Thursday, 27 November 2014

Adaptable Games

At the most recent meeting of the Sunderland ALL Primary Hub we discussed games that can be adapted to any language that we teach in our Languages lessons.  Here is our list - we hope you find something that you didn't already know about.  Many thanks to the Hub members and to Erzsi Culshaw, whose blog is a rich source of such games.

1.            Which card?
Shuffle your flashcards so the children don’t know what order they are in.  Hold the pile close to you so that the children can’t see them!  The children have to work together, listening and thinking, to find out which card is on the top of your pile.

C'est quelle carte?         Which card is it?
Oui, c'est....                   Yes it is....
Non, ce n'est pas....       No it isn't.....

¿Qué carta es?              Which card is it?
Sí, es...                          Yes it is...
No, no es....                  No it isn't.....

2.            Pelmanism
Children have a pack of small cards, one set of pictures and one set of the corresponding words.  They put them all face down on the desk and take it in turns to turn over two cards, to see if they get a matching pair.  The child with the most pairs wins.  Children can create their own Pelmanism games with sets of blank cards.  You can also make memory games like this with online game makers such as this one.

3.            Kim's game
Show, for example, the 11 colours on the IWB.  Using either custom animations or the duplicate screen function on PowerPoint, you can make one disappear when you press the button.  The children have to say which one is missing each time.  To increase the challenge, all the others change position when one disappears.  You can also use this as a class vs teacher game.  One of the children has to predict which one they think will disappear.  If they are right then the class gets a point.  If they are wrong, the teacher gets the point.  I have never been beaten!

Qu'est-ce qui manque?          What is missing?

¿Qué falta?                             What is missing?

4.            Fly past
You can use the motion path animation on PowerPoint to make pictures etc fly from one side of the screen to the other.  The children have to watch very closely to see which one it is, and then call out the answer.  Increase the challenge by having two fly across the screen together.  There are some French examples with numbers here (scroll down a little).

5.            Slaps
Stick your flashcards to the board or display the images on the IWB if you are feeling brave.  Two children come up to the board and stand one at each side.  You say one of the words and the children have to be the first to slap it.  Injuries are less likely if each child has a fly swat to slap the word with.

6.            Noughts and Crosses
This is a great team game that takes no time at all to set up.  Draw the noughts and crosses grid on the board, and number the squares.  I usually use 1-9, but of course if the children know higher numbers you can use those too.  I don't order number the squares in order, so they have to think more about the number they are choosing.  Divide the class into two teams.  I usually nominate a team captain, who has to give me the team's answers.  They can discuss the answer, but I will only listen to the team captain.  The team captains choose which team will be the O and which will be the X.  The first team tells you in the target language which number square they are going to go for.  You show them a flashcard or ask a question and the team has to come up with the answer.  If they are right, they get their O or X in their chosen square.  Three in a row wins, of course.

Quel numéro?                                          What number?
Pour le numéro...., comment dit-on...?    For number...., how do you say...?

¿Qué número?                                         What number?
Para el número...., ¿cómo se dice.....?     For number..., how do you say....?

7.            Snakes and ladders
Use a standard snakes and ladders boardgame.  It can be played in teams or pairs.  The children throw the dice, but can only move their counter to the appropriate square if they answer a question correctly.

8.            Parachute games
All the games that you usually play with the parachute can be adapted for languages.  Fruit Salad, for example, works well.  You can also use the coloured sections and a toy on top of the parachute to practise colours - simply tilt the parachute so that the toy rolls onto the right colour.  This document will give you lots more ideas.

9.            Dance mats
Clear a space on the floor and lay down one flashcard. Your volunteer stands behind it.  Say the word and they jump to the card.  Add another card and say the two words, and they have to jump to the two words in the right order.  Add more cards and continue to build up the sequence.  They have to jump in the right order each time.  This could easily be played in pairs, where the children give each other the instructions.

10.          Heads down thumbs up
Played in the normal way, but each of the children touching the thumbs has a flashcard.  When they are ready, the children sitting down use the flashcard words instead of the children's names to find out who 'got' them.

11.          Chef d'orchestre / Secret signal
This is excellent for practising the same words, sounds, phrases, sentences or question forms over and over again.  One or two children leave the room.  Meanwhile, you choose someone to be the secret signaller.  They show what signal they will give to get the class to change what they are saying.  The one or two children come back in, and it is their job to spot who is giving the signal.  The whole class chants the same thing over and over again until they see the signal, then they change to the next thing. This keeps going until the signaller is spotted.  You will need to have on the board the sequence of words or phrases that they are going to say.

12.          Bingo
This can be played with any words or numbers, and there are many ready made grids that you can use.  For a really quick game, the children can choose their own words and write them in a list.  Bingo with a twist is:

13.          Strip Bingo
Not as exciting as it sounds!   Each child has a strip of paper and on it they write or draw probably about 6 of the words that you are practising.  You begin to call the words.  The idea is to tear off the words when they hear them, but they can only tear one off if it is on the end of their strip.  They may have to wait to hear a certain word again before they can tear it off.  The advantage of this over normal bingo is that they will hear the words several times.  It does, however, create more litter than normal bingo!

14.          Pass the parcel
You will need a bag or similar receptacle and some objects or flashcards to put in it. For example, if you are practising colours you can put in some coloured pencils.  Play some music, or all sing a song together, while the bag is passed around.  The person who is holding the bag or when the music stops or when the song finishes gets to take something out.  Either they say the word or they put it in the middle for everyone to see, and everyone works together to say the word.  

15.          Corners
Put a different word, picture or phrase in each corner of the room.  Call out one of the words and the children have to run to the correct corner.  The children in the wrong corners are out.  Alternatively, the children choose a corner to run to and then you call out the corner that is out.

16.          Round the World
Select a child to start the game.  They stand behind the chair of their next door neighbour.  The teacher asks a question to both of them.  The first one to answer correctly goes to stand behind the chair of the next child.  If the original child is not the one to get the correct answer, they sit in the second child’s seat.  The aim of the game for each child is to get as far around the classroom as they can, answering as many questions as they can.

17.          I went shopping and I bought
The first child says one word or phrase, for example “Rojo”.  The second child says that word and then adds a second, for example “Rojo, azul”.  The third child says those two colours and then adds a third, and so on.  The challenge is to remember as long a chain of language as possible.

18.          Chinese Whispers
Divide the children into two teams, and put your flashcards or words at one end of the classroom.  Whisper one of the words or phrases to the first children in each line, who then have to pass it down the line in the usual Chinese Whispers way.  The last child in each team goes to the flashcards or words and shows which one they heard, and therefore which one their team has been whispering.  The children will need to concentrate on their speaking and their listening for their team to win this game.

19.          Mystery Voice
One child is blindfolded.  A second is chosen to say a word or phrase, but they disguise their voice.  The blindfolded child has to guess who is speaking.  They could be asked to repeat their word or phrase, and could disguise their voice in a different way.

20.          Hide and Seek
One child leaves the room.  They will be the seeker.  Meanwhile you and the rest of the class decide where to hide a toy.  The child comes back into the room and begins to look for the toy.  Instead of saying “cold”, “warm” and “hot”, the children chant a word or phrase, whispering it when the seeker is “cold” and getting louder as they get "warmer".

21.          Detectives
One or two children leave the room.  They will be the detectives.  Meanwhile, the teacher gives out 6 small toys to other members of the class, who hide them in their hands.  All the children put their hands under the tables.  The detectives come back in, and must question 6 members of the class in total to see if they have the toys.  When the 6 suspects give their the answers, they hold up their hands, and the detectives will be able to see if they have one of the toys.

22.          Pictionary
A useful game for practising vocabulary, particularly nouns and verbs.  

A particularly useful game for intercultural understanding.  Read more about it here.

24.          Cluedo

The teacher thinks of a sentence, choosing one of the options from the columns each time.  The children then need to work together, listening carefully to others’ answers and thinking hard, to find out what the sentence is.  Each time one of them gives an answer, they must give the whole sentence.  The teacher can tell them how many parts they have correct, but nothing more.

It’s up to you how closely you want to follow the format of the original TV programme, but there’s a lot you can do with a sentence with a gap in it.

J’ai un chien ___________________.       I have a __________ dog.

Mi perro es ____________________.      My dog is ___________.

26.          Board games
A homemade boardgame will help children to practise the words and phrases from a certain unit.  Put words or pictures on some of the squares, and the children will have to say those words or a sentence containing those words to be able to move on in the game.

27.          Drawing Game
Say one of your words in the language and give the children 10 seconds to draw it. Then say a second and give them 9 seconds to draw it.  Then a third, and they have 8 seconds to draw it, and so on until they have 2 seconds to draw something.  Then they have to tell you all the things that they have drawn.  The hastily done drawings may well be difficult to decipher!

28.          Sit down quickly!
All the children stand up.  You show one flashcard at a time.  If you say the correct word to go with it, the children stay standing.  If, however, you say the wrong word, they have to sit down as quickly as possible.  The last ones to sit could be out.

If we have missed any of your favourites, please feel free to add them in a comment!


  1. A game we play with flashcards: a pupil comes out and puts a card on another one's head. If he can guess which card that is ( 3-5 guesses), he gets a sticker, if he doesn't, the one who holds the card gets it.

  2. Elizabeth D Phoenix28 November, 2014 03:43

    Thank you so much for all you do! These games look really fun - oh, my goodness! And I have drawn great inspiration from your mini-books section. If you like, I'll send you pictures of student work from December (probably over Christmas break). (By the way, I'm a K-8 Spanish teacher in Phoenix, AZ.) Merci beaucoup!

  3. Thank you very much Clare for all those games. Tres interessant! Lydia