Every teacher dreams of a class where students are excited to learn all the time.
For students, class can sometimes be repetitive, therefore, to keep things fresh, fun and engaging, English teachers will often use various games to help students stay engaged.
ESL games not only help teachers inspire the students, but through these games, the students are actually learning, sometimes without knowing it.
ESL games help teachers turn a student's natural energy and interest to learn into motivation to learn, and motivation is key to success!
I have taken a list of ESL games that I have used in class with great success and am giving them to you to use to increase engagement and fun in your classes:
(If you are interested in becoming an ESL teacher, click here)
1. Slap the board
In teams/pairs, students stand up, listen to what the teacher calls and must run and slap the correct FC on the board.
2. Snowball fight
Each student is given 3 pieces of paper, they chose 3 words to write on the paper. Students then crumple their pieces of paper into a ball and are given 1-2 minutes to throw the pieces at each other (class been divided into 2 teams with a barrier down the middle) . When 2 min is up, each student must collect one piece of paper and teacher calls student to write on board or read out loud.
3. Flashcard pick up
As teacher present the FC to the students, he/she throws the FC on the floor in front of the class. Teacher then calls on students to find and fetch the correct card.
4. Flashcard hand out
Teacher presents FC to the students and then gives each FC to one student. When all FC have been handed out, the teacher then calls for the FC back one by one. Student with the corresponding FC must stand up, give it back and say the card.
5. Flashcard pass
Students sit in a circle or in rows. Teacher then passes a flashcard, when receiving the FC the student has to say what it is before passing it to the next student. To make it fun, use a timer and get them to complete one circle in 30sec and slowly decrease the time.
6. Chinese whispers/Broken telephone
Students sit in a circle. Teacher then whispers one of the target language words into the first students ear. The first student then passes on to the next student until it goes all the way round the circle.
7. Find the Flashcard
Stick up FC around the classroom. Then call one student from each team, call out one of the vocab words, and the two students run to the correct FC.
8. 2min pick up
Flashcards are spread out on the floor in the front of the classroom. Students then gather around the FC and have 2 min to pick up one FC say what it is, put it down and find another FC. Teacher stands at the board and gives points to those who are speaking english.
9. Mingle activity
Each student is given a list of questions. Students then have to walk around the class and ask a number of students the questions and write down their answers.
10. Red and green ball
Red ball means you ask a question, and green ball is answer a question. Teacher plays music and students pass the two balls around. When the music stops, the two students with the ball have to ask and answer the questions.
Select one student to come to the front of the class. Show them an FC and get them to mime the action for the FC. The class then has to guess what it is by shouting out the correct answer.
12. Hot seat
One students comes to the front of the class and is given an FC to keep secret. Class then has to ask the student “is it a. . .?” and the student then answers yes or no. The student that guesses the correct answer get the chance to come to the front.
13. Flashcard race
Similar to slap the board, except the FC are on the floor and students have to run and jump onto the correct FC.
14. Spin the pen
Place the FC in front of the classroom on the floor in a circle. Place a pen in the middle and get one student to spin the pen, he then has to name the FC it lands on and he then calls the next student and asks him/her what the FC is, then it’s that students turn to spin the pen.
15. Slow reveal
Teacher stands at the front of the class and slowly, inch by inch, reveals one of the FC. The students then have to guess what the FC is as it is being slowly revealed.
16. Sticky ball target
Show the FC to the students, the first student to raise their hand and answer gets a chance to throw the sticky ball at the target on the board to earn their team points.
17. Fill in the gap
When using a passage or text, eliminate some of the words and give the students a word sheet (list) to use. Then the students have to fill in the missing words from their word list.
18. Fill in the gap with music
As a listening task, choose a song and eliminate target language. Have students then listen to the song a few times and fill in the missing words on their worksheet.
19. Word jumble
Write one word one the board with the letters in the wrong order, get two students to race to the board to write the word with the letters in the correct order.
20. Sentence jumble
Same as word jumble but with an entire sentence.
21. Musical chairs
Have flashcards placed around in a circle. Nominate some students to stand at each FC. Play music for them and let them run around the circle until the music stops, they must then name the FC that they landed on and the next group goes.
22. Flashcard swap
Same set up for music chairs, except instead of running in circles, students have to listen for the teacher to call 2 of the target words, then those 2 students have to run and swap.
23. Memory Game (Pelmanism)
Place the FC on the board, and tell students to close their eyes, then remove one FC and chose the first student to put his hand up to give the correct answer. A variation of this game is; send one student out of the class by having the whole class shout “Go away (name)” then when he is outside, remove a flashcard and get the class to shout “Come back (name),” as he enters, “whats missing?” and he gives the correct answer.
24. Project work
Warm up the class with 1 or 2 small activities about your target language, Then hand out sheets of A3 paper to each pair/group/individual and get them to draw a poster describing their chosen topic. This kind of project work can vary from pictorial to oral and is at the discretion of the teacher.
25. Role play
Assign students various characters in a story they have studied or song they have listen to get them to act it out or make an adaption of what they think the story was supposed to teach.
26. Alternate endings
After the students have watched a video or read a story, break them into groups, assign characters and have them create an alternate ending to the story/video and role play.
27. Writing relay
Hand out one target language word to each student. Then divide the board into 2/3 areas for each team to write in. Starting from the front or back, have each students write down their word on a piece of paper or they can race to the board. They can only write their own word, once the previous student has written their word and held it up, or ran back to their seat. The team that finishes first gets a point. After the first round students pass their words to the student next to them and play again.
Create a sentence, that is able to use up most of the target language; for example; “The trees are green.” The assign a word to each letter in that sentence (So it would be Tea, Hot, Elephant Tail, Rat, Eat, Egg, Snake etc etc) . Then have students come to you for the first word, they then have to describe the word, or draw it on a piece of paper until their group guesses correctly. Once correct, the next student goes up and so forth until the sentence is complete.
29. Magic cards
Take a deck of cards into class and assign each card with a value (Q – ask a question K – eliminate someone from an opposing team; J-bring someone back to life; 10 – say something you like 9 – say something you don’t like etc etc) points assigned for speaking and creativity.
30. Flashcard stack
Bring PAPER CUPS into class. Place paper cup on a chair in the front of the class. Have one student come up and answer a question correctly. They then get to place the FC on the paper cup and teacher continues to build a tower of paper cups and FC until they crash.
31. Simon says
I think everyone knows this game. Good to develop listening skills.
32. Freeze and dance
Phonics sound game. One sound they freeze in their position standing and the other sound they dance. Teacher walks around calling out different word pairs. Last student to dance or freeze must sit down until there is winning team. Variations of this game be done from running to a wall, or standing and sitting etc.
These games have not only helped my students learn, but they also keep things interesting for the teacher.
I hope you enjoyed this list and feel free to contact me if you have more to add here
Share this list with as many teachers as you can help students and teachers grow their skills!