Thank Goodness for Snakes and Ladders!

Thank Goodness for Snakes and Ladders!

I absolutely love this game and since I’ve started teaching I’ve used Snakes and Ladders to learn dialogue, to practice speaking and even for listening and reading skills – all while students are having fun falling down snakes and climbing up ladders.

 I know what you’re thinking: “but where do I buy all those boards? Doesn’t that cost a lot of money? , how are you practicing English?”

So, okay, let me explain, it’s not the traditional Snakes and Ladders with a board and a dice to roll, it’s enlarged and altered for our English teacher needs!

Firstly, I made a snake and a ladder. I just printed out a big coloured snake on an A4 paper and cut out a ladder shape from coloured card. (You could always draw the snake yourself.)  I stuck magnetic strips to the back of both so they stick on the whiteboard.

Next I made the “You Won!” box. That’s the box you put on the top left corner, the box all your students want to get too. So, still pretty traditional Snakes and Ladders right?

ESL Lesson 1Well this is how I “English-a-fy-it”:

Instead of just boxes and numbers I fill the boxes with pictures or words. For example, when my grade 6’s where learning the dialogue for the unit “How often do you _____________?” I had a box with pictures of all the different activities we were studying in our textbook. I will often draw the pictures on the board myself but those less artistic can always print out pictures. Or instead of pictures you can always write the sentence/key word but I find that pictures are more fun for the students to look at and to understand. Here’s an example of both versions of the board:


Now, how to play the game: (I’ll be refering to the snake and ladder board with the pictures drawn, for the topic, grade 6, “How often do you__________?”)

 Step 1. Separate class into teams. I’ll always do boys against girls as elementary kids love it.

Step 2. Choose one team member from the first team to come up and roll a dice. I’ll use a big fluffy dice, but any dice will do.

Step 3. Whatever number rolled, move that teams’ magnet to the appropriate box. Now, here’s the English part: If the dice rolls a 3 and lands on the picture “wash your hands” then the student who rolled must play either A or B in the following dialogue:

A: Can you help me with my survey?

B: Sure.

A: How often do you ___________________?

B: I ________________________ times a day/week.

A: Okay. Thanks for helping me.

-this dialogue is taken from the textbook for the unit, and can be altered as you see fit.

So, in this case, because the student rolled 3 and landed on the picture of “wash your hands” they must act as B in the dialogue while the class reads for A in the dialogue. The class will fill in the missing dialogue with “wash your hands” and the student will answer appropiately with his or her answer. So here’s an example of what they might say:

(class)             A: Can you help me with my survey?

(student)          B: Sure.

(class)              A: How often do you wash your hands?

(student)          B: I wash my hands 4  times a day.

(class)              A: Okay. Thanks for helping me.

Easy right? The student and class are filling in the dialogue blanks as well as thinking for themsleves instead of simply memorizing without understanding. They’re also practicing their speaking skills and there’s not a lot of pressue on the individual student who will come up as you would have been over the dialogue before. I’ll write the dialogue with the blank spaces on the board before the game and we will read through it as a class together. I’ll leave it up for the first two dice rolls but then erase it so they can do it without reading. Most importantly it’s fun. All the learning is disguised by playing a game of Snakes and Ladders. Only after all the dialogue has been said can a new team player come up and roll next. I like to let the students choose the next person from the opposing team to roll the dice. This way I can try to learn names as well.

In my experience , as I play this game frequently, almost with every topic as it’s so adaptable, I get even the shyest, lowest level students volunterring to come up and roll the dice. They love it. By the time I’ve got the board up and annouce it’s game time almost the entire class has their hand shot up hoping to roll first.

Recently I played this with my 6th graders who are a little challenging to get enthusastic about English at times, but I made it a little more interesting by drawing a blank Snakes and Ladder grid on the whiteboard. We were studying the topic “What do you want to be?” which goes over different occupations.

The dialogue was:

A: What do you want to be?

B: I want to be a ____________________.

A: Wow, that’s interesting!




Instead of drawing or wrting job titles in the grid I wrote 8 job titles on separate pieces of paper and put them in our class mystery bag. The student who would roll the dice had to roll and then pick a paper blindly out of the bag and draw the job in the grid box their dice landed on. It was a pictionary –Snakes and Ladders mash up! The kids loved it. Quite a lot of laughs but lots of fun and English speaking and thinking! I’m telling you, this game is always a success!

This is a board for learning past tense. The student lands on a word and has to say the past tense of the word and use it in a sentence. E.g. The student lands on ‘eat’, so they will say “Ate…I ate pizza last weekend.”

ESL Lesson 3

It’s not what you think, we weren’t selling people! J This lesson is a shopping lesson, practicing shopping ettique and dialogue as well as money. So if the studentlanded on a box say, the box which reads “my brother is” that means he would have to say “Can you help me? My brother is looking for ________.” I had a bag of laminated pictures of clothing items that we used to help fill in the blank of that sentence.



The written money amounts were used for the part of the dialgoue where the student asked the class “How much are they?” and the class would reply with the amount written in the box that the student’s dice roll helped him land. 

ESL Lesson 4

So go ahead and customize your Snake and Ladder game!

 By: Ardyn Baia – EPIK Teacher








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