- Keywords: Warmer, tired students, energy, the brain
- Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and higher
- Learner maturity: Junior high and higher
- Preparation time: None
- Activity time: 10 minutes
- Materials: Whiteboard, pens
The 123 Game combines basic language production with simple motor skills and rests on the belief that the left and right brain hemispheres control different processes and actions. It ties in with lessons on the mind or thinking, but is perhaps best used as a non-specific warmer or mid-lesson distractor that should generate a positive response from even the most listless learner. Since it requires people to stand while completing quick word-action sequences, it encourages blood circulation, oxygenates the body, and is designed to leave participants energized. I have used it in business training workshops to add levity to overly-serious executive types just as I have in university classes. With a reduced or removed focus on actual brain theory, it works well with young learners too.
No preparation is required, provided you can draw something resembling a head and a brain labelled left and right. If not, you can always use a printed picture. Personally, I find it best to draw my own as it affords a little extra language practice—possibly with adverbs and modals—and adds a touch of anticipation.
Step 1: Draw a large circle on the board (a head) with a small semi-circle at the base (a nose) as seen from above. Ask the class to guess what you’ve drawn. Accept any answers but don’t confirm anything yet. Draw two more semi-circles on the left and right sides (ears). You should have something your students recognise as the top of a head. These stages can be sped up or slowed down as desired. Quick is probably best.
Step 2: Draw a brain in the middle of your circle and divide it in two. Label the left and right halves L and R. Establish the meaning and elicit anything known about the brain’s left and right sides.
Step 3: Explain that the brain’s left side deals with things like logic, language, and order. Write a number 1 above the head in the 12 o’clock position, a number 2 down to the right, at 4 o’clock, and a number 3 to the left, at 8 o’clock. Draw an arrow clockwise from 1 to 2 around to 3 and back up to 1. Say you want to practice a quick left-brain activity.
Step 4: Ask students to stand. Select a volunteer to help model this sequence:
Pair students and practice this at speed for 15-20 seconds. Keep everyone standing afterward.
Step 5: Say you want to add some right-brain creativity. Cross out the 2 on the board and write clap. A handclap will now replace saying “Two.” Model this:
Have students practice in pairs for 25-30 seconds. Stay standing when finished.
Step 6: Say you will add one final level of difficulty. Cross out the number 3 and write click. Demonstrate clicking your thumbs and index fingers on both hands and model this sequence:
Allow 30-45 seconds practice. Congratulate everyone and ask them to be seated.
Step 7: Finish by explaining that in this lesson, you will try to strengthen the brain processes used in language-learning by combining left-brain vocabulary and grammar with right-brain creative role-plays and speaking practice.
The science behind the 123 game is admittedly over-simplified. Speech creation resides largely in the left hemisphere whereas cognitive processes required to interpret language are primarily on the right. We rely on both sides functioning together to communicate. This activity’s purpose, however, is to raise energy levels, invigorate the lesson atmosphere, and have fun, rather than to explore the complicated realm of neuroscience. As a quick aid to class management, it is easy to use with a range of learners and levels. Variations on clapping and clicking are, of course, possible too.