Oct 252013

“19. What is something that you should never say to a mailman?”

“Please, ignore the loud ticking coming from this package.”
“Oh, the box hasn’t exploded yet?”
“Go away, no one likes you.”

“46. What is something you should never eat while driving?”

“Milk and cereal.”

“7. Name three things on your desk.”

“…A potato salad from yesterday.”
“Books, everywheeeeeere.”

Those are a few of the highlights from my ELL (English Language Learners) Club meeting last night. We were playing a Conversational version of Jenga, that was fun enough to get all 15 participants talking and laughing together. Before I start into that, though, I’d like to explain why I’m blogging about this in the first place.

Not to get all mushy, but starting this club has seriously changed my life. It’s only been around for a year, but it’s made great strides. It’s hard to believe that a club that had mostly no-show meetings during its first three months of existence would become one with at least 10-15+ people consistently attending. And with its own permanent room on campus now! It’s just something that goes to show you that perseverance counts.

While we don’t formally teach our members, we do a great deal of learning in the club, be it language or cultural. I don’t know, there’s just something awesome about being in a room full of people who want and like to do that kind of sharing in a casual, non-overbearing way. It’s a great way to practice while making new friends from around the world. I guess that’s why we’re an “English Conversation Club,” ha.

On Fridays, I will be sharing things related to my club. A lot of what I share will most likely be about the usage of games/activities to facilitate the language learning process. This is also secretly my way of studying what works and what doesn’t work so that when I’m finally ready to create a language learning game of my own, I am ready to do so.


So, back to the Jenga! Jenga is a block removal and re-stacking game. You start with a tower, and then, with one hand, you must remove one block and place it at the top. The fun is in trying to figure out when the tower will fall. I love that moment when everyone holds their breath in anticipation.

We remixed the game by adding a conversational element. This works well as an Icebreaker activity.

Each block was numbered from 1 to 54. I then generated a list of 54 questions gathered from random website. Each question was meant to be mild, slightly goofy, and a conversation starter. The game element added to the excitement, and kept people from rolling their eyes at boring questions like, “why did you come to this university?”

The way the game worked was: pull a numbered block, stack the block, then answer its corresponding question. Your answer would help open the door to more conversation amongst the group.

Laughing so much about the tumbly tower helped people to open up. There wasn’t any dead air or awkward silence in the circle. The meeting wound up running for an extra 45 minutes because people wanted to keep playing.

The good thing about numbering the blocks, rather than writing each question directly on the block, is that we now have the flexibility to change up the questions as we see fit. I’ve seen other blogs do it the direct way, but I much prefer the flexibility factor.

Next week, I will most likely write about a board game that’s better than the typical Taboo or Apples to Apples for language learning.

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