Market Traders is a useful game to help practice:
- semantic fields
- negotiating skills
Once you have prepared the game, it can be adapted for a great number of classroom situations, levels and vocabulary areas. As you will see, it can also be adapted for Business English and used to practice negotiation amongst business learners.
Essentially students are divided into two groups: buyers and sellers. Each seller is given a number of items to sell and their goal is to make as much money as possible. Each shopper is given a shopping list and some currency (e.g. Monopoly money). Their goal is to buy as many items as possible at the lowest price.
The game has a duration of, say, 10 minutes. After this students are ranked according to how well they played their role.
At its simplest, preparation is like this:
- Prepare the items to be sold. These should be related to the level and needs of your class. You could use actual items (e.g. plastic fruit, stationery, etc) or representations (e.g. flashcards with “cheese”, “water”, etc written on them). Each Seller should have their own set so slips of paper are probably ideal (remember, if you want to use the game again you can laminate the “items” to make them last longer).
- Prepare the shopping lists. For a simple game you can make these match with the items for sale directly. To make things more difficult, some of the items on the shopping list may not be available.
- Prepare the currency. Monopoly money is ideal. Each Buyer will have the same amount.
As you practice and develop the game, you can introduce variations such as Sellers having different products. This means Buyers will need to visit different “stores” to complete their purchase list. When you do this, you should ensure that each seller has a selection of products of approximately the same value.
In the Classroom
Pre-teach and practice any vocabulary required. Also, you may need to go over various phrases and concepts which will be used in the game. It sometimes helps to get a good student out to the front of the class and practice a few negotiations and sales with them; then get another good student out and let the two students negotiate.
Divide the students into Buyers and Sellers. (You can make a game out of this if you like.)
The Sellers need to be spread around the room where they set up their “store” and decide on a price for each item. Explain that their goal is to make as much money as they can. Obviously, however, different sellers will have the same product so there’s an element of competition here.
Each buyer is given the same amount of money. Explain they need to buy all the things on their list for as little money as possible. It can be a good idea to have some items on the list which are not in the “stores” so they will end up moving from store to store asking for it.
The game lasts, say, 10 minutes. As the students are moving round the class, make sure you are with them, giving hints where necessary and helping.
Call out time intervals, especially towards the end to encourage sellers to get rid of their last items.
At the end of the game time, the sellers can be ranked according to how much money they have made. The buyers can be ranked in two ways: according to how much money they have left, and according to how many of the items on their shopping list they have managed to buy.
There are many, many variations on this game. Once you have become familiar with running a simple version like that presented here, you can develop it according to the needs and level of your class. Some ideas include:
- different shopping lists for different buyers
- “open” shopping lists (e.g. they must prepare a meal and buy some ingredients – it can be quite fun to see what the shoppers end up buying and how they would use them in a meal
- different currencies – for the right class (e.g. international business), you can introduce exchange rates so customers need to buy and sell in different currencies and do the conversion