Games and Activities for ESL Classes
Collected by Shaney Crawford, Former Participant of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme (Fukushima)
These games and activities have been collected from various sources: past issues of the Fukushima JET newsletter, games books, various CLAIR and AJET teaching resource guides, and stuff left over from my predecessor. I apologize for not quoting sources, but I collected them in such a hurry when I first got here that I can’t find the original sources in most cases. It is safe to assume that I did not come up with all of these games, so please do not give me credit for doing so. You can, however, assume that all mistakes are mine.
1. ‘A’ and ‘AN’
Draw a large ‘a’ and a large ‘an’ on separate pieces of paper. It is best if these words are written inside amusing animal shapes. Divide the class into two teams. The first child from each team puts their hands on their heads. Show the children a vocabulary flashcard. They both touch (or slam) the ‘a’ or ‘an’. The one to touch the correct paper first gets a point for her team, provided that she says, “It’s a …” or “It’s an …” correctly. If she makes a mistake, the other child is offered a chance to make the correct sentence. After the class gets the idea, one of the children can hold up the cards instead of the teacher.
2. A-B PAIRWORK
Student A is given half of the information and Student B is given the other half. Students have to work together and ask each other questions to fill in the missing information on each of their sheets.
3. ADJECTIVES 1
Write down three adjectives and ask pairs of students to write down as many things they can think of that all three adjectives apply to. For example, “big, cold, beautiful” might apply to snowman, mountain, Alaska… Get students to come up with their own adjectives. See who can get the most number of words.
4. ADJECTIVES 2
Choose some advertisements with big print and not too much writing on them. Number them clearly. Black out two adjectives from each and make a list of the missing words. Before the lesson, post the ads on the walls of the classroom somewhere. Dictate the list of adjectives and tell the students that these are the words that have been blacked out on the walls. The object is to match the adjectives with their ads. Students write the number of the ad that they think that adjective appeared in.
5. ALPHABET 1
Use big cards. Go through the alphabet once in order then mix them up. Introduce the pronunciation of B and V, M and N, and L and R carefully.
6. ALPHABET 2
Use chalk as a baton. Arrange teams behind a line before the blackboard. The first student writes A in her/her team’s designated space, then passes the chalk to the next student. The fastest team wins. The Japanese teacher monitors the kids to keep them behind the line. Friends can call out from behind the line to help. Give points for speed and neatness. When the students are confident with A to Z, get them to try Z to A. If some students can write the whole alphabet, pit them against each other. Instead of running to the board, you can try having wheelbarrow races or hopping races. The movement and the competition are important in an elementary school.
7. ALPHABET 3
Use sets of alphabet cards. Make groups of 5 students. In the classroom, clear the desks to the side. The students must make an alphabet line, card to card, from A to Z. Can use to check recognition of capitals and small letters.
8. ALPHABET 4
Make two sets of alphabet cards, each letter about half the size of B4. Divide the class into two. Distribute the two sets of cards amongst the students. Some of the students may get two cards. The teacher selects a word for spelling. Each team has to spell the word by its members rushing to the front and holding up their cards in correct sequence. The fastest team wins.
9. ALT’S APARTMENT
Draw an empty apartment on the board. Have students try to guess the contents. Draw them in as they name them. For example, the students could ask, “Is there a chair?”.
10. ANAGRAMS (WORD SCRAMBLES) 1
Mix up vocabulary words and get the students to unscramble them. Can be played in teams, in pairs, or with the whole class. The team who can unscramble the word (i.e. say it in English) and give its meaning in Japanese gets a point. The team with the most points wins. You can also get the students to spell the words correctly for points.
11. ANIMAL GAME
Give each student the name of an animal. After practising the different animal sounds, the students make the sound in order to find the other students who are the same animal. Japanese animal cries (nakigoe) are different from their English counterparts. Explain the sounds using pictures. The kids find the differences amusing. They tend to know ‘dog’ and ‘mouse’ (after you mention Mickey). I also used ‘kangaroo’ with a ‘tch, tch’ sound. Have a card for each student, but make sure they don’t show it to anyone else. After finding their partners, they can show their cards to each other, then the JTE and ALT. Presentation is important as without the preparation of cards and the explanation (i.e. “you can’t show your card to anyone else”), this game can be a flop. It took some fine tuning before it succeeded.
12. ANYTHING GOES
Students try to come up with as many different answers to one question as they can. The teacher asks something like, “How many fingers do you have?”. The first student will probably say, “I have ten fingers.”. The next student can say, “I have more than nine fingers.” The next, “I don’t have sixteen fingers.”. The next, “I am an alien, so I have sixty fingers.”, etc. Try to get them to use any grammar point that they have ever covered.
13. BACK TO BACK
Teams of two stand back to back and hook their arms around each other’s arms. Race to a marker and then back to the starting line giving both the chance to run forward and backwards once.
14. BACK WRITING 1
After reading a text, each student selects about 5 new, difficult or unusual words. In pairs, they write the words one at a time (with their fingers) on their partners’ backs. The partner guesses the word. Variation: the partner must use the word in a sentence. Books closed makes it a memory game. Books open makes it a scanning activity.
15. BACK WRITING 2
Each row is a team. The last person in each row comes up to the teacher’s desk and looks at a flash card. When all students have returned to their seats, the teacher says “Start!” and the game begins. The students at the end of the row write the word (with their fingers) on the back of the person in front of them. When that person seems to understand the word, they write it on the back of the person in front of them. The person in the front of the row writes the word on the board, then goes to the teacher’s desk to look at a different card. Once he has remembered the card, he goes to the back and writes it on the back of the person who used to be at the end of the row. (All the students should move forward one seat while the person at the front of the row is looking at the new card.) The winning team is the one that can write the most (correctly spelled) words on the board.
16. BASEBALL 1
The class is divided into two teams. Four chairs are placed in the shape of a baseball diamond. The AET/JTE proceeds to ask each team member a question which must be answered in a complete sentence. If the correct answer is given, the player moves to first base. If the answer is wrong, the player is “out”. When the team has three “outs” the other team comes up to bat.
17. BASEBALL 2
Draw a baseball diamond and a score board on the board. Students, in turn, are “at bat” and choose how difficult a question to attempt: a single, double, triple, or homerun. If a student answers correctly, s/he moves ahead the appropriate number of bases. The students who are already on base advance the appropriate number of bases. Players who advance to homeplate score a point for their team. If a player answers incorrectly, s/he is out. Once a team makes three outs, the other team is up. This works well with spelling practice because it is fairly easy to compile lists of easy to difficult words.
Note from Steve Mendoza
I teach at a Japanese high school, and I have some additional ideas for the game “Baseball 2”. It may be a good idea to use playing cards, i.e. ace = single, 2 = double etc. Also the joker card can be an automatic walk, and king can be an automatic strikeout. The cards are put face down and the students pick one randomly. This adds a more random element to the game. In Japan, most students would just pick single each time, if given the choice.
18. BASEBALL 3
Draw a baseball diamond on a piece of paper and place a pile of flashcards in the middle of it. Divide the children into two teams and give each team some counters. The team takes turns at bat. The first child on the batting team puts her counter on home plate and draws a card from the top of the pile. Either the rest of the team or the pitching team ask her one or more questions about the card (e.g. What is it? What colour is it?). If she answers the questions successfully, she moves her counter to first base. There are various ways of proceeding from here. (1) The same child can draw more cards. If she gets three more correct, she gets a home run. If she makes a mistake, the turn passes to the other team. (2) The next child on her team draws a card. If four different children make correct answers consecutively, their team gets a home run. (3) She can choose not to go to first base, but to try for a two-base hit. If she makes another correct answer, she can choose to move to second base or try for a three-base hit, etc. Each team is allowed three outs before the turn passes to the other team.
Students get into pairs facing one another. Each student gets a game sheet. The game sheet includes two grids. One grid is for the students to place his battleships on. The other grid is for the student to record his guesses on. On the student’s own grid, he places various “ships”. For example, one battleship (taking up 4 connecting squares), two cruisers (3 squares) and one submarine (1 square). Ships can be placed anywhere on the grid (horizontally, vertically, but not diagonally). Students must not show their game sheets to other students. To make the game sheet, put beginning parts of sentences in the squares of the first column (for example “I am”, “You are”, “He is”). Then put the endings of those sentences in the squares of the first row (for example “Japanese” “a good baseball player” “a high school student”). Students then say these sentences to indicate which square on the grid that they are going to guess. For example, “He is Japanese”, might indicate the square that is in the first row, third column. If the partner has placed a ship in that square, he says “hit” and marks that square with a big “X”. If the partner has not placed a ship there, he says “miss”. Then the other student makes his own guess. Students record their own guesses on the grid made for that purpose. Students try to “sink” each other’s battleships in this way. The student who sinks their partner’s entire fleet wins.
The game board can be any size as long as it is square (3X3, 4X4, etc.). If you are teaching elementary school children the alphabet, use a 5 x 5 grid, which allows the children to fill in almost every letter of the alphabet. Students are given the bingo grid and a bunch of words that they are supposed to fill the Bingo grid with — have more words than spaces — once they have finished, start calling out words or sentences that contain the words. Can also be played with vocabulary words. Call out words and the students write them on the bingo grid wherever they like. Then call out the vocabulary words one by one until someone gets bingo. Vary the ways to win. Sometimes make it one row, sometimes make it two rows or a special design (e.g. “T” or “X”)
21. BINGO WITH NAMES
Prepare a bingo grid with a question and YES/NO written in each square. For example, “Do you like to swim?”, “Are you a good baseball player?”, or whatever target sentence you are currently studying. Students interview each other by asking the questions on the grid. For example, Kenji asks Kanako “Do you like to swim?” Kanako says “Yes, I do”. So Kenji circles “Yes” underneath the question and Kanako signs her name at the bottom of the square. Students cannot ask the same person more than one question. Give the students about 10 minutes to fill their grids with names. Then, students sit down and the teacher calls out the students’ names. Keep playing until someone gets Bingo. This can also be played with students racing around to make Bingo with the students names themselves. Students who answer “yes” sign their names on the sheets, students who answer “no” don’t sign anything. A straight row of students who answered “yes” makes Bingo. After a few students call out Bingo, get all of the students to sit down and check the answers of the winning students. Ask the students who signed their names if they really answered yes to the question. If they answer “no”, you know that the students haven’t been playing correctly.
One of the children is blindfolded and counts to ten. While she is counting, the other children can move around the room. The blindfolded child can also move. (If the room is large or the game is played outside, it may be necessary to restrict the area). On the count of ten, the children have to stop moving immediately. The blindfolded child then asks the children where they are by saying, “Emi, where are you?”. The children answer, “I’m near/in/on/under …”. After any answer, the blindfolded child can move and try to catch any of the children. As soon as she moves, all the other children can move too. If she catches a child, she must guess who she has caught. If her guess is correct, that child is the next to be blindfolded.
23. BOARD GAMES
Make up a board game for any grammar point. Model the game after a well-known game, such as Snakes (chutes) and Ladders, or make your own. Have squares for missing a turn, getting an extra turn, rolling again, etc. You can use true/false questions, questions and answers (i.e. trivia), or scrambled words or sentences.
4X4 grid with letters. Students try to make words out of the connecting letters in any direction (as long as the letters are in fact touching one another).
25. BOP, BOPPITY, BOP
Students sit in a circle. One student goes in the middle. The person in the middle must approach one of the people in the centre and say either “bop” or “bop, bippity, bop, bop, bop”. If the person in the middle just says “bop”, then the person in the circle must say nothing. If the person in the middle says “bop, bippity, bop, bop, bop”, the person in the circle must say “bop” before the middle person has finished saying “bop, bippity, bop, bop, bop”. This continues until someone slips and says “bop” when they are not supposed to, or doesn’t say anything when they are supposed to say “bop”. The person who makes the mistake must go into the middle. If everyone has caught on to this, let the middle person say some different things. She can say “Aliens, 1, 2, 3”. The person in the circle who this is said to must react by contorting his face to look like an alien. The people on either side of the “alien” must hold their hands up to their faces and scream. Or, she can say “Hula, hula dancers, 1, 2, 3”. The person in the circle must jump into the middle and do a hula dance and the people on either side of the victim must wave their hands from side to side, hula-like. Or, she can say “Viking ships, 1, 2, 3.” The person in the circle must put two fingers pointing outwards by his forehead to resemble a Viking ship and the two people on either side must do a rowing action with their arms. Play this game as quickly as possible.
26. BROKEN TELEPHONE
Someone whispers something to a student. Message must travel through the class. Last person says what s/he hears.
27. BULLRUSH (BRITISH BULLDOG)
The students stand at one end of the gym. There are one or two students in the middle of the gym. A student in the middle calls out the name of one of the students at the end. That student has to run from one end of the gym to the other without being tagged. If tagged, he joins the students in the middle. If not tagged, he can call “Bullrush” which means that all the students have to run from one end of the gym to the other at the same time.
28. CARD GAMES
Adapt any card games you know to a grammar point. E.g. Old Maid, Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Speed, etc. Also, these games can be taught to an English club.
29. CAR RACE
Place some flashcards end to end to resemble a race track. Include two or three brightly coloured blank cards in the track and place a starting and finishing line at a convenient part of the track. Each child chooses a car (or counter) and places his/her car on the starting line. Decide the number of laps. The first child draws a number or throws a dies, says what the number is, and moves her car around the track that number of flashcards. When s/he stops on a card, she must say what it is, make a sentence about it, or answer a question about it. If she makes a mistake, s/he returns the car to its original position. If a child’s piece lands on a brightly coloured card, s/he has another turn. Either make a “crash” flashcard, or say that throwing a “6” on the die will make you crash. The student must move his/her marker to the side of the track and wait out one turn.
It’s usually best to introduce this game after playing Pictionary a few times. This game works well for verbs. Students pick out a verb card then they act out the verb. The other students try to figure out what the verb is. Can be played in two teams. For advanced students, ask for a full sentence response. For example, “He is running.” instead of “run”. Can also be done with nouns and adjectives. Another way to play is to get the whole team to act out a word so that one of their members can figure out what the word is. The team has one minute to figure out what their team-mate is trying to act out. If they guess properly, the team gets a point. If at the end of one minute the team still hasn’t guessed, the other gets to try to steal the point. Yet another way to play is to give one team a limited amount of time to go through as many cards as they can (e.g. give them 90 seconds to do as many cards as they can).
31. CHUNK READING
Good for all levels, but first years in particular really get into it. The AET reads the text at a certain pace. At various stages, the JTE raises his/her hand and the students mark with a pencil the part of the text where they think the AET was reading when the JTE’s hand went up. You can also use brief pauses and get them to try to guess where they occurred.
32. CIRCLE MIME
The children sit in a circle. One child stands in the centre and mimes an occupation/animal, etc. The other children try to guess what she is miming by asking, “Are you…?” The rules of the game are as follows. (1) Any child can ask the question. If her guess is incorrect, she loses one point. If she is correct, both she and the child who is miming get a point and they change places. (2) If three children’s guesses are incorrect, the whole class asks “What are you?” and the child who is miming answers, “I’m…”. Nobody gets any points. Another child (possibly the one who is sitting to the left of where the child in the centre was originally sitting) changes place with the child who was miming. (3) The child in the centre cannot mime something that has already been mimed. (4) It is probably a good idea for a child who wants to guess to put her hand up first. When this happens, the child in the centre has to stop miming immediately. If more than one child put their hands up, the teacher (or a child) decides who should ask the question (usually the fastest, but this can be a good chance to cheat a little and let some of the quieter children ask the questions). Or, the children can janken to see who gets to ask first.
Make two copies of a passage, each with (different) words missing. Blanks identify the missing words. The students read the passage aloud together to fill in the missing parts. Alternately, the students can ask each other questions about the missing parts after reading the passage silently. For example, a student might ask, “What is the mother’s name?”.
Collect one thing from every student and put it into a bag. Get students to close their eyes and take things out of the bag one by one. Students go one by one and ask each other “Is this your…?” They have three chances. Then they must go in front of the class and ask “Whose … is this?”
Draw up an alphabet chart. Each letter is a different colour, but stick with about 5 colours. Review these colours, then say the alphabet. Then, tell them from now on, they must clap on the colour orange instead of saying the letter. If they get good at doing that, get them to do something else for another colour.
Make up even teams. The first student falls down and then says go and then the next student straddles the first student and falls down and says go. This is repeated until the team has reached the end of the gym.
37. CONCENTRATION 1
Chant “Concentration, concentration now begins!”. Select a category. Students must say a member of that category within a time limit (usually within four handclaps).
38. CONCENTRATION 2
Magnetic cards are put on the board with blank backs. The cards are arranged in pairs so that English words match Japanese words. Students must turn over the cards until they find a match. If they find a match, they can go again. Team or student with the most cards wins. For beginners, get the students to leave the cards overturned. Then, if a student turns over a card that has a matching card already showing, they have made a match. For advanced students, get them to tell you which cards to turn over. E.g. Go up three and left two. Also, you can ask students about the cards. E.g. What is it? What colour is it? Do you like it? If the student answers incorrectly, they don’t get to keep the cards.
39. COUNTING CARDS
Use about 20 flashcards. Have a student say a number between one and twenty. Then start reading the flashcards. If the number is “7” for example, stop and do something special on the seventh card — and on any multiple of seven. The special thing can be shouting, or not saying the card, etc. Do this in a group at first, but later go through the class one by one. Any student who does the wrong thing on the special number is out.
40. CROWS AND CRANES
The students make two straight lines. One line is called “crows” and the other “cranes”. The teacher calls out “crows”. The crows try to catch the cranes before they reach the wall. If a crane is caught, they become a crow and join the crow team (and vice versa).
41. DICE GAME
Make dice (saikoro) about 10cm x 10cm or larger. Go through the numbers with the students. I explain eleven (7-11) and twelve (difficult) for 5th and 6th graders. I play boys vs. girls in a line. The first girl and boy come forward. They roll the dice, then the teacher calls out a number between 1 and 6. The students must add the dice number with the number the teacher says. The quickest gets a point and the next two students come forward. No hints from team-mates allowed – instant penalty. The Japanese teacher keeps score.
42. DICTIONARY ADVICE
Using one or more English dictionaries, present some common problems, such as: not enough money, relating to a difficult person, the future, etc. After the class picks a problem, you open the dictionary at random and pick a word from that page and read it aloud. The word must be used to give advice on the problem. For example, if the problem is “not enough money” and the random word is “macaroni”, then a sample solution might be: “You are so poor that you must eat macaroni everyday.”
43. DRAW THE MONSTER
The teacher instructs the students to draw a monster according to his oral directions. The teacher says things like, “My monster has three heads. It has one long green arm and a short blue arm. It has a pointy nose…etc.” Compare notes at the end.
44. DROP THE HANKY
Make a circle and sit down. One person is IT and has the hanky (handkerchief). She walks around the outside of the circle and drops the handkerchief behind someone. As soon as that person realizes that the hanky has been dropped behind him, he gets up and runs around the circle twice, trying to tag IT. If IT manages (after two runs around) to get to the vacated place in the circle, IT is safe and the other person is IT. If IT drops the hanky and the person doesn’t realize it, and IT walks around the circle once and tags that person on the shoulder, that person becomes IT.
45. DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE
Make a circle and sit down. One person is IT. She walks around the outside of the circle and taps people on the head and says “duck”. She can repeat this as many times as she wants, but at some point, she will tap someone one the head and say “goose”. The goose and IT run opposite ways around the circle and the first person to get back to the vacated spot is safe. The other is IT.
46. ERASE A DIALOGUE
Model the dialogue or key sentence. Write it on the board. Read it line-by-line and have the students repeat it. Practise then erase a part of it. Have the students repeat replacing the erased bit. Keep erasing until the students can recite the entire sentence from memory. Good for “Let’s Read”.
47. ERASE A SENTENCE
Write a target sentence on the board. Read the sentence and ask the students to repeat it. Have all of the students stand up. Erase one word from the sentence. Have a student from the first row try to say the sentence including the first word. If the student says it right, her row may sit down. If she says it incorrectly, her row remains standing and a student from the next row tries.
Show the students several flashcards that they are familiar with. Tell them to try to remember the cards. Then, shuffle the cards and start describing the top card without showing it to the students. For example, if the top card is “apple”, you could say “It’s red. You eat it.” That might be enough to let them guess the word if the cards are “apple, sun, jet, frog, milk”, however, you might need to be more specific if the cards are “apple, banana, strawberry, orange, tomato, cherry”. The first student to guess correctly gets to keep the card. The student (or row) with the most cards at the end wins.
49. FAMILY TREES
This activity can be used to introduce members of the family (Mike is my brother), review possessive adjectives (shoyuukaku), and the possessive ‘s’. Draw your own family tree and explain its history. Better still, include photos. Explain and practise new vocabulary words. You could use flashcards. Get the students to draw their own family trees and explain them to a partner (pair practice). Check the students’ understanding by listening to them during pair work and ask a few students to tell the whole class about their family, or introduce their partner’s. You could make it an assignment and have them include photos. Good for building up essential vocabulary.
50. FILL IN THE GRID
Draw a grid with the names of countries down one side and verbs across the top — e.g. Canada, Italy, Japan, India, UK and play, speak, eat, study, use. Then fill in the middle with appropriate answers (i.e. in Canada, we play hockey). Mairi used this for passive voice — i.e. Hockey is played in Canada. Students are given an empty grid with the names of the countries and verbs already on it. They must fill the chart with the words that you give them, then write sentences or read them out to teachers.
51. FIND THE MISTAKES
Working in pairs, one student has a copy of a passage and the other student has a copy with factual errors. These copies are identifies as correct or not. The student with the correct version reads the copy aloud. The other student listens and identifies the errors on his/her sheet. This game can also be played with both readers reading their passages silently and then discussing the content and trying to find the mistakes.
52. FIND YOUR GROUP
Every student is given a card with some information on it. Students have to ask each other questions to find out who belongs in the same group as they do. For example, if a card says, “high school student, Japan, volleyball”, then student must ask others, “Are you a high school student?” or “Are you from Japan?” or “Are you a member of the volleyball team?” Students who answer “yes” to all three of these questions belong to the same group. When all the members of the group have gathered, they must sit down. The first group to get the prescribed number of members (perhaps five), wins.
53. FIND YOUR MATCH
Divide the class into two teams. Give one team Vocabulary cards and the other team Japanese Meaning cards so that one card goes to each student. When the teacher says “start” students from one team try to find the card that corresponds to theirs in the other team. To control the chaos, you may want one team to stay sitting while the other team stands and walks around. The students in the team that is walking around collects the cards from the students in the team that is sitting. After a few minutes, the teacher says “stop” and all of the students sit down. Each student holding a matching set of cards scores one point for his team. Play again with the opposite teams sitting and standing. The team with the most points wins.
54. FIND YOUR PARTNER
Prepare a set of cards with different names, occupations, friends’ names, and likes and dislikes. For example, one card might say “My name is Yumi. My friend is Chikako. I work at a university. I like pickles and yakisoba.” This student would have to find her friend Chikako and find other people who like and dislike the same things as her. In the end, the student could write down the answers. For example, an answer might be “My name is ______. My friend is _____. I work at a _____. _____ also works there. ______ also likes ______.” etc…
55. FIND SOMEONE WHO
Make a list of qualities or actions, etc. Students must “find someone who” fits those qualities — i.e. Find someone who likes natto.
Give each student 3 or 4 cards and put the remaining cards on the teacher’s desk. The object of the game is to get as many pairs as possible. Students janken, and the winner asks, “Do you have a ~~?” The other student replies, “Yes, I do. Here it is.” or “No, I don’t. Go fish!” If the student gets the card they asked for, they keep the pair, then ask the same student again. If the student is told to “go fish”, they must take a card from the “fish pond” on the teacher’s desk. Then the students ask other students in the class (jankening first to see who will ask who). Set a time limit, or make play end when the fish pond runs dry. The student with the most pairs wins. Can be used for vocabulary review, or review of target sentence (Do you have…, I want a…, I’m looking for…, Please give me…”).
57. FIZZ BUZZ
The first student in a row starts counting with “one”, the next student says “two”, the next “three”, etc. The number “seven” is unlucky, so no one is allowed to say it. Whenever “seven” should be said, students must say “fizz”. This includes “seventeen, twenty-seven”, etc. The pattern should sound like, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, fizz, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, fizz, 18, 19, etc”. If the students get very good at that, try adding another forbidden number. That number is “buzz”. For example, if 3 is “buzz”, then 37 is “buzzfizz”. If they can still manage that with ease, make is so that multiples of “fizz” and “buzz” are also unlucky. That would result in something like, “1, 2, buzz, 4, 5, buzz, fizz, 8, buzz, 10, 11, buzz, buzz, fizz, buzz, 16, fizz, buzz, etc”.
58. FLAP THE FISH 1
Cut some fish from paper, drawing on gills, fins, and colours. Then get a few uchiwa (Japanese fan with a handle). Move the desks to one side of the room (if you’re in a classroom) and divide the students into two teams. The idea is to wave the fan next to the fish and make it move without touching it. It’s a race and the first to cross a finishing line (use a skipping rope) wins. You can play this in a relay, or one on one, or boys vs. girls. This game is perfectly suited to Japan because in the UK we used to use newspapers. Uchiwa are much better. I have used this game with my 1st and 2nd years with great success by pitting the girls against the boys, one by one, with 2 points for a win. Explain the technique of bending your knees. Although this has nothing to do with learning English, it’s important to mix in an international type game and get the students moving about.
59. FLAP THE FISH 2
Make a starting and finishing line on the floor. Each child draws and cuts out a paper fish and places it on the starting line. Each child also has a magazine (or uchiwa). One child, or the teacher) stands at the finish line, holds up flash cards one by one and asks questions about them (e.g. What is it? What colour is it? What does she do?). The children who are taking part in the race either answer individually directed questions in turn or try to answer the same question first (in this case there should be a judge). If a child answers correctly, she hits the floor behind her fish with her magazine (or uchiwa), making the fish move toward the finishing line. The first child to make her fish cross the finishing line is the winner. If there are more children than can race at the same time, there could be a knockout tournament (the winner of each race goes through to the next round) or the game can be played in teams (each winner gets a point for her team, or team-mates take turns answering and flapping).
60. FORTUNE TELLER (in progress)
Instructions:(make the origami fortune teller, then use it for whatever in class)
61. FRUIT BASKET
Make a big circle with chairs. Write 4 or 5 fruits on the blackboard. Practise pronunciation then give each student the name of a fruit. The teacher calls out a name (e.g. apple). All the apples must switch chairs. Have one less chair than students so there is always one student left standing. This student calls out the next fruit. This game can be played with any vocabulary category or grammatical pattern (I like…, I play…). You need visual aids with small kids to get their attention and monitor their understanding. You can also cross-reference the game by using the colours of the fruit. If a student is in the middle three times, think of some suitable punishment. For third years, the person in the middle can call out sentences like “I play volleyball” and those students who play volleyball must trade seats.
62. FUKUWARAI (PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY)
Use the traditional Japanese New Years’ game ‘fukuwarai’ and turn it into an easy English game. We made eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. First, teach the students the parts of the face in English, and last the words “up, down, left, right, stop”. Then, blindfold a student. The other students tell him/her where to place the parts of the face. This can also be played with a drawing of a face without a nose and a magnetized picture of a nose. Students give the blindfolded students instructions on where to place the magnet. Also, you can put circles (like an archery target) around the nose and give more points to children who put the nose exactly on target.
63. GIVE ME…
Like “show me”. Students must give you the objects that you ask for. Can be played as row race or by the whole class at once.
64. GO TO SLEEP
Divide the class into groups. Let students decide their order within the group (1 to 6). The students in each group put their heads down except for the number ones. Think of a sentence and write one word of the sentence for the number ones to memorize. Then tell them to go to sleep and wake up the number twos. Give the number twos a word to memorize, and so on. When all of the students have seen one word, get them to consult with the other members of the group to put the sentence together.
65. GRAMMAR GAMBLE 1
Make a list of sentence pairs. The sentences can be either correct or incorrect (grammatically). Students get into teams. Give each team voting cards. XX means both sentences are wrong. OO means both sentences are right. XO means one is wrong and one is right. Give each group $500. Read the two sentences then ask the students for their bets. Then get the students to hold up their voting cards. Teams that are wrong lose their bets. Teams that are right win the amount that they bet. Teams can bet for bonus money if the think they can correct the sentences. The team with the most money wins. Can be played with betting minimums and maximums.
66. GRAMMAR GAMBLE 2
The teacher writes a sentence on the board. Students, in teams, decide whether the sentence is Correct (C) or Incorrect (I) and hold up the appropriate letter on a pre-made card. The teams who raised the “I” card must write the correct sentence on a piece of paper and hand it in to the teacher. If the sentence is correct, the team scores a point. If the sentence is still incorrect, no points are given. If the sentence was correct, the teams who raised the “C” card get points.
67. GUESS THE COLUMN
Students play in pairs. Each student has a sheet of paper with a grid on it. The columns are labelled A, B, C, D, etc. The row contain various possibilities and some repetitions. For example, one row will have various times (1:00, 1:15, 1:00, 1:15, 2:00), the next row will have various names (John, Paul, Mary, John, Mary), and the next row will have various clubs (basketball, baseball, tennis, baseball, basketball), etc. Students circle one of the letters at the top of the columns. Then, they work in pairs to figure out which one their partners circled. Student 1 asks Student 2 questions. For example, “Did you finish lunch at 1:00?”, or “Are you John?”, or “Are you a basketball player?” When Student 1 has figured out which letter Student 2 circles, she says “Are you ‘D’?” Then Student 2 asks Student 1 the questions. The winner is the student who needed to ask the least number of questions to find out their partner’s choice.
68. HANDS DOWN
This game can be played on the ground, on a table, anywhere that is flat and big enough to fit all of your buddies. Everyone intertwines their hands, palms facing downwards and you are all in a circle. Introduce the game by explaining the hand motions. A palm-down slap on the table = a move in the clockwise direction, one hand. A palm-down slap done twice = skip the hand next to your hand. A palm on its side = reverse direction. Play this really fast. Anyone who makes a mistake must take their hands out of the game. The last surviving person is the hands down champion!
69. HALF AND HALF
Students are given half of a sentence and have to find the person with the other half. Can be used with boring dialogues. Students must go to front of class and arrange themselves in order. Then they have to read their part of the dialogue in turn.
70. HANG HIM
Variation on the normal game where the sole purpose is to hang a heinous suspect. The blanks __ __ __ represent words instead of letters. Target a key sentence/grammar point practised in class. Usually played at the end or beginning of a class. If hung, draw a beard on the stick man, or better still, have a magnetised cut out of the hidoi boy himself. Recommended for 3 year junior high and older.
71. HANGMAN 1
Variation on the normal game. Students compete against each other in rows. One hangman’s platform is drawn on the board for each row of students. Hanged man is already drawn. Use chalkboard eraser to erase the parts of the person when someone in the row makes a mistake. Good for practising spelling and new vocabulary. You can also get the students to tell you which part of the man to erase if you want to practise the words for body parts and left/right.
72. HANGMAN 2
Involve competition. Each row is a team. The first student of each row says a letter, then the next student in the row, etc. For every correct letter, award 1 point. Any student can guess the word. The first hand up, if correct, gets 3 points to that row. If incorrect, minus 2 points. After you’ve done a few words, get a student to think of a word and take your role.
73. HIDDEN CARDS
Hide vocabulary flash cards around the room (the game can also be played outside), making sure that they are all clearly in, on, or under something. Tell the children how many cards have been hidden. The children move around he room with notepads, writing sentences about each card (e.g. “The shark is under the desk.”). The first child to write sentences for all of the cards is the winner. Children can be disqualified for making too many mistakes or writing too untidily.
74. HOW MANY THINGS
Students have to write down as many things as they can that fit the description you give. For example, “How many things can you think of that are bigger than you?” Other categories: are round, are long and thin, make a noise, work on electricity, are made of wood/paper/glass, you can use to sit, people enjoy looking at, have handles, etc.
75. HOW TO
Take the instructions for doing something simple (making toast, doing the dishes, etc.). Cut the instructions up. Students have to put the instructions in the right order. Don’t forget to include words like “first”, “next”, “then”, and “finally”.
76. INDIANA JONES GAME
Draw 2 cliffs, and a river with two crocodiles. Name the crocodiles after the teachers. Draw Team A on one cliff and Team B on the other. They want to cross the river. It’s too far to jump (show unlucky athlete falling to his doom). Draw a bridge and demonstrate that it’s shaky. Get the JTE to be A and you are B. Pretend to be crossing the bridge and meet in the middle. Get ready to FIGHT IT OUT (the kids crease up laughing when they realize it’s only janken). The loser of the fight has to return, while the winner can continue along the bridge. Set up the classroom. Two middle rows of desks are needed. Get the students to push them together to make two bridges. Six desks and chairs squashed together make bridge. Use 2 bridges, one for each crocodile/teacher. Divide the class into 4 teams: A, B, C, D (two teams for each bridge). Prepare about 20 questions on slips of paper. (e.g. First year: Are you a banana?, Second year: past tense practice). Put about 4 questions face down on each bridge. To cross the bridge, team members have to read the question out loud and answer correctly. Mistakes (e.g. “Yes, I’m not” or “No, I do” are penalized by one point (crocodiles keep a look out!). Eventually, team members will meet on the bridge and janken. The winner continues, the loser returns to the back of his/her team. There are always 2 students trying to cross the bridge. Students who make it across get 5 points, and they can keep score. Keep changing the slips of paper so the students can’t just memorize the questions. Remember, one teacher per bridge. You can try having team tournaments. This game works well to get the students familiar with responding — great pattern practice. One good point is that the students seem to help each other, giving hints for reading and answering questions. Very exciting if you have the energy.
One person stands at the blackboard with their back to the class. The other students can see a picture. The other students give instructions to the person at the blackboard. Compare the picture with the blackboard.
Give the students instructions like “Clap when you hear a word that starts with S. Snap your fingers when you hear the EEE sound. Stand up when you hear the end of sentence.” Then read through a passage and get them to follow your instructions while you read.
79. INTERVIEW 1
Can be used with any grammar point. Make up a list of questions that the students must ask each other. Leave a blank space after each question so the students can insert the name of the person who they asked, and that person’s answer. It’s best if the students can write down a longer answer, i.e. “No, Akihiko doesn’t know how to climb mountains” rather than, “No, he doesn’t”. Can also be made competitive by giving one point for asking a student of the same sex, two points for asking the opposite sex, and three points for asking a teacher.
80. INTERVIEW 2
JTE and ALT dress up and act out a TV interview. Students must listen and take notes. Quiz at the end.
81. INTERVIEW 3
Write the names of famous people or the names of countries on the backs of a set of cards. Shuffle these interview cards and place them on a pile face down on the table or floor. Each child takes turns to pick up a card and answer questions asked by the other children. The child with the card takes the role of the person whose name is on the card or the role of the country and answers questions as if she were that person or that country. The children should first be encouraged to ask questions like “What do you do?” or “Where are you?”, etc. The other children must guess who the person or what the country is. This can also be played in reverse where the class knows who the person at the front is, but the person at the front doesn’t. Then, the child at the front asks “What do I do?”, etc.
82. JANKEN QUESTION GAME
Give each student five playing cards. Each playing card is a grid with five names down the side and five actions on the top (e.g. James, Hannah, Gail, Peter, Sanjit and wash the dishes, clear the table, mow the lawn, clean the house, walk the dog). The grid is filled in with X’s and O’s — X means no and O means yes. All playing cards are identical. Students circle one name on every card and then move around the room looking for an opponent. The students janken to see who asks first. The winner (A) asks B a question like “Do you wash the dishes?” B looks at the card and decides whether their person washes the dishes. An X in the spot means that the person doesn’t wash the dishes, an O that they do. B must answer truthfully. Next A can guess who B is. If A guesses correctly, A can take B’s card. If A guesses incorrectly, both players keep their cards. In either case, students janken again and the winner asks another question. After this round, the students must change partners. The student with the most cards at the end of a time limit wins. Colour coding the cards for points makes ties less likely.
83. JANKEN SHOULDER RACE
Students get into pairs and stand up. When the teacher says “start”, each pair jankens. The loser must say something in English or ask a question. Then, the loser must hold onto the winner’s shoulder. The pair then find another pair and do the same thing. The game ends when all of the students are in one row. The winner is the student at the front of the row.
84. KARUTA (SNAP) 1
Most Japanese children already know this game. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary, in that it only requires recognition — or even partial recognition — of the new material. First spread out whatever cards you are using face up in front of you. Between 10 and 20 cards is usually best, but more or less can often work better. Gather the students around the cards, then say the name of each card as you touch it. Have the students repeat after you. The game is played by slapping whatever card is called with either hand (or a fly swatter). Demonstrate this once or twice by calling out a card and hitting it yourself. Then choose two students to begin. Call the first card. If neither student responds correctly in a reasonable length of time, say “stop” and touch the card yourself. Then call the next card. Once a student hits the correct card, give it to him/her and pass the turn onto the next student. Play continues in this manner until all of the cards have been correctly identified. Once students are comfortable with the basic game, you can add the rule that an incorrect response loses a turn. This allows you to make false calls (e.g. of cards that have been removed, or cards from a previous game), and is especially useful with only a few cards remain in play. After the last card is won, have the students count their cards and ask them how many they have. Then, either have each student say the name of the card as they give it back to you, or ask for each card in order. For reviewing vocabulary, or if one student is much better than the others, have the winner of the first round be the caller for the next round. Take over or help if they get stuck. Stop to review when students are stuck. Can be used with any vocabulary (e.g. numbers, colours, time words). A good idea for a phonics lesson is to use letter-cards and call out words (or use picture cards) — students have to slap the first letter. For advanced students, you can play a guessing game (e.g. It’s a number. It’s bigger than four. It’s smaller than six. It’s an animal. It’s green. It likes to jump.).
85. KARUTA 2
Spread some flashcards on the table or floor. The children put their hands on their heads. When you call out a card, they try to touch or slap their hands on it. The successful child says what the card is or makes a sentence using the word or picture on the card (preferably repeated by the whole class). The successful child calls out another card, and the other children try to slap their hands down on it.
86. KATAKANA READING
Read a passage pronouncing some of the words as if they were written in katakana. Give students a copy of the passage and ask them to circle words that were pronounced incorrectly. Assign points for each correct answer. Can also be done as a listening exercise without a passage. Use word pairs such as “park” and “parku” and get the students to circle what they hear.
Review the names of the parts of the body. Get a student to draw pictures of people with all of the parts studied. Using wrapping paper rolls, students must hit the drawing on the spot that you call out. Pit teams against each other.
88. KIMBERLY’S GAME
Spread out a number of flashcards or real objects. Have students repeat after you as you name each one. Then, cover all the cards or objects. The students must write down what they saw. Or, take one object or flashcard away and get the students to guess which one is missing. Can also be played in pairs. One partner looks at the flashcards or objects and tries to memorize them. The other partner “goes to sleep” during this time. After a few minutes of memorization time, the first student returns to the sleeping partner and tells him what he remembers. The partner writes down what the other student saw. Can also be played with competition. Make the list too long for everyone to remember every word. Present the list and get the students to try to remember as many as they can. Then erase the list. Students write down the words they can remember. Give them around 10 minutes. When the time is up, ask the students for suggestions of what they remembered. Write the words on the board as the students suggest them. When a word is suggested, find out how many students remembered that word. If more than ten students remembered, that word is worth 1 point. If less than ten remembered, it is worth 2 points. If only one person remembers a word, it is worth 5 points. Student with the most points wins. (Can be played in teams with the same rules.)
89. KOCHO-SENSEI’S MONKEY 1
Have a handout with a picture of a monkey. On the top write, “Kocho-sensei’s monkey is…” then list the alphabet beneath. Students have to find one adjective for every letter in the alphabet.
90. KOCHO-SENSEI’S MONKEY 2
The children sit in a circle or around a table. Start a chant, “Kocho-sensei’s monkey is a clever monkey.”. Then gesture to the child on your left and help her make the same sentence with a different adjective (e.g. K-S’s monkey is a good monkey.) Continue around the circle until they get the idea. Get a rhythm going by snapping your fingers with your left hand and then with your right hand. Encourage the children to do this with you. Start the chant by referring to a different teacher or student (e.g. Kyoto-sensei’s monkey …) and keep the chant going in time to the rhythm. In the strict version of the game, a child is out if she cannot think of an adjective, or does so too slowly. It is not always appropriate to make the chant competitive, though.
Students get in two lines facing each other. Both lines must contain the same number of people. The students then sit down, pairing up with the person who is in the same position in the other line. They sit with their legs extended and the soles of their feet touching each other. Then, each pair is given a number. When the teacher calls a number, the pair must get up, run around everyone to one end of the line, and then run “up” the ladder (made by everyone’s legs), past their spot, then around everyone to get back to their original spot. The person who makes it back first scores a point for their team.
92. LEARNING TO DANCE
You need a large tarp or a large sheet of plastic, a tarp that you’d take camping works best, and you’d always have it for the day when there’s 15 minutes left of the class and your teacher says “OK, what do we do now?” Divide the tarp (using duct tape) into 6×6 squares. Then, design a similar pattern in a notebook, and mark off a path from one side to the other. This activity is best played with 5 to 12 people. The object of the activity is that the sensei has the pattern (the correct squares marked off that are safe to walk on) and the group is given 10 minutes to devise a system to get everyone over to the other side of the tarp in 20 minutes without talking. Gestures are one way to create a system of communication for the group as talking is outlawed. This game promotes group and individual leadership, co-operation, and creativity. Once the ten minutes of group planning is up, one explorer is set forth to brave the tarp and discover the pattern hidden in it. The person starts by stepping on a square of their choice. If the square is correct (i.e. it matches the sensei’s pattern), then they are free to continue to the next step. If their step is incorrect, the sensei uses a signal (a whistle, harmonica, boooo sound) to announce the wrong step. The other students are using what they discussed as their communication device or are memorizing the correct and incorrect squares or are gesturing the right square to step on or avoid. Remember, one student on the tarp at a time and no talking. If a mistake is made, the person must backtrack through the pattern the same way that he came. New explorers are encouraged to try their skill at the pattern until one person makes it through to the other side. Then it becomes very easy for the remainder of students to all get through the pattern one at a time. Emphasize that there is no talking. Make sure to encourage all students. Steps must be made within the square and must be clearly placed so the sensei and other participants can see where they’ve stepped. Go through the pattern slowly. If a mistake has been made, the student has to retrace the whole pattern again. Remember to time the amount of time that is needed to get the entire group across.
93. LEG WRESTLING
Two children of similar size lie on the floor on their backs, side by side, hips touching, but in opposite directions. Their heads should be next to the feet of their partner. Together, they count to three. On each count, they kick their inside leg straight up into the air, parallel to their partner’s leg. On three, the legs are hooked with each other. Using only their leg, they try to force their opponent’s leg over to the side. The child who is able to do this is the winner.
This is a cloze activity where students must fill in the blanks of a storyline. The crazier the better. An example of this activity could be: “This morning, I saw a _____________. It was __________. It had many ____________ and ___________. It said ___________. Then I said ___________. Then it ____________. Then I ______________. Extra points for creativity.
95. MEMORY GAME 1
Divide the class into 6 groups. Give each group a pattern to practise and get them to fill in their own answers. For example. Group 1 might have to practise and memorize “I get up at…” Each member of the group picks a different time to memorize. So, Megumi will say, “I get up at 7.”, but Takehiro will say “I get up at 6:30.”. All of the groups have different patterns (e.g. I eat breakfast at…, My father works for…, My mother’s name is…, My sister often watches… on TV, My mother goes to work by…, My brother/sister goes to … school). After all the students have had time to practise and memorize their sentences, the game begins. One group rolls a die. The groups are numbered from 1 to 6. If a group rolls a three, then Group 3 must recite their sentences. The group who rolled the die have to try to memorize Group 3’s information. For example, the students would have to say, “Megumi gets up at 7. Takehiro gets up at 6:30…”. The group who rolled the die get a point for each correct sentence. If the group rolls its own number, the students in the group just have to say their own sentences. They can’t get any points.
96. MEMORY GAME 2
Each row is a team. Select a grammar point to practise. The first student in each row must make a sentence using this grammar point and a topic (e.g. “I like…” and “food”). The first student might say, “I like sushi.” The second student would say, “I like sushi and tempura.” The third student would say, “I like sushi and tempura and yakisoba.” This continues down the row until either a student forgets what his team-mates like, or everyone is finished. Give a point per correct person. Good combinations are study/subject, play/sport, can cook/food, sing/pop group’s song. If you really want to spice it up, use ‘like’ and the first names of the girls/boys in the class.
The students stand in a circle and number off from 1 to 5. The teacher calls out a number. The students who are that number run around the circle and into the middle to touch something. The first student to touch becomes “midnight”. After all the numbers have been called, the teacher calls “midnight” and all the winners run. The winner of that set is the champion. (Can be used with times — number the students from one o’clock to twelve o’clock.)
98. MULTIPLE CHOICE
Make up a test with multiple choice answers. Test their understanding of the grammatical structure that you are working on. Offer several incorrect English sentences as options.
99. MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Prepare a tape with bits of songs from near and far. Get students to guess where the music is from, or what language a song is being sung in. Can be made into a quiz or team competition. Also, can be used to liven up row race quizzes.
100. NUMBER GROUPS
The students walk around a designated area. The teacher calls out a number and students have to make a group according to the number called out. If a student cannot get into a group, then they stand on the side. The game continues until there are only two students left.
101. NUMBERS 1
Use flashcards to teach any group of numbers. Practise counting forwards, then backwards, then by 2s, or 4s, etc.
102. NUMBERS 2
Have the students make a circle, sitting down, and hand out cards with the numbers you want to teach the children. Every child need not necessarily have a number. Sit in the circle and call number 1, having the child or children holding that number hold it up high for all to see. Have the students repeat the number. Do the same with all the numbers. When the students feel confident, call out numbers at random, and have them repeat after you. If not all the children have cards, get them to pass their numbers on at some point.
103. NUMBERS 3
Let the children make groups, the number of children in each group corresponding to the number card held by one child in the group. For example, a child holding an 8-card, must find seven other people to be in his/her group. Once they are in their groups, get them to yell out their number or get them to lay down on the floor and make their number with their bodies (2 or 3 dimensional).
104. NUMBERS 4
This is a game which many Japanese students will know. Get the students to form groups according to how many times you blow a whistle or clap your hands. The students left over must sit out (or they can face a penalty like having to sing an English song).
105. NUMBERS CHAIN
Assign every student a number. One student starts by saying her number and then says another number. For example, “Three…Twenty-seven”. The “Twenty-seven” refers to one of the other students in the class. That student must respond by saying his number “Twenty-seven” and another number. If a student isn’t paying attention and doesn’t respond when his number is called, he is out of the game.
106. ONE UP ONE DOWN
The teacher starts by stating, “One up, one down”. Only the teacher knows that that refers to the position of the teacher’s arms: one is holding his/her chin, the other is crossed against his/her chest. The students try to figure out what “one up, one down” means. Each student tries to test out a theory. Tell the students that they can say “two up”, “two down”, or “one up, one down”. Look at how their arms are placed and tell them if they are correct. Students will just guess randomly at first, so they will be surprised when they are correct. Eventually, some of them will be able to figure out the pattern. Get them to go along with you to tell the other students whether they are right or not. Eventually, most of the students will figure it out, but there will always be one or two who just don’t get it! This can also be done with the position of the fingers on the right or left hand (not including the thumb): “one up, three down”. Similar game: Whoops Johnny. Can be played with one other person or blooming crowds of admirers. With one finger from one hand, point to and touch the tips of each finger (of the opposite hand) in succession and say: “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, WHOOPS, Johnny, WHOOPS, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. The Whoops is accomplished by sliding the finger down and up on the inside of the fourth and final finger. Your audience of admirers must repeat your actions exactly. The magic of it is that you do the above scenario, but you fold your hands in your lap discreetly after you finish the final Johnny. Your audience will probably be baffled and will repeat the Johnny, Johnny actions, performing them beyond perfection except for the final act — the folding of the hands on your lap! Hints are worthy after ten tries. When someone catches on, announce that they are in the Johnny Club and get them to perform the Johnny act. Keep going until everyone gets it. Similar game: Canoe-head. Tell your audience to do exactly as you do. Scratch your head very discreetly, then say, “I like to canoe. I LOVE to canoe.” Emphasize the LOVE, it’s always worth gallons of giggles. Do some crazy paddling actions to show how much you love it. Get the students to do exactly as you do. If they scratch their heads first, they’ve got it. Similar game: Wakaranai. The basic idea is that you cough, then chant some crazy thing and do some crazy action and then get the students to mimic you, one by one. Then you tell them if they are correct. The only thing that you are looking for is whether they cough at the beginning. Similar game: Counting 1. Arrange some objects on the floor (or draw some lines on the chalkboard) and announce to the class what number your arrangement represents. Use numbers from one to ten. The trick is that the number has nothing to do with the objects or the drawing. In fact, you are arranging your fingers after you finish making your arrangement. For example, you draw some crazy thing, then put your hands on your lap, with four fingers of your right hand extended, then announce that it is four. Students have to try to figure out your game. Similar game: Counting 2. Show the students the “Basic number” by raising your right hand and raising some fingers. For example, say “Here is the basic number.” Then raise two fingers. Then change your fingers to something else, and ask the students to guess what number they represent. For example, raise all four fingers and your thumb. Ask “What number is this?” The students will probably say five, but the correct answer is “two”. Then raise your fingers again. The trick is that the number that went before is the real number for the next time. For example, if the basic number is 3, then you raise four fingers, the correct answer is 3. Then you raise two fingers, and the correct answer is 4. Then you raise five fingers, and the correct answer is 2. Then you raise four fingers and the answer is 5. Get it?
107. PAIR DICTATION
Post copies of a paragraph on the back wall. One member of each pair goes to a copy and remembers as much of it as possible. That student then dictates it to the partner. They continue as long as it takes to dictate the passage.
108. PASS THE FLAG
Prepare a list of questions, give a flag to the first person in each row. The first person to raise his/her flag may answer the question. If the answer is correct, the student may pass the flag to the student behind. The first row to finish wins. Can also be used with The English Resource’s Pin Pon machine.
To introduce this game, pick out a picture card that the students are familiar with. Don’t show it to the students, but draw the object on the board and get the students to try to guess what it is. Once they guess correctly, show them the card. Do this again. Then, the student who guesses correctly gets to draw next. After they guess this one, divide the class into two teams and choose one student from each team to draw first. Give each student a piece of chalk and show each of them a different picture to draw. It’s usually good to start with simple nouns. Adjectives and verbs can be included later. The first team to guess what their picture is scores a point. It may be advisable to keep the score fairly close by giving the team that’s ahead a slightly more difficult picture to draw. The first team to score 10 points wins. When the students are comfortable with this game, give them word cards instead of picture cards to work from.
110. PICTURE ASSOCIATION
Draw various pictures that illustrate a Let’s Read story. Review the story with the children. Then, divide the students into teams. Each team is given a copy of the pictures. The students must arrange the pictures in the correct order and then write a sentence that describes the action of the picture. Alternately, the teacher can say sentences from the story and the first team to hold up the correct picture wins a point for their team.
Give some instructions to the children (e.g. Please open your books. Please stand up. Please touch the door.). Mime or gesture to help them guess what to do. The children can then take turns giving similar instructions to the rest of the class. Give an instruction without using the word ‘please’ (e.g. Open the door.). Indicate that they shouldn’t move. Then say, “Please open the door.” and indicate that they should carry out the instruction. Continue playing the game. They carry out the instructions that are preceded by ‘please’ but must not move if there is no ‘please’. Children can be eliminated from the game if they make a mistake. The last child to carry out an instruction can also be eliminated.
112. POSITIVE-NEGATIVE RACE
First student says “I like X. I don’t like Y.” Next student says “I like Y. I don’t like Z.” Go around the room. Time the whole class and race against the other classes, or time each row.
You must have two teachers for this game (which shouldn’t be too hard to get). The first teacher is the psychic. That teacher leaves the room while the students give the other teacher a word for the first teacher to guess (e.g. pencil). The word must be a noun. The other teacher comes in and makes a big show about reading everyone’s mind. Then, the non-psychic teacher asks the psychic teacher questions like, “Is it a door?” “Is it a person?” “Is it a computer?”. The psychic teacher says “no”. Then, the non-psychic teacher asks about something that has four legs: “Is it a cow?” The psychic teacher says “no”, but s/he now knows that the next word will be the right word. “Is it a pencil?” The psychic teacher says “yes”. Four-legged things are the clue: desks, table, beds, animals, etc. This game can be played many ways with many different things being the “clue” word. For example, in the game “Black Magic”, the clue word is something that is black. You can try to use visual clues also, such as looking at a pre-arranged spot. Students will get a kick out of trying to guess how you are doing it.
114. QUESTION WORDS
First, make sure the students know the meanings of basic question words: who, what when, where, and how. Then, make a sheet with 10 or so sentences that answer some of those questions. Below the sentences, list the basic question words. For example, the sentence could be, “Madonna plays pachinko on Tuesdays”. The children circle which question words the sentence answers. In the case of the Madonna sentence, the children would circle who, what, and when. This game can also be used to develop good listening skills. The teacher reads the sentence, putting different stresses on the words each time. For example, the teacher might first say, “MADONNA plays pachinko on Tuesdays.”. Then, she might say, “Madonna plays PACHINKO on Tuesdays.” The students write a number above the question words to indicate which reading answered which questions. For example, a correct answer to the two intonations of the Madonna sentence would be a (1) above “who” and a (2) above “what”. If the students are advanced enough, get them to make up the questions that can be answered by reading the sentences in different ways (What does Madonna play on Tuesdays?)
115. QUICKIE WORD GAME
Groups of students write down as many Christmas words as they can think of. Then, cross out words which the other groups have thought of. Group with the most words left wins. Other categories: sports, food words, school words, adjectives, etc.
Give the students a pop quiz on contemporary culture, your country, the school, or vocabulary.
117. QUIZ BOWL
Make up 60 or so questions based on material already covered. The questions can be comprehension questions, fill-in-the-blank, translation, etc. Divide the class into two teams. Give half of the questions to one team and half to the other. Get the students to work in smaller teams within the teams to find out the answers to the questions. Then, stage a contest between the two teams. One team asks someone on the other team a question. If it is right, the student gets a point for the team. If it is wrong, the asking team gets a point. Students can also add their own questions to the ones that you give them. Also, you can add in an element of the unknown by adding in questions like “Let Mr./Ms. ~ ask the other team a question.” Then, you get a chance to ask the question.
118. RACE AGAINST TIME
Make a worksheet that has three types of problems. Divide the sheet into four parts. For example, if your three types of problems are Translation, Answer the Question, and Unscramble the Sentences, then divide your worksheet into four parts and make the fourth section a mixture of all three types. The students must complete each section. After they finish one section, the bring their sheet to a teacher to be checked. If their answers are all okay, they can move on to the next section. Students who complete all four sections get a prize. This game is good for review.
119. READ AND DRAW
Read the passage and draw a picture. Or, read a passage and draw a comic strip to show the progression of the story. This can be the whole activity, or the final strip can be used to play further games where students cut out the strip and ask other students to put it back in order. Or, two groups can combine pictures to make another story.
120. READ AND RUN
Practise sentence structure, question/answer drill and dialogue memorisation. Get students into pairs. Write on two separate sheets of paper, either questions on one and answers on another, all jumbled up, or the start of one sentence on one and the end on the other. Even dialogue/statements followed by a natural continuation are OK. Stick the first half of the paper (the questions) somewhere in the classroom, preferably a corner, and the other half (the answers) on the opposite side. One student runs over to the first half paper and memorizes a sentence from the sheet and returns to his/her desk. Then the memorized piece is written down. If it is forgotten, then the student can return and try again. Once finished, the student shows his/her partner, who then runs over to the B sheet and tries to match and memorize the answer. That student returns and concludes the sentence, or answers the question. Continue until all sentences, questions, or whatever, are complete or the time runs out. Check the answers. Remember that the students cannot carry their sheets to the corners of the room to copy the sentences down.
121. READING WORDS GAME
Two teams play against each other. Each team lines up in front of one of the teachers. The teams not in play should sit and watch the game being played. Each teacher holds ten cards. One of the teachers says “go” to start the game. The cards are shown, one by one, to each student in the team. The student must read the word aloud. If a student cannot read a word, misreads, or mispronounces a word, the teacher calls “next” and the next student in line attempts to read the same word. The first team to correctly read all ten words wins.
122. RELAY GAME
Students are in six rows. Several reading cards are made up. Students have to read the card then pass it to the next person in the row. The person at the end of the row hands it across to the next row etc. When the teacher yells stop, any team who has a card loses 10 points. (Or you can write the point value on the back of each card. Or, you can have a secret list on paper in front of you, so the students don’t try to horde the good ones and get rid of the bad ones.) Use whatever grammar point you want on the card.
Write a selection of about 15 random words or numbers on the board. Include difficult pairs, like 13 and 30. Have two students come to the board and stand facing it with chalk of a different colour. When you call out the words, the students must circle the one they’ve heard. There can only be one circle (ring) around a word. At the end, the student with the most number of rings wins.
124. ROLL THE BLOCKS
Stick selected common nouns on the six sides of one block. On another block, stick verbs or pronouns, or articles. Each group has a set of these two blocks. Within a set time limit, they take turns to roll the blocks and make a sentence using the words shown on the blocks. The winning team is the group to make the most correct sentences within the time limit.
125. ROW RACE 1
Students in front row stand up. Teacher asks them a question. If a student responds correctly, they get to sit down. When there is only one person left in the row, that person’s “column” has to stand. Goes on ad infinitum. Good questions: Show me…, Name…, Spell… Also, student could ask teacher question, students could come to blackboard, etc.
126. ROW RACE 2
Show the first person in the first row a flash card. That student must say the word. Each student in her row must repeat the word. The last student gives the Japanese meaning as well. If any student makes a pronunciation error, or if the last student can’t give the Japanese meaning, the row must stand up. If the first row makes a mistake, use the same word, in the same way, with the second row. If the first row doesn’t make a mistake, use a new word. Continue like this until all of the rows have had a chance to go. Return to the rows that are standing and give them a new word. Do this until all of the rows are seated. To make this game competitive, the teacher can state that the rows that remain seated after the first round are the winners.
127. ROW RACE 3
All students remain seated. Place five picture cards (use any nouns covered so far) on the desk of the first student in each row. The first student picks up a card and asks a question about the card. For example: “Is this your…?” plus the name of the thing on the card. The second student replies “Yes, it is” or “No, it isn’t” and proceeds to ask the third person. This continues until the last person in the row has been asked. The last person replies and then takes the card up to the teacher and asks “Is this your…?” The teacher replies and tells the last student to turn the next card over on the first student’s desk. This is repeated until all cards have been used up. The first row to finish all cards wins.
128. ROW RELAY
Each row is given a sheet of paper. Teacher calls out a category and each student in the row must write one word that corresponds to the category (e.g. day of the week, animals, name in romaji). Can either run once through the row or have a time limit and let the paper go down the row as many times as they can manage.
129. ROW TAG
Two students form a row by holding hands. They run around a designated area where the student on one end of the row tries to tag another student. If tagged, that student joins onto the end of the row and in turn tags another. The game continues until all students have been tagged. It’s important to have a closed-in space to play this in so that, as the row gets longer, the students don’t have to rely on speed (which they don’t have), but can trap their prey.
130. SCISSORS, PAPER, ROCK (JANKENPON)
Teach the students how to play this game in English. Finish with a prize.
131. SECRET NUMBERS GAME
Students are assigned numbers randomly. The students say their numbers in front of the class and the other students try to remember everyone’s numer. The students must try to keep their number a secret. The students are then divided into two teams. A student from Team 1 calls out a number. If the number belongs to someone on Team 2, then that person must move to Team 1. If the student from Team 1 calls out a number that belongs to someone on her on team, then that someone must move to Team 2. The teams try to have the most players by the end of the game. The end comes either when the teacher declares the game finished or when one team has all the players (or a set number of players).
132. SECRET PEN FRIEND
Students are given the name of a classmate to whom they must write a letter. Students write the letter, describing themselves, but not signing their names. It will take at least one period to write the letters. In the second period, students ask each other questions in order to find out who their secret pen friend is.
133. SENTENCE FORMATION
Write three words on the board (Masato/tall/family). Give the first person in each row a sheet of paper with the row’s number on it. The first person writes one word, the next person writes the next word. Goes to end of row then hand in to teacher.
134. SENTENCE GAME
Each row is a team. Give each student in the row some cards that are a part of a sentence. Students have to make sentences. Award points according to the fastest. You may want to use sentences that are structured similarly, so each set of cards has 2 or 3 sentences, then shout out the first word of a sentence.
135. SENTENCE SCRAMBLE
Scramble up the words in a sentence. Students try to put the sentence back in the right order. Can be played as a whole class, in teams, or in pairs.
A student is given a word. The student must think of a word that begins with the same letter that the first word ended with — i.e. hand –> door –> red –> desk… There is a time limit (e.g. 5 seconds). All students stand and the shiritori goes around the class. Students who do it in the time limit stay standing, students who miss it must sit down. Good with English Resource’s “Bomb”. Can also be done on paper. Each row gets a piece of paper. The first student writes a word then passes to the next person in the row. There is a time limit and the paper keeps going up and down the row until time is up. Teachers check the answers and award prizes for the most number of words (with no spelling mistakes). This can also be done with syllables. The first person must say a one-syllable word, then the second person says a two-syllable word, the third a three-syllable word, and the fourth a one-syllable word again.
137. SHOPPING GAME
Divide the class into shopkeepers and shoppers. (You decide the balance.) Give shopkeepers a kind of shop (e.g. fishmonger) and a list of things to sell. They make up their own prices. Give shoppers a list of things to buy (different lists for each group). Each group tries to buy their things at the lowest price. Some stores (such as grocery stores and convenience stores) will sell some of the same things, so they may start discounting, etc. Make sure they all use English — at least for the prices.
Introduce or review a set of flashcards by having students repeat them after you. Then divide the students into teams and ask the students to identify a card. The first person to identify the card wins the card for their team. You can also play two individuals against each other. This gives you the chance to match students more evenly and give the shy or slow students more of a chance to participate.
139. SHOW AND TELL
Students are asked to bring a photo or an object to class and describe it in front of the class. Good idea to say that they must use at least three sentences.
140. SIMON SAYS (SENSEI SAYS)
Students must follow the teacher’s instructions. If the teacher says “Sensei says…” before an instruction, the students must do whatever the sensei says. If the teacher doesn’t say “Sensei says” first, then the students must not do the action. Any student who does the action is out of the game. Use parts of the body (touch your nose), actions (turn around), objects (give me a pen). Can also be played in teams. On each desk in a row, place a card of a different colour. Then, call out the commands. For example, “Touch the RED card.” or “Simon says touch the red card.”. The first team with all of its members following the command wins a point. If there is no “Simon says” at the beginning, students have to sit down (or something) to show that they are not doing what the command was. Can be made more difficult by including body parts (touch the BLUE card with your ELBOW) or other classroom objects (Simon says put a pen on the YELLOW card).
141. SNAKE READING
This makes a change from random chorus or individual reading. One sentence per student. Start at one side of the class and wind your way to the other, up and down the rows. This encourages listening and concentration as no one wants to be caught out. Make sure the students try to read in a loud voice. If the next person doesn’t hear, as the previous person to read again.
Hold a soft ball in front of you and say dramatically something like “I want to go home!” or “I’m going to eat a hamburger!”. Throw the ball to one of the children, help her repeat what you say and encourage her to add some additional thing she wants to do (e.g. “I want to go home and watch television.” or “I’m going to eat a hamburger and an apple.”). The child then throws the ball to another child who repeats what she said and adds another idea (e.g. “I want to go home and watch television and listen to music.”) The activity continues in the same way, each child adding one more item to the list.
143. SONG: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Students stand in a circle holding hands. The song goes like this: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (students walk seven steps in one direction) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (walk seven steps in the other direction) 2, 3 (clap hands) 2, 3 (slap knees) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (clap hands of the students on either side) This song appears on the TV show “Eigo de Asobu” so ask someone what the tune is. If you make up your own tune, the kids will probably be lost. Most of the kids should know the tune anyway.
144. SPACE RACE
Arrange flash cards on a table or on the floor in the shape of a race track. Insert cards to represent the sun and a black hole. Give each of the children a set of counters and one rocket (or something to represent a rocket) all of the same colour. If there are too many children, they can play in pairs or teams. The all place their rockets on the same flash card to start. The children take turns to throw two dice and move their rockets around the race track. When they land on one of the cards, they have to read, make a sentence or answer a question about the card. When they land on the sun or black hole, they have to answer a question from the teacher or identify a card before they can move again. It is best if these questions or cards target language from previous lessons. If the card they land on (except for the sun or black hole) has no counter on it and if they successfully perform the language task prompted by the card, they place one of their counters on the card. If another child’s counter is on the card, the child whose turn it is challenges her for the card. After the challenger answers the question, the two janken to see whose counter will stay. The janken winner places her marker on the card. When a child lands on a card she already controls, she does not have to perform a language task. The winner is the child who controls the most cards after a fixed amount of time or number of turns.
145. SPEECH CONTEST
Stage a pretend speech contest. Use two or three students as judges, and you or JTE as final judge. Have bronze, silver and gold prizes. For longer passages, have students work in teams to present a full story.
146. SPEED READING
Students open their books to the reading and lay the books face down on their desks. The teacher asks a question 2 times. When everyone understands, the teacher says “Go!” and the students look at the text and try to find the answers. Once the students understand the game, have them do it in groups of 3 or 4. One student has the question/answer sheet and acts as a quiz-master. This game can also be played in teams, with the teams competing to find the right answers.
147. SPELLING BEE
Students line up at the back and the front of the classroom. Each student is given a question. If they get it right, they go to the back of the line. If they get it wrong, they must sit down. The winning team is the one with the most players left in the line at the end of the game (which is whenever you get sick of playing, or when there are no more students in one of the lines). Can also be played with the whole class standing. Students stay standing if they get the words right or sit down if they make a mistake. Last student standing wins. To make it more difficult, ask for the spelling and the meaning in Japanese.
148. SPELLING GAME 1
Each row is given all of the letters of the alphabet on cards. Teacher calls out a word (no double letters) and the students race to spell it. Can also be used with words and sentences.
149. SPELLING GAME 2
Each row is a team. Give each row a whole alphabet on cards, so each student gets about 3 or 4 cards. Shout out a word which does not have the same letter in it. Students spell out the word by standing up within their row. Award points according to the fastest. Repeat for the best three teams.
150. SPELLING SPRINT
Students come to the board, teacher calls out a word, first person to answer correctly scores a point for their team.
Play the traditional game of statues. All the children stand up and dance or move around to some lively music. When the music stops, they have to stand completely still or else they are eliminated from the game. Stop the game to show the children how to mime various adjectives. Call out an adjective (e.g. strong) and find a gesture (or facial expression) which you all feel indicates that adjective. All make the gestures together and call out, “We are strong!” after each of them. Play the game again calling out different adjectives each time the children dance around. When the music stops, they have to stand completely still making the appropriate gesture (and possibly shouting out, “We are …”). This can also be done with one student making a sculpture out of another student while the music is playing. The sculpture must indicate some sort of feeling or emotion or adjective. Then, the class tries to guess what word the sculptor was thinking of.
Open a pretend store in the classroom. If it is a restaurant, let the students place the orders etc.
153. STRIP STORY
Cut a passage into single sentence strips. Scramble the strips. Students work in pairs and try to put the sentences in the correct order. This game can also be played in teams. Make teams consisting of as many people as there are sentence strips. Each student gets one sentence and memorizes it. The students must arrange themselves in the right order by saying their sentences to each other. If you give each team a different passage, you can finish by getting the class to recite the whole passage.
Describe some person who all the children know (perhaps a singer, sports personality, or another student or teacher) using the pattern ‘She’s from… I think she likes…and…”. Then ask the child on your left to try to guess who she is. The children take turns to guess who the person is (perhaps getting 10 points for being correct with the first guess, nine points with the second guess, etc.) It may sometimes be a good idea to give other information like her age and where she lives. The child who guesses correctly then describes another well-known person for the other children to guess — the child on the left is always the first to guess.
155. SURVEY 1
Make a survey using what and who and when, and comparatives (bigger) and superlatives (biggest). Compile the results and make a graph for the class.
156. SURVEY 2
Bring in picture of famous people from Japan and around the world. Each student has one picture and a sheet with a space for the picture and a yes/no column. Students go around the room asking the other students if they like the person in the picture. The student who answers must sign in the yes or no column. A tally is taken at the end of the class.
This is a game to practise grammar structures. It is especially good to practise irregular verbs and tenses. Have all of the students practice the structure first. For example, if you want to review the present tense form or the word “be”, have them practise “I am, You are, He is…, etc.”. Then, have all of the students stand up. Go down the row , giving each student a subject word or words (I, Junko, we, Takeo and Hisae, she…). The student must answer by giving the correct version of the verb you are practising (I am, Junko is, we are, etc.). If the student gives the wrong answer, or cannot remember the correct one, he or she must sit down. The students who remain standing at the end of the game are the “survivors”. This game is best played very quickly, so if the student gives the wrong answer or hesitates for more than a few seconds, have them sit down. You can always play another round to give those students who sat down an extra chance. If you play one round of the present tense of “to be” then another round of the past tense of “to be”, you can play a third round where the students don’t know what they will get ahead of time. For example, you can say “He, present” (ans: he is), or “They, past” (ans: They were). You may have to use the Japanese words for “present” and “past” to start off with.
158. TAJIMA TOWN
Turn the classroom into a town with the desks representing different locations in the town. Make up signs to go on the desks. Get the students to direct other students around the room. Students can ask where certain locations are or they can be directed to a mystery location.
Everyone in a group stands in a circle with their eyes closed. Each person then extends an arm into the middle of the circle and grips whichever hand they come into contact with. When everyone has a partner, the other hand is brought in. When all hands are linked, eyes are opened and the group must disentangle itself without anyone letting go of their partners.
160. THUMB WARS
Students grip each other’s hands so that their thumbs are on top. They chant “One, two, three, four. Let’s have a thumb war.” Then, they try to pin their opponent’s thumb under their own thumb.
161. TIC TAC TOE
Divide the class into two teams and place some flashcards on the board in a square grid. The first child on one team points to any card and tries to say what it is, make a sentence about it, or answer a question about it (perhaps asked by the other team). If s/he is correct, the whole team repeats what was said and the card is turned over. The first child on the other team does the same. The correct cards for one team are turned over and placed horizontally, and the correct cards for the other team are placed vertically. The winner is either the first team to get a complete line of cards, or the team with the most points. Points are given for any line of three cards.
162. TOUCH AND POINT
Call out an instruction, for example “Touch this book”. As you do so, touch or point to the object with the whole class until they get the idea. If there are not many objects which the children can see, place vocabulary flashcards around the room. Gradually withdraw from the activity until you are only vaguely looking in the direction of the object you say. Anyone who touches or points to the wrong thing is out. If all the children perform the action correctly, the last child is out. Eventually, get one of the students to call out directions.
163. TRANSLATION 1
Teacher says words in Japanese and students must translate them into English. Make it a race for points. 1 translation = one point.
164. TRANSLATION 2
Give students a page of something printed in Japanese. Get them to translate any words that they can into English. Give them points for every word that they translate. TV guide pages work well.
165. TRANSLATION 3
Keep a list of the new words and phrases that the students have learned so far in Japanese and English. Using each row as a team, I pit the first student of each row against one another and so on down the rows. I say Japanese and the students must answer in English. The fastest hand raised gets first crack at the answer. I usually give 1 point for each correct answer. If no one knows, I’ll up it to 2 or 3 points. If none of the 6 students can answer, it’s a free-for-all with anyone in the class having a chance. If one row has five students and the rest six, the fifth student gets a second chance. Five or so minutes at the end of class is all you need for this. You can really confuse them sometimes by repeating the same word which may have two meanings (e.g. takusan-no [a large number of, many, a lot of] or hayai [early, fast]).
166. TRANSLATION 4
Prepare cards that have 5 English words on them or 5 Japanese words. In rows, students compete to finish the most translation cards. The first person in the row goes to the teacher’s desk and picks up a card. She translates the first word on the card and writes it down on her team’s paper. She hands the card and the paper back to the person behind her. He translates the next word, and so on. The student who finishes the last word brings the card up to the teacher and takes another one. The card gets handed to the next person in the row to continue translating. The team that translates the most cards within the time limit wins.
167. TREASURE HUNT
Draw a treasure island map on a piece of paper then draw a grid (e.g. 4×4) on top of it. Reading and writing version: Hand out copies of the maps to each of the students, then dictate words or sentences that they must write in each of the squares. Reading version: Hand out copies of the map with the words or sentences already on the map. The teacher has a copy of the map that the children must not see. Write or draw gold, diamonds, sharks, and monsters in some of the squares. The sharks can only be in the sea squares, but the others can be anywhere. Taking turns, the students say a number and read what is written in a square. If a child reads correctly, she gets any positive or negative points that are in the square. For example, gold = +10 points, diamonds = +5, sharks = -3, monsters = -5. It is also possible to give 1 point for all the other squares. Points are awarded either to individuals or teams.
168. TRUE OR FALSE
Make a quiz with true or false answers (or correct/incorrect) and test their grammar. Divide the class into groups and give each group a true card and a false card — students vote for the answer.
169. TUMMY RUB, HEAD PAT
Try to pat your head with one hand while rubbing your stomach in circular motions with the other hand.
170. TWENTY QUESTIONS
The teacher thinks of something and the students have 20 opportunities to ask the teacher a yes/no question to try to figure out what it is. The teacher can only say “yes” or “no” in response to the questions.
Rows of students work as a team. Each row is given three number cards (1,2,3). The teacher asks a question with three answers. Students guess which one is right as a group and place their group vote. Points for the right answer (or you can use fake money).
172. WEATHER REPORTER
Make up map and weather possibilities, then do a weather report. Get the students to try.
173. WHAT AM I?
Students stand in a circle. Clip a picture to the back of each student — they should not see their own picture. They must not tell each other what picture is on their backs. They must circulate and ask each other questions which can only be answered by yes or no until they figure out what they are. After they have figured it out, they keep circulating to help others find out what they are. You can make it more challenging by giving each student a class list and getting them to check off each student that they ask. They can only ask a student one question. If you have advanced learners, after the activity, you can discuss the appropriateness of the person’s object to their own personality.
174. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
This game is to be played in pairs. One person starts by saying an action: I’m walking on stilts, what are you doing? The partner must then act out this action and at the same time, say another action for their partner to perform (e.g. I’m jumping rope, what are you doing?). Then the partner acts that out, etc. Play as quickly as possible.
175. WHAT’S THIS?
Get an ordinary object, like a pen, and ask the students, “What is this?” The students will probably answer “It’s a pen.” Then tell them that it’s not, and mime what it really is. For example, pretend to use it as a toothbrush, or a chair, or an airplane. Get them to guess what it is.
176. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
Have two different copies of a picture. Label one picture as correct and one as incorrect. Arrange the students in pairs and give one student the correct version and the other the incorrect version. The students must talk about the pictures without showing each other their copies. They discuss and write down the differences. The differences, for example, can be missing or extra objects, or different positioning of objects (e.g. in one picture a box is on a table, in the other it is under the table).
177. WHICH PICTURE?
Give students a reading passage with 2 to 5 pictures on the bottom. Get them to read the passage then guess which picture goes with the passage.
178. WHISTLE DICTATION
Select a passage that has a lot of whatever grammar point you want to focus on (e.g. adjectives). Dictate the passage. When you read, leave out the adjectives. Instead, whistle when there should be an adjective. Students write the paragraph, inserting any appropriate adjective. Compare notes later. To play this in a game, give points for using adjectives that no one else used.
179. WHO AM I?
A student stands at the front of the class facing the blackboard. A student in the class stands up and says, “Good morning (name). Who am I?”. The student at the front has to guess who said it. This game encourages students to speak in a loud, expressive voice. This can be used for various greetings and statements. Make the guessing student reply to the greeting (e.g. Good morning (name).) After a couple of times, suggest that the students alter their voices. Finally, involve the teacher. You’ll find that the person who usually can’t identify the voices that well is the teacher.
Ask the students questions like: “Why have you got ~~ in your bag?” For example, the ~~ could be a monkey, an axe, Kocho-sensei. Students who come up with the best/most outrageous answers win a prize. Best to give them some time to think about this one. Give the question to them at the beginning of class or assign it for homework.
181. WORD INTO SENTENCE RACE
Each row is a team. Use words from the last few lessons and put them on cards. Give each row about 1 or 2 minutes. Show the first student of a row a card (e.g. write). That student has to say a sentence with that word in it (e.g. I write a letter.) The next student is shown another card and so on until time runs out. If a student wants to s/he can say “pass”. For each correct sentence, award a point. See how many points they can get in the time limit. (Use a stop watch.) Give each row a word and they have to make a sentence out of it within a time limit.
182. WORD RACE
First student from each row comes to the board. Teacher calls out a letter. Students must write down all the words they can think of that begin with that letter. Teacher calls “time’s up” after about 10 seconds. Second students come up. Give them a different letter. The row with the most (correct and correctly spelled) words wins.
183. WORDS AND PICTURES
Give each of the children one set of picture flashcards and one set of words which corresponds to the flashcards. Each child places a set of picture cards in a column in front of her. The written cards are mixed together and placed nearby. Each child places a counter on the nearest card. Each child plays individually. The throws a die and moves her counter the appropriate number of cards. When she reaches an end, she moves the counter back in the opposite direction. When her counter lands on a card, she looks for the corresponding word card and places it on top of the picture. If she has already covered the card, she throws again until she has covered all the cards. This game can be played in groups of two or three. Each child has a column of cards in front of her in the same way, but the children in the group take turns to throw the die. The winner is the first child to cover all her cards. (This can also be played with the word cards upside down, so the child has to try to remember the position of the word cards.)
184. WORD SEARCH
Make a list of words and hide them in a grid of letters. Students must find the words. To make it more difficult, give the students the present tense and tell them to look for the past tense, for example.
185. YES/NO 1
Teachers ask students yes/no questions. In their answers, students must NOT use yes or no. Give a prize to the student who lasts the longest.
186. YES/NO 2
One child thinks of an animal and the other children try to figure out what it is. The children take turns asking yes/no questions like, “Do you have four legs?” or “Are you bigger than a dog?”. If the answer is yes, the child can guess the name of the animal by asking, “Are you a …?” But, if the answer is no, the next child asks a yes/no question. The child who guesses correctly then thinks of a different animal and the other children try to guess what it is. It is possible to give points for each correct guess, but the game can also be played without competition.
187. YOU’RE THE TEACHER
Give each student a sentence to either correct or say that it is OK. Get each one to explain their sentence.