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Gorilla!

author: Caleb Zimmerman
level: Elementary
target_English: any vocabulary words
big_small: Small Groups

This is a variation of the matching memory game where students take turn turning over pairs of cards to try make a match. this game works best for groups of 5-10 and for grades 1-4

1. Put one desk at the back of the class, and push all the others to the side of the room.

2. All the students place their hands on the one desk at the back of the class.

3. On top of the desk is two identical sets of about eight vocabulary words. (eg: 2 fire fighters, 2 police officers, 2 doctors, 2 cooks, etc.) The cards are turned upside-down.

4. The first students turns over a card and everyone chants the English word 3 times in unison. Then the student tries to find the card's match. the students again chant the word on the turned over card. If the student gets a match, the cards stay turned right-side-up. if they are not a match, they get turned back over.

5. The second student does the same, and the third, and so on...

6. Several cards have a picture of an angry gorilla on them. If a student turns over a gorilla card, you yell out gorilla and all the students run to the front of the room. If they make it to the blackboard before you catch them, they are safe. If you catch a student, they have to sit out for one round. When the game is about to end, change the rule so that caught students also become gorillas.


-this game can also be simplified as a great way to trick students into drilling flashcards. Forget the matching game and simply go through your stack of flashcards having the students repeat them after you. If the gorilla card comes up, they get chased to the blackboard. This simple version is my students favorite game.

- this game works best if you really get into your role as a gorilla and act furious angry if all the students make it to the board before you can catch them.

- of course you can change the key word to anything that matches what flashcards you happen to have available. I've done lion, spider, snake, angry green-peas, giant cockroach, and dentist, but the students seem to like the gorilla the best.


Caleb Zimmerman




Readers' Comments

Fantastic. I have never seen my 4th graders so excited. They asked to play it at least 6 times! It has been the best way to get them to practice months which is usually a challenge. Thank you so much!

Katie  in  Shikamachi


Readers' Comments

I found that in a regular sized class, the kids tend to get hurt when running for the blackboard. The push each other and squish each other, especially as the game gets more exciting. It was really fun to play, but I've decided no longer to use it in my classes- too much potential for serious injury. -  Muriah Summer

( As with any of the running games, make sure you can control the class before you start, and calm them down if they get a bit too rough! I've used this game with 80+ kids in a normal classroom. Instead of running for the board, I'm at the front and they are at the back. I hold up a flashcard and they say the appropriate question or answer ( e.g. "Do you like fish?" or whatever), then when it's the Gorilla, we swap places, I run to the back and they run to the front. Then we continue changing places each time the gorilla appears. This helps keep down the casualties! - Richard )



Readers' Comments

This game is the 'best seller' in my classrooms- from pre-school to 6th grade!  I changed some things, like the name is angry monkey, and we try and go as fast as possible through the vocab rather than do matching, and their retention of the vocab after is surprising!  2 minutes into the game and they jump every time a card is flipped!  (I use this monkey:  http://www.noeticart.com/clipart/monkeyc.gif)

I start as the angry monkey, but whomever I tag is the next.  So for 'initiation,' from the old angry monkey to the new (passing the torch, if you will) we do an angry monkey dance, which is just basically a count to three and then standing in place pounding our chest and roaring.  The class especially loves this show, even the shy ones if I do it with them, then they rush back to their spots to keep playing.  We end the class by everyone doing the angry monkey dance (even the Sensei!)

Also, I am constantly changing the vocab to recent stuff we've learned, filtering out the words they know well after practice.  Easy and effective!

For pre-school, we changed the name to 'Happy Monkey' after I found out a couple of the 2 and 3 year olds were scared.  For happy monkey if there is a monkey, we all stand up and skip in a circle chanting happy monkey three times, then sit down in our same spot. I've never had such a requested game!!  Thank you!! 


 Katherine in Wakayama






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