School Sheriff

Activity based on the Sheriff of Nottingham board game to practice "How many?" and plurals. Also uses "Show me" and "What's this?" Very complicated, but very fun.

I tagged "imperative" and "Wh-words" because this activity uses "Show me" and "What's this," but it doesn't practice other commands or wh-words. I tagged those because it'd be good if the students understand the short dialogue before starting the activity.

Materials / Prep

  • Cards put together into a shuffled deck (Images provided, but you should print them out and tape/glue them to something sturdy. I used index cards.)
  • Envelopes (1 for each group). - You can usually find envelopes in the teacher's room at your school.
  • Note that printing, cutting, and making the cards can take 2+ hours. So don't expect to be able to prepare everything the day of.

Rules / How to Play (This is very complicated, so please read carefully)

Split the class into teams of 4 or more people. This game is played in rounds. Each round 1 team is the "sheriff" and the other teams are "students" trying to bring items to school. The goal is to bring as many items to school as possible. The sheriff team must come to the front of the classroom for that round. The game ends when each team has had a chance to be sheriff.

Each team starts the game with 6 cards from the deck and 50 points. There are 4 types of legal items: pencils, erasers, notebooks, and lunchboxes. There are also illegal items: girlfriends, boyfriends, cellphones, stuffed animals, Nogizaka46, and BTS. The number in the bottom left of each card is its "value" while the bottom right is the "penalty cost."

Each round the student teams will put items in their envelope and elect one group member to bring it to a sheriff. Which student presents the envelope should rotate each round. The sheriff team is split in half, so there are two checkpoints for the student teams to choose from. The sheriff and student will go through the following dialogue:
Sheriff: What's this?
Student: It's 000.
Sheriff: How many 000?
Student: It's # 000.
Sheriff: Okay. / Show me.

The student can only say one item (the 000). For example, if they put 2 pencils and 1 eraser in the envelope, they must say either "pencils" or "erasers." However, they must say exactly how many cards are in the envelope. So, continuing the example, after being asked "How many," they would answer "It's 3 pencils" or "It's 3 erasers." The student (of course) can never say an illegal item is in their envelope.

The sheriff then decides whether to open the envelope or not. "Okay" means the sheriff doesn't open it, but "Show me" means they're going to check. If the sheriff doesn't check, the student returns to their team. If the sheriff opens the envelope and the student was telling the truth, the sheriff team must pay the total "penalty value" of the contents. If the student put 3 pencils in their envelope, said "It's 3 pencils," and the sheriff checks it, the sheriff must pay 6 points to the student team. If this was the starting round, the sheriff teams points go from 50 --> 44 and the student's team's points go from 50 --> 56. The student then takes the items back to their team.

If the student put in 2 pencils and 1 eraser, said "It's 3 pencils," and the sheriff checks it, the sheriff gets to confiscate any items the student lied about. So, in this example, the sheriff gets the 1 eraser. The student then takes the remaining 2 pencils back to their team. If there were any illegal items, the sheriff will take those too.

At the end of the round, have the sheriff team return to their seats. Each team will make 2 piles of cards. The first pile is the items they successfully brought to school. The second pile is the items leftover from their starting 6 cards you gave them. Have the team put the successful items to the side and not use them anymore. The sheriff team can add any confiscated items to their success pile. Based on how many cards each team used, give them more cards to bring the leftover pile back up to 6. Each team should start a round with 6 cards to choose from for the contents of their envelope.

Rotate which team is the sheriff for the next round and start again. After each team has been sheriff once, the game ends. Have each team add up the values of their successful items. That total is then added to their remaining points. The team with the most points wins.

Other Recommendations

  • Write the dialogue at the front and practice it with the students. Also demonstrate the game with the JTE for the students.
  • Explaining the illegal cards takes more time and makes the game more complicated. It's up to you if you want to include them or not.
  • If you want to include the illegal items, introduce them after a couple rounds. That way the students already understand how the game works.
  • If you want to simplify the game slightly, erase one of the numbers from the cards so the number you subtract or add during the sheriff check is obvious.
  • Keep track of each team's points on the board at the front. Change the points based on what happens during the sheriff check. Only add up the values of each team's successful items at the very end. This leaves the possibility for a comeback victory. I've seen teams go down to 20 points from when they were sheriff, but get a value total of 80+ and surge back to win in the end.
  • Give the student teams 40 seconds to decide what items to put in the envelopes and practice the dialogue with their team. After the 40 seconds, have them start lining up in front of the sheriffs to present their envelopes.
  • It's extremely important that the JTE understands this game. They need to be able to explain it in Japanese effectively in order for the game to run smoothly. Try playing a couple rounds with the JTE and some other teachers if they have time.
Small files
  • Sheriff Cards.docx (557 KB)
  • 3
    Submitted by ThatOneALT August 7, 2020 Estimated time: 50 minutes (whole class period)
    1. gsanchez88 August 17, 2020

      So this activity is exactly like the Sheriff of Nottingham board game. Good use of it.

    2. OdafromTaijima August 25, 2020

      Seems like a lot of fun! Sadly I dont think my JTE would ever understand it.

    Sign in or create an account to leave a comment.