Classroom games popular with teens

Since teenagehood is a period when young people are just finding their feet in the world and they might feel intimidated to express their own opinion, they plunge into the world of games to feel safer and freer to talk. In this article, we would like to have an overview of games popular with teens and reveal a few psychological reasons that might stay behind such choices. 

а) ‘Taking on’ other personalities 

While being insecure and wary of speaking out, teens are eager to take on other personalities they are familiar with: these can be contemporary sport or film stars or singers, maybe even politicians they know. In this case, they just stick to the behaviour, manners, views and mindset of a particular person without fears to be mocked at or disapproved of.

  1. Who am I?

A popular game you can either play with a headband or just with post-it-notes. 

Procedure: One of the players has got a card on his forehead with a famous person/proper name or an object name on it. This player has to guess what is on the card/note by asking, say, 10 questions. You may vary the rules of the game setting the number of questions to be asked and the type of questions or answers to be used (“yes/no’ questions, special questions, three-word answer, etc.)

  1. An ‘X’ Speaks Out


1) Ask your SS to make a list of celebrities they like or don’t like.  Discuss together and keep the ones everybody knows (you might even ask them to write one sportsperson, one singer, etc)

2) Create cards with these characters.

3) Once you want your Ss to speak out on a topic, hold a debate, or role-play a dialogue, offer them to pick a character card and ‘take on’ a new personality.

Variations: characters can be non-fiction as well as fiction ones: Ironman, Spiderman or Lara Croft are all welcome! ‘Characters’ might be used just to practise grammar and describe their actions through a narrative. (e.g. What’s your typical morning like? What are you going to do next week?)

Or they can role-play an interactive story with only basic plot elements.

The players make decisions based on their traits of character and special skills. It would be useful first to introduce these characters similar to the celebrities and point out their features.

b) Competitive spirit and gaining scores

According to Karl Kapp (an expert and designer of instructional games and gamification), competing in teams arranged appropriately helps students focus on optimizing their own performance.

Why do teens love competing? It’s our inner nature that we still want to be praised for something, get a prize or just appear on a leaderboard (it can be even something symbolic and of little importance). This way we feel we’re really good at something. Once the competition is held in teams, it works hand in hand with cooperation inside the group.

  1. Conversation Game

This game is played either 1-to-1 or in teams (two people per each). Beforehand, you need to make sure you’ve got the lists with 10 words or phrases to use (or it can be any target language you have studied recently: lexis, phrases, grammar bits). I would get my students to make those as the most efficient way. Assign the moderator to time and keep the score.

Procedure: Each team has 10 seconds to think over and one minute to role-play a conversation. The aim is to use all 10 words/phrases in a meaningful way. Once the teammates fail to use all the listed words in their one-minute conversation, they don’t score any points.

  1. All-time favourite ‘grammar casino’ 

You need to prepare, say, 10 sentences on separate pieces of paper, some of which have inaccuracies. Classically, these are grammar mistakes. Why not try different focus, e.g. spot spelling mistakes, spot failures in writing in terms of register. Students can play 1-2-1 or in teams.

Procedure: Within the set time, students have to decide if the sentences are correct or need upgrading and make a suggestion on how to correct them if needed. Based on their certainly they make bets for each answer, the minimum bet is $10, the maximum is $100 (could be taken from Monopoly, other games or designed by the group). If they fail to guess, it leads to losing their “money”; if they are right, they score some. 

c) Board games (storytelling style)

As kids love kinesthetic activities and moving around, teens seem to love fidgeting with cards or cubes, so here are a few board games that might appeal to them.

  1. Rory’s Story Cubes

Very compact and aimed to develop your students’ lateral thinking. There are no words just pictures. What can they represent? Whatever your students guess!

Procedure: you or the students throw a set of 9 dices, pick one and start your story with “One day…” or “Once upon a time..”. The next person chooses a cube to their liking and continues the story.

  1. Once upon a time (cards)

This board game includes story cards that represent such groups as characters, objects, places, actions/events, adjectives/characteristics and cards with possible endings. Each group is marked with a different colour. Moreover, in each group, there are some cards marked as ‘nuisance’ cards. The aim of the games is being the first to get rid of all of your cards.

Procedure: every player is given a card with a possible ending and 5 to 9 story cards. Any person can start with a story card as a narrator. Another can either continue in a circle with another story card or can interfere with a nuisance card of the same colour. Don’t forget to follow the plot of the story and finish up with an ending card.

If you would like to read more on board games, you can find more information here.

d) Games just to have fun and play a fool

Truth or  dare 

Prepare the questions about life experience (ideally, they should be a bit tricky) and a list of dares:

Question —  Have you ever lied to your best friend? What about? 

Dare — Go kiss a cat. Shout “I love you” in the loo. 

I would rather get my students to make lists of such questions and dares as their ideas can be more relevant. Then discuss together to make sure all of the ideas are acceptable to avoid intimidating moments. You can find ready-to-use ideas on truth and dare questions here.

Procedure: Students have to sit in a circle and turn an empty bottle (it might be just a pen or pencil as well). The ones at whom the bottle points are the ‘questioner’ and the ‘questioned’ — it’s better to mark your pointer somehow to avoid fights. The ‘questioner’ picks a ‘question card’. If the ‘questioned’ refuses to answer the question, he has to pick a ’dare card’ and has to do the action on it.

It’s up to you whether you are going to play with your teens or not or what kinds of games you’re going to choose with your class. Anyway, be sensitive to their needs, try to be on the same wavelength with them and your classes will be a success for sure!

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