Reviewing with UNO

Page No.: 
Michael J. Crawford, Hokkaido University of Education


  • Key Words: Games, Review
  • Learner English Level: All
  • Learner Maturity Level: All
  • Preparation time: about 30 minutes
  • Activity time: 25-45 minutes

UNO is a simple and popular card game that most readers are probably familiar with. Although the game originated outside of Japan, it is now popular here and most people know at least the basic rules of play. Here is a review activity that can be used with UNO.


The UNO Game

First of all, although UNO can be played using a regular deck of playing cards, it is easier to use the deck of cards made especially for the game. The cards are readily available in Japan and come with instructions in Japanese. The basic aim of the game is to get rid of all of your cards by discarding cards which match the color and/or number of the top card in the discard pile. If you cannot discard, you must pick up a card from the stockpile and wait until it is your turn again. The first person to get rid of all of his or her cards (without forgetting to say "uno!" when down to only one card) is the winner.

The Review Activity

Before the students begin the game, give each of them a numbered question sheet which covers grammar points, vocabulary items, or topics that you would like to review. Tell them to play the game as they normally would but with one addition: Each time that they cannot play a card, they must refer to the question sheet and ask one of their classmates a question before play can continue. For an example, please refer to the sample question sheet below. Let us say that after dealing out the cards, play begins and the players are able to discard for the first two rounds of play. On the third round, however, one student, Yuki, is unable to discard. She looks at the card on top of the discard pile and sees that it is a five. Accordingly, she looks at the question sheet, finds question number five, and asks one of the other players, "You aren't afraid of snakes, are you?" After the question is answered, Yuki picks up a card from the stockpile and play continues.

Miscellaneous Points

The game works best with groups of five to seven students. With large classes, if you have several sets of cards, you can have several different games going on simultaneously.

If a student makes a mistake asking a question and it is noticed by another player, a penalty of one extra card can be assessed. In the example above, if Yuki had said "You have a pet snake, are you?" and one of the other students noticed that this was incorrect, instead of taking one card from the stockpile she would have to take two.

Students often seem to have their own "variations" on the rules for the game. I find that it is useful to let the students explain their variations, and then let the group negotiate whether or not to use them.

Sample question sheet: Reviewing tag questions

0. _______________, didn't she?
1. _______________, can't they?
2. _______________, aren't I?
3. _______________, should we?
4. _______________, won't they?
5. _______________, are you?
6. _______________, have you?
7. _______________, is it?
8. _______________, wouldn't they?
9. _______________, hadn't we?
Draw two. ________, do you?
Draw four. ________, isn't it?
Reverse. __________, have they?
Skip. _____________, did you?