ESL Psychaitrist Game: “You Should…”

Its name is Psychiatrist game. I genuinely don’t remember if I thought of this activity on my own, or if I read about it online somewhere. Either way I’m sure that it already exists and I’m even more certain that once enough time has passed I will be using it again with a different name for different target language.
My grade two and grade three kids happened to both have key expressions about giving advice so I was actually able to use this game for both grades which doesn’t happen often. And I’m so thankful that they both got to play it because this game has helped me to reign back in a few classes that I thought were past the point of no return, and it was actually fun. And they actually used English. What a mind blowing concept.

The game is basically this.

I explain what a psychiatrist is, this takes some time. We practice pronouncing the word and I get them to tell me what this is in Korean.

(I’ve translated that word back into English and comes up as ‘shrink’ so I’m not entirely certain that they get the legitimacy of a psychiatrist but the mental health taboo in Korea is a whole other thing so we’ll just leave it at that.)

Then I tell them that I need one student to be our class psychiatrist today. At this point some classes are jumping out of their seats to volunteer without knowing what they actually have to do, and some are looking back at me with a kind of vacancy that’s not only frustrating but also a bit unsettling. But surprisingly I never had to choose anyone at random. There’s enough curiosity that at least one person wants the chance to stand up in front of the whole class and be silly.

I have the new psychiatrist come up and stand next to me while I explain the rest of the game. I can’t say exactly why but they like this; getting to stand up in front of the class next to the teacher.

Then I explain that they are going to make teams with 4 or 5 people. Our psychiatrist will leave the room, then I will show them a problem on the screen. With their team they should think of some advice for the problem and then write their answer on the board. And then I repeat this several times, “you can give a good advice, or a really bad advice, or some crazy advice. Any advice that you want!” Because that’s what this game hinges on, their ability to be silly middle schoolers like they already are but just do it in a different language.

Then I tell them the psychiatrist will come back into the room and choose their favorite advice. (None of the classes got this right of the bat, but towards the end everyone starts to realize that you should write some advice that is specifically tailored to whoever is the psychiatrist that round because they’ll be more likely to choose it. I discovered a lot of interesting things about some students when it was their turn to be the psychiatrist.)

Then I tell the first psychiatrist that they can leave the room and everyone laughs as we wave good bye to them. And then I show the teams their first problem. I save the best one, my favorite problem (“I really like this boy/girl but I don’t know how to talk to them.”) for second or third so that they can get the hang of how this works, and how to be funny, before we get to it.

Once all teams have written their advice on the board I go outside to call the psychiatrist back in. They walk back in looking very excited and proud to be the judge for the entire class. Every single time. Which is incredible for some of students for whom the word ‘excited’ does not immediately spring to mind.

Then we read the problem together out loud as a class and I read the different advices on the board. And also explain some words that higher level students might have used. Then the psychiatrist takes some time, some of them reeeeeally take their time, and chooses their favorite.

Then the psychiatrist sits back down and I ask for a new student to volunteer. And now that they all know what’s going on everyone wants to do it. So usually we Rock Paper Scissors for who will go.

And then the whole thing starts again.

This activity is great for a lot of reasons. First, it gets them using and being creative in their target language. Second, it has very limited teacher talking time which is ideal for the language classroom. Third, it allows for various leveled students to fully participate because success isn’t dependent on speaking to me, or on having perfect English, it’s about what their fellow student will like. So even my super high level kids who sometimes can dominate the class had to tailor their answers to a specific person. And fourth, it’s fun. That’s a big deal for my kids who are quite lower level and generally not sold on the whole, “English is important for your life” thing.

I also found out that I had some comedians in my classes that I didn’t know about.

Let me take you through some of the more creative answers I got.
1. I won a million dollars! What should I do?

-“You should buy some real estate.”

-“You should buy the earth.”

-“You should buy Exo.” (A Kpop band)

-“You should send to a no tax country to get more money.”

-“You should give it all to ‘the psychiatrist’.”

-“You should wipe your poo with dollar bills.”
2. I broke my cellphone screen. What should I do?

-“You should steal someone else’s phone.”

-“You should break more with a hammer.”

-“You should cry all day.”
3. I really like this girl/boy but I don’t know how to talk to her. What should I do?

-“You should kiss him first.”

-“You should give up now because he is gay.”

-“You should give up because more comfortable alone.”

-“You should pull down his pants.”

-“You should ask him to eat ramen.”

-“You should kick her and then ask, are you okay?”

-“You should push her into the wall and say, I love you.”
4. I don’t like the sweater my mom bought me, but she says I have to wear it.

-“You should burn it.”

-“You should lie to mom, I lost it.”

-“You should wear a couple sweater with your mom.” (It’s a thing in Korea for couples to wear matching clothes.)

-“You should cut it and make a puppy sweater.”

-“You should drink PocariSweater with your mom.” (PocariSweat is a drink similar to Gatorade here. But I was so proud of this answer! It takes real thought and creativity to make a pun in another language.)

-“You should poop on the sweater.” (It’s worth noting there was actually a discussion as to which preposition suited her intention more. She originally had “in” the sweater but we decided to go with “on.”)
5. I really like playing chess, but my friends tell me it’s not cool.

-“You should say, I like playing chess but I don’t like you.”

-“You should cut your friendship.”

-“You should slap him.”

-“You should hit them with the chess board.”

-“You should get a new hobby.”
I’m very sad to see this activity go but I’m glad for the week of fun that it gave me. So for any teachers out there I hope maybe this was helpful, and for everyone else I hope it was entertaining.

I love my kids and I love when I get to see them be their real silly selves.

Thanks for reading!

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