I think most of us know the power of using puppets or dolls as an “excuse” for really shy kids to get a touch of confidence. Shyness just means “the degree to which you can communicate” and is of course the thing we have to help shy students overcome.

Using puppets for every kid in class can become a little expensive, but Malaz in China has come up with this great game idea using sponges.

Sponge Talk

I came up with Sponge Talk a couple of weeks ago.
I have a large class and not much room to move around so more sponges, mean more action.

1. You’ll need a set of thick kitchen sponges
(number of sponges about 10-20% of your total class)
(preferably with two different edges, brightly colored)

2. And a set of  vocab / conversation cards attached with conversational suffixes, ie..”having a cup of tea” etc…

3. Say we have a set of conversations with “How about…” being the implied prefix.
The cards with the suffixes are attached to the sponges;
1 sponge, 1 suffix.

4. The sponges are then given to random students before the game begins.

5. The students are then instructed to pass forward or backward in the row repeating the “How about…” and then adding whatever the sponge says. e.g. How about … watching a movie tonight?

6. The receiver of the sponge can then opt to say “No, thank you”
or “yes, I’d like to” If the receiver says “yes” then they get the sponge and repeat the process.
if they say no, then the sponge is passed to the person opposite.

7. If both the person in front and behind the student say no, then the sponge is passed across the row from the student.

This was a really effective way to practice our lesson.

I also added an element of chaos with “Mr. Frog”

1. A stuffed frog is given to a student (whether or not they have a sponge)
2. They pass Mr. Frog until it reaches a student with a sponge.
3. If a student possesses both a sponge and Mr. Frog, they must then have the conversation with Mr. Frog, deciding for or against the proposition.
4. If the student decides Mr. Frog would like to “have a cup of tea”, then Mr. Frog is tossed to another student, if they decide Mr. Frog would not like a cup of tea…or whatever else…then Mr. Frog is thrown back to the teacher, who then puts it back in circulation.

I’ve found it helpful to participate as well.

This game is supposed to played sitting down. If you allow the kids to stand up, they’ll all end up hovering around whoever has Mr. Frog and the students who don’t have a sponge will begin floating around, not really paying attention.

I realized, while putting this game into motion that I could add several more elements which would keep almost every single student occupied at once.

A balloon, for example, tossed into the mix and given the function of reversing the order of the conversation if it hits a student with a sponge.


Thanks Malaz for that! Of course you can also use the game for just about any language point you wish to teach.

It would be really cool to make a list here of funky phrases to use after “How about…” Funny or off the wall ones always go down well, have a try writing a few up in the comments below!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

2 Responses to “Sponge Talk”

  1. Carol

    Neat idea! I’d of never thought of sponges! Great idea for teenagers, interesting but not babyish.

    How about a follow-up memory activity passing Mr Frog, students ask Mr Frog the questions from the sponges. Then another student as a ‘reporter’ could announce HE (Mr Frog) wants/doesn’t want to watch tv. As the game goes along, students must remember the order and add the ideas together after each question… He wants to watch tv, eat pizza but not take a bath. I’ll have to try your sponge game! THanks!!!

    eating peas for dinner
    running to class
    planting a tree
    singing really loud
    whispering to your neighbour
    doing your homework
    cleaning your room
    standing on your head
    writing a letter to Pres. Obama
    washing your feet before breakfast
    taking out the trash
    brushing your teeth with ketchup

  2. Flossy

    Yet another great idea. I will try this out when school re starts in September. I like the additional idea you suggest too Carol, thanks!!!

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