Treasure Island is a little island of the coast of Nowhere. Legend has is that it can only be found by those who already know where it is. Well, we found it, we did, but that's not the whole secret. There are hidden dangers and we must be careful as we search the island to find the lost treasure.

The game is played in pairs. One students plays the pirate and hides the treasure. The second student is the explorer and searches for the treasure.

The game board: Treasure Island This is a single sheet game board and you'll need one sheet per student. There are instructions on the game sheet with blank areas for the students to write in the appropriate language you wish to teach.

Instructions: The instructions are rather easy, but can be complicated by language and large class size. I generally write the steps on the board to help the students along the first time. Give out the sheets and explain in general the game. "I have found a treasure map and today we are going to search for the lost treasure of One-eyed Mark. Some people will be pirates and some will be explorers. Here is the map of Treasure Island." You can dress up the intro however you like, but remember that the students feed off you. If you're not excited about it, they won't be either. Once they have the map, tell them, as a class, they must decide on 5 dangerous things to place on the island to protect the treasure. Write the dangers on the board and go over what will happen if they come across the dangerous thing (ex. a hungry tiger - He eats you./ a big hole - You fall in the hole.)

1. Decide who will search first. There are 2 maps on the sheet so they will both get a shot at each role.

2. The pirate should place the five dangerous things into five squares on the island. Not the treasure. Not yet. (I prefer to have them draw pictures but words or symbols are fine.)

3. (optional) The explorer gets three shots to guess where the dangers are placed. Example questions:

Is there anything in D5? No, there isn't./Yes, there is a bomb. or

What is there in D5? There's nothing in D5./There is a bomb.

4. The pirate then hides the treasure.

5. The explorer sets out to search for the treasure. And here is where the game varies by English level.

The explorer has 3 lives/3 chances. The explorer must move to one adjacent square, across, up, down, or diagonal, but they can't jump. I usually have them plot their course as they go.

Simple: There is.../There are... practice. The explorer starts from the coast line and says:

D2.Is there anything in D2? No, there isn't.

E3. What is there in E3? There isn't anything in E3.

F4. Is there anything in F4? Yes, there is a mean hungry tiger. He eats you.

The explorer loses one life and starts again.

More advanced: The flow is the same but the individual parts are beefed up to practice past tense, continuative, passive, present/past perfect, etc. Here are some examples:

I'm moving to D2. Is there anything in D2? No, there isn't.

I walked to D2. Is there anything in D2? Yes, there is a snake. The snake bit you.

I've made my way to D2. What is there in D2? There's nothing in D2.

I've run to D2. What is there in D2? There's a spider. You've been eaten by the spider.

Instructions on the board:

1. The pirate puts in the dangerous items: (list them)

2. The explorer gets 3 guesses

Is there anything in E4? No, there isn't./Yes, there is. There is a ghost.

3. The pirate puts in the treasure.

4. The explorer starts his search.

I went to D4. Is there anything in D4? No, there isn't./ Yes, there is. There is a ghost. The ghost kills you.


1. You can have the pirate put additional items on the island like a mountain, a volcano, a forest, a house, happy monkeys, etc. It makes it a bit more interesting and gives them more practice.

I went to D2. Is there anything in D2?

Yes! (pause for effect) There is a rainbow.

2. You can also give explorers a time limit. Tell them each time they only have enough food for 14 days. Each move is one day. In addition the extra items you put in may be used to delay the explorer.

I went to D2. Is there anything in D2?

Yes! There is a beautiful waterfall. You spend 2 days, there.

3. Tell them if they find the treasure the must make it back safely to their boat or plane to win.

4. Don't use any dangerous items. Just add different things into the map to stall the other player, for example: a forest/the player gets lost for 1 day, a magic apple/the player sleeps for 1 day, and so on. The two players take turns moving and searching for the tresure and the first player to find the treasure wins.

Speaking or writing follow up:

Have the students report their journey to you, the class, or in groups. This can be oral or in written form to be handed in. Example:

"I started my first search by boat. First I went to D2 and spent 2 days enjoying a beautiful waterfall. I walked around to G6 looking for the treasure. In G6 there were head hunters. They captured me. I started my second search by plane. I went to H4 and started looking for the treasure. I walked around to I4. There was the treasure! I brought the treasure home safely and bought a PlayStation."

The game is so simple in its set up, that there are all kinds of possibilities. For larger classes you might want to keep it simple the first time until they understand the goal of the game. Obviously finding the treasure or successfully protecting the treasure means you win. Then award winners in whatever way you see fit (stickers, applause, no homework, a song from the losers.)

To the teachers: The game takes about 40-50 minutes first time around with explanation. I usually blow up a big copy of the sheet and model the flow of the game, as seeing an example of how to play makes explaining a lot easier. After explaining the steps, be sure to model and practice all of the language until the students feel comfortable. The students think the goal of the game is to find the treasure but the real goal is to get them to practice the target language 30 or so times. We don't want them saying "D2. No. E3. No." or even worse,... wrong "I'm D2. No. I'm E3. A spider in the E3. You is eating by the spider." Even after drilling, once the game has started go around the room and help as needed. What we don't want to do is solidify/practice the second example just above.

Any ideas/suggestions for variations? send them in and I'll try to get them up. Contact Mark

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