Learning Phrases: "May I have..." / "Are there any other..." with White Elephant Gift Exchange
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Games are an excellent way to bring motivation and real-life application to a classroom environment. Their structure provides a safe and fun way for students to practice and explore the things they have learned. The more focused a game is on the learning objective, the better.
In-Class Game : White Elephant Gift Exchange
This game stemmed from a lesson on purchasing items as a customer, and the key expressions we will be learning are:
- "May I have...?"
- "Are there any other...?"
These expressions can be changed or modified as you see fit. The focus of this game is to know how to ask for variety and to know how to order something in a store. A real life example could be in a coffee shop: "Are there any other muffins?" or "May I have a large iced coffee?"
Required Materials :
- Whiteboard/Chalkboard - Paper
- Magnets/Tape - "Gifts"
Time Allotment :
Approximately 30 minutes.
How to Play : If you don't know what a white elephant gift exchange is, let me quickly explain. Normally, there is an equal amount of gifts to players placed in a central area, such as under a tree. Players decide who will go first, and that person will choose a gift and unwrap it. The next player in the group will now have a choice: ask for a wrapped gift, or steal a gift from another person. This is where the craziness begins. If they choose to take a new gift, the turn-taking continues as normal, but if they choose to steal a gift, the person stolen from now has nothing and must choose again whether to take a new gift or steal. You cannot steal the same gift twice in a row. The game continues until everyone has a gift.
Preparation : In order to bring this game to the classroom, I went to the grocery store and picked out an assortment of snacks. Just be sure to have a fair mix of good, average, and bad gifts to keep the game's momentum going. I like to have more gifts than players so there's less stealing involved. Once in the office, I took pictures of each snack, put it into a Word document, then cut them all out and folded them up. Here's the snack sheet I used for a class of 15 students:
- 4 super gifts (Honey Butter chips and Oreos)
- 2 good gifts (Crunky and Twix chocolate bars)
- 9 average gifts (pocky, maichew, tootsie pops, and ABC chocolates)
- 3 bad gifts (tea bag, pencil, and nothing)
Take about 5 minutes before class to draw a Christmas tree on the board and stick the folded gifts up around the tree decoratively. If you put one of the bad gifts on the star a student will always choose it.
An example of the white elephant tree with a few gifts on it.
Performance : When students enter the classroom, ask them about what you have on the board. Generate interest in the game, then reveal the large bag of snakcs. Recite the key expressions written on the board and review their context together, then explain the game briefly and do a quick demonstration with your co-teacher or a student. After the demonstration, explain the basic rules again. Write them down if needed, but the students usually pick it up quickly. Decide the turn order however you prefer (I like drawing popsicle sticks), and then let the game begin! Each student will take their turn by standing up and using one of the key phrases to either get a new gift or steal. Examples they could use: "May I have a new gift?" "May I steal ___'s gift?" "Are there any other gifts?" "Are there any other super gifts?" etc.
I played this game with three different classes, and in all three instances my students were reluctant to steal until someone revealed one of the super gifts. After that, everyone was talking and having fun. Just be sure that no one is being unfairly targeted or is feeling picked on and assure your class that everyone will be getting a gift at the end. Once everyone has a gift paper in their hands and the game is finished, you'll probably be left with a few sad students who received the bad gifts. Allow them to choose a leftover gift from the tree and they'll all be happy. Only hand out the physical snacks after the class is done. This will definitely be a lesson they remember! Pros: - Easy to prepare
- Reinforces accurate use of key expressions
- A lot of fun
Cons: - Some students may get upset when being stolen from
**Be clear it's a game and there're other good options left. If someone's not being nice they don't need to get anything.**
- Costs money (minimal)