Game Idea: “Change Places If You…”

I’m always looking for activities that get students physically moving while also giving them exposure to meaningful language. Recently, I used a game that I call “Change Places If You…”

It’s a game I played in my high school youth group, but I’ve adapted it a little to make it easier for language learners. In the game, students take turns saying sentences aloud to the group. The sentences all start with the words “Change places if you…” For example: “Change places if you have any brothers” or “Change places if you are wearing any red clothes.” Any students for whom that sentence is true must stand up and change their places in the circle. Here’s how to set it up and play:

Ahead of time, type up a set of sentences that apply to your students. Or, click here to download the sentences I used. (It’s in Microsoft Word, so you can edit it to fit your teaching context and the level of your students or to translate it to a different language). I think it’s best to use a variety of sentences—some that will probably apply to a lot of your students (e.g., “Change places if you like pizza”) and some that will probably only apply to a few of them (e.g., “Change places if you have more than three sisters.”)

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In the original version of this game, students think of their own sentences to say. But having the sentences typed up makes the game a lot easier for lower-level students so they don’t have to struggle with thinking of what to say or how to say it. They only have to read the sentence aloud. Another benefit is that you can intentionally use words that you’ve been using in class recently. If you’re required to “cover” certain vocabulary words with your students, this is a good way to sneak them in as a review.

To play the game, you’ll need an open space that is clear of desks. If you don’t have space in your classroom, maybe you can find a common area or other open space where you can play. Every student needs a chair. Arrange the chairs in a circle and have students sit down in the chairs. However, there is ONE person who stands in the middle of the circle and puts their chair next to them. Their chair is not for sitting; it is just there to hold the pieces of paper. Put the strips of paper with the sentences on them on the chair in the middle. The person in the middle is the “out” person. When I did this activity in my classes, I started as the person in the middle in order to model it for my students.

To start off the game, the person in the middle picks up one of the strips of paper and reads the sentence on it aloud to the group. If that sentence is true for any students, they need to stand up and change places. For example, if the sentence is, “Change places if you have any brothers,” all the people who have brothers need to stand up and find a new chair in the circle to sit down in. They have to change places; they can’t just sit back down in the same chair! The person in the middle also tries to find a chair in the circle to sit down in. There’s a mad dash for a few seconds as everyone who stood up tries to find a new chair. Then there should be just one person left who doesn’t have a chair. That person now stands in the middle of the circle. They pick a new piece of paper from the pile and read the sentence, and the activity repeats again and again. You can keep going as long as the students seem interested or until you run out of sentences.

With more advanced students, you could forgo the printed sentences and instead have students think of their own original sentences. However, I’m planning on using the game with my high-intermediate students in a couple weeks, and I think I’ll still use printed sentences for them to read. When I played this game in high school, I remember that I hated being in the middle of the circle and having the pressure to come up with a sentence on the spot, with everyone staring at me! It takes some pressure off the students when they can just read the sentences aloud.

If you want to make this activity a competition, tell your students to hold onto the sentences they read while they continue playing. At the end of the game, you can count how many sentences each person has. The person with the lowest number of sentences (i.e., the lowest number of times in the middle) is the winner.

My students really enjoyed this activity. And, fortunately, it seems to work with various sizes of groups. I tried it in my very small class, which was just five students plus me, and it still worked well!

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