Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fish Bowl

I love games. Not only are games fun, but they help to build relationships. Being relational is a key aspect of what I believe it means to be human.  Therefore, I want students to know the importance of relationships. For this reason, I consistently strive to create scenarios for my students to grow in their friendships with one another. One way to do so is through games, like Fish Bowl.


Create a list of 30-40 nouns. I write down people, places, and events that I have taught the students. Cut the list up so that each term is on its own slip of paper. Place the slips of paper in a "fish bowl"--I use a Mexican tortilla basket...don't ask...

Divide the class into 2 teams. If you have an even number of students, it's great to move the desks to the walls, and have students move their chairs to form a circle in the middle of the room. Teammates sit every other chair, so that each student has an opponent on each side of them. If you have an odd number of students, placing the teams on opposite sides facing each other might be the way to go.


Students have 30 seconds to get their team to guess as many terms as they can from the "fish bowl". When a teammate guesses the term correctly, they throw the slip of paper to the ground and grab a new one. When the time is up, and the buzzer sounds, the student keeps any of the slips the team got right, and returns the slip that was in his/her hand without revealing what it was. Then, a player on the other team does the same thing. Play continues back and forth between teams until all terms have been guessed. This signifies the end of the round.

 So, how do students get their teammates to guess the terms on the slips of paper? Well, it depends. The game consists of four rounds, but each round requires clue givers to act differently to get their team to guess the terms.

ROUND ONE: Students can say as many words that they can think of to get their teammates to guess the term. They can't say any word or part of a word that is written on the paper and they can't say "it starts with" or "rhymes with". So for instance, if the term is Columbia River a student might say, "a body of water that flows into the Pacific Ocean, it has a lot of salmon...it was explored by Lewis and Clark." But they could not say "a river that flows..." or "it starts with a C" or "it rhymes with Pholumbia Liver." Any clue giver who says part of the word simply returns it to the fish bowl without earning a point.

ROUND TWO: Students can only say ONE word. So, for instance, for the Columbia River, they might say "salmon" or "waterway".  Any clue giver who says more than one word must return the term to fish bowl.

ROUND THREE: Charades. Students must act out silently clues to get their teammates to guess the term correctly. For example, for the the Columbia River, they might act like they are fishing or canoeing. They might make a river-flowing motion with their arm. The key is that they can't talk or make sounds of any kind.

ROUND FOUR: Students must get their team to guess the term by using sound effects. This gets tough and a bit insane at times. There are very few ways to make accurate sound effects for a lot of the terms, and it's even harder to think of them on the spot. The hope is that students will have memorized most of the words that are in the fish bowl and will be able to guess more easily.


At the end of each round tally up the total number of terms correctly named by each team. The winner is the one who, at the end of the last round, has correctly named the most terms.

1. Get the desks out of the way. 
2. Use an online stopwatch that everyone can see.
3. Model an example before each round.
4. Be ready to read the terms quietly to your lower readers/ESL students as needed.
5. Tally the scores at the end of each round. 
6. Allow plenty of time to play--about 15 minutes per round. (I should confess--I usually end up only playing through round three).
7. Have fun!