Socially Distanced/Online/Hybrid Input Games

They say it’s all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out, which absolutely cannot happen with any of these games because your Little Darlings will be far away from nearby students! If you’re teaching right now behind a mask and with your kiddos spaced 6 feet apart, here’s a round up of some of my favorite games that have been working well in my Socially Distanced Classroom. And while I am not teaching my Little Darlings in person and digitally at the same time, I’ve included suggestions to adapt them to 100% online synchronous AND Hybrid, kiddos at home and in person. There’s something for everyone!

At a time like this, why even bother playing games? Because when it’s 2020 and the whole world feels upside down, and everything is harder than it needs to be, sometimes having fun with my Little Darlings is exactly when I need to remember why I’m working so hard. And while education is super hard for teachers right now, we can’t forget it’s really rough for our students too…they need levity and laughter (and so do we!) And you know me…since I’m all about loading up my Little Darlings with Comprehensible Input, you better believe all my favorite games do exactly that!


The Low Down: POP UP has got to be one of my all time favorite games…there’s ZERO prep, differentiation and my kiddos get really into it! Basically you divide the class into 2 teams (they don’t even need to move, just draw an imaginary line down the classroom) and assign a number to each student. You say a sentence slowly and then call a number, the students with that number race to stand up and translate the sentence into English. Here are the complete instructions with a video.

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: None needed! If your students are already spaced 6 feet apart, then you’re ready go play.

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: I’ve been told this works! Someone (I can’t remember who, if it was you who suggested it, please let me know so I can credit you!) suggested playing this online where all students type the translation into the chat, but only send it if their number is called. I LOVE THIS IDEA! And…if you’ve got kiddos in person and online, I think as long as you match up in person kiddos and online kiddos with the same number, it will work. The in person kiddos jump up and holler out their translation, the online kiddos type their response in the chat box (Or alternately, you could instruct the online kiddos to turn their cameras off and if you call their number they have to turn their camera on and holler out their answer.)

Art Memory

The Low Down: Teacher projects a picture or piece of art that is culturally significant. Students have a few minutes to silently study the image and memorize the details. After the teacher removes the image, students take a “quiz” (just for fun!) over the details. The teacher gives input when asking the questions slowly and comprehensibly, then after the quiz, students “grade” their work, and the teacher gives even more input answering the questions and describing the picture. Think Picture Talk with points! Here are the complete instructions.

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: In the real game, students trade their quizzes with a partner to “grade”. If you’re worried about the germs, they can just grade their own.

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: I played this with Chinese Teachers over Zoom a few weekends ago during the International TCI Conference and it was a lot of fun! They all wrote their answers on a piece of paper and I shared my screen with the image. I stopped sharing while they listened to my questions and jotted down their answers. I resumed sharing while we “corrected” the quiz together. I can’t see why this wouldn’t work to play with online students and in person students at the same time. Try it out!

Reading Reverse Charades:

The Low Down: This is an adaptation of La Maestra Loca’s Backwards Charades. Bascially you divide the class into 2 teams, and one student from each team faces the class, with their backs to the screen. (If you’re not allowed to have students move away from their desk, sadly this game isn’t for you!) The teacher projects a statement on the board that all the students act out, while the kids up front watch the charades, peruse the list of possible statements and make their guess. Here is the the complete blog post.

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: None, other than they’re acting from their carefully measured space, 6 feet away from their amigos.

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: I haven’t tried it, but I think it would TOTALLY work to have the online kids to watch the class acting (Set up the camera so they can’t see the board). Send the online kiddos the complete list of possibilities and they could take turn guessing, based on the class’s acting.

¿Cierto o Falso?

The Low Down: So simple…the teacher writes out a bunch of statements and the Little Darlings guess if it’s true or false. They could be fascinating facts: A snail can sleep for 3 yearsIs that true or false? or about you: Mrs. Chase kissed a famous person….is that true or false? or about anything else. As the teachers project the statements, students read, guess and record True or False on their paper. Then, students “grade” their answers and this is where the flood of input comes. It sounds like this (in your target language): Who thinks Mrs. Chase kissed a famous person? (Students raise hands) Who thinks False, that’s not true, Mrs. Chase did not kiss a famous person. (Students raise hands) You’re right, kiddos, that one is FALSE, I never kissed a famous person. (And of course, if it’s true, tell them the whole story…in slow and comprehensible language!) THEN, it’s super fun to play with statements about each student…the complete instructions are here!

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: None, really. In the real game, students trade their quizzes with a partner to “grade”, but they can just grade their own and keep their germs to themselves.

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: I played this one with my new Chinese Teacher friends a few weeks ago at the online conference. They recorded their answers on a piece of paper, then to “grade” I said, Clap your hands if you think it is true! Who thinks AnneMarie has 11 toes? Put both hands in the air if you think Nope! That can’t be true. Who thinks that is False, AnneMarie does not have 11 toes? (I think I secretly disappointed them with the truth…just the boring 10 toes.)

20 Questions

The Low Down: You know 20 questions, but with a few changes to make it an input game. Project the slide (that is translated into Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, German, Latin, Russian, Japanese and English… there’s something for everyone!), the teacher thinks of the answer and students (or pairs or groups) use the slide to ask a question. The teacher responds Yes or No, and summarizes all the previously learned clues in slow and comprehensible language. The full instructions, a video and all the slides are available here!

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: I’ve got tiny little classes this year, so we just play every man for himself…but in bigger classes if you’re comfortable with them working together, from a distances, go for it!

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: We played this last Spring during our online learning. I projected the slide and allowed anyone to turn on the mic to ask a question. Everyone else was listening and at any point could type their guess into the chat. First person to write the winning guess into the chat was our winner. If you’ve got in person kids and online kids you could take an in person question and respond, then take an online question and respond and go back and forth.

¿Cómo se dice? How do you say?

The Low Down: This one is to model circumlocution and give them lots of listening input. Divide the class into teams, the teacher describes a bunch of random words in slow and comprehensible language (things like: fireplace, jeep, mixing bowl, dog leash) while students listen and guess in English the words. Each team has 1 minute to guess as many words as they can before the teacher moves on to the next team. Here are the instructions, a video and a link for the random words.

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: None, really! Since My classes are so small this year, I play in 2 teams rather than 3. Students stay in their seats and holler out their answer. In the normal game, I hand the paper to the team to keep track of their points. Nowadays I just set the guessed papered aside in a pile (so I’m the only one touching them) for each team.

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: If you’ve got both online and in person classes, put all your online kids together on one team. Describe words to them for one minute, then to the in person kids for one minute, then back to the online kiddos. If you’re totally digital, divide the class into 2 groups, and then describe for 1 minute. The kids on team A type their guesses into the chat and the teacher moves to a new word once they guess it. Then move to Team B. Make sure they understand to only guess when it is their team’s turn…if they’re not paying attention and guess for the wrong team, that team gets the point anyway!

Quick Draw:

The Low Down: Students read a story or list of sentences. Then they face their partner and illustrate one of the sentences, while the teacher counts down from 20. At 3-2-1 the students reveal their illustrations to their partner, and they race to find the sentence on the list and they say it faster than their partner. Here are the full instructions.

Adaptations for the Socially Distanced Classroom: This year they’re sitting a bit farther away from their partner, but it’s working just fine. In order to prevent students from sharing my mini whiteboards, I gave every student a page protector with a neon paper inside, which they keep in their binder and they use their own dry erase marker. For students who don’t have a marker, they can take one of mine and sanitize it before using it. Since I am not making copies this year, I just project all the statements, rather than giving them a paper copy.

Suggestions for Online/ Synchronous Teaching: Elicia Cárdenas, from the Deskless Classroom Blog adapted this one last Spring to use with her middle schoolers. Here are her instructions!

Parejas (Memory):

The Low Down: Basically it’s just a whole class memory game. It was one of my low-tech favorites in the Good Ol PrePandemic days and here’s the high-tech refresh with instructions (and a video!) to play it synchronously if you’re online or teaching hybrid.

What about the winners?!

In a normal year, students get a stamp on their stamp sheet for winning a game. This year I have ClassDojo set up and bookmarked at the top of my screen. Each time we have a winner, their little monster gets a point:

At the end of the semester, I add in their winning points into my smallest “practice” category of the gradebook. It really doesn’t change their overall grade more than by a percent or so…but they don’t know that. And I’m not telling.

OR…another alternative, which is super fun, is Aplausos Especiales, or Special Applauses. It’s become one of our most beloved classroom traditions and they make us laugh every time! There are a bunch of different ones on the post, but here’s my favorite one, El aplauso de la mosca:

Hope you found something useful that you’re excited about trying! And if you’re so inclined, at the bottom of this page is a place to subscribe to this blogcito. I’d love for you to join the party 🙂

And just incase you need the reminder (I definitely need the reminder!):

Be kind to yourselves!


  1. YES on this comment line – “we can’t forget it’s really rough for our students too…they need levity and laughter.” I have been spending a lot of time feeling sorry for myself lately because I’m struggling to find joy in our fully virtual/synchronous model. A good reminder that if I don’t model/create the joy, my students are not going to find it themselves. This post has re-motivated me to adapt some favorite face-to-face games for Zoom…starting with “Pop Up” in the following way –
    * I will use “Wheel Decide” (free virtual spinner extension) with student names. The two teams will be alphabetical by 1st name in a way that splits the class evenly.
    * After giving the prompt and an appropriate amount of time to compose a response, I will ask EVERY student to simultaneously post their answer in the chat, which will come just to me (so no one feels embarrassed about a partial answer).
    * The “Wheel Decide” (which I can share on my screen) will determine which student response I’ll look at.
    * I will be VERY generous with giving the point – if the student even wrote SOMETHING in the right ballpark, the point is earned!

    Thank you for the push to embrace the fun again!


    1. That sounds like a great adaptation! Please let me know how it goes… there’s joy to be found, we just have to look a bit harder this year!


  2. Gracias. You have once again shared a treasure trove of stuff to digest, share and apply. It is so wonderful to have a place to start with quality materials rather than have to make stuff from scratch. Thank you for sharing!


  3. Thanks for your wonderful game ideas and reminder that a priority on fun is important these days!!
    Here’s another idea for you to try:
    It’s a variation on your backward charade game and I played it today with my class. It concentrates on verb conjugation, which I know isn’t everyone’s thing, but my students need to know it well to pass their placement exam into high school Spanish.
    Set up:
    1. Divide students into groups of three. Each student has a whiteboard and marker.
    2. Give each member of the group a list of about 10 sentences. I used the same verbs in each group member’s list, but different conjugations. (One had “Nadamos en la piscina”, another had “Nado en el lago”.
    3. Put pictures of the verbs you used in their sentences, labeled with the infinitive form, on the board. (This is optional, but it definitely helped my struggling students be successful).
    1. Group member #1 chooses a sentence from their list. They act out the sentence, making sure to do the verb action AND the subject action (pointing to themselves if the verb is in the “yo” form.)
    2. The other two group members watch the action and then write the verb in the correctly conjugated form on their white board.
    3. Group member #1 checks their answers with their written sentence. Then member #2 acts one out, etc.
    This worked really well for my 7th graders. They had to concentrate on using the correct form and really think about the endings, but it didn’t have the feel of a grammar exercises. I liked having the guessers write on the board instead of saying the sentence to their teammates. I could easily see how kids were doing and give feedback, and it kept both guessers engaged. Plus they didn’t have to shout to their 6 feet away group members : ). I told them the points were for accuracy, not speed, so both guessers could get a point each round.
    If you need further clarification, I’m happy to do that!


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