Hello, fellow ESL teachers. Do you have 10 minutes to kill in a class? Have you already shown your students every (currently available on YouTube) episode of the animated Mr. Bean series? Are your kids bored to death of Hangman or–in the case of South Korea–“Nunchi Game,” where they each stand up in the order of words or numbers on the board and the last one to stand is out? Do you have a class that is relatively advanced in English and can offer some creative discourse? Or, do you have a class that barely offers input at all?
Here is an activity that I have found to be incredibly fun and rewarding for both those able to communicate well in English and those with more limited ability. Please note, I originally found a much more basic version of this idea on Dave’s ESL Cafe. But, I felt that was a little boring and limited. This way, you’re only limited by how creative the children can get and how weird you want your choices to be (also, if someone else out there has already come up with a version of this closer to my own, just remember the old adage that might or might not have come from Oscar Wilde, “Talent borrows, genius steals.” Which means, yes, I am calling myself a genius).
I call the game “Who Wins?” or “This vs. That.” It’s a fun debate on who would win in an imaginary fight. First, write down on pieces of paper different things that could fight. These could be as simple (lion, tiger, bird, monkey, etc.) or as unusual (today I included things like “a baby,” “Batman,” “John teacher,” “Mr. Bean,” “a bowl of soup,” “five chickens” and “100 angry grandmothers”) as you want. Make a few or a lot and carry them around the class or throw them in a hat. Have one child pull out a random fighter, another child pull out another. Write the choices down on the board and then pause for a few moments as they laugh at the ridiculous matchups. Then ask the children “who wins??” When they give their choices, ask them “WHY?”
Depending on the level of English, you’ll get some really great, creative answers (A girl said “a baby” would win her fight because of her mother. In “Batman” vs. “A Giraffe,” one boy said Batman wins because of his weapons. Another boy, when answering for “five chickens” vs. Mr. Bean, “a bowl of soup” vs. John teacher and “Lion” vs. “a baby,” offered up the same answer: one would eat the other. Can you guess which one??) or at least a simple answer (Lion beats bird because, “strong,” which is better than nothing, especially if it’s from a kid who usually barely contributes). Especially with higher levels, it can be loads of fun when you get a random match-up between “A Baby” and “A Lion,” or “Mr. Bean” and “100 Angry Grandmothers.”
The activity is easily adjustable to the children levels and interest. Throw in a points system that can give rewards for most creative input or simply any input at all. Some kids almost never speak up. With this game, I have found even some of them cannot help but chime in. Or, keep it a free-form discussion.
From my friend Brendan Shea over at The Multifaced Man:
So I just did this with my previously bored summer intensive class students and we had a riot! Robot Obama beat the devil, and Brendan Teacher’s Baby with a rocket launcher beat Jae Won (one of the students in the class) by being too cute to punch. This was a fun game!
1000 grandmothers worked together to use their ‘lovely power’ and ‘soft fingers’ to lull a tiger into a false sense of security only to kill it with their secret dwenjang and kimchi smell powers after it dropped it’s guard. This was my favorite class in a long time.
I think the part that makes it so fun is that it’s only limited by their own creativity. I had a team that picked ‘ant’ out of the hat score points against ‘transformer’ because they said the ant could crawl inside and snip wires. Brilliant, and really fun.
Give it a try and let me know how it went in the comments!