By Kevin Fabris

September 7, 2016

10 - 15 Minutes, Active, Big Room, Card Game, Easy ESL Games,, EFL, ESL, Fun, Game, Learn It, Materials Required, Practice It, Small Class, Speaking, Use It, Vocabulary, Young Learner

Finding new and interesting ways to teach new vocabulary can be one of the more difficult tasks a new language teacher has to face.  Not that teaching with flashcards is overly difficult however teaching with vocabulary cards in almost every lesson day-after-day, week-after-week, can cause both teachers and students to lose interest.  That’s why I was particularly happy to learn about Paper Rock Scissor Races.

A Paper Rock Scissor Race a.k.a. Jaken Race is an unbelievably fun way to let your young learners review new vocabulary and language targets with a minimal amount of teacher talking time.

Here are the details:

  • The only materials required are between 7 and 15 vocabulary cards (I always play with an odd number of cards so there is a distinct middle card).
  • Depending on class size a game should last between 10 and 15 minutes.
  • This game works best with students between the ages of 5 and 9.
  • This game can easily be adapted to almost any low level language target.

To score points players must successfully make it all the way from their team’s starting point (goal) to the opposing team’s starting point (goal) while combining the lesson’s target language and vocabulary items as they pass each vocabulary card.  When players meet on the same card they must have a Rock Paper Scissor battle.  The winner of the battle continues along the row of vocabulary cards while the losing player goes to the end of their teams line and let’s a teammate begin their journey along the cards.  When a player reaches the opposing goal their team receives one point.

How to teach new vocabulary with a Paper Rock Scissor Race:

  1. Pre teach your lesson related vocabulary cards and language targets.
  2. Divide your class into teams.  I like to keep teams small. 2 – 5 members is optimal because it ensures each student has lots of opportunities to speak.
  3. Lay an odd number of vocabulary cards on the floor in a straight line.
  4. Have two teams line up at opposing ends of the line of vocabulary cards.
  5. When you say “GO” the first member of each team must start walking along the row of vocabulary cards.  As students land on each card they must combine the word/picture on the card with your lesson’s language target.  E.g.  
    Topic on vocabulary cards = animals Language Target = have

Chickens have feet, Horses have tails, etc.

  • After students successfully combine the vocabulary cards and target language they move closer to their goal by stepping onto the next vocabulary card.
  • When opposing players meet on the same card they have a Rock Paper Scissor battle to determine which player gets to continue along the row of cards and which player will have to go to the end of their team’s line.
  • Players continue until they reach the opposing team’s goal and their team is awarded 1 point.
  • Repeat the process until one team wins by reaching 5 points. 
    I love teaching new vocabulary win Rock Paper scissor Races.  They have proven to be both fun and effective time and time again in my classes.  When set up and executed properly a Jaken (a.k.a. R-P-S) Race can be played for minutes at a time without any teacher interruption or talking time.  A game that lets students teach and reinforce language on their own?   ESL Games don’t get any easier.   Have fun using This Easy ESL Game in your classroom.


If you liked this Easy ESL Rock Paper Scissor Game you might also like Tic Tac Twist.

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