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Karuta is a traditional Japanese game that is readily adaptable for use in English lessons. It's a fun way to incorporate vocabulary and basic phrase repetition into a game that kids can enjoy.

Materials required[]

Students: "What fruit do you like?"

You need to prepare multiple sets of the same vocabulary cards, which can be a bit of a pain to make but are well worth the effort. For example, if you were teaching fruits to a class of 40 kids then you would need 8 sets of cards, making 5 kids per group. About 8-10 different vocabulary cards per set is optimal. All sets must contain the same cards. For example, in a fruits karuta game each set might contain: apple, banana, pear, grapes, pineapple, orange, watermelon, lemon.


(a) Teach your vocabulary and English phrase (eg. "What fruit do you like?", "I like _____.")
(b) Get the kids into groups of 3-5 and give each group a set of karuta cards.
(c) Have the groups scatter the cards in the middle of their circle.
(d) Once they are ready tell them all to put their hands on their heads to prevent cheating.

Teacher: "I like bananas." <SLAP>

(e) Have them say the English phrase all together aloud (eg. "What fruit do you like?") and then the teacher shouts out the response (eg. "I like bananas.")
(f) The kids then slap the card shouted out by the teacher. The fastest kid gets the card. If there is a dispute, resolve it by janken.
(g) Repeat (d)-(f) until all but one card remains in the middle. To prevent injuries have them janken for the last card.
(h) Count up the score and the kid with the most cards is the winner.


  • Sometimes in their excitement to slap the card first they will slap the wrong one. It's up to the teacher wether or not they have to skip a go next time.
  • To shake things up a bit and keep them on their toes - especially towards the end of the game when the cards are getting low - shout out something which isn't there (eg. "I like dogs." if you're playing with fruits). Loads of kids will make a mistake and have to sit out the next turn, thereby allowing the weaker students in the group a free run next time.


It depends on the atmosphere in each individual class but sometimes this game can get very competitive. Watch out for kids sitting with their chins on the floor to minimise the distance between hands and cards! Make sure they sit up straight.

Sometimes all the competition can get too much for some kids so watch out for tears.