Duck Duck Goose, is a popular game in the EFL VYL kindergarten English classroom, but there’s a lot more you can do with it than perhaps you first thought.

Before teaching, I’d actually never heard of Duck Duck Goose, however, it quickly became one of my favourites. The way its played is described in the video above. I modify the game slightly, as I expect other teachers do in various ways. I play it, such that, even if the person catches the other student, they still change places.

Here’s how you can use Duck Duck goose in an English class. First, the ‘it’ student says a vocabulary word repeatedly as the ‘duck’ word until they decide to tap another student with the ‘goose’ word. If you were teaching phonics, for example, the student could say the letter sound ‘a’ as they tap each student on the head until they get to the student they want to select and then say an alternate sound, say ‘b’.

One of the most important tips I was ever given about this game is, that it is a very active game for the teacher. I’ve seen teachers join in as a participant sitting in the circle with the other children… but that’s not a good idea. I move around the circle with the ‘it’ student as they tap each student to ‘manage’ the game. Things I might do include correcting pronunciation, ensure the student isn’t whacking kids on the head, or seated students trying to lie down, and also making sure when the kids run, that they don’t run into, or trip, over any obstacles. (Its really important to set the game up so that all of those hazards are removed before the game starts though. Where there is a risk they may hit something, I make sure to put my or a TAs body in the way of it.) And so, I usually move around the circle as the ‘it’ child taps the others on the head. I’ll guide the student with my arms into the place where they need to be sitting after racing around the circle. This also ensures they don’t try to do two circuits! Also, I’ll make sure they don’t always choose their friend or the same person. If someone hasn’t had a turn, I’ll say the second ‘goose’ word for them and guide them to tap them on the head so everyone gets a turn. As you can see, the game actually requires a lot of energy and involvement from the teacher in order to maximise the learning benefits.

Tips for playing Duck Duck Goose

  • The game is a ‘stirrer’, so use it when you need to shift the energy of the class. Its also a great game to fill in a few minutes at the end of the lesson.
  • Duck Duck Goose is a great tool for working on pronunciation, because the students are repeating the word or sound (if using phonics) many times. Those that are in the circle get to hear the language repeated many times, and so it is great for receptive practice, too.
  • You can also use the game to practice the art of making a circle, so I like to use the Make a Circle song to get everyone into place initially.
  • Its not just a game for vocabulary, you can use it to practice grammar, phonics, counting, and more.
  • There are many ways to adapt this game beyond its vanilla version. The most creative I’ve seen included using the grammar structures for example, “I like cats, I like cats, I like cats…. I like dogs”. (Each student gets tapped on the head for each of the words in the structure). An application of Duck Duck Goose using phonics I’ve seen is, ‘b, b, b, b, b, ball!’ Or, adjectives duck duck goose for older students: small fish, small fish, small fish, big dog. Another teacher I know has ALL of the students chant the word on the flashcard he places the in middle of the of the circle. This means ALL students have to practice the saying word at the same time, and it keeps them all focused as one child taps the others on the head as the group chants the word. At some point (of the teacher’s choosing), he’ll throw the second card into the middle of the circle with the alternate (goose) word and the child being tapped on the head gets up and chases.