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Variations on classic YL games ~ Slap

Five ways to play a simple and very fun game that practises any language on flashcards

The classic version: Flashcards are scattered around the table or around the room. The students race to be first to grab or slap their palms down on the flashcard the teacher says or shows the name of. The first student to slap or grab the card is given a point, e.g. the flashcard they have just touched.

Useful for: Any vocabulary you have or can put on flashcards, either in written or picture form, e.g. food, animals, colours, actions. You can also practice phonics by very slowly saying, writing, or spelling out the name of the thing on the flashcard.

As with many physical games, the greatest problem with Slap is with students who touch every card in the hope that they find the right one without really listening to what the teacher says. Getting students to put their hands on their heads, noses, etc. between each go helps for this, as does taking points away from students if they slap the wrong card (particularly useful when there are only one or two cards left). Alternatively, the first two variations below involve students giving the teacher instructions on which card to slap and tasks for the students that are more challenging than slapping- both usually leading to a bit more thinking time before students act. The other variations below are just ways of making Slap more fun for a class that is getting bored with it.

Variation A- Robot Arm Slap

The teacher swings their arm back and forth over the stack of cards and the students try to say ‘Stop’ when the teacher’s arm is over the right card. The teacher drops their arm as soon as they hear the instruction, and students get points if the hand lands on the right card. Other incidental language that you could teach and get students using include ‘Move more quickly/ move more slowly’, ‘Slap now’, and ‘One more try please’.

Variation B- Tricky slap

This involves getting the students to slap or grab the card with some kind of object, to make the game more tricky, and therefore slower and more amusing. Options include pushing toy cars or coins from the side of the table to land on the right card, grabbing the card with chopsticks or mechanical grabbing hands (available from discount shops), and ‘slapping’ the cards with objects such as sticky balls/ sucker balls (dropped from a regulation height or thrown from the front of the table), plastic hands on sticks or just other body parts (e.g. nose or elbow). These variations tend to even things up between the students who are academic and know the language and the students who are better at physical stuff.

Variation C- Crocodile swamp slap/ grab

Students run around the room slapping or grabbing the right cards, but without touching the floor. Things they can stand on include pieces of card, foam mats and chairs that the teacher has put around the room before the game, either before or during the class. In the latter case, you can put some good language in by asking students to give you instructions on where to put the objects that they can stand on. Make sure that the chairs won’t fall over and that none of the objects will slide on the floor! If you have a carpet with different colours, you could name one of the colours that they shouldn’t step on as well as/ instead of the objects mentioned above.

You can make the game easier by the teacher or students acting as a crocodile who tries to grab the students if they step on the floor (which represents the water). This means that they can get away with a bit of stepping on the floor, as long as the crocodile isn’t nearby. Another possibility is to have the things that are scattered around the room as the things they can’t touch, with the rest of the room being okay.

Variation D- Moving flashcard slap

These variations add a bit more movement to what can be a static game. In the first version the teacher drags two or more flashcards along a table or (usually better) several tables put into a row. The student(s) must slap the right card before the teacher pulls it to the end. For example, the teacher starts pulling a flashcard of an ant and a flashcard of a bear along the table and shouts out ‘B’, getting the students to slap the right one before the teacher pulls them to the other end of the table. The teacher can just stretch across the tables, or attach string to them with Blu Tack or sellotape to pull with.

This game is good with prompts where students slowly gain more and more clues to which card you are naming as you speak and so as the cards move along the table. For example, say the word letter by letter or phonic by phonic, or say a whole sentence with the flashcard word in it (‘There are some cars’). Students then have a choice of guessing and slapping early, or waiting till all the clues are there and risking the cards going off the end of the table before they can react.

This game is great for 1 to 1 classes with young learners.

In the second variation, you hold up 2 or 3 flashcards then throw them around the room as you shout out the name of the one you want students to slap or grab.

Variation E- Hidden cards slap

In this variation, the cards are already hidden around the room before the students enter the class. Students must then search the room for the named card. If they can’t find it without help, the teacher can give clues such as ‘It’s under the table’, so this activity makes for good further practice of prepositions.

An earlier version of this article was published in the Shane Japan teachers’ newsletter. Republished with permission of the publisher and author.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net October 2010
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Young Learners : Variations on classic YL games ~ Slap