Easy-to-teach, easy-to-learn educational resources for young children.

Elimination games with young learners

One Potato, Two Potatoes

♫ One potato, two potatoes… ♫

Many of us remember playing elimination games like Musical Chairs and Simon Says when we were young. These are games where you start with a group, and each round, one or more players is “out” and eliminated from the game. As you get closer and closer to the end of the game, the tension builds, and it can be a lot of fun (and beneficial for young learners).

However, for some very young learners, these kinds of elimination games can be very upsetting. It’s not so much that all of the kids want to win, but they want to keep playing! They don’t want to be removed from the group, and that’s perfectly understandable.

There are a few ways to handle this.

1) Demonstrate how to “lose” positively

If you do play a game where participants get eliminated, be sure, as the leader, to eliminate yourself first. When you are “out” have fun with it! Say in a fun, exaggerated way, “Oh no!” and laugh. You’re showing the students that this game is just for fun. Young learners will see you having fun with it, and so when they are “out”, they won’t take it too hard.

2) Make getting “out” fun
When a child does get eliminated in the game, give her a high five, let her sit in a special chair, make a silly noise, maybe even give her a sticker. When you make getting eliminated from the game fun, everyone has a good time.  In the video below, note how much fun the kids who are removed from the game are having.


3) Eliminate the elimination

For very young learners, often there is no need to have a winner or any sense of competition to make the activity fun. In trying to make games fun and interesting for young learners, we often add an element of competition when no competition is needed. You can play the same games without anyone ever being “out”. This is especially true for kindergarten and preschool students who usually enjoy playing the game regardless of whether anybody wins or loses. For example, you don’t have to remove a chair each round when you play Musical Chairs. Try playing non-competitive Musical Chairs:

In this version of Musical Chairs, no students are ever “out”. Set out enough chairs for each student in the class. Under each chair, place a picture card of some vocabulary you are practicing. As the music plays, students march around the chairs, singing along. When the teacher stops the music, everyone sits down. The teacher asks each of the students one by one, “What’s under your chair?” The students take the picture cards from under their chairs and say, “It’s a dog/cat/pencil/hat/etc.,” while doing the gesture for that word. Place the cards back under the chairs and start the music again. Try to stop the music so that each player gets to sit in each chair.

This kind of thinking extends to all kinds of activities with young learners. For example, if you play BINGO with younger learners, you can celebrate each time someone gets BINGO, and then have a big celebration when everyone has gotten BINGO. You celebrate getting BINGO rather than just celebrating the first person to get BINGO. For pre-elementary school students, that element of competition just isn’t necessary.

Keeping these ideas in mind when doing activities where participants are traditionally eliminated can save some hurt feelings and help keep classes fun and positive. We’d love to hear your ideas, too!

This entry was posted in Teaching Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

  • http://www.bryantenglish.com Tony Bryant

    When I play elimination games I like to have a forfeit instead of being out!

    Could be they have to do a cha cha cha or something silly like that!

  • Katie

    It might be fun to try this version of musical chairs combined with charades. Each student takes turns making the others guess what’s under their chair when they act it out.

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Great idea, Katie!! We’ll have to try it.

  • http://Facebook Maricris

    I want to try your brilliant ideas and suggestions soon!

  • ibrohim

    i am going to teach five years old students. your sources are very useful. thank you so much. you give me some more ideas.

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Thank you! We’re glad you are able to find some useful information. Good luck with your teaching!

  • Renata

    I’ve just began to teach and these tips are helping me a lot!!! I don’t know what I would do without your help! Thanks!!!

  • Anna

    We like to play another Musical Chairs version. In the Cooperative Musical Chairs version a chair is removed in each round but no students are ever “out” either. They have to share the chairs: sitting one next to the other in the same chair, one over another… It’s very funny!

  • vin

    that was fantastic

  • Junko

    The idea of eliminating the elimination is fascinating!
    I have always have difficulty in doing musical chairs, as one of my class is very small ( four children). Now we can enjoy the game, thank you!

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Great, Junko!! We hope your students have a fun time playing. It’s one of our favorite classroom games. 🙂

  • detty

    You are great!!!

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Awww…thanks, detty!

  • bety garduza

    Thanks I love your tips , they are helping me very much.

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Thanks, Bety!! We’re glad that you find them useful. 🙂

  • Eleanor

    Great ideas! Thanks guys! I feel like I know you for ages

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Thanks, Eleanor. We’re happy you are our friend. 🙂

  • ruben

    In my version of Musical chairs no chair is removed after each stop. Instead it’s always me who get eliminated. I place a flash card under the chairs with the picture face down, that way it’s always the Ss who say the vocabulary or target language.

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      That’s another great variation, Ruben! Putting the cards under the chairs and having students move around gives them a chance to practice the vocabulary words over and over again! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Thomas Robertson

    If there are two adults, you can have two games going on at the same time. If a child is eliminated from one game, that child transfers to the other game.
    If you need a winner, then the winner will be the player who transfers the fewest times.

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Nice variation, Thomas. Thanks for sharing!

  • myriam

    Congratulations to all team, I am from México, I have my first grandson and he is 10 months old, He enjoys a lot to hear your songs and I sing with him, Your songs, the music, your instructions are great ! this help to much to the children in their self-esteem and give so much happiness. Thank you very much for your wounderful vibrations to all children and everybody in the world. Love, God bless you and sorry if my English is not too good, I am learning with you ! <3 <3 <3

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Hello, Myriam.
      Thank you for your lovely message. We’re so happy to hear that your grandson enjoys our songs. We hope you have a nice time singing together. Please give him a hug from us. ❤

  • Elena

    It is a great idea, over all when the students are very young (2-3 years old). I will try it next course. Thank you very much for your help.

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Great, Elena! Let us know how it goes. 🙂

  • Emma

    I like to play games where the person who is ‘out’ has to answer a question before giving them a high five when they answer and letting the join back in the game!

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Great idea, Emma! We’ll give it a try. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Migue

    Hi guys I’m form Argentina. I teach English to children as foreing language, your ideas have

    been very very helpful to me, Thanks a lot!!

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Yeah!! We’re happy you like them, @disqus_zmVXbUhDwj:disqus! Sending you our best from Seattle, USA. 🙂

  • Raja Boum

    thank you so much for your ideas, i like every thing you do. and i have tried many of them in my lessons and they were so useful and timesaving…next time i’ll try this one . i’m afraid it may be difficult and noisy because i have crowded classes , but i’ll see…

  • Raja Boum

    you should have been here when my classes first watched your video yes, i can! animal song. they quickly learnt the names of the animals, and now every one of them can say what he can do without mistakes. they love “gorilla! can you swim?

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      Thank you so much for your message, @rajaboum:disqus! We’re happy to hear that the kids are having so much fun while learning. Good luck with trying some of these games. Hopefully the kids will enjoy them. 🙂

  • Marianna

    Nowadays all our life based on competition and this supplant kindness and mercy. I vote for peace and support! Thanks for article;)

    • http://www.supersimplelearning.com/ Super Simple Learning

      We agree, sometimes it’s nice to let go of the competition and just have fun together! 🙂

  • jxjan

    What I do with musical chairs is to remove one chair, and when the music stops either everyone has to ask that one student the TL i.e what’s your name, or I ask the student that. Then when the music restarts the student rejoins. Depends on class size sometimes I remove 2-3 chairs and then the students that don’t have a chair to sit on meet in the middle and greet each other or say the TL together.