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The Unfair Game® is about to become your new favorite class activity, and your students will love and hate you for it. In any situation that you might be inclined to play a game of Jeopardy, Trashketball, or Grudgeball, instead... make it unfair with The Unfair Game®!

The Unfair Game is a highly competitive review game for any class that your students will love to hate!CREDIT: The idea for The Unfair Game comes from Julia Ullman, who has been collaborating on the development of the Nous sommes curriculum. Julia has been playing this game for years, and I am so glad that she shared this idea with me!

The Unfair Game® is designed to be played with two teams. You can use as few or as many questions as you want, and teams try to answer the questions correctly in order to earn points for their team.

What's so unfair about that?


In the Unfair Game, each question is assigned a unique point value, and the point value can be positive OR negative. No one except for the teacher knows the value of the question until after the answer is given. The team must decide before seeing the value of the question whether they want to keep the points or give them to the other team. Then they have to just cross their fingers and hope that their choice worked out in their favor!


In order to increase the strategy required to play the game, I came up with an alternate way to play (it will also allow you to inject novelty by playing the same game in a slightly different way): once the value of the question is revealed, the team can choose to keep the points or give them to the other team. Instead of determining the winner by whoever has the most points, the winning team is the one that has the positive score closest to zero. (For example, a team with a final score of +2 would beat a team with a final score of -1 because the winning score must be positive--even though -1 is closer to 0 than is +2.) Of course, if both scores are negative, then the winning score is whichever is closer to zero. The game is still unfair because you aren't in control of your own score: another team can interfere with your strategy!


  1. Write a list of questions to ask students during the game, and number each question.
  2. Assign a positive or negative point value to each question at random (I stick to values between -10 and +10 or so).
  3. Create some kind of a game board in which only the question numbers are visible (students cannot see the question or the point value assigned to it). For example, the game board could be as simple as the nine-square grid that you see to the right. The teacher should keep a list of the questions that correspond to each question number from the game board AND the value of each question. (Ex: Q1: What is 1+1? value = +3 points Q2: Who wrote Romeo and Juliet? value = -6 points, Q3: What does "corre" mean in English? value = +2 points).

Here is a basic Unfair Game game board:

A sample gameboard for the Unfair Game - all you need is a way to show which questions are available to students!

Want something a little more jazzy? Purchase the interactive and editable The Unfair Game template for Powerpoint or The Unfair Game template for Keynote. Each one provided in Spanish and in English, includes separate templates for the Original Unfair Game and The Unfair Game 2.0--four templates total--, and is designed for 25 questions).

We also offer many pre-made games, and we'd gladly make one for you--submit a request here!

How to play The Unfair Game

  1. Divide your class into two teams: Team A and Team B (they can choose a name for their team, if they wish). If you play the original version of the game, you could have more than two teams. However, if you play The Unfair Game 2.0, you really should only have two teams so that several teams are not tempted to strategically "gang up" on one team in particular.
  2. Think of a number between 1-100 and have each team guess to see which one gets to choose a question first. Let’s imagine that Team A guesses the number closest to the one that you chose and therefore gets to pick the question first.
  3. Explain the objective: When all questions have been answered (or you run out of time), whichever team has the closest POSITIVE score to zero is declared the winner. (Ex: A team with a score of +2 beats a team with a score of -1 because the score must be positive, even though -1 is closer to 0 than +2.
  4. The first team (Team A, in this example) selects a question number.
  5. The teacher reads the corresponding question aloud.
  6. Team A attempts to answer the question correctly.
  7. After Team A answers the question, the teacher states whether the answer was “correct” or “incorrect” (revealing the correct answer if the team answered incorrectly).
  8. The teacher reveals the point value of the question.
  9. If Team A answered correctly, Team A chooses whether to keep the points or to award them to Team B. If Team A answered the question incorrectly, then Team B chooses what to do with the points from that question (to keep them or assign them to Team A).
  10. A secretary adds the positive or negative point value to the designated team’s score on a score sheet.
  11. Regardless of whether or not Team A answered their question correctly, Team B now chooses a question and game play repeats from Step #4-#10.
  12. Play until all questions have been answered or you run out of time!

The Unfair Game is a highly competitive review game for any class that your students will love to hate!


Switching to Comprehension Based Methods of teaching language doesn't mean that you have to get rid of all of your old activities: you simply must consider how you can use them to provide your students with comprehensible input!

So, how could you use this in a world language class that strives to fill each class period with CI? Here are a few ideas:

  • Read a chapter--or several chapters--from a novel and have students respond to comprehension questions about the text in the target language. Think outside the box when writing questions: include formats like "Fact or Opinion?", "First or Second?", "Who said it?", etc. Students could also determine whether or not the given statement appeared in the text.
  • Do a MovieTalk or Ask a Story in class. Each question for the game is a question about the video or class story (true/false, multiple choice, fill in the blank, etc.).
  • Do a cultural study and ask content-based questions in the target language about the topic.
  • Work with a song and really get to know the lyrics. Show students the first half of a lyric and require them to complete it, give the next line in the song, or translate it.
  • Write closed-ended questions (NOT personalized or customized) or fill in the blank statements, each of which includes one structure from a set of target structures.

Get ready-to-play games!

In addition to our editable templates (Click here!), we have a whole slew of The Unfair Game sets that are loaded up with questions and ready for you to play with your students in Spanish, English or French.

See an example of how I created a version of the game that is rich in input (available in Spanish and French):

The Unfair Game is the perfect review game that your students will LOVE to hate!

Background graphics for slides and the cover page of the game instructions were created by Clipart Queen.

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