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

ESL Game #028 - The paper crane

This is probably the first ESL Game I learned as a new teacher and it hasn’t let me down yet. As a teacher in Japan there are a few commonalities that made themselves known pretty quickly:
1) Student’s hate making mistakes.
2) Everyone knows how to make a paper crane.

ESL Game #028 - The paper crane

ESL Game #028 – The Paper Crane


The whole point of this exercise is to get students speaking and giving directions that they can’t possibly be familiar with.  Basically, you want them to figure their way around not knowing the perfect wording and find a way to convey the directions in a understandable manor.

To teach this exercise I find it works best to ask the entire class to each make a crane.  This just helps them remember the process.   Then, play stupid (this generally isn’t very hard for me).  Ask them how to do it.  They will instinctively try and pick up the paper to show you.  Simply smile and inform them that they are not allowed to use their hands.  Next, they all gasp in horror when the complexity of task reveals itself.

At this point I will usually take a step back and offer the class a few extra words that might help them preform the task e.g. fold, crease, turn over, repeat, etc.  I like to keep the list short just so that they still have search for the right words.

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.  In reality, I’ve done this  about 20 times already and I still can’t figure it out.  Enjoy!