Bored on your summer break? Let’s make a board game!


You might have noticed I like games. Role playing games are the best, sure, but board games are also fun, especially that they are usually easier to adapt to teaching environment (although I have been thinking about introducing RPGs to my language school…). I am lucky to work with teachers who share my view on games and possibilities they create in the classroom and quite often we just discuss new games and how to use them in class.

Dixit is a well known game and I think everyone has already played Story Cubes. I still find Once Upon a Time a great teaching aid bringing in fun, and Mystery of the Abbey is the game everyone loves (I guess due to the possibility of cheating, huh). It may be financially difficult to buy all the board games we’d like to have, so I create them with my students – be that a simple pattern or a complex adventure (Deadly Islands – love this idea).

We’re getting more and more games in our school, but still there are some beyond our reach – too complex to explain in class, not communicative enough, or simply – impossible to buy (out of stock, waiting for second print, huh). And since we all know that desperate times call for desperate measures, we basically change the official ideas into DIY games.

One of the games we recreated was When I Dream – a beautiful game by Chris Darsaklis, impossible for us to buy, but easy to adapt to teaching needs. What we need is: a lot of “dream-cards” with random words (always nouns – paper, knife, book etc.), a sleeping mask and some “role cards”, namely “fairies” and “imps” (and, optionally, “tricksters”). We made the cards using own imagination, business card paper, pen and a laminator – and that’s it, we’re ready to play!

We start with assigning the roles – one player is a Dreamer, so he wears the sleeping mask. The other players are secretly given their roles (good fairies or naughty imps – there should be more fairies than imps). Then the “spirits” draw a dream-card with a word and try to describe it to the Dreamer using one word each – fairies will try to help the Dreamer by giving most obvious connotations, however imps will try to mislead the Dreamer by using other words to keep him off-track. The whole round lasts 60 or 120 seconds (up to you and group’s level) and the Dreamer may guess the word at any time – the word is then placed to the fairies side (if the guess was correct) or to the imps side (if the fairies didn’t win). I usually write the words the Dreamer says on the board, as they will come useful later on.

After some rounds like this (4-6 words), the Dreamer is allowed to take off the sleeping mask and story-tell his dream using the words he guessed (the words on the board really are helpful then) – but he doesn’t know yet which words he guessed correctly and which not.

Then the Dreamer and the fairies get a point for every card in the fairies pile, when the imps get one point for every card in their pile. The Dreamer also scores one point for every word he used during his storytelling (he might actually use the words he should’ve guessed before, so he’ll score point for them as well).

Optionally you may include a trickster who changes sides as the games goes by, sometimes being a fairy, sometimes an imp – the tricksters gets points according to how well balanced the two teams were at the end of the round, gaining extra points if they managed to equally balance the two piles.

This game is extremely easy to understand and absolutely fun to play regardless the language proficiency level. It helps students to revise vocabulary, and by forcing them to react quickly (they don’t have much time to come up with nice connotations) it makes them actually start thinking in a foreign language which is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language.

What I find nice about this game is its ability to adapt to various languages, so that you may create versions for all the classes you need. It may be used as a nice warm-up or a funny cool-down, with all age groups and in any type of classes.

I hope you’ll try to give it a go – let me know if you had fun Dreaming 🙂


3 thoughts on “Bored on your summer break? Let’s make a board game!

  1. I love the “When I Dream” game idea. I was curious if you ever ran into the problem of the students ending the game confused with the meaning of the vocabulary words after hearing so many various correct and incorrect definitions?

    1. Actually no – they all know it’s a noun, and it’s a simple one: book, paper, swimming pool, champagne etc. I usually make them guess up to 5-6 words so that they don’t get confused, and when I write their answers (be they correct or incorrect) on the board it’s easier for them to narrate the dream 🙂

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