Last fall, I attended the annual NILA (Nebraska International Language Association) conference in Omaha. Unfortunately, I was sick, so I only ended up going to two sessions and leaving after lunch. However, one of the sessions was called Shine a New Light on the Classics: A Lazy Teacher’s Guide to a fun class. This session was hosted by my fellow UNL alum, Marcie Castillo, and some other teachers from Lincoln North Star. This session was built around taking two legacy staples of language teaching – the worksheet and the flash card – and making them into more engaging versions with little or no prep work on your part.

One of the games that they introduced to us was Brillo! (or Sparkle, if you’ve played the English version). While the original Sparkle game is apparently some sort of spelling game – I’ve never played – this one uses flash cards. I am going to take a moment here because yes, I know that flash cards are not always the best form of comprehensible input and they have no context. However, they are very simple to make, my students like competitive games, and sometimes it’s just nice to have an easy, fun day. I am okay with veering a little bit away from the paragraph-length input for a while if we’re still getting things done.


In any case, here’s how you play Brillo (or whatever word you want to substitute in your language).

  • Make some flash cards (or use old ones lying around).
  • Add some cards that say BRILLO. I have small classes, so 5 was a good number. If you have more than 15, you probably will want to add more.
  • You show the first student the card. They answer. If they’re right, they stay in. If they’re wrong, they’re out. Move on to the next student. So on and so forth.
  • When a student gets a BRILLO card, all they have to do is say BRILLO and the student AFTER them is out.
  • Continue until someone is the winner!

I really like the concept of the BRILLO card because it can be boring and disheartening for slower processors in a competitive game, especially if there’s a time component. It’s no fun for the same handful of students to win all the time. So the BRILLO card adds a bit of randomness into the process. Students who know more of the words will have a chance to stay in longer, but a BRILLO card can knock them out and let other students have a turn to shine.

This is a good activity to keep in the back of your mind for those days when your planned plans just aren’t working or you change your mind at the last minute.


One thought on “¡Brillo!

  1. They may not be trendy or loved by all but the number one thing cited by my Year1’s for “things that help me learn” ? Picture flash cards of vocabulary words….
    Thanks for the post..adding this to my game list.

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