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One dice, one pencil

There is a craze for this game on MFL teacher social media at the moment. It is variously called: One die, one pen; One dice, one pen; One die, one pencil. Just combine your preferred noun with your writing implement. I have just learned it comes from the book Games for Teaching Primary French by Danièle Bourdais and Sue Finnie.

This is how the game is played. Each partner has a writing task to complete (gapped translations seem popular). On starts with the pen(cil),the other with the dice. While the pen-holder starts their written task, the dice holder rolls the dice until they get a 6. When they do they get to use the pen while their partner gets the dice and starts rolling until they get their turn again. The winner is the pupil who finishes their written task first. Some teachers are playing variations on this pattern with groups of three or four. Teachers report how motivating the game is and how keen students are to work quickly.

You could give each student a different written task or the same one (assuming they won’t just copy from their partner).

All in all, it seems like a very simple and enjoyable activity which gives a twist to a pretty mundane gap-fill task. All you need is a set of dice and a worksheet for each pupil.

There’s not much to dislike about this game. My only reservation is that when a pupil is rolling a dice they are not doing any work. They could be encouraged to think ahead on their worksheet, of course, and you might be wise to prime the class to do this.


Tip: use foam dice if you want a quieter lesson.

Vincent Everett on Twitter has noted:

“It's loud and motivates pupils to translate (implying they are not normally) but doesn't focus on any key desirable aspect of translation or accuracy apart from speed. By its nature the translation has to be easy as the activity has no mechanism for coping with unknown elements.”

Janet Lloyd on Facebook

“New take on one die one pencil perhaps ....
Would be great with word dominoes and sentence / short text building rather than translation too. Rather than working out meaning of word to put it in to English, the children could look up meaning of words to build sentences. Would work with verbs too that had to be matched to pictures etc. Translation in to English could then be final part of activity once again with dice rolling and pencils.”

Joe Dale’s Storify:

From Klass EP MFL on Twitter

"We've found it works best to give opponents different versions of the same task and at the end they use an answer sheet to mark each others' work together, so they can check accuracy and both self & peer assess. We also differentiate by making harder tasks = more points."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. With regard to the dice thrower not doing much, a lot of people have said that students throw their dice/die with one hand and consult reference materials with the other. They can't consult reference materials while writing. This will help with the overall accuracy of the piece of work.


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