The king was pregnant.

Ursla Le Guin (1929-2018)

The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969


Choice Card: Snake
new, vocabulary
kindergarten and up
5-10 minutes
Class Size:
Energy Level:
co-operative memory game
flashcards and a whiteboard

Use this simple whiteboard activity to introduce new vocabulary. To prepare the game you'll need a playing piece. Recently I've been using a "Great!" card. See above.

Start by drawing a circle. This is the snake's head. Draw two eyes on top (mine often look like ears). Next draw another circle inside the first. This is the snake's open mouth. Next draw the body and divide it into segments. For 5-6 flashcards I use around 10 segments. But experiment - find what works best for you. The game is ready to start.

Take the playing piece and make a show of telling the group that it is their piece - that it belongs to them - that it is them. Put the piece in the final tail segment. Show how the piece can move up the snake and out of the mouth. Mime the mouth closing. Make snake enjoying dinner noises. Oh no! This gives the group some idea of the game objective without explaining it in Japanese.

The game works like this: show a flashcard. Allow a few seconds and then simply tell the answer. Go through the flashcards. Make two piles - one for the cards the group can name and another for the ones they can't. After going through all the cards, count up. For every card that is missed draw a triangle in the mouth. This looks like a tooth and represents the mouth closing. For every card the group get right move the playing piece one segment up the snake. Shuffle the cards and begin again. Can the group escape before all the triangles are drawn and the mouth closes?

I don't explain this game or the need to study the cards. I like players to discover game rules for themselves. Play the game at a fast pace. If the players learn the cards very quickly then stop showing the cards and instead give hints or gestures.

With small groups it's possible to go round players individually. Encourage them to help each other - the objective is to learn the vocabulary. With large groups encourage spontaneous responses. Make it accepted practise that everyone has to call out the answer.