Word Chunk Game

Word Chunk Game

This game is both low stress on the teacher (unless students having lots of fun in your classroom stresses you out!) AND while having fun an intense vehicle of language acquisition.  It is used with material, a story for example that you have already been working on with students, so I think of this as a Friday kind of activity to review a story, especially with structures or vocabulary that has been challenging.  First the set up; then the procedures:

  • Students are divided into small groups (3-6 per group, depending on class size.  3 is better but in huge classes you may have to go with larger groups.
  • groups are in small circles around the edges of the room so that there is a long ally down the middle of the room.
  • At one end of the room, a box is set up on a stool (or some other arrangement) that approximates a basket.
  • 3-6 whiffle balls or tennnis balls are lined up at a “free throw line” some 15 fee or so away from “the basket”.  (how many balls depends on the size of your groups)
  • Teacher preps a list of sentences from the story that has already been read and which highlights structures or words new to the group.  (e.g. if relative clauses are new, most sentences should have relative clauses).  You can pull sentences directly from the story, but you can also edit them to focus on what you want to focus on.
  • Each group  must come up with a name for itself, in Latin, and a gesture that they do with the name.  Any time they raise their hand to answer a question and are called on, they must shout their name in unison while doing the gesture.  If they don’t, or even if one member doesn’t, they don’t get to answer the question and it goes to the next group.  This seems silly.  Don’t skip it.  It helps build camaraderie in the group which is necessary for how they have to work together.
  • The game proceeds like this.  Teacher reads the first sentence slowly, aloud, and continues to do so, over and over again.  Group members huddle together and decide, together, what the sentence means.  When they ALL agree on a meaning, they raise their hands.  The first group to raise their hands is called on.  The teacher identifies them by pointing, and the group shouts name and does gesture.
  • THEN (very important–this prevents one person from doing all the work) the teacher calls on someone in the group to give the answer.  ONLY that person can answer, and if the group feeds the answer, they are disqualified.  HOWEVER, if the person makes a mistake, group members may correct it.  The teacher must distinguish between FEEDING the answer and offering CORRECTIONS.  Corrections are allowed.  Feeding the answer is now.  Because the group never knows who the teacher will call on, they learn very quickly that everyone must know what the sentence means before they raise their hands.
  • If the person called on gives the correct English meaning of the sentence, the entire group goes to the free-throw line and shoots for points.  Teacher keeps score.
  • If the person does not give the correct English and the group cannot correct mistakes, the teacher calls on the group whose hands went up second, and so forth.
  • At the end of the period, the group with the most points (or groups if there is a tie) have earned bonus points that they can use on a quiz or test grade (teacher’s discretion).


This is a listening and comprehension game.  They are “re-reading” old material, which is always good.  They are helping each other understand.  Because you can focus on certain structures or words, and because you are reading slowly, clearly, over and over again, they are getting multiple repetitions of Latin that they otherwise would not have done on their own.  Students swear by how helpful this game is.  My problem is not overusing it.

4 thoughts on “Word Chunk Game

  1. I think I must not have read this carefully enough, but where do the balls and box come into play?

  2. Lauri,

    You set up a box as a sort of make shift basket ball goal and have balls available. Then, the group that most quickly and accurately answers the question or gives the English meaning of a word, phrase or sentence gets to throw the balls to score points. It’s really just a fun sort of brain break in the midst of otherwise pretty intense language work. Hope this clarifies.

  3. Hi Brenda,

    Generally, when I play the game, there is nothing allowed on desks, so–no writing. There have been a few iterations of the game where I did allow a group to have one writer for the group–so one student with pencil and paper out. I did that at the students’ suggestion–which is most often how CI activities evolve. The real question is whether the focus is on understandable messages with a slight edge. In this case, if allowing each group to have a writer causes more collaboration around the language, then go for it!

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