Repeatedly drilling words in the classroom can become pretty dull pretty fast, so let’s spice it up with some violence! Yeh, it’s Janken Battle!

Have fun practising vocab with this easy EFL activity.

Rock, Paper, Fun

I feel so ashamed of that sub-heading. In case you didn’t already know Janken is the Japanese name for Rock, Paper, Scissors (or Rock, Scissors, Paper if you lean that way). It’s mega popular here and can be very useful in many EFL activities such as interviews.

The aim of this activity is to twist the students’ love of Janken into a tool for practising English. Start with a set of vocabulary flashcards. Practice the words beforehand so the class is familiar with them, then attach five or more flashcards to the blackboard in a line. Divide the class into two teams and have each team line up at either side of the board.

The first student from each team steps forward and touches the flashcard on their end of the board. Simultaneously they say the word on their flashcard. Then they both take a step towards each other, touch the next flashcard in the line, and say what’s on that flashcard. Eventually, the two kids will land on the same flashcard. Now, it’s time for battle; the two contenders play Janken. The loser returns to his team and the winner continues on to the next flashcard.

Janken Battle
Check out this informative graphic that I made without any assistance from an adult.

As soon as the Janken game has been resolved the next kid at the front of the losing student’s team steps up, touches the first flashcard at their end of the board and proceeds as before. Whenever two students meet on the line they have to play Janken, with the loser returning to their team. If a student reaches the final flashcard in the line then they score a point for their team and return to them, letting the next kid have go.

Crowd Control

This activity is a kind of race; students should try to move down the line as fast as possible. As such, it can become a bit frantic. Managing the rabble as well as supporting those who struggle can be a bit of a nightmare, especially in younger classes.

My approach is to squat down (or even pull up a chair) right in front of the board. Then I can guide, assist and referee both competitors equally without blocking the view of the board from the rest of the class.

The problem with this approach is that the two gangs of students queued behind me may have no one to keep them under control. This is where a good relationship with the JTE (or Homeroom teacher in Elementary School) can be very useful. If one is lucky enough to be in a working environment where the Japanese teacher can and does actively help out in the lesson then that will make this activity run much smoother.

PRO TIP: In a large class an activity like this means that many students are just standing around waiting their turn for a majority of the time. Why not split the class and play two simultaneous games? Or play with half the class while the other half does a writing or drawing activity? Try to minimise any wasted learning time.

Level Up

I’ve only really done this activity in Elementary Schools but I know other teachers who do it at High School levels too. There, it makes more sense to use words instead of pictures. It can also be an effective way of practising grammar structures. For example, split this sentence:

I have never watched that movie.

into five chunks:

“I” “have” “never” “watched” “that movie.”

and use them on the board. Whenever a new competitor joins the game change up one or more of the cards while keeping the same structure. One could even add an extra challenge such as a “have/has” flashcard where students have to decide which fits the sentence.

The only thing to consider when playing like this is that one team will always be reading the sentence backwards unless the teams swap sides occasionally. Perhaps after each point is scored.

EFL Activity: Janken Battle

Kids often really get into this activity, even the shyer ones. It does take some practice to get the right flow though. So don’t be discouraged if the first few attempts to run it are a bit messy. Try to focus on simplicity. Explain the rules via a demonstration with either the JTE, Homeroom teacher, or a student and guide the first few competitors through the motions to get them used to the pattern.

Have you ever used Janken Battle or a variation in class? How did it go?

I hope this fun and simple EFL activity will be of use to you. Here are some other ideas.



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