Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Cootie Catcher - Speaking Activity

Step 16
Do you struggle getting your students to talk? This is a great activity that can be used for most vocabulary and grammar you want to practice. The example here was done with colors, and fruits. At the end you'll see one done with weather and emotions (so probably A1 or A2 on the CEFR scale). You can make this more complex for higher level students as well!

You can also use this to have students review listening (you verbally give directions and they have to listen and follow them). Depending on the age level and whether they have made these before, this takes between 5 to 20 minutes.

Follow steps 1-15 from the last post (or check out the video on this post).

Step 17 Draw the points
From there follow these directions (you can click on the pictures to make them bigger). NOTE: These are the simplified directions; with higher level students, feel free to omit what you feel can go unsaid:

16. Unfold the paper; it should look like the photo on the upper left (the colors have been added to make the creases stand out).

17. Have your students locate the 8 small triangles in the middle.
Each triangle will get one drawing.  Either a sad face, a happy face, a bomb, or star. There should be 3 sad faces, 3 happy faces, one bomb and one star in total. 
Step 21 draw a category

18. Fold the four bigger triangles to the center (making a square).

19. Flip the paper over.

20. Have your students find the four squares.

21. In each square have them draw one ________ (whatever you want them to practice: countries, toys, prepositions, school supplies, etc.). In this case fruits.

Step 24 Draw a different category
22. Flip the paper over again.

23. Have them find the 8 triangles.

24. Draw (or write) 8 different things. In this case colors.

Now your students are ready to play!

Rules of the game
Question 1
General Rules
  1. ONLY ENGLISH may be spoken! Students found speaking a language other than English will lose all of their points.
  2. Students should speak in grammatically correct COMPLETE sentences to play. If their partner catches a mistake they may say, "Can you repeat that?" or, "Come again?" or anything else they have learned so that their partner can restate the sentence.
How to Play
  1. Find a partner
  2. Ask the partner a question (For lower levels, "Do you like fruit?" For higher levels, "If you could ban one of these four fruits from the world which would it be?")
    Question 2
  3. Listen to your partners answer, (For lower levels, "Yes, I like apples." For higher levels, "Oranges should be banned because they take forever to peel!")
  4. Move the cootie catcher the number of syllables/ letters their answer has (app-les: two syllables, or a-p-p-l-e-s: 6 letters)
  5. Ask them another question, (Again lower level, "What's best?" Higher level, "What color do you think is overused today?")
  6. Listen to their answer (Lower level, "Yellow is best" Higher level, "Yellow is used far too much because companies think it makes us hungry. Think about it, Burger King, McDonald's, they all use yellow")
  7. Open the
    Final Answer
    triangle flap to find a happy face, sad face, bomb or star.
  8. Switch partners and repeat.
  9. Find a new partner and repeat
  • A smiley face is worth 1 point
  • A sad face is worth -1 point
  • A bomb means you lose all your points
  • A star means you get 5 points
The purpose of the game is to get 10 points!


  • I used to put the 6 faces, star and bomb on a piece of paper. Students cut them out and then put them on the cootie catcher. This made sure they got the number of each correct.
  • Make a different scoring system (maybe the star is worth two and a sun is wroth 5)
  • Make the goal to talk to everyone in the class, not get points (in this case it is usually better with higher level students as you can practice telling fortunes or giving proverbs instead of getting points).
  • When I did something like this with my really little ones (3 years old) I pre-folded all of them.
  • Give them a pre-printed cootie catcher to start. When they have the folds "pre-written" on a piece of paper they tend to fold faster. For example the template to the right could be used to review emotions and the weather.
  • Often to start the class we brainstorm as much of the relevant vocabulary as we can think of drawing pictures on the board. This gives them a visual to look at later when they are designing their cootie catcher.
  • Bring magazines in and have them put pictures of celebrities on it. This can work with questions like, "If you had to become a celebrity which one would you become?" or just, "Who do you like?"
  • It can help to draw a sample on the board, but you risk students copying it directly so I like to draw it with some blanks (like above) to encourage creativity.
  • If you make them generic enough this is a great filler game. Just plug in whatever new grammar topic you learned and have them use it at the end of class. For example: If you just learned relative phrases ask, "What do you think is Paris Hilton's favorite weather?" "Paris Hilton, who loves to tan, likes it sunny."
Would you ever use cootie catchers in class? How do you use cootie catchers in class?


  1. Hi Carissa,

    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


    1. Thanks for letting me know Ann! I look forward to seeing the other shortlisted posts! For those interested in checking out the comments you can see the direct link here:

  2. I use a cootie catcher to teach the future through predictions.

    1. Thanks for sharing; that makes sense! Great idea :)


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