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"Shee-ree-toh-ree"

Roughly translated as "Take the butt."

Shiritori is a word game played in Japan by bored people, especially children on long train rides. This is similar to the way the game Going on a Picnic is played in the United States.

The rules of the game are:

  1. Somebody says a word.
  2. The next person says a word that starts with the last kana of the previous word.
  3. Anyone who says a word that ends with the 'n' kana loses (No words in Japanese start with 'n').
  4. (Optional) The same word cannot be used twice in a game.
  5. (Optional) No verbs.

Play continues until all players except one have lost, or the destination has been reached, or (most likely) until the players have lost interest.

Example of play

Tanaka: Ame.

Kurosawa: Megane.

Tanaka: Neko.

Kurosawa: Kougaku.

Tanaka: Kuma.

Kurosawa: Manga.

Tanaka: Gakuin... are!?

しりとり Shiritori is very valuable to any English as a Foreign Language instructor. It is a great game to review new vocabulary, get students thinking of word groups and parts of speech. It is a perfect way to fill in time at the end of a class when/if your other planned activities run short. It also works well as a warm up activity and can be easily adapted to classes of various sizes.

How to:

Divide your students into groups of equal numbers. Draw a ladder on the board for each group. Your ladder(s) can have anywhere from 6-15 rungs, depending on the skills of your students and the amount of time that you have.

    |       |
    ---------
    |       |
    ---------
    |       |
    ---------
    |       |
    ---------
    |       |

The first student in the group must write a word on bottom rung. The next student writes a word on the second rung that starts with the last letter of the first word. The third student writes a word on the third rung that starts with the last letter of the second word. And so on.

For Example:


    | elf   |
    ---------
    | kite  |
    ---------
    | yak   |
    ---------
    |monkey |
    ---------
    |       |

You can determine the winner in one of two ways. The first group to reach the top or the group to come up with the longest words. The first way is fast and simple. The second is more challanging for the students, but you will have to count the letters on each ladder at the end.

Variations

You can a further dimension to the game by requiring that students only write adjectives, adverbs, nouns or verbs. You can also make it a rule that all words must be longer than a certain number of letters. Finally, for advanced classes, you can play association shiritori, where the word must be somehow connected to the one previous to it, not start with the last letter. For example:
    | sneeze |
    ----------
    | sick   |
    ----------
    | cold   |
    ----------
    | winter |
    ----------
    |        |

In this variation, your students will have to think of the meaning of the word, rather than just the correct spelling.

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