Football for Fans: Who are you passing the ball to?

Smart Football


  • To create an exciting classroom atmosphere in an integrated skill revision lesson in young learners or teenagers’ classroom.
  • To learn vocabulary relating to football
  • To create smart strategy to align players in correct positions to win the game.

Level: any level and any age group

Materials: markers and board

Time: 20-40 minutes


• Football Terms: Goalkeeper, Defenders, Midfielders, Strikers, Referee, Yellow/Red

Card, Penalty Shootout, Commentator.

• Any Target Language.


1. Draw a simple football grid with stickman players on the board, depending on the number of students (See Picture 1 above). Divide the class into two teams. Each player draws their faces and writes their name under the stickman players. They should discuss to choose their own positions: Goalkeeper, Defenders, Midfielders and Strikers.

2. Inform students that they are going to play Smart Football, which requires their quick response to Teacher’ prompts of learned vocabulary or knowledge.

3. Each turn involves two players only, involving the duel between Midfielders-Midfielders,

Defenders-Strikers and Strikers-Goalkeepers.

4. The purpose is to react to Teacher’s prompts quickly and correctly, get the ball (which is a magnet that sticks to the board), pass it to the next line of players and finally score a goal. For example, the vocabulary topic is FOOD

• Teacher may give prompts: “They’re yellow. They’re monkeys’ favorite

• The first student who answers “Bananas” in the duel is the winner.

• The winner then passes the ball to the next line of players.

6. After each goal, the team’s captain may change the tactic of playing by changing positions of players.

7. The winner team is the one which scores more goals when the allocated time is over.

8. When time is over and it is still a draw, Teacher may carry out the Penalty shootout.

Procedure is the same as in Step 3 and 4 but Students do not pass the ball. The winner team is the team with more winning players after each duel.

Teachers’ Role: Teachers play the role of a:

Prompter who asks questions or elicits answers

Referee who decides the winner and may give Yellow Cardto warn students who cheat by shouting out answers out-of-turn.

Commentator who gives remarks during the game “Vy gets the ball now, who will you pass it to, Vy? Torres? Ok. Now Torres has the ball. Who will defend? Hien against

Torres. Listen to the prompt…Incredible answer from the striker Torres. Now he’s facing the goalkeeper Phuc…”


1. Teacher could pick a student to be the Prompterand the Commentator. This variation works well with higher-level classes.

2. Apart from lexical answers, Smart Soccer could be used in the revision of pronunciation (minimal pairs) or phrases of everyday English.

3. If the classroom is spacious, Teacher could use a real ball when students need to spread out around classroom to pass the ball after answering the correct answer.

4. To further language usage, winner of each duel may make a sentence from the prompts

What do students really learn from Smart Soccer?

Smart Soccer board game could benefit students in several ways:

1. Joyful learning. Students play the role of famous footballers- Messi, Torres… (or singers-

Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars…!) while revising language. They feel like participating in a real football match. They cheer if their partner wins. They show disappointment if their partner loses. They feel guilty when they receive a Yellow card. This enhances their extrinsic motivation.

2. A new learning experience. As suggested earlier, this activity should be done as a warmup revision activity. It erases students’ negative connotations of Homework Check when students have to write down answers to complete fill-in exercises. It offers an alternative to vocabulary learning. It could provide students with better memorable effect.

3. Promoting Collaboration. Smart Soccer involves teamwork while each player tries to win the duel to contribute their success of the whole team, showing shared feelings and team spirit.

4. Fair Play. Instead of real football, girls do have chances of winning against boys as this requires their quick thinking rather than physical ability. The winner is the person who outsmarts their peers.

6. Strategic learning. Students discuss useful strategies to win the game: Where should they put better players? Where should they should less capable players?

7. Learning autonomy. During break time, I have observed students play Smart Soccer occasionally, testing vocabulary themselves without Teacher’s guidance.

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