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.

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.

Musical Chairs

A staple of children’s classes, I’ve seen adults play musical chairs and love it. Music, movement and lots of spoken English, what’s not to love? The only thing that could go wrong with this activity is one student giving another a forearm shiver as they wrangle over the last remaining chair.

First, find the target language. Question and answer is what you’re looking for. For instance: ‘What did you do yesterday?’ ‘I went to school.’

Have 20 students? Take away one of the chairs so there are only 19 available. Play a song while the students walk round in a circle. Stop. Students scramble for a chair. Those who are sitting ask the question while the lone stander answers perhaps based on flashcard you show. Swap it. The stander asks and the sitters reply. Rinse and repeat.

Introduce them to some Western culture with a tune, or grin and bear a few minutes listening to a song they’ve chosen. Maybe your school has modeling clay. Perhaps a project making earplugs before the song?

Hot Potato

Fun for kids, teens and adult classes alike, hot potato is just like what you remember playing as a kid, only this version puts an emphasis on focused speaking practice.

Hot potato is perfect for when there’s a simple question and answer you’re practicing. It’s even better with flashcards which function as the potato. In effect, it’s a substitution drill, but it’s fun enough that students won’t mind the repetition.

Suppose the theme of the lesson is food, the question is ‘what do you want?’ and the answer is ‘I want soup.’

Put you students in a (standing) circle and give your instructions. You will play a song while they pass a ‘soup’ flashcard. When you stop the song, everyone who isn’t holding the flashcard will ask the holder the question ‘what do you want?’ The holder must respond, ‘I want soup.’

Put another flashcard in the mix and play the song again. Stop. Now there are two questions and two students answering. Next time there are three and so on.