Big Karuta

Karuta is the Japanese name for the game where you have to slap a card as fast as you can. Big Karuta is a fun variation of this game.
I remember the first time that I played this game with one of my classes…
They were an older class, about 8-11 years old and Karuta would seem like a baby-ish game for them. When I met them at the door, they were asking what game we were going to play. I made a big deal about how we were going to play Big Karuta. They started in on the whining, letting me know that Karuta was a very uncool game to play. I kept insisting that we were not going to play Karuta, we were going to play Big Karuta. When we finally did play it, the loved it and started asking to play it every week.


Target English: vocabulary recognition
Things You Need:flash cards
Age: 4 or older
English Level: low-high

Game Outline:
1. Tell the class that you are going to play Big Karuta and silently get up and start spreading the cards around the room. Put a few of them on the floor in an easily visible place, but hide some of the other ones. If possible, try to get at least one in a secret place without them seeing.
2. The kids are probably familiar with Karuta (or Slap Game), but at this stage, they are wondering what exactly this game is. Have everybody touch the wall. This should be in a place where they can easily see the cards that you’ve placed on the floor.
3. Call out one of the cards on the floor. The kids will now realize that they have to run and touch this card.
4. The student who reaches the card first gets to keep it. If there is a tie, have the students play rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to keep the card.
5. Have the students return to touching the wall and repeat until you have called out all of the cards.


  • Try to put at least one card in a position which requires the teachers help (I put one above the door.). That way, if you have one student who doesn’t have a card, you can make sure that that student gets the card.
  • As you play the game, move some of the cards slightly. This tricks them because the card may not always be in the place it was when they last checked.
  • If students are having a hard time finding the cards, give them hints using prepositions. Tell them it’s in something, or under something.
  • Sometimes I like to hide the last card in my back pocket or just in my hands behind my back. This makes it really hard for the kids to find.

Hope you and your kids have fun with this game.


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