Thursday, September 20, 2012

Waiting games for fast finishers, classroom password, breaking the ice, or... whatever you may find them useful for!
I have found this list of  "20 (Almost) Effortless Waiting Games For Your Kids" in a curious web site called More Than Mommies. The idea to make this list came out when you are with your kids "stuck waiting and patience is growing thin".

The best part about the list is that to play the games you are required to bring yourself and your brain to the table and nothing else--no need to dig for a pen, paper, missing game pieces, bulky boards. The games will leave children unplugged and connecting with other partners "in no time flat". The problem is that some of them require a pretty good level of language to be played: adaptation is paramount!

I Spy
. We start off the game by picking an object in the room and saying "I Spy with my little eye" and then everyone takes turns guessing what is spied. The winner of the round chooses the next object.

I'm Thinking of An Animal, Person, Place or Thing
It's another easy one. Just choose an Animal (if the kids are older you can choose to play using famous people, places or favorite things) and then everyone asks yes or no questions about your animal and tries to guess what it is. For example: I chose COW. The kids ask: Does it live on a farm? Yes. Does it swim? No Does it eat Grass? Yes Does it give milk? Yes Is it is COW? Yes! It's fun to try to stump them.

How's Yours
How's Yours is best played in a group of at least four people. One person leaves the group and those left agree on an item...let's say "toothbrush"--The guesser returns and takes turns asking each person "how's yours?" the players give a word or short phrase to answer the question. I say "Bristly." Child one says "soggy." Child two says "green." Child three says "chewed." The guesser shouts out the answer as soon as he or she thinks of it and if he guesses on your word than you become the next guesser.

Thumb Wrestling
Lock your right hand with your opponent's hand with thumbs up. Move your thumbs side to side and you both chant "One! Two! Three! Four! I declare a thumb war!" and then try to pin your opponent's thumb with your thumb without letting go of their fingers. Once pinned, your opponent has 10 seconds to wiggle free before you win!

Rock, Paper, Scissors
The rock is a balled fist. The paper is a flat palm. The Scissors are the pointer and middle fingers sticking sideways. Rock beats Scissors. Paper covers Rock. Scissors cut Paper. Simply say "Rock, Paper, Scissors...Shoot" and everyone throws their choice into the center of the circle. It's also a good way to choose who will be the first in a game.

I'm going on a Picnic
This is an alphabet/memory game. Start the game by saying "I'm going on a picnic and I am bringing an Ax" (or Apple, Anaconda, Aardvark--any "A" word) The next person says "I'm going on a picnic and I am bringing and ax and Bananas" The next person tries to remember everything the person before brought and adds their word to the end in alphabetical order. When the person can't remember all the items in order they are out. The winner is the person who can remember the entire list when no one else can!

The Telephone Game
The telephone game is best played with a larger group. Choose a long-ish phrase to whisper quickly into the ear of the person next to you. They then whisper what they heard into the next person's ear. You all giggle and laugh when the last person says the phrase aloud at the end and you see how much it has changed!

Name That Tune
One person chooses a well known song and hums the tune. The other players try to guess the song. The person that guesses gets to hum the next song.

Mental "Hide and Seek" (A Variation of "I'm Thinking of")
Pick a place in the classroom. The other players ask "yes" or "no" questions until they "find" you. This works best for older kids-ones that won't cheat by "moving", and ones creative enough to think of clever places to "hide."

But why limit yourself to hiding in the room that you are in. Keep the fun going by hiding in the "movies." The person hiding will give away the title. For example, "I'm hiding in 'The Little Mermaid' ". The person hiding then picks a scene and hides in an object in that scene--like the snarfblat or in Triton's trident. It helps to stick to movies everyone has seen numerous times.

Don't Laugh CopyCat!
As the leader you can move any way you wish, or choose exaggerated facial expressions. Everyone must copy you... withOUT laughing! Not even a giggle. Anyone who makes a peep is out of the game! What a fun challenge!

Guess a Number/Guess a Letter
Pick a number 0-100 and the players try and guess the number. It's kind of like "I spy" with numbers in your head. You can give hints like "higher" or "lower" to get the players on track.
The second game is called "Guess the Letter." For young kids, draw a letter on their back. For those too young to recognize letters you could draw shapes or an item like a flower, for example. The players have to guess what is drawn. As the child grows and learns to read, instead of one letter, use a whole word. As they get older the word gets longer and harder. If they miss a letter, kisses and tickles will keep the game fun!

5 Questions/Would You Rather
The asker gets to ask five random questions to any player they wish. For example "If there was one thing you could change about me what would it be?" or "What is the best thing that ever happened to you?" It is a great way to get children talking and find out more about them and vice versa.

Another variation would have players asking "would you rather" questions. For example, "Would you rather have arms so long they hung to the ground or three legs?" Or, "Would you rather run a marathon with a blister on your foot or a cramp in your calf?" or "Would you rather have your grandmother's first name or her hairstyle?"

I'm Going on a Trip
One player names one thing they are going to take and one thing they can't take. Everyone has to figure out the pattern. Once they think that they have it they offer a suggestion of what they think they can take and what they can't and start making them up to help the others.
So for example, I am going on a trip and I can take apples but not peaches. I can take puppies but not dogs. I can take mommies but not sisters. The pattern is: words with double middle letters. A guesser might say "so you could take letters but not numbers". It is a great game for teaching patterns, easier to play with children who can read.

Animal Clues
This is a variation of "I'm thinking of". Choose and animal and then give a few clues to get players to guess your animal. They could be ridiculously easy (for young players) or really obscure (for older players).

For example, Polar Bear. The clues could be: it's big, furry and cold. Players have to guess. If they get stumped I'll add a few more clues until they finally get it.

The first player names a place, and then the next person has to name a place beginning with the last letter of the place before it:
Example: person A: says Spain. Person B says: Nebraska. Person C says Alabama. and so forth.

Since you often end up with a lot of D's, E's and O's, You can be very loose with what constitutes a place... For example acceptable answers might be: Arctic Circle, Bermuda Triangle, Hogwarts...
Variations of the game can also be played with colors, and names.

Let's Tell a Story
Someone starts by making up the beginning of a story and then stops. The next person picks up and starts adding to the story. It gets silly and often times we end up starting over, but it's a great way to pass the time. And allows the players to think creatively!

God Dog Game
This game is a variation of "Geography" in that you name words using the last letter of the word before it, but, but you can choose 3, 4 or 5 etc. letter words. You determine the how big the words can be at the beginning of the game. For a three letter game you might start with the word God, the next person says dog, then the next might say got and so on.

It is a good idea to spell the word and have the children spell their words. When they can't think of a word, they are out and the next person must think of a word.

Pits and Cherries
It isn't really a game so much as a conversation starter. Each person takes turns telling the best (The Cherry) thing about their day and the worst (The Pit) thing about their day. We all cheer or commiserate depending on whether the person is giving their Cherry or Pit. It is useful when you aren't sure what to talk about.

The ABC Game
Pick a topic like movies and TV shows, famous people, food, animals, countries/states etc.
The first person has the letter A and chooses the word in the chosen category that starts with A, then moves onto the next person and so on. On the letter B, a different person gets to start. The game keeps going until you get to the end of the alphabet. One rule we made was if someone gave a double letter answer, the others would have to come up with another one.
For example, with famous people, I say Alec Baldwin, One player says Ashlee Simpson and another says Adam Ant. So Player one and I would have to come up with another answer to finish off the letter A. Then Player one starts and comes up with an answer for the letter B and so on.

And a side note, since they are kids and don't have as big a memory as an adult it's okay to help them and show leniency with some of the answers. It is definitely a time consumer and a great learning game!

Higgy Piggy
This game it is best played with kids who are old enough to get the concept. The idea of Higgy Piggy is to create a riddle who's answer is two rhyming words.It's a great way to teach synonyms and rhyming. One person comes up with the question and the rest guess. For example: Q. What is a noisy thunderhead? A. A loud cloud. Q. What is hair for a hog? A. A pig wig. Get it? Got it? Good!

Can you think of any other waiting games? Do you use them in your class? What's your favourite one or the one children cannot stop playing? Leave them in the comments and we all can get a great bank of games and ideas for our ESL classes!


  1. Very interesting and useful Enric!!

    1. Thank you Ana! Always looking for new ways of keeping children engaged in learning English!