A Chairway to Heaven
In our view, the best classroom games for kids require no or little preparation beforehand, just like this one. However, as with all games with young children, it may take a few times of playing for children to really understand the game. The best way to get students involved is to start playing, giving students options at each stage, and making a big deal out of the winner.
As the key to winning this game is about responding quickly, this game promotes fluency and concentration, and is adaptable to a wide range of vocabulary.
1: Set up the class so that students are sat in a semi-circle. The teacher’s chair should also be at the front of the semi-circle.
2: Inform students that the teacher’s chair is heaven. Number the teachers’ chair number one and then continue numbering the students’ chairs from the teachers’ left to right.
3: The student on the highest numbered chair begins the game by saying a number. Whichever student is sat in the chair of that number should respond by giving a new number. Students continue by saying another number each time.
4: If a student hesitates, they lose that round. The losing student should move to the highest numbered chair. The other students should each move one space to their right.
5: Any student who manages to move into chair number one is the winner, as they have got to heaven. At this point, the game continues with the student in set 1 trying to hold on to this position.
1: For cultural reasons, it may be wise in some contexts to avoid the words heaven and hell. You could instead refer to the teacher’s chair as a throne, and the occupant a king or queen. You can further add to this by giving the child sat in this chair a crown.
2: A wide range of vocabulary can be practised. Perhaps most obviously this game lends itself to cardinal or ordinal numbers, or sequential lists such as days of the week. Equally each chair could be assigned a word beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, or a word containing a different phoneme.
3: Students may realise that their starting point can give them an advantage or disadvantage in this game. You may therefore need to use a random ordering system once they realise this. The easiest way is to have a set of cards with numbers up to the number of students in the class. You can then fan the cards out for students to choose one which will be their starting position.
Cardinal numbers (i.e. one, two, three) – these don’t have to start from one
Ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third)
Days of the week (i.e. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Months of the year (i.e. January, February, March)
Adverbs of frequency (i.e. always, usually, often, sometimes, occasionally, rarely, never)
Units of measurement (e.g. second, minute, hour, day, week, year, decade, century, millennium)
Words beginning with A-Z (e.g. animal, breakfast, colour, duck, egg, foot, game) – you don’t have to start from A
Words containing different phonemes (e.g. sheep, ship, good, shoot)