I Spy!

A group activity based around the I Spy books, or other similar material.

Adapted from GemAmo's 'Eye Spy' activity. This activity can work with any picture book theoretically, even the textbooks.
It can be tailored to a few different grammar points, but I've mainly used it for "There is/there are..." and "I can see...," but can also be good for "Where is the man who is riding a bike?" etc.
I did a simplified version with as young as elementary school 4th graders, but it really shines in junior high, when the students have a good grasp on writing and a more broad English vocabulary.

Basically, the activity runs as follows:

  1. Make groups. The number of groups may be limited by the number of books you have.

  2. Each group picks a book to use. I have around a dozen I Spy (or ミッケ! ) books at my disposal from my school libraries. They usually janken to see who gets first pick.

  3. Once every group has a book, they will spend around 10-15 minutes writing out their own original I Spy challenges in English using the target grammar. I prepare a worksheet ahead of time, one for each book with my own custom challenges that they can do. I will tuck these into the books before class to make distribution easier.
    During this time, walk around and help them with spelling or coming up with ideas if they are stumped. I encourage them to pick items that are difficult to find, but easy to understand.
    For example: There is a blue monkey on page 10-11.
    They can be as vague or specific as they'd like, and with the higher grades I encourage more detailed or interesting descriptions.

  4. After the arbitrary time limit, hopefully each group has produced enough of their own original challenges. I like to aim for 5, or roughly 1 per group member, but it is up to you. Some groups may only have 3 or 4.
    For the groups that finish writing early, they are welcome to look through the book or try the teacher's challenges at the bottom of the worksheet.
    When the writing time is up, they will leave their worksheets with their books on their desk clumps, then everyone stands up and rotates to another desk clump.

  5. Depending on how much time remains in the class, and how many groups there are, give them that much time at each station to search through the books.
    For example, if there is 25 minutes left in the class, and 6 groups (so 5 rotations), I'd give them about 4 minutes per rotation, totalling 20 minutes, leaving some time in between and at the end so you're not rushing to finish.

  6. As they find each of the items described, they will tick off the box corresponding to that item in their team's row. See the worksheet for details.

  7. After each group has had a chance to look at each book, I will collect the worksheets and tally up how many things each group found. Teacher's challenges also count towards points. So theoretically, the group with the most difficult challenges and the most solved will be the winners, who I will usually reward with stickers!


  1. Make groups

  2. Give each group a book and worksheet

  3. 10-15 minutes writing sentences in groups,
    ie: "There are 3 pencils on page 4-5,"
    "I can see a yellow airplane on page 21-22."

  4. Stop writing, leave books and worksheets on desks, stand up, rotate groups around.

  5. 3-5 minutes per rotation to search through books

  6. Groups check-off completed challenges

  7. Tally up findings to determine winners

This activity is always a blast, get them up and moving, stimulates many skills, including writing, reading, speaking, teamwork, visual processing, creativity, competition, etc. It's fast paced, interesting, and they'll learn new words from each other. It can also be quite funny.
It can be repeated throughout the year for different grammar points. Also, it will always be fresh since each group has the opportunity to choose a different book and make new challenges. You can even incorporate their challenges into future worksheets.
As I mentioned, I like to use the bottom half of the page for my own challenges, which also act as example sentences. This step requires a lot of prep though, because you'll have to go through each book and do the work that they do during the activity on your own. This is where borrowing from previous times can come in handy.
Also, make sure to remind them to be careful with the books, as some of them like to rifle through the pages furiously, ripping the pages in the process.

Make it as simple or complicated as you'd like, but most importantly, have fun!

Submitted by Niigata Nikola December 25, 2023 Estimated time: Full Period
Inspired by Eye spy

Sign in or create an account to leave a comment.