After teaching in Japan for almost 8 years, as an Eikaiwa, dispatch and now licensed classroom teacher, there are four games I continually return to for their ease of preparation, and adaptability to almost any lesson.
Fun, fast paced and the best game for learning anything quickly! I often use time-bomb on the first day to learn new names, but it can be used to spice up any drilling exercise, and is great for phonics, and pronunciation practice too. It can be used in any group, from one on one, to a full classroom, though groups of 5 to 10 are probably the best.
Countdown timer and alarm – I usually use my phone.
Flashcards for each student
Pass out the flashcards to each student, these are placed face up in front of them.
Stress that throwing of the ball, or silliness that leads to it falling on the ground constantly (if you play on desks) will result in a student losing their card.
Set the timer to 1 minute for the first round.
Say a flashcard at random, and roll the ball to the student who owns it. They say a different card, and pass to that student, and so on, until the timer beeps and the person holding the ball loses their card.
Reduce the time on the clock.
As cards disappear, and the time decreases, the game will get faster, and faster and more exciting. The last student holding a card is the winner!
Note: This game can be adapted to younger learners who find it hard to lose their card, by having them sit out one turn. The game won’t end in a “winner” but will be a fun five minutes for the kids.
A competitive game for groups, scaling a fictional tower/ladder as they answer questions, read words, solve maths problems, etc.
An identifying game piece for each team. This can be made simply, or elaborately, depending on the teacher’s style. I first saw it done with laminated superhero game pieces for each team. Monkeys and bananas are often cute, though I usually use a magnet.
The game-board. In classrooms this is often a whiteboard, though it can be just a piece of paper. Anything that can be quickly drawn on. Some teachers may prepare a cute game board, in the shape of a building for Spiderman to climb, for example.
Draw a tower. Mine is usually very rough, with a line down the middle separating the teams, and lots of horizontal lines for the rungs, depending on how long I want the game to run for.
Place the game piece of each team at the bottom of their tower.
Ask a question, or write a word on the board. I usually square two students off against each other, to increase participation and to support different ability levels.
First to the top wins. Who should answer the last question is always a hard judgement call, so I usually do rock, paper, scissors.
Also known and BANG, though there is much more satisfaction in telling students, “It’s time to get out the Boom box!” This is a good game for practicing spelling, and reviewing the meaning of words. This is very fun group game.
Enough pieces of identically sized paper for your task. For a spelling list of 20 words for example, use 20 cards for the words and 5 cards for the BOOM. Memorisation card kits from the 100 yen store work very well.
A box or bag that a hand can go into without seeing what is inside.
A student takes out a card, and has no more than 5 seconds to look at it. They then cover it, and spell, or recite the meaning of the word. If they can’t, it goes back in the box.
If students take out a BOOM card, they lose all their cards.
Play to a time limit, or a certain number of turns.
3, 5, 7
One of the most fun, and adaptable card games ever. Playable in pairs, though probably better in groups of around 5 to 7 people.
A set of cards
Flashcards, or some other lesson material you want to introduce, review or drill.
Arrange the cards face down in a circle.
One by one, students take a card, and, quickly turning it over, put it in the middle. If it’s not 3, 5 or 7, it’s safe, and students can review a flashcard.
Cards that are 3, 5 or 7, are slam cards. Everyone in the group slams their hand over the cards. Last person to slam, gets all the cards.
Person with the most cards loses.