The classic Japanese card-slapping game.
Target levelES 1 - JHS 3
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カルタ (karuta) is a standard elementary school game. Students are in groups looking at face-up cards. You say the card, and the first student to slap it gets the card (one point).

Target audience: elementary school and JHS.


  1. Make small groups. Each group has a set of cards that they place face-up.
  2. Everyone asks you a question. For example, "What month is it?"
  3. You say a month. For example, "It's April."
  4. The first student to slap the April card takes the card for one point.
  5. Continue until all cards are slapped.


  • Questions. Before saying the vocabulary word, students ask you a set phrase. For instance, if you're studying the weather, they ask you How is the weather? You answer It's cloudy. Pick questions that they will use in a speaking activity later that day.


  • Pair karuta. Students win more and have more chances to figure out the answer. Use groups of 3 or 4 to use less paper.
  • Team karuta. 1st graders don't like losing, so pair karuta might be undesirable. Make big cards and put them on the floor or chalk board. Divide the class in two. Each round, one student from each team competes.
  • Flyswatter karuta. Buy two flyswatters. Play team karuta at the chalkboard using the flyswatters. Mark two flyswatter starting spots below the flashcards.
  • Scorekeeping. When keeping the score in team karuta, do it in the western style, with four vertical lines and one diagonal line. Explain this to the class. Consider not keeping score with 1st graders.
  • Hands. Start with hands on heads. Or, start with arms crossed. Or, start with hands on knees.
  • Counting. In pair karuta, ask students How many? at the end of the game to see who got the most cards.
  • Stickers. If you give stickers for 1st-2nd grade, give the winners gold stickers and the losers silver stickers. They may get upset if only the winners get stickers.
  • Hint. For fifth and sixth grade students. Give the students three simple hints. For example, "I like to jump, I am brown, I have a pocket(o)." Answer: Kangaroo. Body parts and adjectives such as long, small, big, tall, short work well for hints too. Students may pick the card at anytime during the hint period, but they may only pick once. Great listening game.

Specialized karuta

See also