The 3-2-1-0! Game - Question from a reader

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If you’re subscribed to email updates, you’ll have received a copy of my favourite-ist-ist up-the-sleeve classroom activity, the 3-2-1-0! Game.

Well, I got a question about it from Sonia in Spain. She asked:

>> Hi Leslie: I really liked your teaching idea.
>> I understood the example but I got a little bit lost in
>> how the game works. My question is: after you have set a
>> time limit for each round, the students start to write a
>> sentence and when they have one they give it to you, right?
>> But if it is full of errors, do you point out the mistakes
>> for them to correct them with the error correction pattern?
>> What if the time limit is over? What if all the groups show
>> you the sentence at the same time? while you are reading one
>> sentence the others must wait: How do you do it?
>> Also, How many rounds do you usually play?
>> Thank you
>> Sonia.

This is a GREAT bunch of questions. Here is the response I sent:


Hi Sonia. Always nice to hear from readers.

Regarding the first question, I get their “Captain” to raise his or her hand (this keeps a bit more order as opposed to those “jump-the-gun” types. You can even make a penalty for “false alarms” if you like. For example, if they’re NOT ready when you get to their table, they lose a point. Or whatever…)

In relation to your question about errors, I do it different ways depending on the level of the students and whether I’ve “trained” them in the use of the error correction patterns yet. One way is to simply write the number of errors you see (this is quite difficult for them!).

The best way, yeah, is to write the error TYPE (using your system), but you don’t necessarily have to tell them WHERE the problem is. This gets them debating stuff (”Is it ‘miss the bus’ or ‘lose the bus’?” –”Definitely MISS!” –”Oh, okay…”)

If the time-limit is up and no one has produced anything, simple: no points that round. Recycle later in the activity or another day.

Teams putting their hand up at the same time is, I agree, a problem.The team who put their hand up and first get my attention, um, get my attention (even if I cheat and choose the “losing” team when it really IS at the same time). Then the next team (you have to keep an eye out), and so on…

The other students do have to wait a bit sometimes, yes. I admit, it’s a bit frenetic but that’s one of the factors that makes this game such fun. They get into it “NO! It was us! It was us!” etc. Judge’s ruling is final, though, right? :wink:

Typical number of rounds? Hmmm… Depends on all sorts of things, but half a dozen or so is usually plenty. That also keeps the game itself “fresh” for the next time you wheel it out in a pinch! :razz:


If you were wondering similar things, then I hope that clears things up for you.


Feel free to post your own comments/additions/re-mixes and/or questions about this game below…

Enjoy! :grin:


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One Response to “The 3-2-1-0! Game - Question from a reader”

  1. Natalie Natalie says:

    Hi Leslie and everyone!

    I really like this game - it looks like a quick and effective way to review vocab. I like the error correction idea, too. I already use an error correction code when marking students’ work, so this is a good consolidation of that as well.

    I also like the limits on the number of words. Too often textbooks ask students to “make a sentence using the target word”. The result? Students tend to take the easy way out and write sentences like;

    “I make lunch”
    “I catch the bus”
    “I miss the train”

    which are of limited value, in my opinion. So the idea of having a min and max word count is great!

    I teach at higher levels, so I’m thinking of adding the extra condition that the sentence the group creates needs to demonstrate something of the meaning of the target pattern. For example, last week one of the patterns we came across in class was “to exploit s/o”. The students struggled a bit with the meaning of this piece of language, so I want to review both meaning and form. My concern is that students will write something like “The company exploited its workers”, which is perfectly correct and meaningful, but there is nothing in this sentence to demonstrate that they understand the meaning of “to exploit s/o”. I’ve had this experience many times, and often when I concept check the sentence it reveals that students do not understand the meaning of the target pattern, even though it might look like it on the surface.

    Maybe then, a quick concept check of each sentence could be added to the game. Any thoughts on this? Or, as I said above, adding the requirement that the sentence needs to demonstrate the meaning of the target pattern. This could get messy, though. It could take some of the fun out of it too. LOL!

    Thoughts? Suggestions?



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