I used this activity with two different groups of students yesterday and it worked perfectly. They absolutely loved it, and I can't recommend it highly enough to other teachers.
How it works
The beauty of the ESL Auction Game is that you can use it with any level of student for a wide range of language points. I used it with tenses that I'd been teaching in recent days to check their knowledge.
I ran a review lesson with a number of exercises testing their understanding of the target language. Then I began to set up the auction by showing them a video from the TV show, Storage Wars. I used this because it's easy to find on YouTube. You could realistically use any auction video as long as it shows the main concepts of an auction. I also taught the vocabulary: auction, lot, bid.
You need to assign the students to groups, and give them a sheet of paper with some sentences written down. Some of these sentences should be correct and some should be incorrect. Tailor this to your group, but I highly recommend making it challenging. Once the game begins, even the most apathetic student tends to get involved and bidding wars are common!
Give the students time to look over the sentences. Remember that you want them learning from this so give them enough time to discuss in groups which sentences are right and which are wrong. As they do this, you can set up the board work.
I have classes of around 50 students so I typically divide them into 10 teams of 5 students. Therefore, I write the numbers 1-10 across the top of the board. I give each student $10,000 credit to spend on the auction, which is indicated above their team number. Below the team number (you could also use team names, which students seem to find fun), you write the lot which was purchased and the amount it was purchased for.
Make sure to demonstrate the procedure first. The students must be clear on how auctions work, and how this game will work. Ask some CCQs and ICQs if needed.
Like I mentioned before, this game can get competitive! I was surprised how my shy, quiet students exploded into life and began desperately outbidding each other. This can be helped even more if you get into the role of auctioneer a little! I joked around by speaking really fast, which seemed to amuse the students. Pretty soon some of the more confident ones were shouting out bids rather than silently bidding.
Reasons for Using ESL Auction
The game is lots of fun and requires surprisingly little time to plan. You need to print out only as many pieces of paper as you have teams, and only to make sure that the sentences (the lots) they bid on are appropriate.
I firmly believe that most learning is achieved when the student is interested in the lesson, and in this game the students will surely be captivated.