Bounce It In!

Do you have some extra plastic cups? How about a few ping pong balls? A permanent marker? Some vocabulary sort cards or other task cards? Then you have everything you need to play my students’ latest favorite vocabulary practice game–Bounce It In!

Another Practice Activity?

Yes, I have a lot of sort card and task card sets that I use in various ways. Yes, we have a lot of different vocabulary practice games and activities. You can read about the many different vocabulary games and activities in these posts:

But is it really possible to have too many activities for practicing multiple skills? I don’t think so. What I particularly love about this game is it can be used with literally any set of sort or task cards you have. You can even combine sets for a larger review session covering multiple skills/units.

Game Creation

Another advantage of this game? It is extremally easy to create. All you need to do is gather plastic cups (at least 10 for each team), some ping pong balls (1 for each team, different colors are advisable so everyone knows which ball is theirs as they bounce and roll around on the floor), and a permanent marker. You are going to number your cups from 1-10, creating a set for each group. There are various ways to set up the game, which we’ll discuss below. Grab your sort or task cards (1 set for each team), and you’re ready to go.

Game Play

The goal of the game is simple: earn as many points as possible by correctly completing the task (5 points) and earning bonus points by bouncing your ping pong ball into a cup (number on cup determines bonus points).

When practicing vocabulary, I use my sort cards. I mix the picture/definition and word cards together and place the stack face down near the where the students are sitting or lined up. The first student takes a card and either states the term that matches the picture/definition or gives the definition for the term shown. When practicing other skills, I put the task cards upside down near the students. The first student takes the top card, completes the task (completes the sentence with the target word, solves the math problem, etc.). If correct, he/she earns 5 points and tries to bounce the ping pong ball into a cup. The first student then retrieves the ball (this is important–if students don’t know who’s supposed to get the ball chaos can sometimes ensue) and the next student then takes a turn. Play continues in this manner until time is called. The student (or team) with the most points at the end is the winner. I highly suggest giving students a piece of scrap paper, or a white board, to keep track of their team’s score.

Game Set Up

There are a variety of ways to set up your cups, depending on how you want to play the game. The most basic version is to set them up in a triangle, with cup 1 being closest to the players and cups 7-10 making the base of the triangle. Normally students sit at the wide side of a table but, for this game, have them sit or stand on one of the narrow sides and line up the cups with numbers 7-10 on the opposite end. This is a great way to set up the game if you want students to play in pairs or groups of three to four.

Another basic set up, if you want to have two pairs or teams compete head-to-head, is to create two triangles that share the number 10 cup. In this set up, the number 10 cup is placed in the center of the table and a triangle fans out on each side, with the numbers 1-4 being closest to the players for each team. This version is best played in teams. Team members try to go as quickly as possible in order to get in as many bounces as possible. The added challenge (and fun) is sometimes your ball will hit the other team’s and one, or both of you, could be knocked off course.

This last version is great if you have a larger class, a couple of larger round tables, and want to have four teams playing at the same time. To create the circle, I placed a single 10 cup in the middle of the table. The first ring has six cups, three 9’s and three 8’s. The second ring has twelve cups, three each of numbers 5-7. The outer ring has eighteen cups, four each of numbers 1 and 4 and five each of numbers 2 and 3. To play, position teams at four approximately equidistant locations around the circle. Students still take task cards and complete them, but now there as many as four balls bouncing at any given moment, meaning an even greater chance of a collision.


My adult students especially enjoy this game. They like all of the games we play, but sometimes they get tired of board games and need something different. I’m honestly not sure which game is more popular with the students, this one or Sliding Sorts, but this one took a lot less set up on my part. One last recommendation for you: have extra ping pong balls on hand. They don’t often break or get dented, but it does happen. They also sometimes roll to a location that’s too time consuming to fish them out of during the game and it’s easier just to hand the team a new ball. Happy teaching, everyone!