The guessing game Hedbanz has become a popular game for both families and classrooms. Teachers are finding new ways to use the materials to review geography, science, or any content vocabulary. ESL teachers love them for practicing question-making, introducing descriptive vocabulary, and building skills for Asking for Clarification. The only problem is that sets available for purchase in stores don’t have enough headbands for a whole class. I also found that the plastic sets can snap and break easily, and they were uncomfortable for some of my students, particularly those with headscarves or a hair up-do.
Luckily, this part of the game is easy to replace or replicate!
First, we’ll walk you though the steps to make your own Hedbanz or Guessing Game headbands, and then we’ll give you some games and activities to use the new tools in your ESL classroom.
The design is similar to the adjustable crowns at Burger King or other paper head crafts. All you need is:
- lightweight poster board or thick construction paper
- precision cutting tool (X-acto knife)
- ruler (optional)
First, measure off the bands. You can see that the short end of a standard 22×28″ poster is approximately the length of the headband. I was making these for adult students, so I kept them longer than the game version. If making bands for small children, you may choose to trim the poster first so that it is 20 or 18 inches tall.
Measure the height of the bands by making marks about 2 inches apart along the long end of the poster. These do not need to be exact – I got about 14 out of one piece of posterboard. To make cutting easier, make the same marks halfway down the poster, and along the other edge. Cut into strips.
Then, cut several slits along the end of the headband, about 1/2 inch apart. The cuts should go just above halfway through the height of the band. You can eyeball these, as students will be able to adjust easily. Make 7-10 cuts along the top of one end and the same number along the bottom of the other end.
It doesn’t matter which way is top or bottom, but the slits must be from the opposite edge in order to fit together to make the headband. Wrap the band into a circle around your head and set the size by sliding slits from opposite ends of the strip together, meeting in the middle.
Next, make a slot to hold the mystery card. Unfold the headband and draw a downward-facing semi-circle near the middle of the band. This doesn’t have to be exactly centered, but don’t draw it too close to either the top or the bottom of the strip. Use a cutting tool to trace your pencil lines.
Last, your headbands are ready to go! Wrap the band up and try it out. Rope up some willing friends and family to test your new set out.
Many of the following games are already popular with ESL classrooms. It has been common to tape a mystery name on the back of students’ shirts, for example. The benefit of using Hedbanz is that they don’t fall off easily, but also that students can interact face-to-face and their hands are free to negotiate meaning with gestures. This is similar to an authentic conversation. In groups or pairs, they can also replace their card with a new one from the deck.
What am I?
The game comes with cards for every day items, food, and animals that you can use for a simple guessing game with native English speaker or ESL students. Each person in the group or pair slides a card into the holder at the front of the headband without looking at it.
One player starts with the question Am I an animal? Am I a food?” or Am I a thing?” to narrow down the category, and then continues with Yes/No questions they can guess their own mystery card. Then, the next person tries to guess their own card. Advanced students may be able to take turns asking questions, but beginner or intermediate students should keep it simple by playing one-at-a-time.
The Hedbanz cards come with the phrase I am … above the picture, which makes them easy to use, even for beginner students. If playing with your own cards, the students may use Am I… or Is it… forms of questions. If a student knows the object or animal, but doesn’t know the English word, they can try to act it out or describe it to get the answer right. High intermediate and advanced language learners may use passive, conditionals, or other verb forms. Model these options and provide a set of sample questions for students.
If your class is practicing Descriptive Language instead of Making Questions, have the group describe the object to the person wearing the headband, instead.
To review classroom, textbook, or content vocabulary, write the word list on index cards or print small cards on cardstock. This will work best once the class has covered a relatively large amount of vocabulary so that the answers are not too obvious.
Play similar to the What am I? game by asking Yes/No questions about the word. Or, have the group/partner describe the mystery word while the person with the card listens and tries to guess it.
Print pictures or names of celebrities, athletes, fictional characters, or other well-known people. Give each student a headband and card at the beginning of class, clearly explaining that they must put the card into place without looking at it.
Play similar to What am I? but have the students walk around the room instead of working in small groups or pairs. They can only ask Yes/No questions to their classmates. Provide a list of key words to lower level students, such as male, female, superhero, actor, singer, musician, etc.