Grammar gambling

Mike Guest, University of Miyazaki


Quick guide

  • Key words: Grammar, vocabulary, error correction, consciousness-raising
  • Learner English level: False beginner or higher
  • Learner maturity level: High school and above
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Activity time: 60-90 minutes
  • Materials: Play money in various denominations, Mistake sentence handout


This game, where students use play money to gamble on their ability to identify and fix common mistakes, is an exciting and memorable way to address the issue of error correction and help your students learn.



Step 1: Make a list of about 10 separate sentences, each containing only one grammar or vocabulary mistake often made by your students (see Appendix). You may want to consider adding distracters so as to not make the problem and solution too obvious. These mistake sentences should be both common and substantial. Also be aware of possible acceptable solutions other than the official version that you have decided upon.

Step 2: Prepare enough copies of your list, one for each student (to be distributed after the activity).

Step 3: Collect or make some play money and divide it into at least three denominations. This money will be placed at the front of class and constitutes the bank.



Step 1: Divide the students into teams of three or four.

Step 2: One student on each team is named treasurer.

Step 3: Decide on how much money should be allotted (the same amount for each team) and have the group treasurers come to the front and collect this amount. Teammates should confirm the total.

Step 4: One student from each team becomes the secretary. Only the secretary may have a pencil and paper and write on behalf of the entire team.

Step 5: Write one of the mistake sentences from your list on the board and explain that all teams will have 2 minutes to find and correct this mistake sentence by writing the correct form on the team secretary’s paper.

Step 6: Provide time warnings as the clock ticks down and when time is up, each team must place a bet by setting aside their amount from their treasury. Do not allow any writing during this step.

Step 7: After checking the bet amounts, write the correction on the board.

Step 8: Double-check the answers of any winning team (secretaries can proceed to the front to show you).

Step 9: Announce their rewards (based on the amount bet) and have the treasurer of successful teams retrieve that amount from the bank. Teams whose answer is not correct must return the amount bet to the bank. Partial rewards can be offered for borderline cases.

Step 10: Explain why the sample is a mistake and how it can or should be fixed. Students can now take notes.

Step 11: Repeat this process for the remaining sentences on your list.

Step 12: After the final sentence, each team should total up their treasury and announce the amount in English. The team with the highest sum wins.

Step 13: Pass out the handout of mistaken sentences to each student and have them complete it in class or for homework. Possible follow-up activities include having students make their own “mistake English quiz” for other students, using a combination of forms found in the gambling game or forms they come up with by themselves. The latter should also contain correct forms.


Appendix: Sample sentences containing one mistake

These sentences are adjustable to varying student proficiency levels:


  • Almost Japanese people have studied English at some time in their lives.

(Correct: Almost all Japanese people have studied English at some time in their lives.)

  • Knife attacks have become popular among young people in recent years.

(Correct: Knife attacks have become common/frequent/widespread among young people in recent years.)

  • Come to my office until 6:00 and I will give you all of your money back.

(Correct: Come to my office by 6:00 and I will give you all of your money back.)

  • Living in a safety place is necessary for happiness.

(Correct: Living in a safe place is necessary for happiness.)

  • If you have time next weekend, let’s go camping with us.

(Correct: If you have time next weekend, let’s go camping x/together.)