Game #3: Surprise, Surprise


The basic design of the game belongs to Y.B.S. Damin and M. G. Picollo but the layout and the choice of hiding some elements are mine. Unfortunally, I can’t share the instructions and how to make the game because one of the students did not give me permission to share in the blog or websites. He did give me permission though to do so in articles and workshops. So, this is basically the reflection. You can use the board layout in any way you want if you can come up with your own ideas of how to use it or change the layout.  🙂

“Games have a goal that players are motivated to reach and they can make meaningful decisions while they pursue that goal.” Jeff Kuhn, Game 101

This is the board game SURPRISE RACE. It got this name because 1) we don’t know where the player marker will land – we use a dice, so there is luck involved in the game; 2) the questions are hidden, something that Jeff Kuhn talks about in Game 101; and 3) there are the surprise cards where it can make them move around the board without having to answer a question. Then, there is the blue smile face on one of the corners which they borrowed from monopoly. If the players land there, they lose a turn. The most exciting surprise card is change place with another player. It’s the luckiest card especially if you are behind everyone else and can move to the first place. So, the position of players change as they move along. Oh, the questions! It does test their knowledge but I’d say about 50% less opportunity to use the language from the story than the first game. However, they still discuss and check the meaning of vocabulary between themselves and ask for help to check what the question mean. This is a great opportunity for peer discussion and peer teaching which is motivating for them. When they couldn’t solve their doubts among them, they called for my help.

Fostering the use of English during game play

A game should be played freely the first time. Do not start telling them to speak English as this will kill their enthusiasm for the game. Notes of what they say in L1 can be taken, then, after the game is finished teach them how to say that. One suggestion would be to make a poster with those sentences (this is what I plan to do from now on). Another thing we can do is modelling for them during the game. I did that with all the games we played so far. It was effective to a certain point. I believe games can also encourage English as the language of communication during the game as the game is in English. But I discovered that learners didn’t know even how to say “roll the dice” or “it’s your turn to roll the dice”, or it’s your turn to answer” They might not be using the language, simply because they don’t know. So, teach them what they need to communicate during the game and encourage them to use it while they are involved in the same game in a 2nd and 3rd time. Encourage, do not yell at them “English”. I do that sometimes and it’s so counterproductive. Trust me.

surprise race 1

As for the playtest reflection sheet, here is their afterthoughts.

20 Students played this game, but only 15 were able to complete the reflection. We had an unexpected visit from England that day.


Nine of them wrote that they wouldn’t change anything and six gave the following suggestions:

  • Make the board bigger
  • Add more smile faces
  • Add more lose your turn
  • One of them who actually draws very well and is pretty artistic said he would change the layout! Something I’ve meant to ask him about and haven’t done yet.
  • Add new rules, but he didn’t give any specific suggestion.
What they can learn/practice, they wrote as predicted:
  • more about the story
  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation
  • listening and reading comprehension
  • answering questions and doing it fast

Learn/practice vocabulary seems to be the strongest feature of the learning goal present in the game as It was mentioned along other points by many of them.

It was almost unanimous the fact that they liked the surprise cards and pointed that out as their favorite thing in the game. Hidden and unpredictable elements as Jeff Kuhn pointed out in his talk create the suspense and excitement, thus also engagement.

One thought on “Game #3: Surprise, Surprise

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