In this ESL speaking game, the kids become Pokémon trainers and “battle” against each other using their English grammar and speaking skills to form sentences in the simple present tense in order to guess which is the opponent’s Pokémon.
- The goal of this game is to practice the affirmative, interrogative and negative forms of the Simple Present in the English language.
- The game can be adapted to teach other English tenses (as the English teacher that requested this activity nicely pointed out!).
- To be able to play, the kids should already know how to form these type of sentences.
* If you are teaching only 1 kid, there is a single student version of the game at the bottom of this page in the “Idea twists” section.
1. Print on cardstock and cut out these fancy Pokémon Go inspired cards. Or don’t print my designs (… 🙁 ) and just use any paper you already have and cut out squares or rectangles to use as cards.
I would recommend at least 3 cards per player, but really it can be whatever amount of cards you want. Just keep in mind that some kids might lose all their Pokémon very quickly and it is not a good idea to have them waiting around.
2. Also, print out or display with your fancy school projector any Pokémon Guide that has good sized names and pictures, in case someone needs it for reference (because not everyone is a poké-nerd!).
Either use this big-sized Pokémon Guide with names and pictures or look online for a different one that includes the first 150 Pokémon (since that’s what’s being used in Pokémon Go and it is also what you and the students might be more familiar with).
3. Hand out to each kid the number of cards that you decided.
4. Then, depending on how long you want this activity to last, you can either:
- A. (FASTER) Ask the kids to choose and write the name of 3 Pokémon for their battle team (no picture, just text).
- B. (LONGER) Ask the kids to draw a picture and write the name of the 3 pokémon they want in their battle team. If you are doing this for a group and you want the kids to keep their own designs at the end of the game, avoid future real-life battles between students by asking them to also sign their own name on their cards.
It’s time to play!
Round 1: Affirmatives Battles
1. Both players face each other and place 1 of their Pokémon cards facing down in front of them.
2. Play one quick round of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.
3. The loser of the opening RPS match starts. The players should describe one true characteristic of the Pokémon they’ve chosen for this battle in an affirmative sentence using the simple present. Once per turn.
Examples of affirmative sentences:
- My Pokémon shoots fire.
- My Pokémon gives electric shocks.
- My Pokémon runs very fast.
4. Keep taking turns until someone feels brave enough to guess the opponent’s Pokemon.
To get your opponent’s Pokémon card, use your turn to ask the question “Is your Pokémon XXXX?” in this moment the opponent flips their card and, if your guess was right, you win the other’s Pokémon card, if you were wrong, you have to give away the Pokémon card that you chose for this battle.
The battle is over!
After a pair finishes their battle, look for other trainers (classmates) to battle around the classroom, until you call the end of this round because you are that powerful :).
Round 2: Interrogatives Battles
Every step is the same as the previous Round except for number 3:
3. The winner of the opening RPS match starts. The player makes a Yes or No question (using the interrogative form of the simple present tense) to their opponent, trying to get answers that help them guess who is their opponent’s Pokémon for this battle. These answers should also be answered using the simple present tense.
Examples of interrogative sentences and their answers:
- “Does your Pokémon have three heads?” / “No, my Pokémon doesn’t have three heads”
- “Does your Pokémon look like a fish?” / “Yes, my Pokémon looks like a fish”.
- “Does your Pokémon live in the water?” / “Yes, my Pokémon lives in the water”.
Round 3: Negatives Battles
This is the hardest round (?).
Again, every step is the same as the previous rounds except for number 3:
3. The winner of the opening RPS match starts. The players should describe one false characteristic of the Pokémon they’ve chosen for this battle in a negative sentence using the simple present.
Examples of negative sentences:
- “My Pokémon does not have wings”.
- “My Pokémon is not the Electric type”.
- “My Pokémon does not have horns”.
You can give the kids that ended with the most Pokémon cards after the 3 rounds (AKA the winners) some Pokémon-themed prizes.
FYI I made a printable with 8 handmade Pokémon Gym badges, in case you want to use those as prizes.
- If you have only 1 player (let’s say, you do homeschooling or something cool like that), instead of battling an opponent’s Pokémon, you can play as if your kid “catches” the Pokémon from the wild. Meaning that you will be the person doing all the battles for those wild pokémon that you previously spread facing-down around the room/yard/secret lab, etc. To catch the Pokémon, the kid needs to battle you the same way as explained above, but you don’t need to guess their Pokémon.
- This idea can be used with other characters besides Pokémon. Using whatever your kid or students like will make it easier for them to remember and make it more enjoyable to learn. I imagine it would work great with Nintendo characters or any other movie / cartoon characters such as Star Wars or Adventure Time.
Go over the top:
During the activity, play this compilation of Pokemon Battle songs in the background (it’s not too annoying!).
* Special thanks to the British Council’s Teaching English page for sharing this idea! *
Planning to do this activity?
If you do this with your kids, I’d LOVE to see pictures of your finished projects posted on the Facebook wall of Box of Ideas.
The Author: Rodrigo Macias is a bilingual creative mixing his experience working in Childcare and Design to come up with imaginative & educational printables and activities for kids.