Posted by: scottishboomerang | March 13, 2008

The Casino Wheel Classroom Management Tool

A recent email sent to me asked if I could explain more about the Casino Wheel class formation.

Essentially the Casino Wheel is a classroom management tool which allows the teacher or trainer to vary student pair work and different tasks in a task-based learning environment. It’s based on progressive social dances (think a Cuban Rueda or Canadian Barn Dance) or, if you like, gym circuits where students move between activities.

In the classroom, of course, it looks a bit different. Here’s a short video on it:

I’ve used it most often with young adult and adult learners in Asia and its particularly effective if you have to manage a large number of students. It’s a great way of ensuring that everyone works with everyone else in your class at some point, and (especially for classes with young people) controlling large groups. It’s also a good way of getting over the problems you have in some cultures where students do not want to work with other students of different genders, ages or social class. Let’s discuss the formations first, and then the different kinds of activities you can use with this formation. There are a number of variations.

Version 1

The first is the kind demonstrated in the video, and is best with groups of about 12 students, and the students need to use tables for books, handouts or equipment. Two lines of desks are placed so that the students are facing each other (this is actually my preferred way of organising the classroom because I use pairwork so much). Students sit next to their friends but work with other students during the activities. Students move around the desks in a clockwise fashion every time the teacher shouts “Change!”. The teacher can vary the speed of the activity with a stopwatch, and the number of places that the students change by calling out “Change [3] places!”


Version 2

This version is probably best with a larger class (say about 20-30 students). The students are positioned face-to-face over desks with an inner circle of students and an outer one. The teacher changes the pairs by calling “Outside people change 5 places” or “Inside people change 3 places”.


Version 3

This version is best for activities where you don’t need desks. The students are seated like the spokes of a wheel. The inner and outer rims move at the teacher’s direction in the same way as before. This is great for a game called “scramble” where at intervals the students get to sit randomly, a bit like musical chairs.



There are many activities and tasks you can do with the Casino Wheel. For example, using version 2 you can do a market negotiation exercise with the play money (see Teaching Resources) where the students negotiate over the hidden price of a product (I use disposable paper cups with the product written on the base and the price written inside. Student A must get a bargain and student B must make a profit. Alternatively, you can do a currency changing game where each station is a different country. Student A is the teller, and Student B the tourist. You can also have different worksheets.

One popular ESOL game I do is a segmented semi-controlled speaking practice using and ordinary pack of playing cards. The aim of this excercise is to get the students practicing new vocabualry in a grammatical model (they need to use the word 87 times to remember it) while manipulating, blending and segmenting it.

1. Place a dialogue on the board.

A: I’m going to _______[CARD]___________ on vacation.

B: Wow! That’ll be __________________.

A: I know! Do you think I need to take anything for the trip?

B : You need to take: _________________________

2. Elicit four countries from your class as vacation destinations. Then elicit adjectives. Then elicit what you would need to take with you on a vacation to these countries. Place the vocabulary in a table like the one shown below.


3. Model the dialogue with a student.

The student draws a card from the pack. The suit will tell you which column from the table to use. Insert the vocabulary words into the dialogue.

4. Get the student to practice in pairs. Then shout “Stop! Put down the cards. Change 3 places!” The students leave the cards on the desk and move round in a clockwise fashion. They practice the dialogue with their new partners.

5. After one minute shout “Change!” again. This time, erase some of the language from the table. This forces the students to remember it.

6. Keep the game going, erasing more language until the board is completely empty.

I’m sure that creative teachers will be able to come up with other uses for the Casino Wheel. Please let me know how you get on.



  1. My sister has tried this with a Spanish for Young Learners class and it seems to work as effectively with other languages.

  2. Loved the video and the explanation. I’ve tried a few variations of this with my adult ESL learners (30 in the class, level is absolute beginner) by having them stand in a line facing each other, have a question and answer dialogue (much simpler than the one you used), and then one line moves one space over so everyone has a new partner. My students don’t do it with the marvelous enthusiasm of your kids! I can’t seem to get them comfortable and activated. Also, because I have several different ability levels in the class, some take so long to get the sentences out that they never finish the dialogue before it’s time to move to a new partner. So, I haven’t had a successful experience with this yet, but thanks for the inspiration of your video!!

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