Creative Ways to Use Paper Fortune Tellers

I remember my sister making these paper fortune tellers for us on a boring car rides or lazy days at home. They were always really fun to play with, especially if someone wrote some crazy things on the inside. That’s why it occurred to me that these paper fortune tellers could be used to help students practice English.


There are many ways to go about it. One is to go the traditional route and write simple fortunes like “You’re lucky!” or “You will be rich” on the inside flaps and go nuts with it in the hallways or after school.


The second approach is to write some easy English questions on the inside and use them to start conversations with students.

Now, let me tell you about where I’ve used these.

1. Before Class

Is it just me or is it always incredibly awkward to go up to shy students and try to spark a conversation that’s never meant to be? Now, if I bring one of these along I can easily approach students, using the strange origami things in my hands as an ice breaker.

2. During Class

I made 15 of these with questions inside the flap that all focused on the same sentence, “What’s your favorite~?” We taught the students how to use them and then let them walk around using the fortune teller as an interviewing device. We found that it was more fun if students handed off the fortune teller after each conversation, so that everyone got a chance to use it.

3. After school and during lunch break

Same as before class, it’s a lot easier to talk with students when students are distracted by this origami thing in your hands from all the pressure and anxiety of speaking English. I also found that the strange appearance of the fortune teller evoked was only matched by the strange curiosity students had for what it was.

Well, that’s it for this idea. If you want to know how to make one of these, please search “paper fortune tellers.” Using these fortune tellers students can brush up on English in more ways than one. Perhaps you’ll be surprised to find out how many of your students need to review the names of numbers and colors. Luckily, the intro of this game requires them to use them.

Interactive English Walls

Write Your Idea Wall

Another English wall experiment. This time I added an explanation in Japanese and a task: “If you were at this American restaurant, what would you order?”

Using the pink boxes below each picture, students mark their choices. Ultimately, we will be able to see which dish is the most popular among students at our school.

English Wall Idea

This is a picture of one of the other teachers at my school participating in the English wall activity. I think it’s good for students to see teachers outside the English department trying out English, so I try to encourage them to check out the English wall when they have time.

English Passport Mini

english passport

Inner design of EP Mini.

With a simple design and small size, this mini passport is ideal for students of all levels.

The goal is to get students to ask you questions and initiate conversations. They can collect stamps, stickers or signatures for doing so.

Why? Because simple questions like these can spark longer conversations. And they can also build confidence in students who don’t believe they can speak English.

Download now in PDF:

English Passport Mini – Outside Design

English Passport Mini – Inside Design

(Use the blank to write in your school name)

Bonus Idea: More Interesting Free-Write Spaces

Of course there is nothing wrong with a blank free-write wall, but what happens when we add something extra to transform the conversation? Most students are technology fiends these days, so I thought I’d add an i-phone message into the mix.

This text-messaging scenario adds a level of realism to responding in English.

This text-messaging scenario adds a level of realism to responding in English, which is absent when we just ask for responses to an ordinary prompt. Technology is engaging even when it is printed on a piece of paper it seems. Note: The gray speech bubble above says “Elliott just sent you this message. Let’s answer him!” The blue arrow says, “Write freely!”

As soon as I changed out the blank free-write space with this A4 sized i-phone graphic, suddenly students were bunching around my English wall and writing their answers. Perhaps it was the picture of the question or the picture of the i-phone, but something clicked with the students when they saw this question presented in this format. I think using this kind of format for an in-class free writing activity might work well, too.

Free Materials

Please download the blank templates below to use this material on your English wall or as an in-class activity. The WORD version is editable, while the PDF is ready for print. Click on the links below to download:

Editable version (WORD, .docx)

Blank, print-ready version (PDF)

5 Ideas for Getting your English Wall Noticed

Part of the problem of designing a great English wall seems to be breaking through all the noise. Students are inundated with information from posters lining the walls of the schools. So we ALTs have to figure out ways to attract students to the location. And we got to figure out how to stand out. Here are some of my ideas.

1) Use a Rubik’s Cube to Draw Students In


There is something magical about Rubik’s Cubes that force people to pick them up and try to solve them. If the students notice the Rubik’s Cube then the are more likely to notice the other content you have diligently prepared. I think other games/puzzles will work well too.

2) Post Memo Pads and Pens


Memo pads and pens give students something to do while at the English wall.  Even if the content is old, they can still write a new message. Since attracting attention is about being out-of-the-ordinary, I like to post memo pads like this one shaped like an apple.

3) Make Packets that Will Flutter


In addition to being helpful for conveying more information about something, these packets will flutter as students walk by, catching their attention and making them more likely to notice the wall.

4) Get Personal


It’s really no secret that stuff about you or other teachers on display is some fascination to students. A friend of mine likes to post information about other ALTs in the city (with their permission, of course). Along those same lines, I’m thinking it might be fun to try to introduce all the teachers in the staff room like this.

5) Use Recurring Sections


Just like a newspaper column, sections on your board that you update periodically will get your students coming back for more. “Jobs that Use English” is one section I’m trying out new this year.


I remember putting hours of time and effort into my first English wall displays only to find that barely any students were checking out what I had put up. It was through this discouragement that I realized that, like anything else, we got to make our material stand out if people are going to take notice. So I hope these ideas are helpful to you if you are having any similar problems.

Surely there are other great ideas out their for attracting and keeping an audience of students, so please post your ideas in the comments section.


It’s not much, but here’s an example of my full English wall display.

English Passport – Download Now for Free!

New to English Passport? Click here to see a description I wrote earlier.

outerdesign Ep

Use the blank to fill in your school’s information

Click here to download the outer template (PDF)

Students can collect stamps and stickers for completing speaking and writing activities with you.

Students can collect stamps and stickers for completing speaking and writing activities with you.

Click here to download the inside template (PDF)

passport stamps

Give out these stamps when students complete 5 speaking or writing activities

Click to download passport stamps (PDF)

Got a design of your own? Email me at eliotc1986[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll upload your designs, advice, ideas on this site.

What is the best way to reach your Students with English?

By John Hatanaka, Yamagata City

There are some fun, new ways to share English outside of the classroom. Behind door number one we have the handy dandy English Passort, which some of you are probably familiar with, and behind door number two we have the new “CC Card” program. Now, my question for you is, which one do you like and why?

I see both ideas have their advantages, but as with any competition both have their disadvantages as well. (Better yet, do you have a new idea? Perhaps an idea that would send both games running for the forest like Ron’s Hooting Tooting Flying Enchanted Car in Harry Potter.) Anyway, I will lay out the apparent advantages of both excellent strategies below and then give you the mic. Shall we start??

Number One: The Around The World PassPort

Kids get out of class and the last thing they want is a giant foreigner batting off hard-to-understand English questions at them. A time then came for the English Passport to take the lead. It has allowed the student to choose the time and the place and utilized Skinners Psychology Experiment to make mice chase after cheese. The simple philosophy is that people like prizes — otherwise PlayStations would be for watching movies and Mario would still be stuck in Italy (Japan?). The Passport gives students the chance to use English to get “World Country Stamps” and in turn receive prizes if they get 5 or six stamps. This is much like sushi restaurants offer stamps if you visit their headquarters — except for the fact that we are marketing English of course and not sushi. Below I’ll list the advantages first and then the disadvantages, and then let’s debate!


1. Everybody likes a sparkling passport. It gives them confidence, makes them feel like an ambassador, sorta like how you feel like at the airport. Ok maybe it’s only me…

2. Everybody likes prizes. Especially vacations in Hawaii…. let the students dream.


1. Keeping track of passports is a chore. Who got a stamp? Who can forge stamps? Who ate their passport? These questions come up…

2. It’s harder to make Passports so as a result not as many students can be ambassadors and the students have to keep track of their booklets. I’m always petrified of losing mine at the airport.. talk about a travelers disaster!!!

Number 2: The CC Program

1. Instead of giving the students a Passport, you are instead giving them your business card. Steve Woerner, an ALT from Tottori Prefecture, came up with the idea to give out cards to students for speaking English. Students deposit their cards into a “class box”, and at the end of the month the cards are counted and the student with the most cards wins a big prize and all other participants receive a prize for trying. This idea solves some problems, but also poses some problems as well.


1. Business cards are easier to keep track of…

2. The student doesn’t have to keep track of the their own passport.


1. Keeping a ready supply of cards will require lots of printing and cutting or Daiso trips.

2. Passports are cooler

3. Forging cards could be easy and the classroom boxes that you made could be tampered with if someone were motivated to do so.

In Conclusion:

So, what method do you like better and why? In other news there is a brand new app for JETS on on the Iphone App Store. It’s called “Iconnect” and you should download it. It has instructions for Steve Woerner’s CC card game and also loads of good resources for teachers for making your life day that much better. Can you come up with a better idea to use English outside the classroom? Please Comment!!

Thank You,

John Hatanaka