Thursday, May 29, 2014


Jenga in the classroom

Everyone loves playing Jenga. If you watch the video below even cats fall victim to this addicting game! 

How can we take this fun game and make it educational?

There are several ways!

To start: I usually play Jenga with students AT LEAST in groups of two. This way they can help one another. Remember that Jenga technically can be played with unlimited players, but in order to keep students involved I suggest no more then 4 groups.

1. Make it part of a review game.
  • Divide your class into two-four teams.
  • Have students alternate coming to the front of the class
  • Ask a review question. 
  • The first student to answer the question correctly wins two point for their team
  • Then comes the Jenga... there's a few ways to do this
    • They can choose if they want to pull a block, or have the other team pull a block
    • They can pull a block, if they get the answer right then the opposition has to put the block on the top. If they got the answer wrong their team has to put the block on the top.
    • You can make it point based by assigning a point value to the blocks gets one point, but if you make the tower tumble your team loses 10 points!
    • Alternatively, you can just make it so the first team to make the tower fall loses.
2. Make it conversational
  • Put conversation questions on the Jenga blocks. 
    • You can use a label maker to do this
    • The blocks are 1.5 × 2.5 × 7.5, so you can also use labels you can print from the computer.
    • Alternatively, you can write directly on the block in sharpie (or other permanent marker). Some teachers use pencil so they can reuse the blocks later.
  • Each time a student pulls the block they need to answer the question AND ask it to someone else.
    • Depending on the level these can be easy questions (what's your favorite food) or harder questions (If you met God tomorrow what three questions would you ask and why?)
    • An alternative would be to make this similar to truth or dare. Have a "dare" on one side, and a "truth" on the other. If the student doesn't want to answer the question they can do the dare. Keep them English related! Have them mime a vocabulary word, or sing a verse of their favorite English song.
Photo by Edgarc2
3. Use it for vocabulary practice
  •  Start a story and then have a child pull the block. 
  • Using the word they pull they have to continue the story. 
  • If the tower falls they need to quickly end the story
    • While you are telling the story have the whole class write their own version using the blocks pulled. See how many different stories you get at the end!
    • This is GREAT with transition words (First, Then, After, Thus, etc.)
4.  Make it a station / center!
If you use stations   (or centers) in the classroom, I think you can easily see how this would be a great station for small groups of students.
  • If you want to be able to use one Jenga game with multiple subjects you can have each of the blocks have a number. This number can correspond to a worksheet that the students have with different questions / vocabulary words.
  • Students work together to try to answer as many questions as they can!
    •  An alternative to questions is to have them work with grammar. For example, if you were working on tag questions perhaps you would write out things like, "Do you own a car?- Negative" and students would need to change it to, "You don't own a car, do you?"
5. For pronunciation
Photo By:  jam343

  • If you notice your students are  struggling with some minimal pairs or a tricky sound have this game focus on that!
6. Treat it like science!
  • There's a great freebie on TPT using Jenga to help with inference. This idea is great to help students with expressing their opinions, and thoughts. 
    • Because I know this, I think this will happen.
    • Also great to have students practice making predictions! 
7. Alphabet Jenga
  • This isn't the most academic Jenga, but it is easy and fun. Have students randomly select a category (food, sports, countries, clothing, verbs, animals etc.).
    • I normally put them in pairs and they can help their partner.
  • When they pull a block they need to say a word in that category with their letter.
    • Letters can go in turn (A first, then B, then C, etc.)
    • Letters can be written on the block. 
      • In this case it can be fun to have the letters written on the square outside that students can see. This way they have some time to think of a word before they select it. They also need to think about location as well as which letters are easier.
  • I tend to use the game like this for fast finishers, or if I am having a game day in the class. It could be used with stations / centers for vocabulary practice.  
Make any of these games even more fun by using a GIANT jenga set. Simply ask parents / students for donations of empty "fridge boxes" normally filled with soda. When you get enough (27-30 boxes) you can cover them with wrapping paper, or to try to mimic the appearance of the original Jenga set use contact paper designed to look like wood! Check out LockInLoaded's Blog for a sample of the finished product. Students will love playing with a big set, and if you use any of the games listed above they'll still be learning!

There you go seven different ways to use Jenga in the classroom! As you can see many of these ideas could be used for math, science, social studies or any other class! A lot of these are perfect for the end of the year, so I hope you enjoy yourselves!


  1. Thank You so much for this idea!!!! I think I'm gonna use it :D // greeting from Chile

    1. Awesome! Let me know how it works for you :)

    2. I tried last semester with my primary school students and they really loved it .... now I used as much as possible and we practice vocab, spelling, etc..... I highly recommend it :D

  2. Some great ideas here. Thank you for sharing them. I can't wait to try the conversational and vocabulary games with my ESL class.


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