English Inspiration with “Dixit”

Dixit is one of my all time favorite games. The combination of beautiful imagery with simple and easy to teach game play makes for fun with people of all walks of life.

Playing Dixit according to the rules can be a great way to build and reinforce vocabulary in any language, native or other.

Dixit can be used in other ways than described in the rules though. I recommend the following quick English learning activities.

Variation 1: English Only

Play normally, but restrict the hints to English only. Allow students to use a dictionary to check words or phrases they don’t know. You can further restrict hints to practice a particular part of speech, for example must be a verb, or adjectives, or a full sentence.

Variation 2: Writing Prompt

Draw a card from the pile and use it as a writing prompt. Write any or all of the following sentences.

1. Write a sentence describing what you see in the picture. “There is an anchor in the desert.”

2. Write another sentence about how it makes you feel or what it makes you think about. “I wonder if the desert used to be an ocean a long, long time ago.”

3. Write a sentence about something it reminds you of. “Somehow, it reminds me of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Especially the scene where Boba Fett falls into the Sarlacc pit.”

Variation 3: Conversation Starter

Draw a card from the pile and show it to all members of the group. Have everyone think of a keyword or phrase for the card and write it down. Then each member must share their word or phrase and talk about why they chose it. Other students can comment or ask questions about someone’s choice where appropriate.

English Learning with Board Games

Games are a wonderful way to spice up English language learning. Recently members from the English club at Meitoku High School came to the cafe. They played a variety of games, like Hedbanz, English Conversation Jenga, English Questions, the Ramen Game, and even Seven Wonders. We were happy to have them and had a great time playing and practicing English together. I hope that they can come again in the future and that other English Clubs come as well!

This post will talk about some of the games they played, as well as many other games we have that can be used for English learners.



Vocabulary and Reading with Matching Cards


The simplest learning activities are vocabulary identification games.


Picture Matching Cards are sets of cards that have a left-side card with half of a picture and the Japanese word for it, and a right-side card with the other half of a picture and the English word for it. Children as young as 18 months can enjoy matching these cards and saying or repeating the vocabulary. We have a set of vehicle cards, a set of fruit and vegetable cards, and a set of animal cards.


Karuta is a game where one player calls out a word and the other players must find the matching card from the table and take it. It develops fundamental word-level listening skills and vocabulary identification. We have a game called Eigo no Karuta that is especially designed for young English language learners. We also have a game in the same genre called Who Am I. Both games offer descriptive hints before saying the target word.

かるたは日本人に説明必要そうにないですが、英語内容のカードと組み合わせると基礎的な英単語の聞き取りと語彙識別のスキルを鍛えることが出来ます。英語のカルタWho am I?の英語学習向けのバージョンがあります。

Go Fish is a popular card game played with normal playing cards. For English learners it is good practice for the question “Do you have ~” and for practicing numbers from 2-10. We also have two specialized versions designed for English learners. One uses the uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet, and the other uses words for family members such as mother, father, etc.

ゴーフィシュはアメリカの子供たちに人気のあるトランプを使ったゲームです。英語でDo you have ~「~を持っていますか?」と2~10までの数の言い方の練習になります。普通のトランプ以外にも英語学習のために作られたアルファベットの大文字小文字の識別を鍛えれるセットと家族の英単語を鍛えれるセットがあります。

Flash Cards and Reading Cards are versatile teaching materials that can be used for a variety of games. In their simplest form Flash cards can be shuffled and presented one at a time for the learner to try to read the word. We have a set of Opposites, a set of Three Word Rhymes cards, and a set of Numbers, Colors & Shapes cards all of which can be used to make a Find the Matching Cards puzzle. We have a set of Beginning Sight Words cards as well. One of the suggested ways of playing is by choosing two words such as “it” and “is” and asking the players to read the words and fill in a third word of their own contrivance to make a simple sentence, for example. “It is sunny“. We also have a game called Spellominoes, each card of which has an onset and a rime of a word. The cards are excellent for developing spelling/sound relationships.



英語学習の上で読み方が見てもわからないけどよく出てくる「one」みたいな「Sight Words」カードのセットもあります。このセットは提案されている利用法の一つはカードを2枚選び(例えば「it」と「is」)その二つを読んで、次の単語を自由に言ったら簡単な文が作れる(例:It is sunny)。


Spot It is an extremely simple game in which the players compare two cards and try to find the symbol that is printed on both cards. They’re designed so that every card shares one and only one symbol with every other card. We have four varieties including the original game, Basic English, Alphabet, and Numbers and Shapes.


Scrabble is a vocabulary and spelling knowledge game that also involves placement strategy to get the most points. While inexperienced players are usually very limited in their vocabulary, playing with players of similar level can make it a fun experience for all.

スクラブルは英語の語彙やつづりと配置戦略のゲームです。 語彙が限られている英語学習の初心者でも同じレベルの人と勝負すると全員楽しいゲームになります。

Guessing Games


The games listed in this category are great opportunities for learners to take descriptive clues and think hard, building strong associations with what ultimately turns out to be the answer.


Hedbanz is a guessing game. Each player takes a card that they cannot see. Every turn they ask other players yes or no questions about their card and try to deduce what it is. It is a great way to practice yes or no questions and description words. Learners can be coached to practice many grammar forms like comparatives (“Am I bigger than an elephant?”) and prepositions (“Can you see me in a zoo?”).


Guess Who? is a two player game where each player randomly chooses a character card. By asking each other yes or no questions about their character they eliminate possibilities until they can guess who the other player is. It is a great game to practice expressions describing people.


Dixit is a beautifully illustrated card game where the active player says a keyword or phrase that they think represents one of their cards and everyone else plays the card they think most accurately represents that keyword. Then players guess which card the active player chose. To practice English, simply dictate that the keyword or phrase must be in English.


Party and Conversation Games


These are conversation oriented games that are useful for conversation starters or to create opportunities for debates.


English Questions is just a box full of level sorted questions, mostly aimed at school age students. It can be just a question and answer activity, or you can assign points for successfully asked or answered questions.


English Conversation Jenga is our homemade game using the pieces to Jenga with questions written on them. Players take turns pulling out Jenga blocks and must ask other players any questions on the block that they remove from the stack. After that the player must place the block they took back on top of the tower.


Ramen Game is a board of ramen noodles and toppings. Players take turns asking questions related to ramen or eating out in general and get to add toppings to their bowl. The first player to finish filling their bowl wins.


Apples to Apples JR is a party game where one player acts as a judge and plays an adjective card. The other players play a noun card that they think is best described by that adjective. The judge then compares all the played cards and chooses which is the best. For capable players they should argue or justify their decisions.

アップルズ トゥ アップルズ ジュニアには一人がジャッジという役割をします。ジャッジが形容詞のカードを出し、他のプレーヤーがその形容詞に一番よく描写される名詞カードを出します。ジャッジが出されたカードを比べて一番合っているカードを判断して、そのカードを出した人が1点取ります。言語能力のあるプレーヤーは議論や話をしたうえで判定すればいいです。そのターンが終わったら、次のプレーヤーがジャッジの役割をします。

Bucket of Doom is a party game with a bit of dark and dirty humor better for adults with tolerant senses of humor. Otherwise it is very similar to Apples to Apples. The judge plays a situation card, and every other player plays a means of escape card. Whenever possible the players should debate the choices and justify their card choices.

バッケツ オヴ ドゥームはダークユーモアの多いパーティーゲームです。アップルズ トゥ アップルズのような流れです。ジャッジ役の人が場面カードを出し、他のプレーヤーがそのシチュエーションから逃げる方法につながるカードを出します。出来るだけ選んだカードの訳を説明するようにディベートすればよいです。

Story Telling Games


Story Telling games generally require at least an elementary command of English, but are an excellent way of motivating intermediate speakers and a fun exercise for advanced speakers.


Rory’s Story Cubes are dice with evocative imagery engraved into each face. There are multiple variations, but the simplest is just to roll a bunch and have the player try to tell a simple short narrative inspired by the images that come up.

ローリーズ ストリー キューブはそれぞれの面に想像を引き出す絵が描かれたサイコロです。いくつかの遊び方がありますが、もっとも単純なのはサイコロを全部振って、上の面の絵に基づいて簡単な話を語ります。

Fairy Tale Mix Ups are a set of cards with classic fairy tale imagery on each card. Similar to Rory’s Story Cubes, they can be used as narrative inspiration. There are again a variety of suggestions for play. My favorite way to play with students is to have Student A choose cards for Student B. Student B then thinks up a story. Once finished, Student A must then retell the story, looking back at the cards to remember how it went.

フェリーテール ミクスアップはヨーロッパのおとぎ話に出てきそうな絵が描かれたカードです。カードを5枚~7枚出し、出た絵をインスピレーションとして使い、物語を作っていきます。私が好きな遊び方は、AさんがBさんにカードを選び、Bさんが物語を英語で考えて言って、Aさんが語られた話を絵を見ながら思い出し、語ってみます。

Once Upon a Time is a story telling card game with more rules and game elements than the previously mentioned games. Each card has a particular word associated with it as well, making it a little less open ended. In Once Upon a Time the players take turns telling a single story together. The goal is to use all of your cards and then immediately tie up the story with the resolution written on your Ending Card. There is a lot of turn stealing, interruption, and interference from other players which makes it very fun as a game.

ワンス アポン ア タイムはこのカテゴリの他のゲームよりルールが多いです。それぞれのカードは特定の単語が書いてあるので、話に使う単語は比較的自由さがないです。みんなが同じ話を交代して語っていきます。目的は自分のカードを出し切って、すぐにエンディングカードに書いた結論をピッタリ合うように話を作っていきます。ほかのプレーヤーから語る番を取り合い、他のプレーヤーに妨害されるに違いないのでゲームとしてはとても楽しいです。

Physically Active Games


These games create strong associations with words because they require players to first understand the words then act them out.


Family Charades is game where one player illustrates a word using gestures only and the other players must guess the word. By acting out the words they create strong associations and help reinforce known vocabulary. If you give them a chance to use a dictionary, it’s a great way to build new vocabulary.

ファミリー シャレード(ジェスチャーゲーム)にはプレーヤーの一人がカードを引き、そのカードにある単語を演技して、他のプレーヤーを当ててもらいます。演技することによって強い単語と意味の関連をつくり、すでに知られている単語知識を強化させます。辞書を使えば語彙力を増やすこともできます。

The Cat in the Hat: I can do that! is a Dr. Seuss inspired game where players try to flip over an Action, a Destination, and a Way to Hold the Fish. If they manage to find one of each, they must then carry out the action to the destination while holding the fish as directed. It is very fun and perfect for a group of younger elementary school students with an adult in the group, since the students will gradually remember the words written on the cards through repetition.

ザ キャット イン ザ ハット:私もそれが出来る!はドクタースースという英語圏で有名な作家の絵本からテーマが出ます。真剣衰弱のようにカードを広げてめくっていきますが、目標は動作、行先、魚の駒の持ち方のカードをそれぞれ一枚めくることです。出来たらその持ち方でその行先までその動作をしながら魚の駒を持って行かないといけないです。楽しくて、繰り返しによって書いている英語に慣れていくので大人付きの小学生低学年組にピッタリです。

Using other Games with English Learners


Many other games, even when printed in Japanese, can be used successfully with English language learners by stipulating that all interaction must be done in English. This is particular good for intermediate and advanced learners with games that require negotiation or debate.


Monopoly for example requires students to make trades or deals.


Catan involves considerable trading of resources, and to some extent negotiation of ad hoc agreements (“I won’t put the robber on your space if you let me use your port next turn”)


Pandemic involves a remarkable amount of discussion and negotiation, giving advice, and offering alternatives.


Building the Tabletops


This post is all about woodworking. この投稿はすべて木工について。

Finished products

Tasha’s tables were designed to fit MFG cooking units in a central recess. The design makes for an awkward gaming surface. I decided to take the opportunity to build custom table tops, purpose built for board gaming.


The table tops have three main features: felt for picking up cards and sliding pieces around, raised walls to keep dice and pieces from falling on the floor, and third they are built from cedar making them lightweight and easy to remove and store. The last was a bit of serendipity. I chose to build them out of cedar to prevent problems with seasonal wood movement. I hadn’t thought about the weight difference, but was very grateful for it once they were completed.


I’m an amateur woodworker, and am very much still learning, but I decided to take on the project myself after discussing the details with a sashimono woodworker who lives in the village. I don’t have many power tools, only a drill and a circular saw in fact, and when I started I didn’t even have a workbench or a toolbox. So there were a lot of steps to reach six completed gaming table tops.


Getting help from the little one

First I made the design and measured the existing tables to the millimeter. Then I bought the lumber, and built the bottom frames that would fit the existing tables precisely.


Fence for circular saw to make long straight cuts on plywood

After I cut all of the plywood boards I realized I could have saved myself a lot of energy in making insets for them had I cut them to a larger size and just stacked the pieces like a sandwich. But the cuts were made, so I was committed. In this step I had to build a circular saw fence to make straight long cuts with the circular saw.


Then began the real challenge. Table frame-sized miter joints. Many gaming table-tops I’ve seen avoid this by making square corner pieces. I am however a woodworking masochist. I do almost everything the hardest possible way. I was considering taking them to someone with a miter saw to cut them for me. And I probably should have. But I didn’t. Instead I bought a miter box and built a shooting board and cut them as best as I could with a handsaw and did what I could with the shooting board. Shooting 4×7 cm end grain is not easy though, and the results were no-where close to machined miters. Before reaching the end of this step I also made a toolbox, a workbench, a bench hook, and another shooting board.


To make up for the imperfect miters and also to add necessary structural integrity to the joints, I chose to make butterfly keys. So I built a jig for cutting the keys and built a test joint. It split when I put it together. But it looked cool enough to make me try again, taking what I learned from the initial failure. I used the split joint as an opportunity to test an interesting mistake correction technique I learned when I was back in the USA last year. Filling the split gap with saw-dust and superglue. It worked beautifully, giving me the confidence to move forward with making 24 of these highly difficult joints. That process took the most time, but it was very rewarding when the upper frames came together in the end. For this step I also had to build a special miter holding jig to keep the pieces perfectly aligned while I laid out the cut lines for the butterfly keys.


After that I cut insets into the lower frames, fit and glued the plywood into place, then measured overhang and laid out the placement of the top frames. I did not glue these together, because I wanted to be able to remove the top frame for re-applying felt if or rather when it became dirty or picked. So I used six screws. I could have achieved it with some complex joinery, but by this point screws seemed like a welcome short cut.


Next I painted the bottom frames and varnished the top frames, then I cut felt to size and glued it on with a spray adhesive made for applying fabrics to wood or plastic. After a little bit of adjustment for one table that didn’t fit as perfectly as it should have, they were done. It took me about five months from December to the end of April.


Board Game Launch Party


Board Games at Tasha is GO for launch! I’m so excited for this new opportunity for analog gaming in Hidaka. The cafe is set, the menus are ready, the games are shelved! We had a party to commemorate the launch and the feedback was great.

I had a few things to say, and I’ll paraphrase them here:

“I’m very excited to share my love for board games with guests from Hidaka village, Kochi prefecture, and beyond. In the past few years board games have finally started being translated into Japanese. So now I can share the games I love with the community that graciously welcomed me.

At this cafe I want to see competitive spirit, cooperation, sense of adventure, tragedy, glory, and all the other aspects of human nature that board games can draw out. But most of all I want to see people of all walks of life together laughing and playing and enjoying each other.

Born in the 80’s I grew up with board games, but they were I think soon eclipsed by the rise of video games. I loved video games but over the past twenty years or so I’ve realized, no matter how “multi-player” they may be, ultimately video games are the player vs. the game. Board games are on the other hand inherently social. They’re also analog and physical, and in the age of the constant feed of news and social media they’re a great way to unplug, relax, and refresh.

I want this cafe to be a place to deepen old friendships and also to make new friends. To make that happen I’m going to have Open Table placards to invite others to join you for a game. I’m also hoping to have dating mixers and other social events too.”

We had a blast at the party thanks to everyone’s help and participation, and I’m finally recovering enough to reflect and prepare for the first day of regular opening on May 18th, 2019.


ターシャでボード―ゲームの準備は完成しました。日高でアナログゲームを皆さんと共有できることを本当に楽しみにしています。カフェ、メニュー、ゲームの セッティング ができました。記念パーティーを開催して、皆さんのフィードバックがとてもよかったです。