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Do You Love Your Neighbor? + Variations

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I first learned this game from a Korean elementary school teacher and have found it to be wildly popular with all age groups. I can't do it with my university students because we have large groups and standard classrooms, but I do it each summer and winter while teaching "immersion English camps" for elementary, middle school and high school students at my university campus.

It is an extremely active game, so you need plenty of room and a smallish group -- probably no more than 12 unless you have a very large room. Also, since this is, again, a VERY active game, you need to make sure that the noise level won't disturb other classes (especially those below your room). With younger children, you must also maintain the proper amount of discipline, because it is very possible to have someone get hurt as they fight for a chair. This game is very similar to musical chairs -- but much, much more fun and practical as a learning tool.

BENEFITS: The students get to burn off excess energy AND they must practice English listening comprehension skills. Even low-level students can enjoy this game (if the level is equal throughout the group).

PROCEDURE: You must have chairs in a circle and a lot of empty space for moving around. Desks will not work. If there are tables, they should be removed from the room or moved out of the way. Flimsy chairs may be dangerous; always exercise caution, especially if you're playing with young children. There should be just enough chairs for ONE person to remain standing.

The person who is standing goes to one of the seated and asks, "Do you love your neighbor?" If the reply is "yes" then EVERYONE must change chairs. The person who asked tries to get into one of the chairs, too.

If the reply is "no," then the asker asks again, "Who do you love?" Now the person must reply, "People who . . . " Possible answers include "people who have short hair," or "people who are wearing blue" or "people who are xx years old," etc. The students will really surprise you with their creativity in these answers after you have modeled a couple for them.

If the reply is "People who have short hair," then ONLY the people who have short hair must change chairs. The asker, of course, always tries to claim a seat that has been vacated, and the people who must leave their seat must rush to claim an empty one. After everyone is seated except one person, that person must go to someone else and ask, "Do You Love Your Neighbor?"

SCENARIO: Everyone is sitting except s1, who goes to s2 and asks, "Do you love your neighbor?" S2 says "Yes!" and everyone gets up and runs to find a new seat. After the rush, everyone is sitting except s3, who goes to s4 and asks, "Do you love your neighbor?" S4 says "No." "Who do you love?" asks s3. S4 replies "People who have glasses" and the five people who wear glasses get up and try to find new seats while the others remain seated.

Let me stress that this game is complicated in terms of arranging classroom furniture, and possibly dangerous if some amount of order is not maintained. However, the students must really listen closely to the replies (and, of course, if the reply isn't in English, then the replier must give up his/her seat and become the asker).

But the students REALLY love the game -- I was really surprised to see how well adult students enjoy it! -- and it's a good way to sneak in some vocabulary tests. For example, I like to follow a "No" reply with "People who have lips" or "People who have elbows" and then chuckle at the students who are tentatively asking themselves, "Hmm, do I have lips?"

Whenever a person must leave their seat (if the answer is "Yes!" or if they are among the group named) they may not return to their original seat. They also may not take the seat to their immediate left or right. Pushing is extremely forbidden and punished by a short stay in the penalty box or complete expulsion from the game. Whenever two people "tie" for a seat, a quick "rock-paper-scissors" works best.

If a person rises, but shouldn't -- for example, the answer was "Someone wearing red" but a student with a pink or purple shirt gets up -- or, if they should rise, but don't, they must give up their seat and go into the middle. The same rule applies to someone who returns to their original seat or goes into the one to the immediate left or right.

It is possible for one person to be singled out in the reply. Unless this becomes excessively directed at one student, allow it.

Variations -- Target Vocabulary: with younger students who are just learning colors or clothing, for example, this game can be very good after lessons in which target vocabulary has been taught. For example, learning the difference between "slippers", "sandals" and "sneakers", or between "stripes", "checks" and "plaid."

Scorekeeper -- If a student can't or really doesn't want to play, they can become involved by being a scorekeeper. Every time a person must stand, they gain a point, and the person with the lowest score wins a small prize. (As the teacher, be prepared to lose!)

MONEY POT -- My older students like to play for a cash prize. Each person gets two free "stands" but after the third time they don't get to sit down, they must put a very small amount of money into the pot, which goes to the person with the lowest score (although one group of adult teachers I played with decided to split the pot between the person with the lowest and the person with the highest score).

I know I've said it too many times, but maintain control of the younger groups. This is an extremely fun game which can be ruined by a bleeding forehead or bruised tailbone.

Daniel Parker, Keimyung University, Daegu, South Korea

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