No Preparation Games

Posted on Jul. 21, 2021

Over the years as an ALT, I have learned that it is best to be prepared with easy games that require no preparation and that can be pulled out of a hat at any given moment.  There have been countless times when unexpected mishaps or unaccounted time has left the HRT/JTE looking to me to fill in the space. Here are a few games that I have used over the years that have always ensured a full lesson with no downtime.

HANGMAN OR THE HAPPY FACE GAME (5th and 6th grade)

The happy face game follows the same rules as hangman except that instead of drawing a man hanging from the gallows, you start out by drawing a big happy face on the blackboard.  The ALT thinks of a sentence or word related to the class material and draws the spaces to be filled in. The rules are basically hangman in reverse. The students will ask “Do you have a K? A? H? … etc.”  If the letter is not there, then one piece of the happy face gets erased.  Can the students solve the puzzle before the face is fully erased?

Rock, Scissors, Paper MATH EDITION (all grades)


The students walk around freely and play RSP in pairs.  ROCK equals 0, SCISSORS equal 2 and PAPER equals 5.  Whoever can add the numbers and say it out loud first is the winner.  Depending on the student’s ability level, the game can be played with four hands as well.

NO “Z” OR NO “20” GAME (all grades)

In pairs, the students decide who starts. The lead-off student begins by saying 1…2…3… (A…B…C…).  They have the choice of saying up to three numbers or letters per turn.  The game is played in either numerical or alphabetical order.  The student who ends up having to say either “Z” or “20” loses the game.

PICTIONARY (all grades)

The entire class is split into two groups.  One student from each group goes to the blackboard and is shown the same vocabulary word in secret.  The students must race to draw the vocab word without giving any hints.  The first group to answer correctly gets a point for their group.


Using their textbooks, the students turn to the first page of their current lesson.  The ALT will then slowly spell out a given vocabulary word from the text.  The first student to find the word and raise their hand can read it aloud and receive praise.  At first, the vocab word will be spelled out in order. Later, the letters will be jumbled making it more challenging.   

I hope these simple games can come in handy for you in the future.  You never know when your digital textbook will decide to stop working or you find yourself with an extra five minutes of class time because your students are just so well behaved.  And let’s not forget those frequent earthquake drills that can cut your lessons in half making it a good time to try something new.     

E.P. – Musashino ALT