4 Games to Develop Interpersonal Communication Skills

Games are a great tool to develop students’ interpersonal skills.  While I’ve always used games in my classroom, the types of games have changed as I became more focused on proficiency.  The following games, which I’ve “borrowed” from colleagues over the years, are popular with my students and can be used for a variety of communicative goals.  In addition, these games can become formative assessments as the teacher circulates around the room providing feedback.

Pair Crossword Puzzles

This is one of my students’ favorite games, and it can be used for students at many different proficiency levels, and in many different contexts. This game takes awhile to prepare, but I think it’s worth the effort!

How to play

1. Students are divided into pairs and each is given a partially completed crossword puzzle.  Partner A has the vertical responses filled in, Partner B has the horizontal responses filled in.  There are no clues on the puzzle, just the partially completed puzzle

2. The students take turns asking their partner to give them oral clues for the words that are not filled in on their puzzles.

Partner A: Quelle est la réponse pour numéro deux?

Partner B : C’est une légume orange.

Partner A : C’est une carotte ?

Partner B : Non, elle est ronde.

Partner A : C’est une citrouille ?

Partner B : Oui, c’est une citrouille.

How to prepare (using puzzlemaker.com)

1. Make a list of words that will appear in the puzzle.  The clue isn’t important, so I just use 1, 2, 3 as the clues, because it’s quick. You need to press enter after each item.  I type this in a Word document, rather than in puzzlemaker.com program so that I’ll have it in my files.  Here’s an example of a word list (but you’ll probably want to have at least 20 words):

carotte 1

citrouille 2

banane 3

chou 4

2. Go to puzzlemaker.com and choose Criss-Cross.

3. Type a title for your puzzle, and then go to Step 4 (I usually use the default settings for Steps 2 & 3). Copy and paste your word list in Step 4 and click Create my Puzzle.

4. Print 2 copies of the puzzle, as well as a copy of the word list.

5. Fill in the horizontal answers on one copy and the vertical answers on the other. This is the trickiest part, because the computer randomly places your words in the puzzle.  So the clue for 1 Across might be “3.”  You will have to look back at your word list to see which word was 3 (banane).  This will not be confusing to the kids, because they will never see the clues (see below).

6. Depending on the size of your puzzle, the clues (1, 2, 3, etc.) might be on the bottom of the paper (or it might be on the second page).  Make sure to white them out/cut them off before copying the puzzles to distribute to the students.


Here are some ideas for contexts that work well for this game:

French 1: Family vocabulary (C’est la soeur de ta mère, c’est le père de ton père, etc.)

French 2: Most concrete thematic vocabulary works well (food/house/clothes/school supplies/classes/sports/etc.)

French 3: I use it for thematic vocabulary, but also for stories. (We read a lot of Petit Nicolas in French 3.)  In this case, I don’t necessarily choose new words, but instead focus on key words from the story.  This makes it a great way to practice story-telling skills.  If you had read Little Red Riding Hood, some clues might be C’est ce que la mère a préparé  pour la grand-mère, C’est le personnage qui a tué le loup, C’est ce que la fille aimait porter, etc. The ability to use the language needed for these clues, such as relative pronouns, is a key component in increasing proficiency.

AP French (4/5) I’ve used this game for complex thematic vocabulary, such as in a unit on the environment, as well as to review literature and films.

Jeu de Pyramide

I call the Pyramid game, because it’s based on the game show, $100,000 Pyramid. If you’re old enough to remember this game, you’ll know that the game is based on the first part of the game, not the Big Money (?) part at the end.  Like the pair crossword game, this one involves using circumlocution.  However, it’s played as a whole class activity, rather than in pairs.  I often use this game the day after a pair crossword, because the students will have already practiced describing the words.  Fortunately, this one only takes a few minutes to prepare.

How to play

1. The class is divided into two teams.  The first 2 players on Team A come to the front of the room.  One of them is seated in a chair facing the Smartboard/screen/chalkboard, etc.  The other student has his/her back to the Smartboard/screen/chalkboard.

  1. The student who is facing the screen/board begins by describing the first word on the list  to his/her partner who keeps guessing until s/he has guessed all 5 words or time runs out.  (I think I give them 90 seconds?, but you could experiment to find the amount of time that works best, depending on your group.)
  2. Next, the first 2 players on Team B will come up.  The game continues until every student has had a chance to play.

How to prepare

1. Because I have a projector, I create a powerpoint with a slide for each word list.  In the past, I put them on an overhead.  You could also jot them on the board, if that’s all you have.

Devinez Qui

While the board game Guess Who is a great way to increase students’ ability to describe people, I’ve created paper versions that help students practice a variety of other communicative tasks.

How to play

It’s much easier to show you than explain, so here’s an example for a French I unit on school supplies.  Devinez qui

How to prepare

1. Find 15-20 clip art pictures that represent images related to the theme you are studying and paste them in a Word document.

2. Type a name and then insert a table (I use 1 row, 10 columns) below the name.

3. Copy and paste 10 of the pictures you have selected in the table.

4. Repeat step 2, but vary the pictures.  Ideally, each name will have most of the same pictures because this requires more communication to guess the name. However, you have to make sure that no two names have the exact same pictures.  I’m sure there’s a mathematical way to create a template for this, but I just play with it.


One reason I like this game is that it can be used to develop both vocabulary and grammatical structures. For example:

Vocabulary Items: in a backpack, in a refrigerator, in a bedroom, leisure activities, daily routine, etc.

Grammatical Structures:

1. Students can be directed to ask whether the person will do pictured activities (pictures represent various professions, travel destinations, getting married, different colleges, winning the lottery, buying a house, buying a car, etc.)

2. Students can be directed to ask whether the person did the pictured activities.  I’ve used this with a unit on vacation, so the pictures showed people flying on an airplane, swimming, sailing, picking up shells, etc.

3. Students can be directed to ask whether the person would do the pictured activities if they won the lottery (pictures represent things that could be purchased, vacation destinations, etc.)

Note: When there is doubt as to what the pictures might represent, I include a copy of all of the pictures and phrase explaining what the pictures represents at the top of the handout.

Qui suis-je/Qu’est-ce que je suis?

How to play 

The teacher groups the students in pairs and attaches a paper with a word or picture on one student in each pair.  This student must ask his/her partner questions in order to guess what is written/shown on his back.

How to prepare

As it is traditionally described, this game involves taping the papers to the students’ backs.  As a result, I never used this game because of the amount of transition time required to make the papers, add tape to the pictures, and attach the papers to the students, none of which could be done in advance because there was no way to store 30 pieces of paper with tape on them.  Recently I saw someone describe the same game, but instead of tape, the paper was placed in a blank ID badge holder (see below), that the kids wore so that it hung on their back.  I was able to get a class set of these for only a few dollars, and I’ll use yarn to hang them rather than a lanyard, to save money.



In addition to typical novice vocabulary themes, I thought this game might work well for more content-based units that I use with my French 3 classes such as artists (or paintings), endangered animals, historical figures, Fairy Tales, etc.



What games do you use to develop your students’ interpersonal communication?

9 thoughts on “4 Games to Develop Interpersonal Communication Skills

      1. Lana Cuello

        All are great ideas, thank you for sharing! Here is my variation of “Qui suis-je?” activity. I find that doing it the traditional way results in just one short interaction, all this prep and they are done before I know it. So I decided to give them each a card that they can see, but they don’t show it to the person they speak with, i.e. they hold their partner’s new identity. Student A asks their partner the questions to guess what is written on Student B’s card and Student B, in turn, asks the questions to guess the identity held by Student A. After they guessed correctly, they exchange their cards and find another partner to converse with. They continue until I stop them. Some will talk to more people than others, but they will all talk for the same length of time regardless of how many guesses they’ve managed to complete. And they only prep is writing the words on regular index cards.

  1. Cindy

    Ok so this game is my students favorite however, it comes with a warning that students may become very competitive and a bit aggressive which leads to fun and sometime a knocked down smart board…. oops.. this game is Love Thy Neighbor. Place the chairs in a circle with one less chair than people playing. The object of the game is for the person in middle to get a chair and the others try not to end up in the middle.
    The “it” person asks someone seated, “do you love your neighbor” “aimez-vous vos voisins?” the seated person responds Oui or Non… If they say Oui the two people on either side of the person try to exchange seats prior to the person in the middle sits down… ( I only allow Oui to be used 3 times before it becomes out of bounds for a time so my students are usually very careful with the Yes.) If the seated person responds Non, They say Non, mais j’aime les personnes qui__________. this works with any unit we are on description, food, daily routine whatever. They pull from all the knowledge to fill in the blank. for example Non, mais j’aime les personnes qui a mange le petit-dejeuner ce matin. Then everyone who ate breakfast has to move. My personal favorite it J’aime tous mes eleves… hahaha then i sit back and watch them run.. 🙂

  2. Lana

    A variation of the game shared by Cindy. Could be done to practice inversion questions or just a review of all vocabulary and structures in the form of statements. Good for the end of the year review, when all they can think of is the summer break. I ask my students to prepare a list of “yes/no” inversed questions ahead of time, say 10, but you can ask them to think on their feet. We play outside when it’s warmer, early fall or late spring, on the lawn, because yes, this game can get out of hand and border on dangerous. Those in the circle place a piece of paper under their feet, the person in the middle asks a question (Avez-vous un chien? Aimez-vous le fromage?), those who do, have to switch places with someone else in the circle, but not with those who are directly to their left or right. The asker tries to claim a piece of paper in the circle as well. The person left without paper will become “it”


    No one mentioned Taboo yet, the ultimate circumlocution game! I’m lucky enough to have a Junior version from France, making it both an authentic resource and a fun vocab practice activity. The cards are organized by category, so I preview and select sets that my students will be familiar with. It always produces lots of rich use of the target language. If you don’t have an official version, the cards are very easy to make with your chosen vocabulary words and “Taboo” words. With novice students I allow them to use the Taboo words, because the task is challenging enough.


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