Karuta is a Japanese game similar to snap. It's a fun way to test listening recognition for vocabulary sets and students love this game. The bonus is that every Japanese student knows karuta so you barely have to explain the rules.

Basic Info

Time: 5 - 10 minutes
Level: Easy
Works with: Vocabulary sets
Class size: Any size

You will need:

  • Many sets of small flash cards (one for every group)

Lesson Description

  1. Students make pairs or groups.
  2. Give each pair/group a set of cards. Students spread all cards on floor/desk face up.
  3. Teacher calls out a vocabulary word, and the students try to be the first to slap their hand down on the appropriate card. First down takes the card.
  4. The student with the most cards at the end is the winner.


  • After the game, ask students how many cards they got.
  • If you are leading the class (ie. the JTE isn't so confident or is just taking a break), ask them to lead this game. You can join a table. This gives students a chance to see their teacher enjoying English.


  • Instead of teachers leading the game, let one or two of the stronger students lead this game. (You will still want to moderate or be there to assist.) Encourage the student to use extra English like "Are you ready?" and "Number one... blue.")
  • Instead of one person leading the whole class, play this in groups of 3 ~ 5 and the leader changes every turn, rotating around the group.


  • No one likes losing every time. Shuffle students if you see stronger students paired with weaker ones.
  • This game take a lot of preparation time creating the cards. (If using cards from the back of a textbook, ask the teacher to get the class to cut the cards out before the English lesson.)
  • Be aware this is, for the most part, a listening activity - there is very little speaking practice. Therefor, use this game early in your lesson for listening practice.

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