Sumo: A Student-Approved Game to Kill 5 Minutes.

Have five minutes before break time that you need to kill? Enter Sumo, the most fun your kids will have all class. And the next class. And the next.

Levels: Elementary

Ages: Children

Materials: Flashcards

Seat your students in a large circle to function as the ring. Divide the class into two teams. One student (wrestler) from each team enters the ring and stands face to face with the other. Not too close together. A meter is or more is ideal.

Both wrestlers put their hands behind their back in a way that they can hold a flashcard (put there by you), keeping it hidden from their opponent. Put one minute on the clock. The point is for students to maneuver so that they can see their opponent’s flashcard and call it out before the opponent sees theirs.

Students aren’t allowed to use their hands for anything but holding the flashcard, nor are they allowed to talk unless it’s to call out the flashcard. The other students are only allowed to cheer on their teammate (they’ll often try to cheat by telling their teammate what’s on the opponent’s flashcard).

Sumo isn’t the most communicative game in the EFL/ESL teacher’s arsenal, so use it sparingly and never at length. But when it comes to killing 5 minutes, except no substitute.

Duck Duck Goose

Duck Duck Goose (or Duck Duck Gray Duck for our strange brethren from the frozen tundra of Minnesota, though to be fair the game (like our flaxen-haired friends from the heartland) originated in Sweden where it was called Anka Anka Grå Anka, or Duck Duck Gray Duck, so maybe they aren’t completely misinformed) is the same game you remember from your elementary gym class. If your P.E. teacher was anything like mine — a mustachioed, whistle-sucking dictator — you may still suffer from PTSD along with the occasional flashback triggered by quacking waterfowl, so consider yourself forewarned!

Ages and Levels

Duck Duck Goose works best with Kindergarten to pre-teen children of elementary ability.

Language Objectives

Duck Duck Goose should target particular vocabulary or grammatical structures for pronunciation. Because students in the game will move and speak quickly, it’s important to keep an eye on their pronunciation which tends to get sloppy sooner than later.

For this example, let’s say the students are studying ‘I’m going to the (blank)’, and the vocabulary are places around town such as the hospital, bank etc.

The Format

You’ll need a decent-sized classroom for this game. Students must be able to run around without having to dodge desks, tables or other students.

Clear the desks and have students sit in a circle on the floor. The larger they can make the circle, the more competitive the game will be. Make sure the area outside the circle has enough room for students to run unimpeded.

Nominate one of the students to be ‘it’. Whoever is ‘it’ will walk around the outside of the circle, tapping children on the head, each time saying ‘I’m going to the bank.’ When the ‘it’ student finally changes the vocabulary word (e.g. ‘I’m going to the hospital’) and taps that student on the head, that student stands and tries to catch ‘it’ while ‘it’ tries to run all the way around the circle and sit down in the original spot. If ‘it’ gets caught, he or she must try again.

Duck Duck Goose Gif

Note: Duck Duck Goose may cause some cultural issues about touching children on the head, particularly in Thailand. If this is the case, have students tap each on the shoulder.

Slap the Board

‘Slap the Board’ is fun and competitive way to get students repeating target vocabulary or grammar structures. It’s perfect for getting students out of their chairs and reinforcing what they’ve just learned in the book. Better yet, it can be graded in difficulty and made adaptable for different abilities.

Ages: Children – Teens

Levels: Beginner – Intermediate

Materials: flashcards, fly swatters (optional)

In its most basic form, Slap the Board is used as a vocabulary game. If you’re teaching young children and you have flashcards, tape the flashcards to the board. Divide the class into two, or possibly three teams. Invite one student from each group to come to the front. Call out one of the vocabulary words. Students race to the board and slap the flashcard (either by hand or flyswatter), calling out the word as they do so; whoever is first earns a point for his/her team. A student can be assigned the role of teacher to call out the words.

Perhaps your students are learning how to spell. In that case, invert the activity. Write the words on the board, and instead of calling out a word, show them a flashcard. They race to slap the word corresponding to the flashcard, perhaps spelling it before saying it.

For more advanced students the game works better by focusing on a question and answer. Perhaps the grammar structure is ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘I’m going to the (blank). The students who are sitting ask the question and the players race to slap the word corresponding to the flashcard you show them, then answer the question.

It’s important that the students vocalize the vocabulary or grammar. It’s easy for the game to devolve into a slapping match with little English spoken. Award points only for those who call out the vocab or grammar as they slap it.

Race the Clock

Here’s a fun way to get students repeating vocabulary and target structures with a focus on pronunciation. They’ll be speaking as fast as they can, but sloppy pronunciation is punished! The only things you’ll need is a stopwatch the students can see (there are plenty of timers online), and flashcards for them to pass.

Suppose your target structure is ‘I like _______’ and the vocabulary is fruit. Perhaps one of your flashcards is ‘apples’. The goal is to get your students repeating ‘I want apples’ as naturally as possible.

Students can play seated or standing in either a horseshoe or circle. Horseshoe Seating Arrangement

Give the first student at either end of the horseshoe the ‘apple’ flashcard. Put 20 seconds on the clock, making sure it’s visible. Note: students must be able to see the clock otherwise the game doesn’t work; the clock functions as a ticking time bomb which they race against. 

When you start the clock, the first student says, ‘I like apples,’ and passes it to the next student who says also says it before handing it to the next, and so on. Each student must repeat the target structure correctly or the flashcard goes back to the first student and one second is taken off the clock. In this example, students have 20 seconds to get the card to the other end of the horseshoe. Once successful, give them another flashcard (e.g. oranges) and take one second off the clock. Now they have 19 seconds.

As a variation, try putting students in teams. Now there are two horseshoes (or circles) and they will race each other. The team with the fastest time wins.

This activity works for lower levels of all ages.

Chanting isn’t just for religious weirdos

Chanting has always scared me. Whether done in religion or a protest ruled by mob mentality, chants have always conjured in me images of irrational masses calling for blood. Like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where the priest rips the still-beating heart out of a sacrificial victim to the delight of a chanting, brainwashed cult. Yikes.

But this unthinking nature of chanting that disturbs me is its strength in an EFL classroom. Mastery only comes through repetition, and chanting ingrains language in a way that allows students to focus on sounds rather than meaning. Chanting lends itself well to absorbing intonation and sentence stress, and phrases that are difficult to pronounce are often rather easy once a rhythmic component is added.

Suppose your target structure is ‘I want _________’, and the vocabulary is fruit. Have one student leave the room so he/she can’t see as you hide a flashcard (e.g. apples). Invite the student to come back in and look for the flashcard while the rest of the class chants ‘I want apples.’ The group chants louder if the student is approaching the flashcard and quieter if walking away from it. They keep on chanting until the student finds the flashcard.

For added fun, put the class in teams and time the students as they look for the flashcards. The team with fastest time wins. The winning team can then rip the hearts out of the losers, chanting all the while.

Temple of Doom Heart Ripped Out
Kali maa shakti de!

 

 

One Breath

Struggling with ways to make reading fun? One Breath is a nice change-up from the standard ‘read aloud’ activities that accompany a typical reading lesson.

Put students in small groups. One student reads aloud at a time, the objective being to read as far as he/she can using only one breath. The winner is the one who can go the furthest. Then invite the winner from each group to have a go in front of the whole class, making it a tournament of sorts.

Don’t forget to model it! Students love watching the teacher go blue in the face.

Sumo

Two fatties in butt floss bumpin’ bellies in a ring. No, I’m not referring to your love life. I’m talking about sumo, the earthquake inducing sport of Japanese wrestling. It’s fun to watch, funner to play and a great activity when you have five minutes to kill.

Students are in two teams, A and B, which sit in one large circle to form the ring. One student from each team plays at a time. They start face-to-face, holding flashcards behind their backs which neither of them can see. The objective is to see your opponent’s flashcard by maneuvering around him/her without letting your own flashcard be seen.

Sumo works best if it’s timed; one minute is plenty. Warn the rest of the class that points will be taken, or the game ended, if they try to cheat by telling their teammate the opponent’s flashcard.

This game’s flaw is that it only features two students at a time and very little English is used. For these reasons, use it sparingly and keep it short. Not every student needs to play.