Debrief Ideas for Novices & Intermediates

You all know I LOVE Team Challenges! Last week I had the pleasure of presenting an hour of challenges to groups at the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers (NYSAFLT) in Oneonta at their Summer Institute.

For each activity we discussed how to leverage the three phrases of a team challenge. 

  1. Instructions
  2. Activity
  3. Debrief

I want to take some time to share ideas for the debrief phase in this post. These are things you can do AFTER a game or team challenge to get the students speaking, writing or even just thinking about the activity in the Target Language.


  • List words you heard during the activity.
  • Draw a picture of the activity, label important materials/props in the activity.
  • Answer yes/no questions about the activity (could answer by moving to one side or another).
  • Answer simple questions about how the activity made you feel (one word answers).
  • Create a T chart with one side listing difficult parts of the activity and the other side listing easy parts of the activity. Or one side listing frustrating vs. fun parts of the activity. (Example: Frustrating= difficult, fast. Fun= friends, throw ball)
  • After playing two similar games/challenges compare them in a Venn Diagram with pictures and words.
  • Teacher lists words from activity, class copies them down and draws a picture for each one.
  • Students attempt to right the rules to the activity in list form (or short phrases).
  • Take a picture of the students doing the activity, print out, students paste into their notebooks and describe the activity and actions of students in photo.


  • Ideas above, but pushing for longer responses (new vocab, recombine vocab and pushing to simple sentences).
  • Ideas below, but expecting short phrases and some simple sentences.
  • Write the rules out to the activity.
  • Describe the activity.
  • What did you like about this activity? What didn’t you like?
  • If we try again, what would you do differently. The same?
  • Draw a comic about one of our failed solutions. Include dialogue.
  • List the different solution ideas.
  • Describe the best solution from the class.


  • Any above ideas, but expecting more language.
  • Describe the activity.
  • Describe your reaction to it.
  • Who was a leader in the group? Describe how he/she led? What were his/her ideas?
  • What were the different ideas?
  • Did the class work as a team? How?
  • What is important for good communication and team work?
  • Describe what happened from the beginning to the end of the activity.
  • List 5 classmates and what they each did during the activity.
  • What are ideas for how to make the challenge more difficult? More fun?
  • Describe a new solution.

I’ll try to add more soon! Luckily I’ve got a lot going on this week, but it means I didn’t have as much time to brainstorm here right now. I just got back from New York, then today I wrapped up a digital workshop series on assessment & feedback and Wednesday I have a full day workshop on Target Language with Novices! All great things 🙂

Below you’ll find the notes I sent to the NYSAFLT Summer Institute Folks, they may be the only ones that are able to understand them because they experienced them. But, I thought I’d paste them here for continuity and if I get a chance, I’ll explain activities more clearly in a later version.

Ashley’s Notes From NYSAFLT Presentation

Here are some quick description of the activity.  These descriptions are mostly just to refresh your memory of the activity, it may be hard to understand if you didn’t participate. 

Bus Stop: Warm-up. Everyone stands in the area you call “the bus”. And gets off by deciding if they prefer one thing or another. Point to left and say “Summer”. Point to right and say “Winter”. Students step to one side or another. Have them look around at who is on either side. Then step back onto the bus. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Encourage convos with kids on same sides or opposite side. Can be used to “hook” students into a topic.

Hula Hoop Pass: This activity is one of the most simple. Students need to pass a hula hoop around the circle while holding hands. The challenge is to get the fastest time possible. Check out my fastest group. They had the idea that starting at a lower position made it easier for each person to simply step out of the hula hoop.
Find warm/cool balls blindfolded: I realize now I need much cooler names for these games. For this one, partners work together. One partner is blindfolded and the other can see in order to give directions. The team needs to gather as many plastic balls in the area as they can (can use balled up paper, easter eggs, ANYTHING). Each color has a different point value. Once all balls are collected, count the points up and see who wins. Repeat before debrief. Or debrief and then repeat. Lots of ways to change this up!

Four corner traverse/ Chocolate River

This was the one where students start separated into four corners. They are given a certain number of resources (I used paper plates) to traverse the area in the middle. They have to strategize with one another. If you end up losing contact with a resource, you lose it.

The other, simpler way, is everyone is crossing from one side of the room to another and have 5 stepping stones to do so. We ended up playing it as a slight mix of both, I’ll link to both versions here:

Communicative mystery design I have to give credit here to my partner in crime, Estela Schmalz! She introduced me to this activity. You create a design of some sort in a box and have the same materials for each group to try to recreate the same design. Person #1 in the group gets to SEE the design in the box and tell the second person about it. Person #2 gets to hear the instructions from the first person and then describe them to person #3 (and 4 if groups of 4). Person #3 has to listen carefully and build the design with the materials they have. So much fun!

Everyone touch this w/o touching each other! Group #2 ended up being too good to make this one challenging! You have a roll of duct tape and everyone needs to touch it without touching anyone else in the group. Probably harder for bigger groups.

Pass the ball in order as quickly as you can!– Have students pass the ball around remembering who they are passing it to and who they are receiving it from. Practice the order a few ties and then time them, ask if they can beat that time! Have them problem-solve to keep beating it! Eventually they realize they don’t need to stay in the circle in that order and cut their time down a lot.

Tossing and catching with bandanas – Each pair gets a bandana and a beanie baby (we used the plastic balls this week, but those weren’t quite heavy enough). Have them try throwing it up in the air and catching it! Then passing from one pair to another. Then half the class passes it down the line, then the whole class. Can challenge them to get as many animals (or balls) from start to finish in one minute!

Line up! Have students line up in certain orders. We did time you went to sleep last night and time you work up this morning. Gets them talking to everyone to find their spot in line.

Bonus one for fun!