Teaching German grammar can be a chore. Verbs are no exception.
Luckily, we’ve got games that can turn repetition and drilling into competition and fun.
No matter how dull verb lessons might be, they’re absolutely essential.
Your students have to know how to use verbs in the right way.
By adding awesome games and group activities to your lesson plans, you’ll be able to keep your students awake through any verb lesson.
In this post, we’ll explain five different games suitable for a variety of German language learners.
You can play these games with inexpensive supplies you probably already own, or with no supplies at all.
With these games in your arsenal, your students will not only enjoy their lessons but also improve their usage of a wide range of key verbs.
5 German Verb Games Your Students Will Love
1. Pronoun dice
Take a regular six-sided die and write the following key up on the board:
1. ich 2. du 3. er/sie/es
4. wir 5. ihr 6. Sie/sie
Your students should work in pairs or small groups. Each group receives one die and one set of verbs, which you will pre-select and write on index cards.
Students will then take turns choosing one card from their group’s deck of index cards and rolling the die. If a student rolls a 2, she must generate a complete sentence using the verb on her card and the pronoun “du.”
The teacher or the teammates can assess whether the sentence was grammatically correct. If it was, the student gains a point. Then the next student takes his turn. If he rolls a 5, he must generate a sentence using “ihr” and the verb on whatever new card he draws.
The game is played until there are no more verb cards in the deck. Alternatively, students can shuffle cards back into the deck and play until the first player reaches 15 points.
You’ve probably played dominoes before. You have a set of tiles with different numbers on each end, and you have to lay them in such a way that pairs of numbers touch each other. Triominoes takes that basic concept and adds one more dimension.
For this game, you’ll need to print and cut out a collection of equilateral triangles, at least one inch on each side. On each of the three sides, you’ll write a verb — either in its infinitive form, its simple past (Präteritum) form or the participle needed for the present perfect. An example would be the three forms of “to sing”: singen, sangen, gesungen. Half of the triangles should have only infinitive forms, and the other half should have matching Präteritum or Perfekt forms.
Your students will then receive a set of these triangles and must assemble them like dominoes or a puzzle (however you’d like to think of this game play). They can work individually or in small groups, but they have to match the verb forms as quickly as they can. The winner is the student or group who places all of their tiles first.
If this sounds confusing, a visual example might help. You can see a similar English triomino puzzle here.
This classic needs almost no explanation. Whereas games like Taboo, Pictionary and Apples to Apples might lend themselves better to nouns or adjectives, charades is an excellent way for your students to practice verbs.
This game allows students to act out verbs in creative and amusing ways while their teams guess which verb they’re trying to mime. Charades is simple, quick and often hilarious. It’s a great choice for classes with lots of high-energy students or kinesthetic learners.
4. Conjugation bee
Spelling bees are fairly unique to English because our language has so many odd spelling rules. German and many other foreign languages have a much clearer relationship between written and pronounced word forms. Spelling bees, therefore, might not be the best choice for German class. But what about a conjugation bee?
In this game, each student receives an infinitive verb and is asked to conjugate the verb for all six main pronoun forms.
The conjugation bee can start in the simple present tense and work its way up to more advanced forms depending on the level of your class. This can be a great way to test knowledge of irregular forms. For instance, if a student receives the verb mögen (to like), a correct answer would be “Ich mag, du magst, er mag, wir mögen, ihr mögt, sie mögen.”
Mistakes result in a student sitting out for the rest of the bee. The winner is the last student standing.
5. Zip zap zop
Zip zap zop is a typical theater warm-up or icebreaker. It fosters group cohesion and quick thinking.
A group of no more than 12 people stands in a circle facing inward. One participant shouts “zip!” and points to someone else anywhere in the circle. This person must then shout “zap!” and point to someone else as quickly as possible, who then shouts “zop!” and points to a fourth person. The fourth person then changes the rhyme sequence to something like “bip bap bop” or “ship shap shop.” The fifth person must therefore pay special attention to the new rhyme.
It’s easy to adapt this game for the German language classroom. Instead of running through rhymes like “zip zap zop” and “flip flap flop,” why not start with a verb and run through its conjugations?
The first player, or perhaps the teacher, calls out a verb such as wissen (to know) and points to someone else. This person must now say “ich weiß” and point to another person as fast as possible, who then calls out “du weißt” and points to someone else, who then calls out “er weiß” and so on. Mistakes or slow reaction times result in a participant sitting out the remainder of the game, and the winner is the last student standing.
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How to Tailor These Games to Your Classroom
The best way to learn verb conjugations is in context, so make sure your lessons and your games have loads of authentic German examples. That means including actual native German speakers, most easily via videos. For that, I recommend FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Most of these games can be adapted for a variety of levels and verb forms.
Pronoun dice, for example, is suitable for beginners. It can also be adapted for more complex verb tenses, advanced vocabulary and re-rolling for complex or compound sentences. Depending on the cues you provide your students, a game of pronoun dice can yield anything from “you have a cat” to “I wouldn’t have done that if I were you.”
Triominoes, meanwhile, is best for beginning and intermediate students who are still mastering irregular preterit and perfect forms.
Beginning students may like the simplicity of charades, whereas intermediate or advanced students might appreciate the higher expectations and quick thinking required for a conjugation bee or zip zap zop. However, all five games can be modified and scaled in a wide variety of ways.
Practicing German verbs doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. Using these five fun games, students at every level can improve their German while enjoying themselves. Experiment with these activities in your classroom, and you’ll be sure to see results as well as smiles.