Top 15 games for ESL


Top 15 games for ESL

1. Taboo

Break up the class into two teams. Have the students choose team names or simply give them animal names. Write a word on the board. Two people will have their backs to the board, so they can’t see the word. The students must describe this word by using the English they know or by charading it. Tally up the score.

2. Go Fish!

A simple card game. Write on the board “Do you have a ‘number’?” And/Or “Do you have any “numbers”? Response: Yes, I do. / No, I don’t. Go fish! Shuffle the cards and give each student five cards. Explain to the students that they need groups of the same number (so, 4x3s, or 4x4s etc.) to win the game, also called families. Show them what a family looks like and explain that the cards need to be set on the table once you have a family. Also explain that they cannot ask for a card that is not in their hand. Play with the students as well and use other phrases if you want to mix up the grammar (e.g. Are you holding number …?).

3. Board Race

Break the class up into two teams. Have students compete against one another to test their knowledge on the grammar that they have just learnt. You can ask a question and have them respond it on the board or explain that if you shout out a response to a question, they have to write the question. You can also have the students show an example of a particular grammar point or tense. For example: If you shout out, “Present Perfect” the student must show an example of the Present Perfect.

4. Never Have I Ever…

This game is used to practice the Present Perfect. Students hold up three fingers and must say things they have never done by saying “never have I ever…”. If a student in the classroom has done the thing that one student hasn’t done, then they put down a finger. The last one to have a finger is the winner. Moral of the story: If you haven’t had much experience, at least you win an ESL game!

5. Hangman:

Very common and well known game for elementary school students. This game can be used as a spelling and alphabet practice. Students guess the letters to fill in the empty underlined spaces that make up a word. Alternative is to have students come up with the words.

6. Pictionary / Charades:

These fun family games can go hand in hand, because they serve the same purpose. You have to guess a word. You can allow the students to either draw or charade the word. Usually the words can be picked out of a styrophoam cup or a hat, or whispered into the ear. Very simple to set up and great to review words that were recently taught.

7. Tornado:

Write on the board the numbers 1 – 16 or 1 – 20. Break the class up into two teams. Students will choose a number that will unlock a question that you have already prepared e.g. a review of target language, a grammar topic, or a speaking topic, etc. If they guess correct, they recieve 5 points. A few of the numbers are “tornados” and “hurricanes”. When a student hits a tornado, they skip their turn, and when they hit a hurricane all of their points are eliminated. A couple or a few numbers should also be free or bonus points. That way you can spice up the game and students will definitely enjoy it. Be sure to plan your board before the class starts, and tally up the score to see who wins at the end!

8. Kings / Ring of Fire:

A beer game favourite converted to an ESL game. Take a deck of cards and make a circle with them on the table. Each card or family needs a rule. The rules can help the students practice a wide range of grammar topics. You can also set up rules to positive or negative responses according to the colour of the card. Red and black. You can give each student a different set of cards or pieces of candy that will represent their life line in the game. This game can easily take up a 1 hour review class, and can be a lot of fun with good preparation.

9. Story time:

This game can be played in a couple of different ways depending on how you want to go about it, and is good to practice connectors. One way to play is to have images where the students have to come up with a logical story related to the picture, they can interpret it any way possible. You can add to the game by saying they must include an adjective or adverb. This game can be done orally while you, as a teacher, should be monitering their mistakes. Themed stories are also great for different times of the year (Halloween, Christmas, etc.).

10. Guess The Type of Music:

You can see how many songs in English they are aware of. Break up the class into two teams and play a series of songs. If they guess the type of music, emotion it conveys, singer, group, or band correctly they receive X amount of points.

11. Pop Culture Trivia:

Another similar game would be to create a Pop Culture Trivia Quiz. You can have one person from each team to be a representative so that it isn’t too chaotic.

12. Tutti Frutti / Categories:

Set up categories on the board or choose categories to write on the board (e.g. Names, Countries, Food & Drink, Verbs, Objects, Adjectives, Phrasal Verbs, etc). In groups students make a list of words for each category depending on the letter of the alphabet you give them. Whoever finishes shouts “Tutti Frutti!” and after that, everyone must stop. Points are awarded for every unique word.

13. “I Spy With My Little Eye…”

A simple game that requires no set up unless you want to add some thing in the classroom. You start the game off as an example. Choose something inside or outside the class room, and give the students the first letter of the word. Start by saying, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with (letter)…”

14. Last One Standing:

Ask everyone to stand up from their seat. Get a ball (or scrumple up the recycled paper). Ask students to review vocab or ask questions by throwing the ball around the room to their teammates; if the student correctly answers the question or gives an original vocab word, then they throw the ball onto another student, and so on. If is a student is incorrect or repeats a vocab word they must sit down until the last one is standing!

15. Up The Ladder:

Draw 10 /15 points on the board that represent the start and end of the game, one way is to draw a snake-like image. Have teams create 10 questions for their other team to answer. If the teams answer correctly, then they can roll the dice to advance their team.

16. Bonus! Tic Tac Toe

Replace the X and O with review vocab words and students take turns to get three words in a row in this classic game.

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