Having taught for a number of years, I have built up a collection of tried and tested circle time games, which have not only been enjoyable for the children but beneficial too. Many of these games encourage teamwork and social interaction. Children soon learn that success is a result of positive attitude and immense enjoyment.
These are all games that I have been using for a long time…old -time classic games…..
I thought other people might find them useful too. It’s only few of the circle games in my collection!
These games involve the learners sitting in a circle and working as a whole class. Quite often we form circles to play games, have group discussions, or make announcements. Circle Games are easy to monitor, ensure that participants are on equal ground (no one is at the front of the line, etc), and enable everyone to see and hear one another
Some of them are too simple, for very young learners or just for fun. Others, are more demanding…
- Conditional chain game
This game is good to revise and practise structures in the first conditional.
- The teacher begins with a sentence, for example “If I go out tonight, I’ll go to the cinema.”
- The next person in the circle must use the end of the previous sentence to begin their own sentence. E.g. “If I go to the cinema, I’ll watch The Last Samurai” The next person could say, “If I watch The Last Samurai, I’ll see Tom Cruise” etc. etc.
- Word Associations
A very simple game where students must think of words connected to the word that comes before.
- For example, the teacher says, “Fish”, the next person thinks of a word they associate with fish, such as “water”, the next person could say “a glass” the next, “window” etc.
- You can decide as a group if associations are valid. Ask the student to justify the connection.
- To make it more competitive, set a thinking time limit and eliminate students.
- When they are eliminated they can become judges.
- Chinese whispers – telephone lines
A sentence is whispered around the circle. The last student to receive the message either says it aloud or writes it on the board. This can be a fun way to introduce a topic and activate schema at the beginning of a class. For example, for a class on food, whisper the question, “What did you have for lunch today?” Equally, at the end of a class it can be a nice way to revise structures or vocabulary from the lesson.
- To begin with, students sit in a circle and do the hand actions of lap (both hands to lap), clap, left click, right click.
- When they get the hang of it, add these words in time to the rhythm “Concentration, concentration, concentration now beginning, are you ready? If so, let’s go!”
- On the first finger click, you say your name, and on the second click you say the name of someone in the circle.
- You have passed the turn to the person you nominated on your second finger click.
- Then they say their own name on the first click and the name of another student on the second.
- When they have got the idea, use lexical sets. For example, everyone says their favourite sport first then use these to play the game.
- For a competitive group, eliminate those students who make mistakes.
- I went to the shops and I bought…
The classic memory game where each person adds a new item to the list in alphabetical order.
- For example, student 1, “I went to the shops and I bought an apple”. Student 2, “I went to the shops and I bought an apple and a bike”. Student 3, “I went to the shops and I bought an apple, a bike and a coat”.
- This game can be adapted to different levels and lexical sets. I recently revised sports and the use of do/ play/ go by playing “I went to the sports centre……”, the same game but using different vocabulary. For example, student 1 “I went to the sports centre and I did aerobics”, “I went to the sports centre and I did aerobics and played basketball”, “I went to the sports centre and I did aerobics, played basketball and went canoeing” etc.
- Yes / No game
- Nominate one student to be in the hot seat, slightly apart from the rest of the circle.
- The rest of the group must think of questions to ask the student in the hot seat.
- They can ask anything they like, the only rule is that the student in the hot seat must answer the questions without using the words “yes” or “no”.
- Also ban “yeah”, head nods and shakes! For example, a student asks, “Are you wearing jeans today?” The student in the hot seat could reply, “I am” or “you can see that they’re jeans!”
- Student in the circle spies an object in the classroom (or elsewhere) and other students need to ask questions that will help them figure out what the object is. The student who has spied the object can only answer “yes” or “no” to student questions. Circle keeper counts the questions. At ten questions, keeper can ask the student for a clue. At twenty questions if the circle hasn’t guessed the object, the student tells the circle what it was.
Eye Nod Game
All students sitting, with one student standing in center of circle. Sitting students must make eye contact with someone else in circle and nod. Once they nod, both must leave their chairs and either switch chairs or sit in any empty chair (student may not go back to the chair they just left). Person standing who has no chair can take any empty chair. Multiple students can be switching chairs at any point. (As a safety precaution, students claim the empty chair by first placing both hands on the empty seat then sitting. If two students claim the same chair, student with their hands on the bottom wins). Game can be stopped periodically and student left standing is pointed out. Game is then started again.
Counting to Ten
Students sit quietly in a circle. Students to stand up randomly, one at a time and count a number out loud: “one”, another student stands and says “two”. Game continues until it reaches “ten”. However, if two students stand up and say a number at the same time, circle starts at “one” again. This game really teaches students to slow down and watch each other for nonverbal cues. There can be no talking during the game.
Hide and go clap
Have a student leave the room. Another student hides an object somewhere in the room. Bring the first student back in the room. Instruct the class to clap quietly to start and as the first student gets closer to the object to start to clap louder until the student finds the object.
Bead game: I’ve done something you’ve never done!
Have each person introduce themselves and then state something they have done this summer that they think no one else in the class has done. If someone else has also done it, the student who has done it also gets a bead, if no one has done it, the student gets 4 beads. Most beads wins!
This is a great game for students to learn names. One person starts, and says someone elses name. The two people sitting next to this person have to give them bunny ears. Now it is that persons turn to call someone’s name.
Pass the ball
Have a student leave the classroom. Explain to the class that they need to pass an object around the circle, but they don’t want to person out in the hall to find it. Show the kids how they can pretend to be passing it to confuse the person. Invite the person back in and give them 3-4 chances to find the object/ball.
Who’s the leader?
A volunteer leaves the room. Assign on leader in the circle, everyone needs to follow their actions. The volunteer returns, and needs to figure out who is the group leader.
This is a good game for early in the year when students are still figuring out who’s who. A volunteer leaves the room. Have someone leave the circle/group. Volunteer comes in and has to figure out who it is.
Tell a story one sentence at a time. Have students use “fortunately” and “unfortunately” alternately as the first word of the sentence.
Variation 1: The teacher sits in the centre of the circle and points to a student, who starts the story, then points to a new student, who adds a word, and so on.
Variation 2: Perform the story that has been developed in the circle.
Variation 3: Go around the circle with each student leaving a “chunk” of story dangling. (For example, “The gate creaked open, and as the cloud passed by the full moon, we saw. . . .”) The next student then takes over.
Variation 4: Tell a story that starts with a person in danger. Continue around the circle with each student contributing an additional sentence. The first word in each sentence should be “fortunately” or “unfortunately,” alternating every time.
A student takes an imaginary object from an imaginary box, uses it, and then passes it to the next student, who changes the object into a different imaginary object.
Students perform a selected scene and, at a critical point in the action or at the height of a dramatic moment, they are directed to “freeze,” creating a still frame or “frozen picture.” After an interval, actors are directed to resume action until the next “freeze” is called. Examples of scenes that lend themselves to the “frozen picture” activity might be a bank robbery, a roller coaster ride, beach volleyball, or a blind date.
How the ___ Stories
To encourage the imagination, have students, as a class, in groups, or in pairs, use a process of brainstorming, selection, and rehearsal to create a story to explain How the Zebra Got Its Stripes, How the Pig Got Its Curly Tail, How the Turtle Had to Carry Its House on its Back, and so on. Use a narrator and a group of actors.
How the Skunk got it’s stink!
How the Pirate lost his leg!
How the Zebra got it’s stripes!
How our ancestors (cavemen) found fire
How the Earth was created.
Working in pairs, students create a statue. One student is the clay, and the other is the sculptor. The sculptors do not need to touch the clay, but by putting a hand near the part of the clay they want moved, they can manipulate the arms, legs, head, and body of the clay into an interesting statue based on titles or themes. The students then switch roles.
Pairs on Chairs
Ask the children to find a boy/girl partner, collect a chair and find a place in the room. Each pair needs to improvise a scene where one person would be sitting in a chair and the other offering them a service. The only catch is that you are not allowed to speak. E.g hairdresser, dentist…
Watch each performance quickly, and discuss which ones were effective and why.
There may be a number of groups who pretend to speak without sound. This is not mime, but pretending to speak.
Use one example and discuss how you could design a scene where you never had to speak.
E.g. person sitting on a seat, pretending to be on a moving bus. Old person struggles up the isle, young person stands up, smiles, and motions for the older person to sit. Both continue the journey looking forward as though on a moving bus.
Ask each group to design another mime scene using the chair.
The leader or one member of the group acts as conductor, whilst the rest of the group are the ‘orchestra’. Using their voices (and body percussion if appropriate!), the group paints a sound picture of a particular theme, for example the seaside, a city, a jungle. The leader controls the shape of the piece by raising her hand to increase the volume or bringing it to touch the floor for silence.
- One way to do this is to allow everybody to choose their own sound – discuss what types of sound might be appropriate before you start.
- Or, if it is a very large group, or very lively, you can divide the participants into sections, giving a particular sound for each section, then conduct them accordingly.
- The group should bear in mind contrasting and complementary sounds and try to be aware of natural peaks and troughs in the piece – or the conductor can try to create these.
- Sound pictures can easily be used as part of an improvisation or performance
This is a fun introductory warm-up and concentration game. You can begin sitting down or standing up. In pairs, face each other. Start counting from one to three between yourselves, over and over. Once you get the hang of that part you are ready for the next stage. Instead of saying the number “one”, you should clap your hands – but you would still say “two” and “three” aloud.
Once everyone has mastered that, the next step is that instead of saying “three”, that person should bend their knees. You should still clap your hands for the number “one”. This is a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time – in fact, you could try that afterwards!
A: “One” (Claps hands)
A: “Three” (Bends knees)
B: “One” (Claps hands)
B: “Three” (Bends knees)
Tip: Make sure you allow time to encourage pairs to show everybody else how they are doing after each step. It’s fun watching people trying to concentrate, especially if it goes a bit wrong!
If you have extra time, pairs could make up their own movement and/or sound for the number “two”.
Count To 20
This is one of the simplest, yet most challenging drama games. Sit or stand in a circle. The idea is for the group to count to twenty, one person saying one number at a time. Anybody can start the count. Then a different person says the next number – but if two or more people happen to speak at the same time, counting must start again from the beginning. It is possible to get to twenty if everybody really concentrates – but try and be relaxed as well.
- Try doing it with and without eye contact
- Other variations you can try include members of the group facing outwards and closing their eyes (difficult!) or counting back from twenty to one.
Catch My Name
A fun way of learning names. The group stands in a circle and begins by throwing a beanbag or bouncing a medium-sized ball, such as a children’s football, across the circle from one person to another. Make sure people are ready to throw and ready to catch. Eye contact is important.
Now, introduce yourself as you throw or bounce the ball across the circle – ‘Hi, I’m Robert’. Once everybody has had a go at that, continue the game but this time say the name of the person that you are throwing to – ‘Jessica to Kelvin’. The group should ensure that everybody receives the ball. One way of doing this is for everybody to hold one hand up until they have caught the ball, or each person folds their arms when they have thrown it.
- As a variation, the catcher can call out the name of the thrower
- Ask everybody to call out the name of the thrower
- More balls can be added in so that it develops into a Group Juggle.
- Don’t make name games into an actual test – people are less likely to learn names if they feel pressurised. Keep it light and enjoyable
- A useful adaptation for language learners – use word categories so that each person throwing the ball must say a word in the named category.
Two Truths- One Lie
Highly recommended for getting to know each other in a new group. Tell your partner three things about yourself – two of which are true and one of which is a lie. For example, you might tell your partner about your hobbies, your work, where you live, your family or where you have travelled. Afterwards, your partner tries to guess which was the lie. You might choose to tell three everyday facts or three more unusual things – but remember – only one of them should be a lie. Make sure each person listens carefully to what their partner says!
- Now introduce your partner to the rest of the group and see if they can guess which was the lie.
- Alternatively, tell your partner three true things about yourself and then swap over. Now the whole group makes a circle. Each partner introduces their friend to the group – they tell the group two of the true things and make up one lie about their partner.
Have a conversation where each sentence begins with the next letter of the alphabet. This may seem difficult at first, but improves with practice. If you get stuck, you can also use sounds to start a sentence, for example ‘Mmmm’ or ‘tut-tut’. Here is an example:
A: Anyone seen my cat?
B: Black one, with funny eyes?
A: Can’t say I remember.
B: Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what it looks like?
A: Every cat looks the same to me.
B: Fortunately, I found one yesterday
A: Gee, that’s great!
- You could also try beginning somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. Then when you reach ‘Z’, return to ‘A’ until you arrive back where you started
- Try setting the scene or location before you start
- It’s great for car journeys too!
This activity provides a useful technique for generating physical and aural ideas around a theme. Explain that the group is going to create a “machine” out of themselves. Name a topic and give the participants a few moments to think of a repeating sound and action linked to that theme. For example, if the theme was “shopping” a participant could mime taking money out of a purse to give to a shopkeeper, whilst saying “I’ll have two of those, please.”
As soon as someone has an idea, ask them to step into the centre of a circle to begin their repeating sound and movement. Ask if somebody else can think of a suitable way to add in their own idea. Gradually, more and more people join in the activity. Some may be linked to existing parts of the “machine”, whilst others may be separate. To continue the example above, someone could join the action by becoming the shopkeeper and saying “Shall I wrap them for you?”, whilst somebody else could be a cleaner in the shopping mall.
You may find that everybody wants to join in the activity, although be careful not to let it go on for too long or get too unwieldy. Once it is set up, the machine can be frozen, then played back at twice or half the “normal” speed. Themes could include: a football match, a meal in a restaurant, folk tales, Halloween. You could have a machine that actually makes something, like chocolate biscuits, school dinners or weather conditions.
- If using this for language teaching, encourage the use of single words or short phrases instead of a sound
One Word At A Time
In a circle, the story is started, with each person in turn adding one word. It usually starts with ‘Once – upon – a – time’. The idea is to keep your thoughts free flowing, so that you don’t try to guess what is coming or force the story in a particular direction. It is not always easy to maintain a logical flow for the story, although it is always amusing. If the group is too large, break into smaller groups.
- Another variation is to throw or roll a ball around the circle in any order.
- Add your word as you pass the ball to the next person.
- This ensures that people are more attentive; although you should make sure everyone is included.
Try playing the game in pairs, where both participants act the story out as it is told. In this case, tell the story in the present tense and as ‘we’. For example, ‘We – are – climbing – a – mountain. – Look – a – giant -spider – coming – towards – us. Quick – run!’ You can soon create an adventure story in this way. You can also use the one word at a time technique to create characters made up of two or more people – great fun for interview scenes!
The Teacher’s Dog…
The teacher’s dog
This is an alphabetical word game.
Everyone gets in a circle and claps hands to the beat.
Start with A.
“The teacher’s dog is an Angry dog”, “The teacher’s dog is a Black dog” etc etc
Cross The Circle
Everyone is numbered around the circle as 1,2,3. Then, when you call their number, everyone
must cross the circle in role as…..a ballerina……….a panther………an astronaut……..someone who’s stuck in the mud……..a fashion model……whatever you can think of