Activity Corner: The Flyswatter Game

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I took some time to describe some of my favorite activities from time to time.)

I use The Flyswatter Game to have students quickly match an input with something that can be written or drawn on the board.  It’s almost always review.

It can be competitive, and it has historically been known to get a little rowdy (I’ve heard of a staff meeting where people were jumping on tables playing this game.  Please note that this level of enthusiasm is neither typical nor necessary.)

What you need: two clean flyswatters and a large vertical writing space.

Here’s an example of how I used the Flyswatter Game at our end-of-session party to sneak in some review of our final topic, Present Continuous vs. Simple Present.

I wrote two phrases on the white board:  Present Continuous and Simple Present.

I prepared a numbered list of sentences before class.  Not surprisingly, they were all in either Present Continuous (PrCo) or Simple Present (SiPr).

I handed flyswatters to two students and had them stand at the front.  Their job: listen to what I read.  Is the sentence in PrCo or SiPr?  They should swat their answer as quickly as possible.  I read a couple of sentences for each pair.

After everyone has swatted, everyone goes again, but this time I relinquish my list of questions to the students, who will take turns being the teacher.

Other content possibilities:

  • listening for certain sounds – write approx. four phonemes on the board, have Ss swat what they hear
  • vocabulary review – write vocab words on the board, read the definitions to Ss, they swat the correct word
    NOTE: any worksheet with a word bank can become The Flyswatter Game very, very easily
  • low-literacy vocabulary review – draw or tape pictures on the board, read the noun to Ss, they swat the correct picture
  • alphabet review – write letters on the board, say individual letter names, Ss swat the correct one
  • advanced scanning practice – project two longer passages onto the board or wall.  Read a sentence from somewhere in one of the passages; Ss race to scan the text and find the passage the sentence is from)

Twitter Ifs

I would pay more attention to Twitter if:

  1. I could have a desktop client on my main computer at work;
  2. TweetDeck didn’t take up an enormous amount of memory on my home computer;
  3. itself made it easier to listen.

I would be happier with Twitter being part of the world if:

  1. People would stop fretting and fussing that Twitter is causing the general populace to cease to read longer texts such as books;
  2. It didn’t lend itself so easily to generating new words such as “tweeps.”  It’s ridiculous – I was half inclined to name this post “twifs.”

Things I’ve learned because of Twitter:

  1. URL shorteners are handy;
  2. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was fun;
  3. Automated messages are Irritating.

State of the Welcome Video Request

To re-cap, I’m hoping secure a 1-minute video of Obama saying “Welcome” to new citizens.  It’s part of every new citizen ceremony, and the first one is the day after Obama’s inaugurationRead more about the request here.

The good news is that people are looking at the post (not in overwhelming droves, but significantly more than normally read my blog).

And I know that at least a few people have tweeted @obamainaugural.  Thank you!

Next steps:

Continue tweeting @obamainaugural and @barackobama the message:

1st new citizen natlztn ceremony = 1/21. Will they have a new welcome message from the new Pres?

Spread the word to your contacts, linking back to the explanation post at  From that we’ll either get numbers or the attention of one person with an in.

How else are the Obama folks listening?

What do you think about next steps?

Re: Question about Listening

I did actually receive a few answers about 6/25’s listening question.

Paraphrased response via phone:

  • ‘why did you ask?’

I asked because it comes up extremely frequently in both my work and personal life.  I’ve noticed that many of the people around me fail to listen, and more irritatingly, that I often fail to listen to them.

Paraphrased responses via Twitter:

  • ‘because people are afraid they’ll hear something they don’t like’
  • ‘yep, it’s a problem for me too.’
  • ‘because you think what you have to say is more important’

From an experience yesterday, I would add:

  • unwilling to accept a situation they don’t like

It reminds me of something my uncle said years ago that cracked me up.  He remarked that sometimes people “invent their own reality and then proceed to live in it.”  Though it’s valid to choose your attitude and your battles, if you’re immersed in Personal Reality, Population: 1, you’re probably pretty positive that your opinions trump all others, making listening understandably difficult.

So how do we prevent total disconnection of ourselves and our organization from generally accepted reality?  How can we ease the fears that can go along with real listening?  Is it possible to create an environment where people are confident they will be heard and that listening is worth their time?  What other layers of complexity (generation, culture, etc.) are people untangling along the way to an environment condusive to listening?


What makes listening so difficult?

Allow me to define “listen”:

  • acknowledge that someone wants to communicate with you
  • take in what the person is communicating
  • actively work to fully understand what is being communicated within your own schema
  • identify steps you can take to act upon what you heard
  • take said steps

I guess I partially answered my own question – there are a lot of steps.  But honestly, none of them are all that difficult.  Or are they?  Would you add steps to the definition?  Are there any in particular that cause people to stumble?  Is it more about our society or our organizational structures than about individuals?  Why is such a basic function of living as a human being so difficult to do well?

Seriously, I’d like to know.  I’d also like to not delve into discussion about improving listening just yet – I think that’s different enough to put on hold till another post.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!