Competition brings out the best in students in class. They are louder, yes, but they are also more focused, more engaged, more attuned to prompts and feedback, and more willing to work together in teams. My go-to game these days is The Hot Seat | La silla caliente.

The Hot Seat | La silla is a mash-up of Taboo and the $25,000 Pyramid. The game forces students to understand the vocabulary at hand as well as important but difficult-to-get-at circumlocution: “it’s like…it’s not like…it’s used for…it’s found in…it’s a synonym of…it’s an antonym of…” You can be as strict or lenient as you choose on what is taboo and what’s not. 

The Hot Seat | La silla caliente is easy to adapt to any level language class. It works best with concrete vocabulary lists (house, city, school, nature) but it can be adapted to more abstract words and concepts at higher levels. Recently I had success with images too. It reinforces the vocabulary at hand and puts a premium on listening skills.

Step 1: Divide the class into two teams: day-boarder always works to create in-class rivalries, however you can also find other creative ways to divide the class: alphabetically by last letter of first name.

Step 2: Students go up one-by-one to sit in the Hot Seat | Silla caliente with their back to the projection screen. Project the words on a screen behind them. Their job is to listen to clues that their teammates give. They then ask for more information or guess. Give them :30 – :60 on the clock. It they get the word, they get the points. If not, no points and control goes to the other team.

Step 3: (Alternate way to play: great way to practice interrogative words) In this twist, the teammates looking at the word can only respond to questions that the student in the “hot seat” asks. This bring a bit of 20 Questions into the Taboo and the $25,000 Pyramid.

Step 4: (Alternate way to play: great way to recycle vocabulary within the game) In this twist, teams of two take turns on the “hot seat.” Words can and do repeat, so there is a premium put on learning the words and paying attention to clues that work!

I’ve included a PPT template below that can be adapted to any list at any level. Give it a try and let me know if you have any creative twists on the game.