The flyswatter game has always been a student favorite, and a great activity to add to the lesson plan on those hyper days – oh you know, like pep rally days, full moon days or the day before a break. However, the original game is based on translating words or conjugating with verb endings. Here are 3 ways to keep it ALL in the target language!

Traditionally the flyswatter game is played by putting the vocabulary words in one language all over the board or a wall. There are two teams. One student from each team comes to the board and has a flyswatter. A caller, usually the teacher, says the translation of a word and the students race to swat the correct translation first. But let’s mix it up a bit to keep it in the TL!


Categories: Dessert, Dinner, Drink, Breakfast


Put categories in the TL on the board and call out words and phrases in TL. Students will swat the category that the item belongs. This is good for all novice levels and up to reinforce key words that they can use to circumlocute. Also this allows the vocabulary list to be limitless and it’s easy to reuse. I can type out 4 or 5 categories a lot faster than I can put all the specific words. Bonus!


Shopping/El Corte Inglés~ BOARD: food/clothes/toys/electronics (departments) – WORDS: shirt, chicken, headphones, bike, etc.

Music~ BOARD: song descriptors/artist information/feeling/themes – WORDS: Enrique, fast, love, hate, slow, sadness, etc.

Activities~ BOARD: inside activity/outside activity/both OR fall/winter/spring/summer – WORDS: soccer, bowling, volleyball, football, cross country, track, skiing, etc.

Foods~ BOARD: breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack OR vegetable/fruit/meat OR main course/side/desert/drink OR Japan/Argentina/Korea/Italy/China/France/Costa Rica/German (or use nationalities) – WORDS: beans, lettuce, chicken, strawberry, etc.

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Japan/Argentina/Korea/Italy/China/France/Costa Rica/German

Comparisons: Spain/Both/United States

Comparisons: Spain/Both/United States


Basically you are creating a Venn Diagram for them. Sometimes this one becomes a great debate! Defend your answer (in TL of course) and maybe I’ll accept the answer…


Holidays~ BOARD: Halloween/Day of the Dead/Both – WORDS: skulls, mole, paper picado, vampires, ofrendas, costumes

Countries~ BOARD: Spain/Both/U.S. – WORDS: (traditional foods) gazpacho, morcilla, serrano ham, paella, tortilla española, turrón, mashed potatoes, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken soup

Traditions~ BOARD: Flamenco/Both/Tango – WORDS: guitar, castanets, vocals, sad, happy, partners, alone, fast, slow, Argentina, Spain



Put TL words or pictures on the board, then describe the word. This one is great for targeting novice high and up. Also it is so powerful for them to come up with the descriptions for the “descriptions” version.


Food~ BOARD: (words or pictures): sushi/kimchi/flan/mate/chow mein/cannoli/gallo pinto/bacalao – EXAMPLE DESCRIPTION: “it is a breakfast food… from Costa Rica… it has rice and beans”

New Year’s~ BOARD: (words or pictures): grapes/clock/plaza/celebrate/eat/friends/family – EXAMPLE DESCRIPTION: “a food that is eaten… traditionally they eat 12 of them… it is a fruit”

I think it helps to play this as a whole-class activity the first time they play. It’s easy to explain the directions in the TL too. Then it makes a great station activity for a small group. They get more playing time and they don’t need a teacher to lead it (they love being the caller). I put the general directions in the TL on a station sign and reuse it. I’ll even leave it set up in the room where they can play if they finish early. They like to add their own words too.


Karla Garza (Spanish teacher in Texas) presented about a similar game called “Matapulgas” (Flea killer) where they have partners and a paper with the words/pictures. They use their fingers to be the first to “squash” it. Another partner version is what we call “Circle it” (click to read).

So this game idea is not a new one by any means. But I love taking games they like and altering them to fit my goal of 90% target language.

Do you have any other ideas to keep this game in the TL?