Mar 24, 2015

Rhythm oral circle game


Name tags (recommended)


The pedagogical goal of this game is to get the students to practice saying certain new vocabulary words. It works best for things that are closed sets - numbers, days of the week, months - and which match the numbers of the class.

The game itself is played in a circle. The goal is to not get 'out' which happens if you mess up and fall outside of the rhythm of the game. Everyone in the group should stand and clap or chant a 'chorus' phrase to a pretty basic rhythm. The chorus phrase is best as something culturally appropriate, so in Arabic I use the phrase 'yalla' 'let's go!', but the way I learned this game originally was as an ice-breaker game used to learn names, with the very silly chorus phrase "big booty" repeated three times. 

Everyone in the playing group should be assigned a vocabulary word as their 'name' - it can help to write this on a nametag and put it on their shoulder. Each 'turn' of the game goes like this - this is an example for an English language class, with chorus phrase 'yeah!'):
Person 1 (with label "Monday"): Yeah yeah yeah, Monday Thursday
Person 2 (with label "Thursday"): Yeah yeah yeah, Thursday Saturday
Person 3 (with label "Saturday"): Yeah yeah yeah, Saturday [name of another day of the week]

Players MUST say their label first, then the name of the person who they want to go next.

If a player messes up (doesn't say their own day of the week, falls out of the rhythm, says the label of someone who is out, etc) they are 'out' and stand back from the group, though they should keep clapping and helping keep the energy high. As the number of players dwindles, you should encourage them to up the rhythm. You can also forbid them from going in a circle or from sending the game back to the person who called them.

You can play this with the whole class, but it's best in smaller groups of 5-8.


Someone shared this game with me right as there was a series of high profile political filibusters, but it's a good game at any time.

The idea is for the students, taking turns but judged as a class, to continuously speak as long as possible. The best incentive is to offer them a delay, or even a break from, planned activities in class which they do not enjoy.

Start by announcing that you had an activity planned, and wait for their groans. Offer them the option of filibustering: so long as they continue speaking (in turn) in the target language, you won't move on to that activity. One student will go as long as they can, and the student next to them will pick up the thread. The filibuster ends when they mess up, depending on criteria appropriate to their level. Suggested criteria for ending the game are:
  1. Repetition of the same stretch of speech
  2. Use of the L1
  3. Hemming and hawing
  4. Not making sense
  5. Not using complete sentences
  6. Specific mispronunciations

Mar 20, 2014

Jenga Language Review

Jenga Review Game
The Jenga party game can be used as a review game in the language classroom. Students work in groups of 4-5 (or smaller) to complete the game, and I have found that 15-20 minutes is usually enough to complete the task (or at least many of the questions).

To prepare:
-Purchase Jenga sets (available on Amazon or elsewhere)
-Number each wooden piece in the set with a Sharpie (1-54).
-Make a list of 54 questions/tasks that you want students to complete. This could be a mix of the following (among others): answer a question (what's the weather like today, what do you wear when it is cold out, what's your name, etc), conjugate a verb, translate a word, finish a sentence.
-Make a list of the 54 answers (or possible answers).
-Make a copy of the questions and answers for each student (front and back of the page).

Playing the game:
-Have students choose their partners or number off to form groups.
-Explain that students will play the game of Jenga but with one added step: before they can place their chosen wooden piece back on the tower, they must answer the question that corresponds to the number on their piece. They must say the number in French and read the question before providing their answer.
-Students are encouraged to work out the answer with their group if they are not sure and to only use the answer key to check their answers.

Students can then keep the list of questions and answers to study for the exam.

Sep 12, 2013

Go Fish

Go Fish is originally a children's card game. It is very useful in the language classroom to have students work on producing and understanding numbers.

Required Materials:

Deck of cards (remove J-K, or assign those values of 11-13) for every 4-6 students


Divide students into groups of 4-6, one deck of cards for group.

The goal of the game is to make sets of 4 cards of the same number. The game ends when a player either gets rid of all of their cards, or they run out of cards to play with. Whoever has the most sets of 4 cards wins at the end of the game.

Each player is dealt 5 cards. The remaining cards are placed face down. Each round consists of the player asking another player to give them a particular card - for example, player A asks: "Player B, please give me your 9's." Player A can only ask for a card he already has in his hand. If player B has any 9's, she must give all of them to Player A. If she does not, she says, "Go Fish" and Player A draws a card from the deck. The turn then moves to the next player. When a player has assembled all 4 of a single card, they place them down in front of them. The goal is to get rid of all their cards, or to assemble the largest number of groups of 4 before the deck runs out.

This game is very helpful for activating number vocabulary, especially the numbers 1-10 (Ace should count as '1'). You can also use it to activate words for 'I want' or 'give me', as well as the vocative if this is a form in the language, 'Oh, Player B'. You can teach the students the literal translation of 'Go Fish' or some other culturally appropriate phrase.

Oct 2, 2012


This is a game where students have different cards that consist of squares.  The teacher has a list of the objects in the squares, and reads it until a student gets a complete line of squares (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally).  The student says "Bingo" and repeats the objects back to ensure that it is correct.  It is good for targeting reading and listening at the same time for the alphabet, numbers, or vocabulary.

Required Materials

1) A list of items to cover
2) Bingo cards (an excellent Excel spreadsheet for generating cards is here).  A picture of cards generated using this spreadsheet for learning Arabic letters and sounds is below.


1) Create the bingo cards for your class and distribute them to your class
2) Read the words until someone gets "Bingo"
3) Ask them to read the words back to make sure they really have "Bingo"


Bingo can be adapted in many different ways to target different language skills.  The most traditional way is to put numbers in each square.  You can also put words, as in the picture above.   Or, you could put pictures in each square, and read off vocabulary words, or you could put words, and display pictures on a screen.  You can also have each student read a word off your list to give them more practice rather than reading them all yourself.  

Oct 1, 2012


This is normally a board game, but it is easy to make with paper and pens or by printing out a copy. It is essentially a guessing game, but it can be used to work on numbers and/or the names of letters.

Required Materials

  • 2 copies of a 10x10 grid. The axes can be marked with numbers 1-10, or one can be 1-10 with the other using letters, or the X axis could be 1-10 and the Y axis 11-20. See the example here. The Arabic example below uses 1-10 on the X axis, and 10, 20, 30, etc. on the Y axis, so a grid point is a single number - the grid point below '5' and across from '40' would be given as '45.' Students can thus practice numbers 11-99.
  • Play pieces, or the size of the different "ships" can be marked directly on the grid as follows:
    • Aircraft carrier: 5 grid spaces
    • Battleship: 4 grid spaces
    • Submarine: 3 grid spaces
    • Cruiser: 3 grid spaces
    • Destroyer: 2 grid spaces


  1. Class is divided into groups of 2.
  2. Each player randomly places their ships on the grid, hidden from the eyes of the other player.
  3. Each player takes turns calling out the name of a grid point. If their opponent has a ship at that location, they say, "hit", otherwise they say "miss." One variant of the game allows each player to make as many "shots" as they have remaining ships.
  4. If the other player has struck all the points of  ship, it is dead. The game continues until one player kills all their opponent's ships. 

Additional Resources

Color and Bodyparts "Oral Xerox"

This is a information-gap game/activity that I have used successfully in a number of classes. In the Arabic curriculum, colors and bodyparts are introduced in the same chapter, so this is an excellent activity which works to activate both. Students color in an outline of a body, and then describe these outlines to other students verbally while they color in another blank outline. When the students are finished, they can compare the original and the copy for immediate feedback.

Required Materials

  • A drawn picture of the human body (something like this might be useful), with 2 times as many copies as students
    • Arabic teachers: You can white out the labels from the diagram of the body on page 334 of Al-Kitaab Part 1, 2nd Edition
  • Markers, crayons or colored pencils sufficient for the whole class to use


  1. Each student is given one copy of the body diagram, and encouraged to color in the body however they like. 
  2. When students are finished coloring the diagrams, collect them, and divide the class into groups of two. Shuffle the diagrams, and give back one per group.
  3. Students should sit back to back or in such a way that they cannot both see the picture. One member of the group takes the role of describing the picture, while the other has a blank diagram that they color in according to the description that the student provides (in the target language of course). When they are finished, they can compare the original and the copy to see how well they communicated.
  4. When a group is finished, the teacher gives them another picture and the students switch roles and play the game again.