High school students can lose interest easily, and if your lessons are not fun and engaging, it can be difficult to get students to focus. But don’t worry! There are lots of fun and energizing classroom games you can use to keep high school students engaged. Below you’ll find our favorite fun games for high school students.
Fun Games For High School Students
1: Thumbs Up Game
This first activity is a classic classroom game that high school students love to play! To play, first, choose three students to come up to the front of the class. These students are the ‘walkers’. Next, tell all other students to put their heads on their desks, close their eyes, and put their thumbs up. Now the game can begin.
The three ‘walkers’ will then walk around the class and choose one student each by touching their thumbs. If a student’s thumb is touched, that student should put their thumb down. Once all three ‘walkers’ have chosen one student, they should return to the front of the class, and then the teacher should tell all students to “Wake up!” (i.e., open their eyes and sit up).
The three students whose thumbs were touched should stand up, and then they must guess which of the ‘walkers’ touched their thumb. If they guess correctly, they get to swap places with the ‘walker’. If they guess wrong, they sit back down.
To make this game more fun for high school students, you can try giving each of the ‘walkers’ a funny name. This can be something silly or names from their favorite pop group, TV series, etc. Another thing you can do to make it even more fun is to get the ‘walkers’ to make a silly sound or to say something with a different voice when they touch another student’s thumb.
2: The Liar Game
This next activity is very versatile and can be used in almost any high school class. To play, you’re going to need some ‘game cards’. If you’re teaching vocabulary, these can be small flashcards, or if you’re teaching reading, these can be cards made from a passage of text split up into sentences. For the purpose of this explanation, the cards will be numbers. Create sets of 6-8 game cards and give one set to each student.
Next, you need to tell students the order in which the game cards will be played during the game. A great way to do this is to include the order number on the top of the cards when you create them. Finally, put students in groups of 3/4.
To begin, all 3/4 students in a group must put all their cards in the middle and mix them all together. Then, they must each choose 6/8 random cards (depending on how many are in each set) and make sure not to show these cards to other members in the group. Now the game can begin.
Students will take turns placing the game cards facedown in the middle in the pre-determined order. So, the first student should look at their cards, find the number 1 card, and then place it facedown in the middle and say “Number 1” (or say the word/text that is on the number 1 card). The second student should then look at their cards, find the number 2 card, and place it facedown in the middle and say “Number 2”. Then it’s the next student’s turn to place the number 3 card in the middle. And so on.
The fun part of this game is that a student may not have the correct card to place in the middle because they chose random cards at the beginning. And so, if a student doesn’t have the correct card, they must lie! In this situation, they would choose any of their cards and pretend they are placing the correct card in the middle.
At any time, if any of the other students think someone is lying, they can shout “Liar!”, at which point the last card to be placed in the middle would be turned over to check if the last student did in fact lie.
If a student is caught in a lie, that student must pick up all the cards in the middle. If a student is accused of lying, but they did not lie, then the accuser must pick up all the cards. The first student to get rid of all the cards is the winner!
3: Word Association Game
The are plenty of word association game variations, but the one we find works best with high school students is a version with a particular topic. To play, first, you must choose a topic. A great way to do this is to ask the students for ideas. This way, you will get topics that the students are interested in, which is a great way to keep students engaged. For example, students might choose a topic such as ‘computer games‘, ‘pop groups‘, ‘types of food‘, etc.
Once you have a topic, tell students that they will take turns saying a word associated with the topic. For example, if the topic is ‘types of food‘, one student might say “Mexican food“, and the next student might say “fried food“, etc. If a student is not able to say an associated word or repeats a word that has already been said, then that student is out! Play until only one or two students are left. These are the winners. Choose another topic, and start again.
4: The Chain Game
This next activity is similar to the above word association game but with a fun twist. To start, one student would say a word, and then the next student must say a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. This ‘chain’ continues until a student can’t think of a word or repeats a word that has already been said.
If your high school students have a particularly large vocabulary, this game might be too easy. However, a great way to make it more challenging is to make a rule that each word must be from a particular category. For example. ‘things that are blue‘, ‘girl’s names‘, ‘famous people‘, etc.
5: The Hula Skirt Game
This game is superfun and a great way to get your high school students out of their seats, speaking, and having fun. To prepare for this activity, you’ll need to prepare some questions to create the ‘hula skirt’. You can use any questions, but if you’re stuck for ideas. these 30 Ice-Breaker Questions work great with this activity.
Once you have your questions, type them up, one question per line, and print them on an A4 piece of paper. Next, with a pair of scissors, cut a line between each question to make strips. Don’t cut all the way to the end of the page so that the strips are still all connected. This is our ‘hula skirt’. Finally, tape the ‘hula skirt’ securely on the board and place a trash can about 5-10 feet from the board. Now the game can begin.
Make two teams and have them line up at the far end of the classroom. When the teacher says “Go!“, one student from each team must race to the board and tear off one of the strips of paper. At which point they must read the question that is on the paper out loud and answer the question as quickly as they can.
After answering the question, a student must roll up the strip of paper into a ball and try to throw it into the trash can from where they are standing. If they get it in, they get 1 point for their team. Next, the student runs back to their team and tags the next player who runs to the board to choose the next strip of paper.
6: The Mafia Game
The Mafia Game is a really fun game that high school students want to play time and time again. The game is quite complicated, however, so you may need to practice a few times before students get it. Here’s how to play the Mafia Game step by step.
Step One: Choose A Narrator
The narrator’s job is to assign the roles, read the scenario, and moderate the gameplay.
Step Two: Choose The Number Of Mafia Members
The number of Mafia members should be about 1/3 of the total number of players. For example, if you have 30 students playing, then 10 of them will be in the Mafia.
Step Three: Assign Roles
In addition to the Mafia members, there should also be police officers, doctors, and civilians. Police officers try to catch the Mafia members, doctors heal people who have been attacked by the Mafia, and civilians are just innocent bystanders.
While assigning the roles, it is important to keep the roles secret or the game won’t work. A great way to do this is for the narrator to tell everyone to close their eyes and assign the roles by saying, “I will now touch the Mafia Members on the head.“, “I will now touch the Police Officers on the head.“, “I will now touch the doctors on the head.” Those that are not touched are the ‘civilians’.
Step Four: Round 1
Next, it’s time for round 1. The narrator should tell everyone to close their eyes. Then, the narrator will then say, “Mafia members open your eyes.” The Mafia members will open their eyes and choose one person to ‘kill.’ So that this is a secret, they should silently point to one person to make their choice. Once the Mafia have made their choice, the narrator should take note of who they killed, and then they should close their eyes again.
Next, the narrator says, “Police officers, open your eyes.” and the police will point at someone to ‘interrogate’. Later, this person will be asked if they are the Mafia and they cannot lie. The narrator takes note of who will be interrogated and then the police officers close their eyes.
Next, the narrator says “Doctors, open your eyes.“, and then the doctors point at one person they will ‘save’. If this person was killed by the mafia, they are ‘saved’ and get to stay in the game.
Step Five: The Narrator Explains The Scenario
Next, the narrator says “Everyone, open your eyes.” and then explains what just happened. For example, “The Mafia Killed Chris. The doctors saved Kelly, and the police chose to interrogate Tom.” Then the narrator will ask Tom if he is a member of the Maffia, and he must tell the truth.
In this scenario, Chris is out as he was killed by the Mafia. Kelly wasn’t killed and so there was no need to be ‘saved’. And if Tom answers “Yes” to being in the Mafia, then he is out. If he answers “No”, he is still in the game.
Step Six: Everyone Discusses
Now, that everyone has heard the scenario, it is time for everyone to discuss who they think is the Mafia. After the discussion, everyone will vote on who they think it is. The person with the most votes is ‘lynched’ and are out of the game. The narrator can then tell them if they caught a Mafia member, or killed a civilian, doctor, or police officer.
Step Eight: Repeat
Repeat the above steps until either all the Mafia members have been caught, or all the civilians are out.
As you can see, the Mafia game is quite complicated but it makes a fantastic classroom game for high school students once they get the hang of it.
Thanks for reading. I hope your students have lots of fun playing these classroom games. Before you go, here are some more activity ideas and resources you might find useful:
Reading Games For Middle School Students
Classroom Games For Middle School Students
Middle School Icebreakers
PowerPoint Game Templates
ESL Activity Videos