If you teach ESL to kids, you probably know how much they love to play games in class. ESL card games are a great way to get students talking, and are incredibly versatile. ESL card games can be played with virtually any vocabulary, grammar point, or sentence structure. Keeping some game cards handy can also be very useful when your lesson doesn’t quite go as planned.
Most textbooks these days come with vocabulary/picture cards at the back of the book that can be used with these ESL card games. If you’re not so lucky, you can download 100s of small printable cards from our flashcards page that you can use in these ESL card games.
5 Fun ESL Card Games
1: Line Bingo
This ESL card game is a great alternative to traditional bingo. It’s great for young learners to practice listening and speaking skills and it can be used with any target language. All you need is 6-8 cards per student/team of two.
How To Play
Provide each student, or each pair of students, a set of 6-8 cards. Students must then arrange the cards in a horizontal line in any order they wish.
When the students have put their cards in a line then the game can begin. Then the teacher will choose one of the cards and say it out loud. If the card that the teacher said is on the end of the students’ line of cards (on the left or right end) then the student can turn that card over. The first student/team to turn over all their cards is the winner.
To encourage students to speak the target language, ask them to repeat after you if they turn over their card. Also, to make it more fun, rather than have the teacher say the card out loud, invite the students to come to the front of the class one by one and choose one of the cards and to say it out loud.
2: Matching Game
In this ESL card game, learners must find two cards the same. This game can be played in pairs or teams. All you need is TWO sets of game cards/picture cards.
How To Play
Give each pair/group of students two sets of cards. Then, the students must place all the cards face down and mix them up. Once the cards are mixed, then the game can start. Students must turn over two cards and find two the same. If they find two cards the same, then they keep the cards. Once all the cards are gone, the student/team with the most cards is the winner.
To encourage speaking, instruct the students to ask and answer using the target language as they turn over the cards. For example, one student/team would ask ‘How’s the weather?’, and the other team would answer using the word/picture displayed on the card that they turn over.
3: Rock, Scissors, Paper Pick Up
This simple ESL card game can be played in pairs and is great to practice asking and answering in the target language. This game can be played with as many cards as you want. The more cards, the longer the game.
How To Play
Provide each pair of students with at least one set of game cards (preferably two sets or more) and ask them to mix up the cards and then place them face down in one pile in the middle. Then, students play rock, scissors, paper. The winner picks up the card, shows it to their partner, and then asks a question using the target language (For example, ‘What’s this?’ / ‘How are you today?’ / ‘What’s your favorite subject?’, etc), and the loser must answer. The winner then keeps the card, and they play rock, scissors, paper again. Once all the cards are gone, the student with the most cards is the winner.
4: Guessing Game
This ESL card game is best in groups of 3/4. Each group will need one or two sets of 6-8 cards. Any more than that, and it will be too hard for students to guess the cards correctly and the game will last too long.
How To Play
Ask students to spread the cards out on the desk facing up. Then, one student must look away or close their eyes. The other students then point to one of the cards. Once the students have chosen the card, they should ask the student with their eyes closed to open his/her eyes. Then that student must try to guess which card they chose using the target language (For example, 3 students will ask “How’s the weather?”, and 1 student will answer using the expression on one of the cards – “It’s sunny”).
If the student guesses correctly, then he/she gets to keep that card. If they are wrong, then it is the next students turn to look away as the other students choose another card. Once all cards are gone, the student with the most cards is the winner.
5: ‘Nice To Meet You’ Game
This ESL card game is best played in pairs and is a fun way to practice speaking the target language / vocabulary. Each pair of students needs one or two sets of game cards.
How To Play
Ask students to place their cards in a horizontal line. Once, the cards are in a line, then the game can be begin. One student will start on the left side of the line, and one student will start on the right side of the line. The students then move their fingers down the line of cards, saying each card as they go. When the students meet, they say “Nice to meet you.” – “Nice to meet you, too.”, and then play rock, scissors, paper. The loser must go back to the start, and the winner stays there.
Then the students again move their fingers down the line of cards, saying each card as they go until they meet again. When they meet again, they again greet each other and play rock, scissors, paper. If a student makes it all the way to the end of the line, they win 1 point, and then start again.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found some useful ESL card game ideas for your next class. Don’t forget to check out our printable flashcards, board games, and our ESL classroom game videos for many FREE resources for teaching English.