Heads Down, Thumbs Up (a.k.a. Heads Up, Seven Up)

To encourage and practice simple conversation in a game format

This game can be adapted to a wide variety of key questions, phrases, and vocabulary instruction and practice.

For the purpose of this explanation, we will assume the lesson is:

“How are you?”
“I’m ~ (happy/sad/fine/sick/angry)”


  1. Choose 2-7 people out of the class. These students will be “it” and will have the hanging vocabulary pictures around their necks. When starting, have the HRT act as a student, and use one student and you as the “it” people. Then slowly add vocabulary cards/students into the “it” group as the class begins to understand the game.
  2. Have the 2-7 “it” people stand in front of everybody while the rest are sitting down at their desks. Review the vocabulary being used, including the main question and vocabulary responses (hanging picture cards).

  3. Say “Heads down thumbs up.” Students at their desks should put their heads down on their desk, covering their eyes, and raise one thumb up into the air (as though they are blindly giving the “thumbs up” from their desk).

  4. “GO!” The 2-7 “it” people quickly go around the room and touch the thumb of one of their classmates. When a student’s thumb is touched, they should put their thumb DOWN. The “it” students return to the front of the room. When they have all chosen someone and have all returned to the front of the room, the teacher allows the game to continue.

  5. Say “OK” or some other signal for the game to continue.

  6. Students whose thumbs were touched/tagged stand up.

  7. All together, the 2-7 “it” students ask each individual standing the key question, one at a time. (Example: “How are you?”) Each touched/standing student must attempt to guess which “it” tagged them out of the original 2-7 people using the key response phrase (i.e., “I’m angry.”). If they correctly respond and identify the person/vocabulary card that touched them, the two switch places (“it” sits down, standing student is now “it”). If they get it wrong, they sit back down and the “it” person is safe to participate in another round of the game.

  8. At the end of the round, the “it” students who got away with touching their classmates thumb disclose the names of the students they touched.

Game continues as a new round begins.

Repeat steps 3 to 8 for as long as you would like!


Be patient on the first day. To keep all students engaged, have the entire class ask the key question to the standing students whose thumbs have been touched, rather than just the "it" students . Put a time limit on the students who stand to guess who touched them. This will help with your time management. Play! Sure, you can sit back and watch the first few rounds, but once the students understand, they are very eager to play and enjoy the "guessing" game very much. Enjoy it! Who knows, even the HRT that typically sits back will be playing too!

Lesson Topics
Junior High
vocabulary cards on strings (to hang on neck)