5 great games for Mattayoms and Super English classes

Last semester I wrote a post about Criss Cross, Leap Frog, and the Line Game, which are all really successful games from Genki English (if you’re a mattayom teacher, Criss Cross/Last Man Standing is magical – I’ve heard this from at least 4 or 5 other teachers besides myself. Try it!).

This quarter I want to share some of my favorite games from that long list at Dave’s ESL Cafe.  That list is full of great ideas but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of them.  Here are a few games that have worked for me:

Hangman tic-tac-toe:

Tested at: Super English, Thida
Levels: SL7A, SL6A, P5, M1, M2

If I play tic-tac-toe by itself, I always end up with a cats game; If I play hangman, it’s over too quickly!  This game takes the best of both games and it gets the kids excited.

I write the topic or the target question on the board, and then draw hangman spaces within each square of the tic-tac-toe grid for each vocabulary word.  Each square is numbered, 1-9.  Teams take turns picking a square and then calling out letters; if they get one right, I let them go again; if they’re wrong, I write the missed letter in that particular square (below the spaces) and then I let the other team go.

Whenever a team wins the square, the other team gets to start next. First team to three in a row wins!

Boom Switch Steal

Tested at: Super English, Thida
Levels: Mattayom 1 & 2

Turns out that this is game is actually called “Steal Switch Bust” on Dave’s ESL Cafe and I’ve been calling it by the wrong name for  6 months now, but I’ve also been playing it differently so it’s probably okay.

Unlike the original game idea, I use this game for anything (not just spelling) because my class is divided into two teams every day, and they compete for points frequently.  I’ve written point values for 1-5 on slips of paper and placed them in a small plastic fishbowl.   If the student picks a point value, their team gets that point; however, I’ve also written the words “boom,” “switch,” and “steal”  onto a few slips.  “Boom” blows up all their points, “switch” means swap points with another team, and “steal” means they get to take all the other team’s points.

Whenever I bring the fishbowl up to the student I dramatically make sure the student doesn’t look until everyone around them is usually saying “yaa boom!” (don’t boom!) while the other side is screaming “boom!” or “switch!” depending on their team’s standing.

Boom Switch Steal has worked beautifully for my Mattayoms, I’ve heard of it being used with Prathoms, and Janet used it at Super English to motivate her kids to do worksheets quickly.

“Paddy’s Game”

Tested at: Super English, Thida
Levels: SL7A, SL6A, P5, M1, M2

Like Amber’s game, this is another good way to work on spelling for the kids.  Write all the letters of the alphabet on the board. Students from each team take turns picking a letter and writing a word that begins with that letter onto the board.

If the student spells the word correctly, each letter is worth 2 points (for example, UMBRELLA is worth 16 points), but if it’s incorrect, it’s only 1 point (UMBRLLA is 7).  Add the points as you go along.  If you let them use their dictionaries (but not bring them to the board), they get practice spelling longer words, too.

The ball game

Tested at: Super English
Levels: SL5B, SL6A, SL7A

I can’t remember where I originally saw this so I’m assuming it’s Dave’s ESL Cafe – but it’s one of my favorite games to play at Super English because the kids get a kick out of it and so do I.

Place flashcards on the floor in the middle of the room and have the students stand in two equidistant lines from the card pile on either side of the room. Say “3-2-1-[target!]” (or 3-2-1-BANANA! to see if they’re paying attention).  Two students race to be the first one to pick the correct card up and produce the target language.

If they’re right, they get to throw a soft ball at the other kid (who isn’t allowed to move his/her feet, but s/he can duck).  If the ball hits the student’s head or face or if it misses him/her, the other kid gets a turn to throw the ball.

It’s actually pretty hilarious to watch – I don’t know if it’s because the ball makes a soft “thwack” as it hits the student, or if it’s because the student can’t really go anywhere.  See for yourself.

The body building game

Tested at: Super English
Levels: SL5B, SL6A, SL7A

Nope, you’re not giving the students steroids.  You need dice for this one (or you can get creative with playing cards or choosing pieces of paper from a hat).

Split the class into two or more teams.  On the board, for each team, draw a circle for a head and an oval for the body.  Then, tell the kids that if they roll a “1” they can draw ONE eye onto their team’s face.  Assign “ear,” “nose,” “mouth,” “leg,” and “arm” to each of the other numbers accordingly.

Let the students roll and draw the associated body part after they answer questions correctly.  But as soon as there’s already 2 eyes on the face and they roll another “1,” make it clear that there can only be 2 eyes, so their turn is skipped! This usually gets them even more fired up.  Continue until one team completes the entire body first.


I hope these games prove themselves as useful to the new teachers as they have been to me!  Although I don’t teach Anuban or Prathom babies, I think this list of games at ESL Kid’s Stuff would probably be helpful for teachers with younger students.


Tried any of these games and had success? Leave your comments and thoughts below!


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