Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

ESL Games: Calendar Party (Based on Mario Party)

No, it’s not exactly a party with chips and dip, dancing and Spin the Bottle (do people still play that? I’ve never even done it).

I’ve heard of making board games out of calendars, but I wanted to add some elements to it to make it more interesting. Calendar Party (I came up with that name on a whim) is loosely based off of Mario Party for Nintendo. I won’t explain how Mario Party works, but it’s basically a board game involving the roll of a die (or dice).

I did this game for the first time just this morning with my sixth graders. I would recommend trying this game out only after you’ve gauged the English ability of your target class

So here’s what I did:

1. I started with a blank calendar, with Sunday through Saturday written at the top:

With this you can use the calendar of any month and just write the dates in. I laminated it before putting in the dates so I can reuse it with dry-erase markers and change the calendar to a different month.

2. After your dates are in, you can make special spaces. I made plus and minus spaces that will allow players to advance or go back if they land on them. I also made a “Back to Start” space, which is usually assumed to be bad, except for in special cases (which I will explain later). Other spaces are quiz spaces. If a player lands on a quiz space, they have to answer an English-related question. I try to make them pretty simple since these are elementary school students we’re talking about, but you’re free to make the questions as easy or as difficult as you like.

3. In Mario Party, the #1 goal is to get as many stars as possible. There will be only one star on the board at a time, and the location will change every time a player/team reaches it. (In this case, I’ve decided to use an American penny, just to make the kids mesmerized before the game starts.)

So let’s say the first “star” is placed on the 31st. The rule is simple: Get to the star before someone else does. Players/Teams will take turns rolling the die and trying to advance to the star, running into plus/minus spaces and quiz spaces on the way. Once a player/team reaches the star, that counts as a point for them. This doesn’t mean the game is over (unless you’re short on time, then you can make it over). When the star is reached, a new star will appear on the board, but in a different location.

How do we decide where the new star will be? Randomize it. Write numbers 1-31 on cards, then put them all in a bag and pull one out without looking inside the bag. Whatever number that is, the new star will be in that space. It could be right in front of another player, beyond reach of everyone in a single die roll, behind a player…who knows.

4. Deciding who goes first. Players/teams will draw a number from the bag, and the order will go from the team with the highest number to the team with the lowest number. I considered the roll of a die or doing group Janken the way my students usually do, but that takes more time.

5. There’s one more rule, based on a previous version of Mario Party (Nintendo’s up to 8 so I don’t even remember which one it was): If a player/team advances and lands on a spot where another player is, those two have to battle it out! The easiest thing to do as a battle is to do Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors).

So let’s say Orange is on the 13th of the calendar. Red is behind, but rolls and moves enough spaces to land in the same spot. Red and Orange now have to play Janken. The winner gets two choices:

“SWITCH”: Choose any player on the board and switch places with them.
“BACK”: The winner rolls the die, and the loser must move back the designated number of spaces.

There are some conditions to this “shared space” rule. If a player is on a plus/minus space and advances/moves back to the same spot where someone else is, there is no battle. That’s just to reduce the amount of times teams have to play Janken, which can really slow things down if it happens too often. Also, sharing a space as a result of switching/being switched does not count as a Janken battle.

6. So where’s the English? In the quiz spaces, which I mentioned before. Also, when each player/team advances spaces, I would encourage getting everyone to recite the English date names written in the calendar (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.). You can also replace the “shared space” Janken with a quick quiz question instead.

Those are pretty much the only rules I have for now. This game is very flexible, so you can add/remove/change all kinds of things for this game. It’s still very much in “beta” version, as I literally came up with this Mario Party thing about an hour before class (though I had been thinking of doing a board game since last week). When I come up with more ideas I’ll add them. Also, if you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to let me know!


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