrating the grammar of articles, e.g. some sentences as they are 
from the textbook, and some textbook sentences changed to include grammatical 
errors. 

 

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2008