The Comprehensible Classroom

Where is the dog? Game for language classes

Last night, we had our third meeting of our local PLC (Northern NY & VT – sign up here if you live in the area and want to connect!). Our guiding question was, “Describe a recent lesson in which students were engaged?” I am really inspired by the creativity of the teachers in our group and look forward to sharing more of them here as I have time! Tonight, though, I am excited to share with you a very simple, very fun game that Erika Lindberg shared with us. Erika teaches French to elementary students here in Vermont! This game is modeled after “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”, and I think you will agree that middle and high school students would enjoy it just as much as Erika’s elementary students do!!

The Game: Where is the dog?

Materials: A small dog figurine or beanie baby (or any animal that you’d like to make the subject of the plot)

How to play: 

  1. All students and the teacher sit in a circle.
  2. One student (‘the owner’) leaves the classroom.
  3. While the student is outside the classroom, the teacher gives the small dog to one of the other students (‘the captor’). The ‘captor’ holds the dog in his/her hands, hiding it well. All other students in the class pretend to be holding and hiding the dog in their hands.
  4. The owner is called back into the room.
  5. The teacher explains the backstory: “Warner has a dog. It is a curious dog. One day, the dog sees a monkeyThe monkey says, “Oo–oo–aa–aa”. The dog says, “Bow-wow”. The monkey sees the dog. The monkey runs. The dog runs. Warner says, “No!”, but his dog runs very fast. Warner looks for his dog. Where is his dog? Where is Warner’s dog? Where is the dog?
  6. All students chant three times–in the target language– “Where is the dog? Where is the dog? Where is the dog?” (They could instead chant, “Who has the dog?”)
  7. The owner makes a guess and says the name of the classmate that he/she thinks is the captor.
  8. The student that was called on opens their hands. If they do not have the dog, the class chants “Where is the dog?” again three times and then the owner makes a new guess.
  9. When the captor is revealed (the owner guesses correctly who has the dog), you hae two options: (1) the captor becomes the new owner and goes out into the hall, and the game repeats….ORRRRR (2) you could play like Erika does and work in some more rich language! If you want to go this route, explain the story of how the captor came into possession of the dog before repeating the game with the former captor as the new owner. For example:

Keeping in mind that Erika uses this with elementary students that she sees for very limited amounts of time, I tried to keep all of my examples (above) really basic and very limited in vocabulary. As a challenge to my French-learner self, I wanted to write one of my own in French!! So tonight while we were making pizza in the kitchen, I wrote out the first little story on the perma-chart that I keep on our kitchen wall for moments just like these:

Thanks to the quick suggestions of @Mmefarelli on Twitter, I made some edits:

…and then with the help of Catherine Ousselin and Daks Desjardins via Facebook, I finished up my final draft:

…which you can download here! I popped a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license on it so you can adapt as desired for your classroom. I wrote it up à la Matava, with “askable” details underlined.

As you can imagine, as long as you keep spinning fun stories for or with your students, this game will continue to be novel and fun (although I venture to say that your students will enjoy it even without the storytelling piece–much like mine always enjoyed Bad Baby). Spinning stories isn’t particularly challenging, but spinning stories that beginning students understand can be. For that reason, won’t you take a few minutes and type up a simple explanation for why a captor has the owner’s dog? Try to rely heavily on cognates and use only very high frequency vocabulary that students would be confident interpreting early on in the year!! Leave your story in the comments 🙂


If you are looking for more simple, story-based games, consider using Ben Wang’s simplified version of Mafia (hey, another Vermonter!).