“Moustache or Hat?” – Teaching ESL in Japan

Many of you may already know that I teach English at a junior high school in Japan.  The next week and a half is my last chance to go all the things I was too timid about doing before.  So, today, I had the brilliant idea for a ridiculous game called, “Moustache or Hat?”

Moustache or Hat? worksheet

As you can see, the worksheet is SUPER simple.  It’s just WordArt and a 3×3 table.  The more it looks like you have no creativity in your worksheet-making body, the better.  The students then feel responsible for making it more interesting.  Here’s how it worked with my special needs kids this morning:

1) Make sure they know what “moustache” and “hat” mean in Japanese.  (Act like Ron Burgandy with a finger over your lip and they’ll get the former immediately.)

2) Tell them you’ll speak English and whatever word you say, they have to draw that object and put either a moustache or a hat on it.  This is where things get awesome and the kids are giggling with appreciation for the strangeness of it all.

3) Draw some examples.  I used “baseball.”


4) Then play the game with vocab they are just learning or have always had trouble with!  After this game they will never forget it.  Here are some student examples of “basketball,” “school,” and “Mr. Kaston.”

While playing this game, the kids seemed to have no idea that they were learning, which was perfect.  The head-fake lesson is always more effective.  And the laughter this lesson enables will remind you of why you started teaching in the first place.  It will also remind you what percentage moustache or hat you are.

HELP ME: I want to do another lesson like this, but I want to try other topics.  I was thinking about “Super Saiya-jin or Jam” where they’d either have to make the object go super saiya-jin or work jam into the picture somehow.  But I want to hear your ideas, so leave a comment and if your idea makes me laugh out loud, I’ll do it and upload pictures.

Be well,



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. courtneykane
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 15:25:43

    Oh my goodness, I absolutely LOVE this random game. I’ve taught English in both El Salvador and the Galapagos Island and I always tried to find interactive ways to make the learning relevant and/or fun. It depends on the level of the kids. Some things I have done that the kids really liked were:
    – Write out like 5 steps to making a peanut butter and jam sandwich. The kids work individually and when they decifer what each instruction is and put it in the correct order they get to make (and eat) a sandwich, reading the instructions out loud as they make it. I found even the laziest and shyest kids are willing to have a go to try this weird (in Latin America) yet delicious food.
    – With another class I taught them the chorus to Michael Jackson’s “Blame it on the Boogie” and we would sing along and do the hand movements sometime in every class when they needed a break. The main purpose of this was a bit of fun and to learn a few basic words and phrases (in this case sunshine, moonlight, good times, and boogie – that last one always made them laugh, especially the little bum wiggle that accompanies it).


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