Shoot Out

shootoutThis game can be used as an icebreaker, a warmer or a vocabulary exercise.   I’ve never used it as an icebreaker although I wish I had as it would be a good one for learning names.   I have recently used it as both a warmer for a some sleepy teenagers (there was a prize for the most convincing “death”) and also a vocabulary exercise for some rambunctious 10-year-olds.  It’s another game that has come from improvencyclopedia.  I’ll explain the rules first for the warmer/icebreaker and then explain how I adapted it.  [NB. I recommend thinking carefully about where you use this ‘shooting’ game.]

  • Students stand in a circle.  Get them to make ‘guns’ with their hands and check they are working (get them all to ‘shoot’ into the air and make a sound effect.)
  • Now tell them that you are going to say the name of one student. That student must duck as fast as possible to avoid being ‘shot’, because the two students either side are going to turn and ‘shoot’ as quickly as they can.  If the named person moves too slowly and gets ‘shot’, they must ‘die’ and return to their seat.  If they successfully avoid ‘death’, then the neighbour who “shot” last ‘dies’ (the bullet from the person on the other side of the named person gets them).  So someone always ‘dies’ – either the named person or the last person to shoot.
  • The person who just ‘died’ can now control the game and name the next person.
  • The game continues until only two people are left standing. They must stand back to back in the middle of the room. When you say “Go!”, they start walking away from one another, listening carefully for you (or another student) to say “Shoot!” The first person to shoot wins the game!

Improvencyclopedia suggests a variation to make it a bit harder- the students turn around once before shooting.

Adapting it for use as a vocabulary game

My Elementary class of 10-year-olds are learning vocabulary to do with survival skills.  Once they had already learned the words, we practised pronunciation and also collocations (eg. cook food, chop wood, fish in a river) using this game: instead of names, we used these collocations.  The students wrote one each on a post-it note and stuck it to themselves. It took some time to explain and set up but now that they know it I think we’ll be able to use it again.

As always, if anyone has any other ideas for adapting this, I’d love to hear them!



  1. Hi! I just finished writing a post about this game when I came across your blog and post. I call it the Cowboy game and the children absolutely love it! They always ask me to play it and can never get enough! =) Great one!

  2. I learnt about this game from Anette Igel a few years ago. She uses it to practise irregular verbs – you shoot someone with the infinitive, and the two people either side have to shoot each other with either the past simple or past participle, depending on what you’re practising that day.
    I’ve been meaning to write about it for ages!

    1. Ooh, I love it! Thanks, Sandy!

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