Mustache Smash – A great game for Reading, Listening & Speaking

Mustache Smash is an absolutely awesome way to practice Reading, Listening & Speaking in your ESL or EFL classroom.   It's very similar to the classic game Hammers , however Mustache Smash requires a little more space  and a timer.  In  case you haven't noticed, we love using timers in our games.  A timer instantly adds an extra layer of difficulty that we've seen help students get over any shyness they may be feeling time and time again.

The Details About Mustache Hammer Smash:

  • The only materials required to play this game are the plungers from the game Mustache Smash.  You can find the game on Amazon with a quick search. quick search.  If you're in a pinch and can't wait for the game to be delivered, you can easily substitute the plungers with a plastic hammers, stuffed toys or even just get your students to use their hands.
  • In this example we're using our LEEP Cards to teach the alphabet.  You can download a set of LEEP Cards Here.  If you can't find any toy hammers you can just use your hands instead.
  • This game works best with lower level students about 10  and younger,  
  • A game of Mustache Smash takes between 5 and 10 minutes.

In this example we are teaching the Phonetic Alphabet as our topic.  And "Ah Ah Apple" as our Target Language.


Here's How To Play Mustache Hammer Smash

1) Pre-teach the vocabulary cards. For this lesson it’s assumed the children have already learned the phonetics sounds of A, B, and C.

2) Give Mustache plungers to all of your students.

3) Put all of your vocabulary cards in a circle on the floor .

4) Ask your students to stand up and walk around the circle.

5) Set a random timer. 

6) Say the phonic sound associated with a letter. “ah-ah-apple”.

7) When the timer goes off the first student to hit the correct card with their Mustache Plunger gets a point.  The plunger makes it easy to tell who wins because their card will be stuck to their plunger.

6) Repeat.

Mustache Hammer Smash

  • ​It's about as simple as a classroom game can get.
  • It's very adaptable and will work with almost any lower level topic and/or target language.
  • It works!


Hieroglyphics is a great alternative to charades you can use in adult classes.

This ESL Game is a twist on the classic ESL game Charades.   In Charades, Students act out a word or phrase without speaking while their classmates try to guess what it is.  Charades is a great game for kids. But sometimes in high school and adult classes, charades gets a little uncomfortable.


Hieroglyphics is the perfect solution!

The Details About Hieroglyphics

  • This game works with any class size.
  • It's a great alternative to charades that works very well in high school or adult lessons.
  • The only materials you'll need are a marker and a whiteboard

How To Play Hieroglyphics:

  1. I usually don't even introduce this game.  I find a short phase that uses the lesson's target language and then I write one diagonal dash on the board for each word in the phrase.
  2. Start drawing pictures that represent the first word in your puzzle.  Your students will figure out what you're trying to do almost immediately.
  3. After your class guesses the first word, move on to the second one.
  4. Repeat until your class has solved the puzzle.   After your students solve the puzzle, split them into teams, remove yourself from the game and repeat the activity.
  5. Enjoy!

Hieroglyphics:

  1. I works great with any size of class.
  2. There's almost no materials required   
  3. It's just about as simple as a classroom game can get.

ESL Game #028 – The Paper Crane (an exercise in circumlocution)

Making a Paper Crane was probably the first ESL Game (ish) activities I learned as a new teacher living in Japan and it hasn't let me down yet.   This activity is awesome for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, it really causes students to think about what they are saying and find ways to describe things that they aren't used to speaking about.    This activity is also highly adaptable.  You can use it in adult man-to-man lessons, small groups of high school students or with large classes of elementary students.   You just have to be able to gauge your students and make sure the language you're asking for is level appropriate.  

The Details About The Paper Crane

  • This game requires NO PREPARATION.   It's an awesome back up plan to always have in your back pocket.
  • The only materials you'll need are a few pieces of paper and a pair of scissors.
  • This game is highly adaptable but works easiest with higher level students.
  • A game can last between 10  - 30 minutes.  The length of the activity is entirely based on how hard you make it for the students.
  • How To Play The Paper Crane :

    1. To teach this exercise I find it works best to ask the entire class to each makes a crane.  This just helps them remember the process.  It also kind of puts students on the hook so that they have to speak.  They've shown you that they know how to perform the objective, so they won't be able to back out at a later point.
    2. Then, play stupid (this generally isn't very hard for me).  Say you don't know how to make a crane (or airplane, make coffee, etc) and ask your students how to do it.  They will instinctively try and pick up the paper to show you.  
    3. Simply smile and inform them that they are not allowed to use their hands.  Next, they all gasp in horror when they realise their lesson just got a lot harder.  
    4. When they try to give you directions, it will be very difficult at first.   Depending on your teaching style, your students ability and how much time you have, you adjust how much you're willing to help them.     For example, if a student tells you to "fold the paper" there is many ways you can fold it.  You can fold it in half lengthways, across the middle, make a triangle, etc.  
    5. It's important to let your class struggle a little bit.  If they have difficulty at first the payoff of completing the activity will increase the level of confidence they have in their own English ability by the end of the activity.   It's important you don't let your students struggle too much.  If they think it's impossible, your class will stop paying attention.
    6. At this point, I will usually take a step back and offer the class a few extra words that might help them perform the task e.g. fold, crease, turn over, repeat, etc.  I like to keep the list short just so that they still have searched for the right words.
    7. This ESL game can be as short or as long as you want to make it.  If your students are really advanced don't give them any vocabulary clues. If their lower level students work with them and act like you did it together.  Either way when students finish this activity they always have a real sense of accomplishment.  In reality, I've done this about 20 times already and I still can't figure how to make a paper crane.  

    Have fun in class!


    How to have an alphabet board game with LEEP Racemats

    This alphabet board game is a great way to make learning to read phonetically a little more fun for teachers and students a like.  This is one of many ways we use our LEEP Racemats but as you can see in the video, not only do I play this game with students, I've also used it to teach my own children.

    The Details About The Alphabet Board Game:


    In this example we are teaching Phonics as our topic.  And modeling proper phonetic pronunciation for our students.

    ​E.x.

    • ​​Ah ah apple, b b belly, etc

    Here's How To Have An Alphabet Board Game

    1. Before playing I like to warm my students up by using the LEEP Racemat to sing the ABC Song with Alphabet Sounds.
    2. Have each player pick a small toy to use as their game piece.  
    3. Decide if you want to play on the upper or lowercase race track.  I usually recommend the lowercase letters because they are much more common in everyday reading.
    4. Tell your students that if you flip a coin and it lands on heads players get move one space.  If the coin lands on tails players move two spaces.
    5. As a player moves space to space they MUST say each letter's correct phonetic pronunciation followed by it's hinto word.  E.g. C c caterpillar, d d don't.
    6. Make sure you are modeling each letter for your students and repeating any pronunciation problems.
    7. The first player to make it all the way from A - Z wins.
    8. After completing one round, if your students are still engaged, switch which version of the alphabet you are using (e.g. Lowercase to Uppercase) and repeat.

    Alphabet Board Game:

    • circle
      It's a great way to make learning to read interactive and fun.
    • circle
      It's one of our favorite ways to use the LEEP Racemat.
    • circle
      It's extremly easy to play and kids love it!

    Have fun in class!


    How To Use LEEP Placemats To Teach Children To Read

    When our students are just beginning to learn how to read we like to introduce the letters of the alphabet using a LEEP  Placemat.  The LEEP Alphabet placemats are a really effective tool for easing children int reading and building up a sense of familiarization with each letter. 

    Two of the most important aspects of reading are frequency and exposure.  So using a LEEP Placemat opens up at least 3 opportunities per day to learn phonics; breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The Placemat is however in means confined to the table.  It's a great tool for learning The ABC Song with Alphabet Sounds and playing any number of phonic related games.

    The Details About LEEP Placemats:

    • They come in 11 different styles.
    • The feature all 26 LEEP Letters with pronunciation hints.  ( A looks like an Apple)
    • Some styles combine numbers, shapes and/or pictures.
    • We recommend printing the LEEP Placemats on large paper (A3 size) and laminating them right away so that you can reuse them for years to come.

    In this example we show you how you can use the LEEP Placemat to play "Where is it?" with learners from the ages of 1 and up.  Because the child in the video is a baby,we've kept the game extremely simple and use a lot of positive re-enforcement.


    How to use a LEEP Placemat to play Where is it?

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