How to play What’s in the Bag? aka the Mystery Bag.

What's in the bag?

This Super Simple game submission comes from Lawrence.  Lawrence is originally from Los Angeles, and has been teaching kids in Japan for 10 years.  Last year, he opened a school named is American English School in Tarui, Gifu prefecture. 

American English School Logo - What's in the bag - Easy ESL Games

This game is called What’s in the Bag?

The Details About What’s in the Bag?:

  • ​It’s a great game for young learners because it involves a little bit of mystery and it appeals to tactile learners
  • ​The only materials you’ll need are a bag made out of cloth (make sure it doesn’t have holes) and a few lesson related toys.
  • ​If you want to add a little music we'd recommend playing the Super Simple Song, Mystery Box in the background.  Everytime the song says "Mystery Box" just say "Mystery Bag" a little bit louder.

This game can be modified to fit any lower level language topic.  In this example we're using food as the topic.  Target languages include "Is it a banana?" "Do you like bananas?" and whatever other peripheral English you choose to include.


Here's How To Play What's In The Bag?

  1. ​Before class starts fill the bag with lesson related toys and relia.  Try to include one item for each student if possible.
  2. Pre-teach your lesson's vocabulary.
  3. Turn on the song Mystery Box while making sure to say "mystery bag" just a little bit louder.
  4. Hold the bag in front of your students while asking them, "What's in the bag?"
  5. Suggest crazy things that could be in the bag as a way to get all of your students involved.  E.g. "Is it a dinosaur?" "is it a spaceship?"
  6. Then, pull the bag a little tighter around the object so your class can see the shape of the realia.
  7. Ask again, "What's in the bag?"
  8. Wait for some answers and use their answers to initiate natural conversation. E.g. "It's a truck?   What colour is it?  What color do you like?" etc.
  9. Make sure that you are modeling the target response ex, "It's a carrot?" and only replying to those students that are using it.  Once you kids figure out that you only answer to full sentences they should all start using the dialogue pretty quickly.
  10. Then, Pass the bag to your students so that they can feel it.  At this point they’ll be “all in”. When a student answers while using the correct language pull the item out of the bag and use it to have a conversation. If it's an apple you could ask questions like, "Do you like apples? How big is an apple? How many can you eat? etc.
  11. Finally, give the toy to one student.
  12. Repeat until 1 minute before the game gets boring or the mystery bag is empty.

What's In The Bag?:

    • ​It's a classic ESL classroom game.
    • It's about as easy as a game can get.
    • It can easily be tweaked into a conversation starter.