Playing the Hedbanz Game in ESL Class

I played the game “Hedbanz” with my intermediate-level ESL students earlier this week. The game is available on Amazon for $14. I first found out about the game when I played it at a party, and I thought it might be worth a try with my ESL students.

And it was a success! My students had a lot of fun with the game. There was lots of laughter as they played, and afterwards, they all said that they enjoyed it.

Here’s a picture from my class:


To give a brief description of the game: Each person wears a headband with a card stuck in it so that they can’t see what is on the card. Each card has a picture and a label for what the item is. The items are all animals, foods, or objects, such as zebra, balloon, bread, etc. Each person needs to ask their teammates yes/no questions to try to figure out what item is on their card—e.g., “Am I an animal? Can I walk? Do I have teeth?” Using their teammates’ answers, they eventually guess what the item is.

I made a few modifications to the instructions that came with the game. For one thing, because I only had one game set for a class of 25 students, I divided the class into 5 groups with 5 students per group. I gave each group one headband and a small stack of cards. The group members took turns being the “guesser.” The guesser would put on the headband, put a card in the headband without looking at it, and then ask their teammates questions to try to figure out what their item was. The game set came with a timer and chips that can be used to keep score. I didn’t use the timer and chips at all because that would have just made the game more complicated, and I also didn’t see any need to turn the game into a competition. In addition, I told the students that if the guesser couldn’t figure out what their item was after about 8 questions, then the other group members could start giving clues to the guesser. This worked out well and helped the guesser to be more successful in guessing the correct item.

I love it that the game cards have both words and a picture. It’s perfect for ESL students! For the students who are looking at the card and are helping their teammate guess the word, even if they are unfamiliar with the English word, they can just look at the picture and know the meaning. Of course, it’s harder for the guesser since they can’t see the picture. They might have an idea of what their item is but not know how to say it in English. But in most cases, with my intermediate-level students, it worked out fine. And my students learned a few new words, like squirrel and dolphin.

This game does require students to produce some output when asking their classmates questions, so I probably wouldn’t use it with lower-level students. Even for my intermediate-level students, I made it a little easier for them by displaying a PowerPoint with suggested yes/no questions. (Click here to download the PPT.) The list of suggested questions meant that students were receiving some input, and they didn’t need to think of how to construct the questions on their own—though most of them did formulate some of their own questions.

I normally try to provide as much input as possible to my students, and this game obviously doesn’t provide as much input as other activities (like listening to stories or reading) would. But I do think it’s fun and engaging for the students to play games like this every once in a while. It’s good for them to interact with each other, and games like this can help build class community because the students get to know each other better through their interactions.

I definitely plan on using the game again with intermediate-level students. In my opinion, it was worth the $14 for the game, as it provided a very low-prep activity that I will be able to use again and again. But if you don’t want to buy the game or if you teach a language other than English, you could make your own game or print one. I found this printable version on, and I see that there are several versions on TpT. My only suggestion is that you would probably want to put the cards on cardstock or laminate them or something to make them more durable and so that students can’t see what’s on the card when looking at it from the back.

2 thoughts on “Playing the Hedbanz Game in ESL Class

  1. Nicole Moore

    I’ve also had success with the headbands game. Another thing I’ve done is use picture cards of vocabulary that my students have learned previously and we practice the skill of circumlocution. So one student wears the band with the card and the other students describe the word without using the word for the guesser to guess. So we had done some lessons on home repair, making appointments that involved learning home appliance vocabulary. My game partners might say, it’s a big box in your kitchen where you keep cold things, like milk or meat… (then I would reply refrigerator) I set up the game by explaining how sometimes I can’t remember or don’t know a word I need in Spanish when speaking to someone. I can choose to stop and look it up, or I can use the other person as my dictionary by talking around the word I don’t know…and setting up the headbands this way practices this skill. I’ve also used it the traditional way with the questions as you have described as an activity to practice question formation. You don’t have to limit yourself to the cards provided…anything on an index card, or printed out on card stock will work.


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