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Global Awareness Games in the Language Classroom

Armene Modi, Obirin University, Tokyo



  • Key Words: Global Issues, Games
  • Learner English Level: Low Intermediate to Advanced
  • Learner Maturity Level: Jr. High School and above
  • Preparation Time: One hour for each
  • Activity Time: One class period

Global awareness games in a language class enable the teacher to effectively incorporate vital world issues such as peace, human rights and the environment into language teaching. The following games will demonstrate how language teachers can promote an awareness of contemporary issues in the language class, captivate students' interest, and help reinforce their language skills.


Gender Issues Snakes and Ladders Board Game

This game aims to expose students to a variety of opinions on gender issues, helping them explore and examine their own values on a subject by reflecting critically on it. In terms of a linguistic focus, the game aims to teach students how to express their opinions in English, use negotiation and discussion strategies, reinforce and recycle vocabulary and language structures, and keep students on-task in the target language.



Copy a "Snakes and Ladders" board (a sample can be found in W.R. Lee's Games and Contests, p. 167) and write on it 20 or more commonly held contrasting opinions on gender issues, for example "Japanese men are Mama's boys," or "Raising children is a woman's responsibility." At the bottom of the board include some useful language structures that students can use to discuss the issue, such as "I think...because...,""How about you?" or "I completely agree with that." Make several copies of the game board, and the rules sheet below:


Snakes and Ladders Game Rules

  • Make groups of four.
  • Use a coin or eraser as a token for each player.
  • To begin, roll a dice. Move your coin or eraser the number of spaces indicated on your dice. For example, if your dice show 3, move 3 spaces on the board.
  • Read the statement in the square you land on to your group.
  • Give your opinion about the statement using the discussion language at the bottom of the board, and ask other members of the group for their opinions.
  • BONUS: If you can give your opinion in 2 or more sentences, move forward 1 square.
  • PENALTY: Any player who speaks Japanese during the game must move back two squares.
    • A player who lands on:
    • the bottom of a ladder climbs to the top.
    • the head of a snake slides down its tail and misses a turn.
    • a snake's tail, misses a turn.
    • a statement already discussed, jumps to the next square with a statement.
  • The player who reaches FINISH first is the winner.



Students play the game in groups of 4. Give each group a copy of the game and a rules sheet. One student reads the rules to the group. If the group has difficulty understanding the rules, encourage them to use the language of repetition and clarification, e.g., "Could you repeat that please?, Pardon me?, What does... mean? Do you mean...?," etc. If they have further difficulty, they should approach the teacher. The game could be followed up by some of the activities discussed in the concluding section of the article.



This game aims to increase students' awareness of environmental problems by providing them with basic information and facts of the environmental state-of-the-planet. In terms of linguistic objectives, EcoQuiz helps to sharpen students' listening and speaking skills, while expanding their vocabulary, and encouraging them to stay in English. The game could be used to either introduce environmental issues or review those already dealt with in class.



Choose five or six categories related to any global issues theme such as, human rights, population or the environment. Prepare a set of factual questions and answers related to each of the above categories, and write each question on a separate card. Make a separate answer sheet. Decide how many points to award for the correct answer. The more challenging the question in terms of knowledge of global issues, the higher the points scored. See the sample questions and number of points for one of the categories below.


Rain Forests

# of Points

10 Q: Name 1 region where rain forests are located.

A: Near the equator in Africa, Asia, Central America.

20 Q: 25% of our medicines come from plants in tropical rain forests. True or False?

A: True

30 Q: How many tribal people live in rain forests?

a) 12 million b) 20 million c) 200 million

A: c) 200 million

40 Q: What percentage of rain forests have already been destroyed?

a) 20% b) 30% c) 50%

A: c) 50%

50 Q: Give 2 reasons why rain forests are being destroyed so rapidly.

A: Poverty, Overpopulation, Demand for rain forest timber.


Tell students they are going to play a TV quiz game. Draw a grid on the board and write in the categories and points as in the example below:

RAIN FORESTS 50 40 30 20 10

GLOBAL WARMING 50 40 30 20 10

POLLUTION 50 40 30 20 10


ACID RAIN 50 40 30 20 10

OZONE LAYER 50 40 30 20 10

Divide students into 5 or 6 teams and explain the rules of the game. Students have to answer questions based on the above six categories. Make sure they are familiar with the categories. To play, one team chooses a category, and the points they want to play for, e.g., "Pollution for 30." Teams have to select a different category each time they play. The teacher picks the corresponding card and asks a student from the team to read the question out loud. Teams get 30 seconds to answer. The teacher is the timekeeper.

After consulting with the team, members take turns giving the answer. If the team answers correctly, they score the corresponding number of points. If a question is answered incorrectly, or not answered by the team that chose it, it is thrown open to any team. The time limit now, however, is 10 seconds, and the team that answers it correctly scores half the points. The teacher keeps track of the score. The team with the highest score is the winner.

To encourage students to use only English, the use of Japanese by any team member automatically disqualifies the team from playing the next turn. If one team seems to be lagging behind, offer a bonus round with a 100 point question.


Suggested Follow-up Activities:

Almost any global issues theme such as the population crisis, recycling, nuclear disarmament, hunger, problems in the Third World, AIDS, etc., could be explored using both of the game formats explained above. For example, some of the commonly held myths about AIDS or hunger and poverty could be explored using the snakes and ladders game. A quiz game dealing with population issues could help students learn about the conditions in which people live, or how resources are distributed, etc. A few suggested follow-up activities to reinforce both the global education and linguistic aims of the games are listed below.


Student-Created Games

For the Snakes and Ladders game, various opinions on any controversial global issue could be elicited from students themselves, after which they could help the teacher make the board. A student version of the EcoQuiz game could be made by dividing the class into six groups, having each group choose one category of some global issue, research information about it, and make a set of questions and answers related to their category. In addition, students could make up their own set of rules to play the game.


Talking Circle

After playing either game, have students get into pairs by forming two facing circles, an inner circle and an outer one. Tell students they are going to practice expressing their opinion on some of the gender issues discussed in the game or on any of the facts that surprised or shocked them in the EcoQuiz game. Students take turns talking continuously for 2 minutes to the partner facing them, the teacher acting as timekeeper. After both partners in the inner and outer circle have spoken for two minutes, they ask each other two related questions. The activity is then repeated by having students in the outer or inner circle change partners once or twice by moving in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.



Students could be assigned a journal task requiring them to find a newspaper article on a gender issue of their choice, or a global issues category from the EcoQuiz game. They could then write a brief summary of the article and their opinion. Other possible follow-up activities could be debates or group presentations further exploring the issues raised in the games.

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