Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Category: Speaking
Group size: From 2 players. Small & large class variants
Level: Beginners to intermediate
Materials: A sheet or blanket and flashcards
Age: 4 to 12
Pace: Calm down, & lively version

This game is to be played once your students are familiar
with the vocabulary and sentences that you wish to
practise.  This is a speaking practice game, or a revision
First create a barrier for someone to hide behind.  You
can do this by setting up a clothesline and pegging a blanket
on it, or by having two students hold the blanket up, or
by draping the blanket over a couple of chairs so some one
could sit behind it and not be seen.  Now you have your
barrier, here is an example of how to play this using
clothing vocabulary:  A class member hides behind the
blanket and puts on a selection of clothes, or props, such
as a hat, belt, tie or scarf.  The class asks in unison,
"What are you wearing?" The person behind the blanket
replies, "I'm wearing a hat", or "I'm wearing a red hat".
Each class member decides whether he or she thinks this is
true or false.

Whoever thinks it is true stands up.  Whoever thinks it is
false sits down.   Now the person behind the blanket
reveals whether or not he is wearing a red hat.  (He may
use real clothes or use pictures, of clothes or any
vocabulary).  If he is wearing a red hat then all those who
sat down are out and only those standing up are in.  If he
is not wearing a red hat, but a black coat, then those
standing up are out and have to sit down while those
sitting down, who are still in, stand up again for the next
Another way to play is for each class member to up a paper
with either a "True" or "False" on it.  Every one starts
the game standing up.  The person behind the blanket choses
whether or not to wear the red hat and the class hold up
either a True or a False card.  Then everyone who got it
wrong sits down and stays seated while you play the next
rounds until you only have a few students standing. With
younger children play with a tick or a cross rather than
the words true or false.
Continue, and then swap over the person
behind the blanket.  Only allow that person a few seconds
to dress up, to ensure that the class do not get bored
waiting.  You can have the class count up to thirty, or
say the alphabet while the person puts their prop on.
If there are only 2 of you - you and your student -  then
you can take it in turns to go behind the blanket.  You
can keep score each time one of you guesses correctly.
Dressing up is only one idea for this game to practise
clothing vocab and short questions and sentences such as
"What are you wearing?"  However you may use flashcards
instead of props.  See just below for ideas on how to adapt
this to different language and vocabulary.

2. Language ideas to use with this game
So now I'd like to explore how else we can exploit this
basic idea, and what other language we can use in this
Simple vocabulary repetition variant – small class
For elementary levels, or to revise vocabulary you could
place two pictures (or word cards) on the floor behind the
blanket – for example a picture of a plane and a truck.
A class member stands on one of the cards and says, "Plane".
(Or a sentence such as "I'm going to Paris by plane"). The
student may stand either on the plane or the truck and the
class must guess whether what he says is true or false as
described above.
Simple vocabulary repetition variant – large class
If you have a fairly big class then you will not have time
for everyone to go behind the blanket, so in that case, to
get the most out of the time spent, instead of the person
behind the blanket saying "plane", you could have your
class say "plane" or "truck" depending on which one they
think their classmate is standing on.  Once the person
behind the blanket is on their chosen picture you say
"Ready, Go!" and the class call out the picture they think
is correct.  They may also call out the sentence you are
requiring them to practise. That way everyone has a chance
to say the words, rather than just the person behind the
blanket.  They can award themselves points if they get it
right.  I imagine many of the children will cheat and
pretend they said the right word – but does it really
matter? I mean, who cares, after all we only want them to
practise English and feel good about it.
3. Question practice Variant
This isn't a true or false variant, but while we've got
the blanket out we might as well use it to the full.
Put one class member behind the blanket along with a few
picture or word cards.   Lay out 3 to 4 picture cards for
the young children, and up to twelve for older children.
The words should all be in the same theme and if you need
to you can also have a set of these cards in view of the
class.  With the older children you would probably not do
this to make it more challenging for them.
Allow the class member behind the curtain five seconds to
select a picture to stand on.  He or she now cannot move
from that spot.   See below for how to continue depending
on whether you have a large or small class.
Question practice – large class
Display pictures, or write up, the words you are using.
One class member comes up to the front and points at one
of the words – for example the car.  The class ask the
question form you wish to practise in unison, such as
"Have you got a car?" The person behind the blanket replies "Yes
I have, or no I haven't", or "True" or "False", or they
answer the question as appropriate according to the
language you are teaching.
The class see how many questions they need to ask each
time. Alternatively you could divide them into two teams
and each team tries to guess in fewer goes than the other
Question practice – small class
Each class member in turn asks a question and hopes to be
the one to guess correctly.   For example, the first
student asks, "Have you got a car?"  Answer, "No, I
haven't".  The second student asks, "Have you got a
plane?" etc. until the answer is "yes I have."  You can give
points if you wish.  If you only have one or two students then
join in the game with them.
Here are some examples of questions you could practise
with transport vocabulary: "Is it the car?" "Are you going by
car?" "Have you got a car?" "Do you have a car?" "Can you
drive a car?" "Are you buying a car?" "Are you going to
buy a car?" "Will you buy a car?" "Did you buy a car?" "Have
you bought a car?" "Did you go by car?"
And here are some more questions you could practise if you
used countries: "Are you from China?" "Are you Chinese?"
"Do you like China?" "Do you like Chinese food?" "Have you
been to China?" "Are you going to China?" etc.
And here are some questions you could practise with animal
vocabulary: "Do you like fish?" "Do you eat fish?" "Are
you a fish?" "Is it a fish?" "Are there any fish at the zoo?"
"Have you seen a fish?" "Have you eaten fish?" "Did you
see a fish?" (when you went to Africa?) "Would you eat a
fish?" "Could it be a fish?" "Have you been eaten by a fish?"
As you can see you can adapt this game to ask any
Think of the question form you would like to practise and
then pick some vocabulary that goes well with that
4. Sentence practice
Instead of questions, play as above but using sentences.
Here are some examples using the countries theme:
You're in China. You're Chinese. You are going to China.
You have been to China. You went to China. You speak
Chinese. I'll see you in China. You're in China, aren't
you? You've been to China, haven't you? You said you were
going to China.
If you like this game, remember that there are 101 great
games in my book 101 Teaching English Games for Children.
There are games for speaking like this one, and also many
games for listening, spelling and writing.
See http://www.teachingenglishgames.com/4-12.htm to find
out more.
5. A lively variant
Here is a rather more lively variant on this game:
One child goes behind the blanket and the class all say
this rhyme together – quickly and rhythmically if
What is it?  What is it?  What could it be? What is it?
What is it?  One two three.
It helps if the children clap on the 'what', 'what',
and 'be' And on the 'what', 'what'; 'one', and 'three'.
By the time the class reach 'three' the person behind the
blanket MUST be standing on their chosen card.  After the
class have pronounced the word three they are free to call
out any possible word.  Each class member can only call
out one word but they can all call their words out together.
There will be some noise!  As soon as the child behind the
blanket hears the correct word they jump out and all those
who called out that word award themselves points (mass
cheating no doubt, but I shouldn't pay attention to it).
The next child up to go behind the curtain heads over
there while the class immediately start up the rhyme again.  The
pace should be fast and exciting with no time in between
You can replace the simple rhyme above with one that you
make up, which may include the sentence or question
structure you wish to practise, or it may be a rhyme with
some vocabulary you would like to reinforce. Here is an
example: Travel on a bus, Travel on a train. Ride on a
bicycle, Fly in a plane.
When played well this game is really pretty noisy and fun,
and the children have a chance to repeat the same words
over and over so they will remember them.
You might want to teach the rhyme in a previous lesson,
and you can use it again in all sorts of other games.  The
first time you play start slowly, and pick up the pace as
and when your class understand what is happening.  When
you play it again in future lessons – using the same words
if you are revising, or using a new set of words, you'll find
that you can pick the pace up another notch.
6. Materials for you to try this game
You can use any pictures or word flash cards you may
already have to play The Blanket Game.  In addition I have
prepared a set of picture and words cards for you using
You can download these materials free at:

PS.  I have included a bingo set for transport in the
materials as well, as an extra free bonus.  For full
instructions and ideas on how to play bingo please treat
yourself to a copy of my ebook,  English Language Games
for Children, available on

7. Reading and spelling
Please see sections 1-5 for how to play,  for ideas on
using the game, and for where to get your materials.
Use word flashcards instead of pictures.  This allows the
children to read the words and become familiar
subconsciously with the spelling.
8. Tell a friend
If you know someone who would like this game, feel free to
let them know here:
I hope you enjoy using this game in class.

Kind regards

Shelley Vernon

Songs, plays and skits, games for children
ESL speaking games for teens and adults
Shelley Vernon, Les Anemones, Val d'Isere, Savoie 73150, France

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