This is a great game for upper elementary school students (and possibly younger JHS students, depending on the size and personality of the class), and requires very little prep. The goal is to get the kids to hear subtle sound differences that don’t exist in Japanese, for example, “cut” vs. “cat.”

First, teach the kids a few of these word pairs (pictures help), and try to get them to hear the subtle differences. The words I used were cat/cut, fit/feet, boat/bot (as in robot), but you can use anything.

The kids pair off. Then they make 2 lines, one along either side of the room, facing each other (ie one partner in one line, the other partner in the other, so every kid should be directly across from and facing their partner).

Assign one line one half of the words (cat, fit, boat) and the other line the other words (cut, feet, bot). Each word has an accompanying gesture. You can make up your own. For example, for “cat” the students have to kneel on the ground and act like a cat. For “fit” they have to strike a body-builder pose and flex their muscles.

Once the kids understand the words and the gestures, the game begins. You say one of the words (“fit!”). The kids in the “fit” line then have to run to their partner and do that gesture. The slowest pair is out!  (I usually wait until after the first 3 or 4 words before I start calling kids out, so no one gets out on the first try). Keep going, eliminating pairs until you have a winner.

Because this game involves a lot of running around, you’ll want to be careful to keep good control over the class! They can get really into the game!