3-2-1 Guessing Game

John Alexander, Kanda University of International Studies

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Speaking, listening, writing
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: High school and above
  • Preparation time: 20-30 minutes
  • Activity time: 60 minutes
  • Materials: Slides (See Preparation), paper, notecards

The 3-2-1 guessing game is an activity in which students guess an object, person, place, etc. related to a particular topic based on a series of clues that move from general to specific. The more specific the clues become, the fewer points received. Student groups work together to create clues for the game. The aim of this game is to help students improve their descriptive skills through speaking, writing, and collaboration.



Step 1: Choose a topic related to class content and write down different answers for students to guess. See Appendix for examples from a “Japan” unit.

Step 2: For each answer, create three descriptive clues, with each clue being more specific than the previous clue.

Step 3: Create a slideshow with the clues on one slide and the answer on the next. Be sure to animate the slides so that the general clue appears first, followed by the more specific clue, and ending with the most specific clue.



Step 1: Create pairs or groups. Explain to students that they are playing a guessing game about your chosen topic.

Step 2: Explain the rules using an example slide (see Appendix). Students have three clues to guess the answer and they can only guess once per slide. Each clue will be more specific or provide more details than the previous clue. If the group guesses the answer based on the first clue, they get 3 points. If the group guesses the answer based on the second clue, they get 2 points. If the group guesses the answer based on the third clue, they get 1 point.

Step 3: Go through the slideshow revealing one clue at a time, giving students a short time to discuss possible answers after each clue. When the group wants to answer, they write down their guess and clue number on paper. After all clues are read, each group reveals their guess. If the group is correct, they add the points to their paper.

Step 4: Groups keep track of their own point totals. Add up the scores at the end to find the winner.

Step 5: Pass out five (or more) notecards to each group. Tell groups to work together to create a set of clue cards based on the class/unit topic. It is helpful to tell the students that they can only make one card at a time, so they must collaborate creating the clues. If groups finish quickly, have them make additional cards.

Step 6: Tell the groups to exchange sets of cards and play within their group. One member selects a card, reads each clue, and the students guess. The student reading the card should give the others time to think after reading each clue. Once the answer is guessed correctly, a different member selects a card and the process is repeated.

Step 7: After a group is finished with a set, swap the sets with another group so that the students can play the game multiple times with the different student-generated sets.



This fun activity helps students create descriptions, practice various skills, and work together. The students enjoy playing the game, especially with the cards that their classmates created. It is adaptable and can be used as a fun warm-up activity, topic introduction/review, or descriptive writing practice for creating complex sentences using relative clauses.



The appendix is available below.