Scrabble tiles can be used in an ESL class in a number of ways, from simple and fun fillers to writing activities. I especially like using these activities with students who are weak spellers.
1. Longest List
Put students into groups of three and give each group 25 scrabble tiles. Make sure all tiles are face up. Each group needs a piece of paper. One student is the secretary. Give them a time limit of 3 minutes. The students form words and the secretary writes them down. After students make a word, the tiles get put back to be reused. When the time is up, students count their words and the team with the most points wins. You can adapt the game by assigning point value to the words. e.g. two-letter words = 2 points three-letter words = 3 points, etc. but six-letter or longer words = 10 points
2. Parts of Speech
Similar procedure as above, but students can only make nouns, or verbs, or adjectives, etc.Topics
Choose a topic, preferably a theme your class has been studying (food, the environment, sports, etc.) The words they form with their tiles have to be related to this theme. When the time limit is up, put two groups together. They compare lists and can challenge any word they feel isn’t related to the theme. Students then defend the word by explaining its relevance to the topic. Finally, both teams have to agree whether the word can be counted. The teacher can be the judge if the students cannot agree. This is a good activity not only to get students thinking of topic-related vocabulary, but also to give students practice with explication and persuasion.
Give each pair or group 30 tiles (you’ll need several Scrabble games). The group that can use all the letters in a crossword-style puzzle is the winner. Students have the opportunity to exchange two tiles.
1. Write a Crazy Story
First, give each group of 3 students 25 tiles. They form as many words as possible in the set time limit (3-5 minutes). Then have students write a story using as many of these words as possible. Make sure they know they will share this story with the class. If possible, have them write on the board. It’s easier to monitor and help students as they write. As you can imagine, the stories tend to be very creative! Afterwards, you can go through these stories with the class and do error corrections on the board. Students could vote for the story that was most realistic, most unrealistic, the one they would most like to be a character in, etc.
2. Sentence Competition
After students have had 3-5 minutes to create as many words as possible from their 25 tiles, play a sentence game (at the board if possible). Give them the criteria for each sentence. This can be adapted for different levels. For example, lower level students could be asked to write a sentence using one of the nouns from their list, and then a sentence using one of the verbs. With advanced levels, give more demanding criteria: a 12-word sentence with two nouns and two verbs from the list, for example. The first team to finish gets a point. Continue the activity with different criteria for the sentences.
If you have other ideas about using Scrabble tiles, please let me know!