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Classroom Downtime Game: Who Has the Ball?

Madeline is a teacher with lots of tips and tricks to share with readers in the field.

Who has the ball?

Who has the ball?

Entertaining Your Students

Every teacher knows that no matter how meticulously you plan your daily lessons, there will still be days when you have a little bit of extra time. What do you do with those few extra minutes? Having a bag of tricks filled with downtime games is one of the best ways to prevent students from turning into vegetables or crowding around the door waiting for the bell to ring. Here's one that you can use to foster observation and critical thinking skills, while also keeping your students entertained!

Before Beginning "Who Has the Ball?"

  • The object of this game is for students to figure out the rules for who has the ball. You want to try to stump them!
  • Best to use with high schoolers.
  • Don’t play it too much for too long. It keeps the mystery going and also eliminates boredom and checking out if students get frustrated. You can always pick it up the next day!
  • Encourage confidentiality if students figure out the rule (i.e. don’t shout out what the rule is!)
  • Start by saying you’re going to play catch with an imaginary ball.
  • You the teacher can start the dialogue, and can even let students make the passes to mix them up a bit. After playing catch with the imaginary ball, ask “Who has the ball?”
  • Students will automatically respond with whoever was mentioned last in the prompt or try to make their own formulas (i.e. the person sitting two seats down from the third person mentioned, etc.) However, the correct answer is the person who speaks first after you ask the question is the one who has the ball!

Sample Dialogue

Teacher: I have the ball and I throw it to Johnny. Johnny catches the ball and throws it to Sarah. Sarah bounces it off Tim’s head and Lou catches it… Who has the ball?

Tim: Lou has the ball!

Lou: I have the ball!

Johnny: Lou has it!

Teacher: No, actually Tim has it. (Students react in shock and misunderstanding!) Let’s try again… I have the ball and I throw it to Susie, Susie catches it and does a great spin move before throwing it to Johnny. Who has the ball?

Johnny: I have it!

Susie: Ya, Johnny has it.

Teacher: You’re right! Johnny has the ball! (See how it can get confusing if the person mentioned last in the prompt is the first one to speak!)

  • Encourage students to not overthink, or try to make it obvious who spoke first. As students begin to figure out the rule, they can assist by shouting out first with an “I HAVE IT!” etc., and help other students figure it out with clues.

For additional Classroom Downtime Games, Check out my other Hubs!


. on July 10, 2020:

WOW! Thank you or the explanation! I really needed this.

this is me on December 03, 2019:


joe on October 24, 2019:

i dont get it

Culinarypath32 on June 26, 2019:


Hi on January 25, 2019:

I dom’t Understand

jetson on June 29, 2012:

Thanks so much for the explaination.

Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on July 05, 2011:

Great game - occasionally I am taking care of seven children, and while they aren't all yet high school age, I'll keep this in mind for when they are older. You get a vote-up and useful from me.

TheGroundToGrowOn from New England on June 27, 2011:

I have heard of this game before but no one was able to explain it as succinctly as you just did. Thanks!