Saturday, 27 September 2014

I have... Who has...?

I hesitated to share this one for two reasons - firstly, because it does require some more preparation than most games in this blog, and secondly, because it was the first time I've used a game that was a complete failure - or so it felt at the time.
The thing that bothers me is I can't see why it failed. It's a great concept, the kids (my Year 9 class, who have been playing games with me for 2.5 years now) agreed that it should work... but it just didn't.
The instructions (pinched directly from Games in the Foreign Language Classroom, which has a great range of games with clear instructions), are copied at the bottom of this post. You may want to read them first before reading about how it went with my class...

We played it with weather & cities ("It's raining in Surakarta, what's the weather like in Banda Aceh?").
Coming up with more than 50 places so that the kids would get at least 2 cards each took a little research!  I tried not to repeat the weather types too much, by giving different combinations and by adding modifiers (very, a little) etc where I could. Next time I'd add temperatures as well. To give students a reason to listen, I made them write down the weather of the place they were asking for. I used English only on the cards, and the weather was dot-points rather than a sentence.

The kids and I found it frustrating as it only took a momentary lapse of concentration for someone to not hear the question that corresponded with their card, so there were long pauses and quite a bit of repetition across the class (Who has Sulawesi? Alice, do you have Sulawesi?" - poor Alice was the first one to not hear her place, and so when the next pauses occurred, everyone immediately blamed her - yes, the name has been changed!)

BUT - on reflection:
  • the students did hear the question and relevant sentences over and over without being bored by it.
  • the students practiced asking about and giving details about the weather
  • the students were exposed to a lot of Indonesian cities, regions and places that they hadn't heard before (as well as some familiar ones) - and this prompted discussion about where places were, similarities in names as well as differences and the fact that some place names were similar to familiar words.
  • Most of the frustration expressed and resolved in the target language (eg, other people around the room repeating the question or asking poor Alice directly in Indonesian rather than in English)
So - yes, I will use this again. Perhaps I'll experiment first with that Year 9 class now that they know how to play, experimenting with dividing them into smaller groups as is suggested at the end of the instructions at Games in the Foreign Language Classroom. I also didn't use a stopwatch - maybe this would add a little more excitement & "need for speed" so I will definitely incorporate a timer next time I give it a go.

Maybe it was just because it was the last lesson of the day of the last Monday of what has felt like a long term... (they did much better with Weather Battleships the next day!)

Do you have any other ideas on what could make this work? I'd love to hear from you!

I have __, Who has ___?
• Teacher must prepare cards carefully in advance as follows:
o Each card has “I have” and a vocabulary word in the TL on the top half.
o On the bottom half the card has “Who has” and a different vocabulary word pictured or in English.
o The cards “chain” so that eventually they circle back to the beginning.
In these examples, imagine the top in the TL:

I have Dog
I have Cat I have Horse I have Cow I have Duck I have Hen
Who has Cat? Who has Horse? Who has Cow? Who has Duck? Who has Hen? Who has Dog?

o The set should contain enough cards so that every student will get one to three cards.
o Be creative: if the vocab list isn’t long enough, tweak the way it’s used: for ex weather (in Nice it's cold what's the weather in Paris?)

• Shuffle the cards, and distribute them all. If students have more than one card, each student should make sure than his/her cards don’t connect.
• Teacher begins by starting a stopwatch and calling out “Who has” and one of the words (in English). (I borrowed a stopwatch from the PE teachers until I got my own—sometimes one of the students has a stopwatch feature on his/her watch).
• The student who has the TL for that first word reads their card: “J’ai chien. Qui a cat?” (Tengo perro. Quien tiene cat?).
• The next student reads their card.
• The object is to get through the whole set as quickly as possible.
• I have multiple sections, and make it into a competition—each class period get three attempts (and we trade cards in between each round).
• If you plan carefully enough, you can make each set the same number of cards (thirty, let’s say) and have the class attempt to beat their past times (works instead of competing among sections)
• After the class learns how to use the cards, use the sets in groups so each kid has 5 or 6 cards each. They really get lots of vocab practice.

Variations on Bingo

These are taken directly from FrenchTeacherNet, by Steve Smith. It's a fantastic collection of resources and idea for French teaching, many of which can be adapted to other languages.
Thanks Steve for letting me share these!

Five variations on bingo

Loto is a great game for classes. It is worthwhile for reinforcing number recognition, students enjoy it, it is a good class calmer if you need it and it needs no preparation so it's great to fall back on as a teacher. I'm talking about number bingo here, not bingo with pictures or vocabulary.

There are some easy variations if you want to get away from the standard "call out numbers" version. By the way, you can buy ready-made bingo cards with numbers 1-90 - it's a good to have a load of them in the cupboard - or students can just write down, say, 10 numbers in a range you give them. One advantage of having "official" cards is that you can do lines as well as the "full house".

1.  Mental arithmetic bingo

With this one, instead of reading out a number, you give classes a simple mental arithmetic sum to solve which leads to the number which may be on their card. You need to teach them simple terms like plus, moins, multiplié par and divisé par. The advantage of this variation is that it provides more mental challenge. The downside is that pupils don't make the immediate link between the number you read and the number written in front of them. You might also need quite a good class to do it.

2.  Reverse bingo ("death bingo")

In this variation all the class stands up. You call numbers and if a number comes up which is on a child's card, they must sit down and they are out of the game. This variation goes by quite quickly and is a fun alternative, but the obvious downside is that once a pupil is "out" they have no more motivation to listen to numbers.

3. Number sequence bingo.

Instead of just reading a number, you read simple sequences of numbers and pupils have to work out what the next number would have been. You can make this as simple or as hard as you want, depending on the class. e.g. 1,2,3,4 ___ . Or 64,32,16 __. You can cater for any number easily e.g. 5,4,3,2 __. I like this version because students get to hear a lot of numbers, so you are maximising input. the minor downside is that, as in mental arithmetic bingo, pupils do not make an immediate match between the number they hear and the number of the paper.

4. Group bingo

Just break the class into small groups and get one person to act as caller. This has the advantage of allowing some students to do the calling. The downside is that students may hear poorer models of pronunciation and there is the danger of an over-noisy classroom.

5. Number in a sentence bingo

In this variation, instead of reading out a number, you read a sentence containing the number. e.g. Il y a 30 personnes dans la classe; j'ai deux frères; le numéro soixante est intéressant. This has a greater level of challenge and is an opportunity to provide input at the sentence level, allowing pupils to hear numbers in context. Some classes may find it too hard and the teacher may need to do a bit of thinking beforehand about the nature of the sentences which are feasible. This may be a version to do with classes who have been studying at least a year.

Here are sites which will generate bingo cards for you.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Reverse Bingo

A lot like normal Bingo - but in this variation, you don't want your numbers called!
Students write down 9 or so (you tell them how many to choose) different numbers between 1 and 100.
As per Bingo, the teacher calls out numbers in the target language. As soon as even one of their numbers is called, that student is out. The winner is the last student to have none of their numbers called. A pretty quick game, so it doesn't matter if someone gets out really early on.
I've adapted this from "Irish Bingo" as described here. There, they suggest getting everyone to stand, and the students sit as soon as one of their numbers is called so you can see clearly how many people are left.

Saturday, 20 September 2014


I've been playing around with different ways to use Battleships in class. It's just a good, old-fashioned information gap activity really.
Usually, it's done with letters of the alphabet and numbers as per the image above. (Here's one version of the basic rules.) I've been experimenting with other combinations - such as hobbies / activities down the side and hate / dislike / don't really like / like / really like / prefer / favourite across the top of the grid.
I put these in English (or use images to represent them), but you could put them in the target language if you prefer. I tend to leave space for the weaker students to write the TL in as a prompt.
In this version, students ask "do you really like basketball?", selecting a degree of liking and an activity. If that coordinate is a hit, their partner answers yes, if it's a miss, they answer no. I'd make them use full sentence answers for practice.
Of course, the question for "Is sleeping your favourite?" is a differently structured question in many languages, so you may want to get your students tho think about how to ask each of the different questions before they start.
It's another way to drill questions & answers, as well as the vocab.
Alternatively, the degrees of liking could be replaced with days of the week, times of day etc...
If you don't like the idea of calling it Battleships and don't want to use different types of ship, you could call it Hide & Seek and call each of your "ships" something else.

Any other ideas for variations?
What other "old favourite" games do you adapt for your language class?
I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Fly Swat!

I was surprised to realise that I hadn't added this before - it's something I use pretty regularly, and it works well all the way through to Year 12... 

The commonest version of this to pre-prepare the whiteboard with lots of vocabulary that you want the students to revise / consolidate (target language, or English equivalents, or a mix of both).

Three to five students at a time (depending on the size of your whiteboard and of your students) come & stand at the board. Give each student a fly swat (different colours are best if possible).

Call out a clue such as a translation of one of the words on the board, but it could be something more completed too, depending on your students’ level & range of vocabulary eg for soccer – “there are 11 people in the team”. The first person to “swat” the word wins a point.
I suggest 3 questions per group, then rotate to the next set of people at the board to keep the class engaged – works especially well if they are in teams (eg the red fly swat team, the blue fly swat team etc).

Another version I’ve used is to start with a blank whiteboard. The first set of students have whiteboard markers. You call out a vocab item, and the students draw it or write it up for you, then once all the vocabulary you want is represented, continue as above.

You can also use flashcards or images / word cards on the floor or a large table, or project the words instead of writing them up.

You can also get a student to take the role of teacher as well.

Tables (The Verb Game)

I learned about this game just a week ago from the lovely Caroline, who teaches French at my school. She calls it The Verb Game. It's already a favourite with my students, from Year 7 all the way through to Year 11 & 12!

-->This is adapted from a French conjugation game. In the French version, you have the pronouns down the first column, and verbs across the top row – the blank spaces need to be filled with the correctly conjugated form of the verb for the pronoun that matches the row (see image!)
As conjugation isn’t an issue for Indonesian, I  draw up a table on my laptop which I show via the projector with different questions in each box. (questions could be vocab items needing translation) Write the question in the top of the box leaving space underneath within the box for the answer. (alternatively, you could just write it on the board, but then you need to take more care when erasing wrong answers)

Divide the class into 3 to 5 groups, and then number each student within the group (1 to 5 or whatever suits your class size). Assign each group a colour and a corresponding whiteboard marker.

Call out a number. Each student that corresponds with the number called from each group rushes to the front, collects the group’s whiteboard marker and then can write in the answer in any one space on the board that is left (one person per space!). Any incorrect answers are wiped off.

The group that has the most of their colour on the board at the end of the game wins. 
Isn't it funny how sometimes it's really simple things that the kids enjoy the most?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Alphabet Call and Response

Use the standard military marching call and response rhythm, call out the alphabet and the students call the response:

ABCDEFG abcdefg
HIJKLMNOP hijklmnop
QRSTU and V qrstu and v
WXY and Z wxy and z

(you may want to adapt this to suit you and the rhythm you use) 
I think the only way to do this properly is to get the students up out of the seats, in a line, and march around the classroom in and around the desks to the rhythm.

Repeat the alphabet call & response couple of times as you march around the room. Maybe get the students to try to make the letters with their bodies as they march for an extra twist?

The "and" should be in the target language too, of course!

After a few rounds, you could always try calling the alphabet backwards - but you may need to practice this beforehand! 

It's not a game exactly, but a great way to practice the alphabet, and possibly other vocabulary. Numbers spring to mind instantly, but possibly also daily routine words - and why not add actions to add an extra kinesthetic dimension?

This is another activity from the Langues & Terres course I did in France in April.

Good luck and have fun!
ps - if you're not sure what I mean by call & response marching rhythm, here's an example of a rhythm you could use / adapt

Count against the clock

A really simple and quick game. The students count - one student per number - going around the class.
But time it, to see just how fast they can go. After a few tries, count backwards to see if they can match their top speed. Students love it!
Once they have the hang of it, start with a higher number, count by 10s, 5s, or be really tricky and count by 7s or 3s :)
This could also be used for practice saying the alphabet in the target language - any other ideas or variations? Please let me know!

Top of the Mountain / Gunung Agung

This game is really similar to Ashurbanipal / Pak Totomoto / Babo, however it has one HUGE advantage - no one gets out, so everyone is involved for the whole game.
My Year 9s taught me this game (when I played Pak Totomoto for the first time ever with this class this week, a few of them told me that it was a bit like Gunung Agung - they'd played it when they were in primary school language classes)

For those who don't speak Indonesian, Gunung Agung is a mountain in Indonesia. I'd replace it with Mount Blanc perhaps for French, and maybe Kosciuszko for English (pronounced Koz -ee-osk-oh - it;s a mountain in Australia) - you want something of a couple of syllables and preferably a little tricky to pronounce! 

Basically, everyone sits in a circle and is given a number. I found it really helpful to have the numbers written (in figures) on a piece of paper in front of each student. One student is "Gunung Agung" (or relevant mountain name) and has that title instead of a number - this is the highest position. The aim of the game is to move as high up the mountain as possible.

Gunung Agung starts by saying "Gunung Agung" then saying a number. (eg "gunung Agung - 12")
The student with that number says their number, then another. ("12 - 23")
and so on, and so on ("23 - 4" "4 - 18")

Until someone gets out.

You get out if - 
  • you call the person who just called you
  • you call a number that is out, or isn't in the game
  • you call a number that is one higher or one lower than your own.
  • you answer out of turn (eg if you are in chair 12 but you answer when 20 was called)
  • you take tooooo long to respond - the snappier the game is, the more fun it is.
When someone is out, they stand up and move to the bottom of the mountain (seat 1). Everyone who had a lower number than that person moves up one chair to fill the gap.

Obviously, as the aim is to be at the top of the mountain (in the Gunung Agung chair at the end of the game), it makes sense to target the higher (and often harder to remember) numbers rather than the low numbers.

I'd suggest a clear time limit and possibly showing a timer so the students know when the end is near - the people near the top of the mountain get rather frenetic at the end! 15 minutes would be a good length for this game, but you could run it for anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes.

My Year 9s also suggested that instead of numbers, you could use picture flashcards for the chair places as a way of drilling other vocabulary, depending on the topic.  Numbers also would not need to start with one, or possibly could be not consecutive (but still lowest to highest).

Love this variation & think it will become a regular part of my classes!
ps - the mountain pictured is Gunung Bromo not Gunung Agung - I just love the photo!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Riddle me this...

A riddle game. I've seen a few versions of this around (such as The Green Glass Door). Basically, you have a secret rule which the students need to guess. Anything that follows that rule, you like, you don't like anything that doesn't.
For example:
"I like peas but I don't like carrots. I like pears but I don't like apples. I like ears but not noses."
Students need to guess the rule by asking yes / no questions - "do you like beans?" (yes) "do you like pants?" ("no, but I like jeans!") - in this case the rule is to do with spelling - I "like" things with an "ea" in them, and don't like things that don't.
A variation would be getting students NOT to say what the rule is when they have worked it out, but to give extra examples to help the others - generally the smug "I know something you don't know" feeling is enough of a reward. You could use a weak or new student to help you by secretly telling them the rule and they give some extra examples. If students work out the rule, they should keep quiet about it, but
It can be more simple (eg liking things that begin with S, ) or more complicated (words with a double letter, words that contain the letter y - as complicated as you want to make it!)

It's a good game to get students thinking about spelling, or grammar (feminine plural nouns? -ir verbs?)

A variation is to use different language instead of like / don't like. "I'm going to a party and I'm bringing peas. Would you like to come?" "Can I bring carrots?" (no) "Can I bring Jeanette?" (yes) (same rule as above)
or "I'm making soup and I'm adding beans" "Can I add bacon?" "Yum! yes!" "Can I add ham?" "Yuk! no!" (rule = words beginning with B)

Saturday, 19 July 2014


Another term is about to begin, so I've been thinking about ways to revise and get the students back into the swing of things. I've recently been to France for a French course for teachers, and by coincidence my old French teacher was there  for the same course. Obviously, this made me think about her classes, and why I enjoyed them so much. She used Ashurbanipal fairly regularly (I've written about Ashurbanipal here before) and I thought I'd give the game a new twist (new to me!), adapting it to other vocab rather than just sticking with numbers.

First, get everyone sitting in a circle then start a body drumming rhythm as follows - slap your legs twice, clap your hands twice, click your left fingers then your right fingers then back to the start. Don't go too fast!

The reason for the circle is so that it is clear who is next.  Here's a video of the basic number version.

For other vocabulary, give a topic (words beginning with M, sports, things that are small enough to fit in a pencil case, feminine nouns, part participles...). Start it yourself by saying "start" on the first click and give a word that fits the topic on the second click. Going around the circle, the students each in turn say the word given by the person just before them on the first click, then adding a new word on the second click. (That's why you want to make sure that the rhythm isn't too fast!)


so, it might go:
slap slap clap clap "start Mandarin" (first person)
slap slap clap clap  "Mandarin Man" 
slap slap clap clap "Man Magazine"
slap slap clap clap "Magazine Moon"

and so on. If you miss the rhythm, or say something that has already been said, you're out. It's basically a trickier version of "Think Fast" :)

I'm going to play the number version as a warm up first as I haven't played this version with my classes, but at the start of the term all revision & anything getting them speaking can't be a waste of time!

A bit of googling has shown me that this game is called "Babo" (fool) in Korea, but I'm sure there are other names around too.

What do you think? Any other variations? Would this work with your classes? Let me know!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Pizza game

Wow! it's been a long time since I've added anything, but have a couple of new things to share. Don't know about you (dear theoretical reader), but I'm actually finding that it has been really useful to create this resource for myself as much as for anyone else, because now I can go back and remind myself of games I haven't tried for ages - it's amazing what you forget.

This game I found on another site, added by Dagmara Muszynska.
I have left the instructions in her words - please note that this game does require some preparation.

PIZZA GAME Game to learn/practice vocabulary

This is my students favourite game. They love it and you can use it in any language B class. It takes a bit of time to make it but it is really worth of it.

To make a game you need to:
  1. On the sheet of A4 paper draw and than cut a circle (as big as it possible on the paper).
  2. On the circle draw 3 lines to divide it into 6 pieces (just as a pizza or a birtday cake).
  3. On each piece draw quite dots 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 (just like on dice). Now it looks a bit like a pizza, isn't it.
This will be your base. Now it's time to make pizza pieces (tasks to do by students)
  1. cut paper into triangles (as many as you want)
  2. on each triangle put one task to do by students

Your game is ready. Now it's good to laminate everything so you can use it many times.

How to play it:
  1. students sit around the table
  2. put your pizza (base) in the middle
  3. put your pieces of pizza under each part of your base
  4. student roles dice
  5. students takes the piece of pizza where is the same number of dots
  6. student solves task on the piece of pizza
  7. student may take the piece of pizza if he solve task correct – than teacher put next piece in empty place
  8. student need to put back thepiece of pizza if couldn't to solve the task.
  9. The winner is student who has the the most pieces of pizza at the end of the game

What you can use it for

  1. practise new vocabulary/expressions
ñ on each piece put word/expression in language of instruction. Students need to say the word in language B.
2.    putting words in correct order
ñ on each piece write mixed words. Students need to put them in correct order and make a sentence
3.    put the right form of noun/verb/adjective
ñ on each piece write sentence with one word that is in incorrect form. Students need to say the sentence using correct form of word
4.    answer the question
ñ on each piece write question that students will be supposed to answer

In fact there is much more possibilities to use this game. The only limit is your imagination. Good luck and have fun during the game

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Grudge Ball!

All the credit for introducing me to Grudgeball goes to the awesome Penny Coutas (@pcoutas on twitter)... My students LOVE this. Have made a couple of changes to suit my groups, but it's such a cool idea!
Rather than give full instructions, I'm going to give a link (sorry). I think the photos provided help make things clear. Here's the link.
The actual game is originally from

Vocabulary Gallery Walk

Not really a game... but still fun, especially if you play up the "gallery opening".

I love the idea of creating a gallery in this way, and getting students to give feedback on each others' work. I feel that if the students know they are creating for each other rather than just for the teacher, they will try that bit harder. Your "gallery" doesn't need to be word+definition+example - you could  use the gallery idea just as easily for a "creating" activity rather than simply a revision exercise. And if you don't have laptops, access to a computer lab or ipads / tablets there are other ways to do it - good old paper, or why not experiment with BYOD (bring your own device) if your school will allow it?
I have pasted these instructions directly from - here's the link.

"1. Vocabulary Gallery Walk – Each student will be given a word to define and provide an example for. Students will use Sock Puppet or Go Animate to create a mini skit to define and example their word. Students will lay iPads around the room and walk around to review each skit. Sticky notes will be placed near iPads for students to leave comments. Students will be instructed to write definitions and examples as they view each skit on their Vocabulary Gallery Walk Recording Sheet."

In the same article, Edudemic also suggests creating mini movies as a way to revise, then having a film festival / "world premiere" (possibly complete with popcorn?). Again, a great idea easily adapted from revision activity to an MFL activity.

Of course, you could go "old school" minus the technology aspect, and just challenge the students to create posters to show the meaning of the word / phrase / sentence without using any English :)