Circumlocution game – La silla caliente

Here’s a good game to work on circumlocution.  It’s a simple game, but there are several possible variations.  I work circumlocution early in the year and use this game at that time, but I also pull it out throughout the year.  It was appropriate for today because I wanted to do something with a lot of language input after our days of testing.  To maintain a high quantity and quality of language used, I did most of the talking.  I call it “la silla caliente”.

Purpose: To expose students to circumlocution

Materials: Power point slides or cards with lists of words in English that students probably do not know in the Target Language.  A timer.  Here is a Power Point presentation with many slides of 5 terms each:

la silla caliente

Gameplay: There are many ways to play all based around the same idea: A student trying to determine a word or phrase based on clues in the Target Language.

  1. Divide class into teams (2-3 is best)
  2. One person sits in a chair at the front of the room facing away from the screen/board.
  3. The teacher faces the student and screen.
  4. 5 terms are projected on the screen in English.  The teacher sees them.  The student does not.
  5. The teacher describes the terms in the TL while the student guesses as many as he/she can in a given amount of time (2 minutes works well)
  6. The teacher cannot say proper nouns, use English, gesture or say the term in the Target Language (If the term is “monkey bars”, he cannot say “mono”).
  7. The number of correct guesses is the number of points awarded to each team.


  1. It can be an individual game.  Students play to see who can guess 5 terms in the shortest amount of time.
  2. If the terms are on cards, the teacher can describe to an entire group at once.  Although I have found more value with one student at a time playing because the others see the words and hear my circumlocution .
  3. Students can be the speaker.  This provides great circumlocution speaking practice, but the quality of input is reduced and students tend to instinctively break the “no proper nouns” rule.
  4. The terms can be in the Target Language if they are familiar to the students


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2 Responses to Circumlocution game – La silla caliente

  1. John LeCuyer says:

    Hi Bryan, I play a game similar that I created based on a Mexican game show which I can’t remember the name right now. I call it Tres Sillas. I form teams of 3 students and allow them to play against each other similar to a sports bracket where the winners of each team will go on to play the winners of the other teams and so on until there is an overall winner. Play: I position three chairs back to back like a triangle in the front of the room. Students come up and sit back to back in the chairs. I have a stack of index cards with words in English. I put two minutes on the clock. I show the first word to the first student and they begin describing the word in Spanish. At any time the other two members can shout out the word in English. If they are correct they score a point and everyone gets up and moves clockwise to the next seat. I then show the next person the card and they begin describing the word. Students try to guess the words. I only allow four passes per round. One per student and an extra one. Every pass after that gets deducted from their final score. If a team uses an English word for a clue or a made up Spanish word, then I count that as a pass against them. It is a great competition and it really builds their circumlocution skills. I will also let each team play twice against each other and add those two scores together before advancing the winners to the next round. Hope this makes sense. Take care!

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