Flag Chain Game
Pak Man Au is a Canadian who has been teaching English for the past seven years. He is currently based in Japan as an Assistant Professor at a Japanese national university. His primary interests (in no particular order) are teaching intercultural awareness, business English, young learners, and geography. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With the recent conclusion of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japanese university freshmen students had mentioned watching both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the many nations present. Though there were nations that they were very familiar with, there were many others they had rarely or never heard of before. Many ESL students have an interest in foreign countries but knowledge of country flags is particularly lacking. I would be quite surprised when students had confused flags of neighbouring countries in one of my several geographical English lessons. This activity teaches students about the flags of various countries around the world and enhances their geographical knowledge at the same time, using a popular variant of a chain game.
Step 1: Depending on student level, prepare a color printout or printouts of various flags from around the world, with a blank space under each flag to write the name of the country.
Step 1: Practice saying the name of each country in unison while showing the class the corresponding country’s flag on the printout. Have the students write the name of the country underneath the corresponding flag.
Step 2: Have the class make teams of two or three students each.
Step 3: In each team, have the students quiz each other on the name of the country and flag.
Step 4: Similar to other chain game activities, students will say the name of a country that has a certain color in the flag. Review how to say colors depending on the level of students. The vast majority of students can say colors in English, but you may want to teach students about not-so-common colors as well. Perform a demonstration so that the students know how to play the game and are more comfortable with saying country names in English. For example, the teacher will say, “Red,” and choose a team. The team has to say the name of a country with the color red in its national flag. For example, they might say, “Canada.” After, the teacher will select another team and this process continues until a team cannot name a country any longer.
Step 5: Teams that cannot continue the chain are eliminated from the game. The last team remaining is the winner.
Step 6: Review flags and countries again with the students.
This activity is a great way for students to become more familiar with foreign countries and their corresponding flags. Especially during major global sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup, the plethora of flags seen can amass confusion amongst students. This activity is a fun way for students to increase their knowledge of countries and their flags at the same time, using English. For higher level students, you can use flags of relatively unknown countries to challenge students even more. You can also restrict the chain game to certain continents only such as Europe or Africa, for an even greater challenge. Over the course of a year, students participating in this activity regularly were able to identify the flags of foreign countries more quickly and accurately compared to the start of the academic year.
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