Get Your Students Flipping: 10 Fun Ways to Use Reversi to Teach Grammar

Get Your Students Flipping
10 Fun Ways to Use Reversi to Teach Grammar

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 19,458 views

Have you ever used the game Reversi or Othello, which is similar to the Japanese game Go, to teach grammar?

This simple game has players flip tiles repeatedly to show either the black or white side. It may surprise you how versatile and easy to use this game is when teaching English to speakers of other languages. Here’s how to use it when you are teaching grammar.

10 Fun Ways to Use Reversi to Teach Grammar

  1. The game itself is simple, and it is easy to modify for use in class. You do not even need a game board. Just use simple playing cards to set up your game. Make sure each pair of students has a flat surface to play on. One person will be the number side of the card and the other person will be the pattern side of the card. Start with four cards on the table in a two by two grid alternating pattern and number sides. Players will strategically place their cards so that more cards of their side are showing at the end of the game. To turn cards to their side, a players places one of their cards at the end of a row (whose other end card matches their side) and then flips all the cards in that row to show their side. In other words, in a row of three cards, pattern-number-number, a player can place a pattern card at the opposite end and then turn all the cards to show his side, pattern-pattern-pattern-pattern. If the original row was number-pattern-number, the player of pattern side would not be able to play a card on that row. You can decide whether you allow players to play diagonal rows in their game. It is possible to play a card so that you can turn cards in more than one row. At the end of the game, the player with the most cards showing on their side wins. You can label your cards with the target structure by writing the words on the cards or by printing the words on labels and then affixing those to your playing cards. You can then label each set of cards for what grammar point it tests and use them multiple times in your classroom.

  2. 1

    Word Forms

    Many English words can have different parts of speech, but different parts of speech take have forms. Prefixes and suffixes are simple ways to change words from nouns to verbs or adjectives to adverbs. You can use Reversi to review different word forms as students play. Decide which forms you will test during the game (nouns and verbs, for example) and write them on either side of the playing cards. Make sure to mix up the word forms and the sides of the cards. Before students can flip a card, they must give the form on the hidden side of the card. If they are unable to give the alternate form of the word, they cannot flip the card and thus turn it to their own side.

  3. 2

    Irregular Past Tenses

    Past tense forms are another easy way to use Reversi in the grammar classroom. On your playing cards, write the present form and the past form of irregular verbs, varying which goes on which side of each card. Then when students want to flip one of the cards on their turn, they must give a sentence using the verb form which appears on the opposite side of the card.

  4. 3

    Verb Review

    You can use Reversi to review almost any verb tense your students are learning. Simply put the simple form on the front of each card and either the target verb form on the other side. Have students make sentences using the target verb form before they can flip a card.

  5. 4

    Subordinating Conjunctions

    In this version of Reversi, you will not need to put different forms of the same word on either side of each card. You can simply label your cards on one or both sides with a subordinating conjunction. In order to flip each card to their side, a player must give a sentence using the subordinating conjunction correctly.

  6. 5


    Prepositions are another grammar point you can practice with a game of Reversi. Simply write or label each playing card with a preposition. Then when players want to flip the card, they must use the preposition correctly in a sentence. If you like, limit the prepositions to those defining location and have your student use each one to describe an item in your classroom.

  7. 6

    Reported Speech

    You can play Reversi and practice reported speech at the same time as well. Simply write the direct quotation on one side of a card and the quoted speech on the other side of the card (have students do this to save yourself prep time) and play that way. You could also play with the traditional game board if you have a stack of cards with just quoted speech on them. Just make students convert that quote to reported speech before they are allowed to take a turn.

  8. 7


    Help your students practice contractions and their pronunciation by labeling one side of your card with the contraction and another with the two word expression which means the same thing. Students must give the contraction and/or use it in a sentence to flip the card.

  9. 8

    Noncount Nouns

    It can take some practice before ESL students remember which quantifiers go with which noncount nouns. They can practice matching them when you put a quantifier and an appropriate noncount noun on opposite sides of a card when playing Reversi.

  10. 9

    Passive Voice

    You don’t have to write out entire passive and active sentences to give your students practice forming passive verbs. Simply put both forms of the verb on your Reversi cards and have students give either the verbs alone or use them in sentences before flipping each card.

  11. q

    Yes/No Question Formation

    Students can practice forming yes/no questions with Reversi when you label one side of each card with a statement and the other side with that same sentence written as a question. Students will have to convert the question to a statement or vice versa before they can flip a card during play.

If you like these grammar teaching ideas but are still unclear about how to play Reversi, don’t write these games off. Reversi is simple to play and you can find the rules here. Most of your students probably already know how to play as well, so you can have them clue you in on the finer points of game strategy. They will love the opportunity to teach you something in class.

Do you have other uses for Reversi in your ESL classroom?

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