Thinking of and creating new classroom games can be hard, especially when you teach the same students over a long period of time. To give you some inspiration, here are five kinds of ESL classroom games you can try in your next English lesson.
ESL Game Kinds
1. Mingle Games
In these types of classroom games, students walk around and ‘mingle’ with other students. That is, during the game students must walk around and talk with other students. These types of activities are great to practice speaking skills and for students to use the language they have learned in a communicative way.
Example 1: ‘The Level Up Game’
This game requires no prep. In this game there are four levels located in the 4 corners of the classroom. To start, all students must go to level 1. At level 1, they must meet a partner and then have a dialogue using the lesson’s target language.
For example, if the lesson is about food vocabulary, you might ask your students to ask and answer with their partner using the following expressions: ‘What’s your favorite food?’ – ‘My favorite food is pizza.’
Once they have complete the dialogue with their partners, the students would play Rock, Scissors, Paper. The winning students then progress to level 2 (the next corner of the classroom).
The losing students stay at level 1. Then students would meet another partner and have a dialogue again. (i.e. The students at level 1 meet another level 1 students, and the students at level 2 meet another level 2 student).
Once again, after completing the dialogue, students play RSP and the winners advance to the next level. Once students have advanced through all 4 levels, then they get a point (or sticker / high five from teacher, etc) and start again at level 1.
The teacher can decide how long to play for. Say, 5 minutes / first to five points, etc.
CAUTION: With young learners / large class sizes it may become quite rowdy. So, you may wish to insist that students don’t run / shout, push in their chairs, and clear their bags and things off the floor to prevent any accidents.
Example 2: ‘The Spy Game’
For this game, you would need to prepare some small word cards / picture cards for the students. You can find FREE student cards and flashcards on many topics on our Flashcards Page.
This game is basically ‘find your partner(s)’ but more fun.
For this game you must prepare a word / picture card for each student. Then on 1/2/3 cards (depending on the size of your class) write the word ‘Spy’. Once the cards are ready, give one to each student.
The students must then walk around the classroom and find the students with the same card WITHOUT showing their card.
To do this, the students must talk with their classmates using the target language. For example, if the lessons’ target language is about illness, each student would be provided with a word / picture card which has an illness on it.
The students would then walk around and ask each other, ‘What’s the matter?’, and they would answer using the word/picture that is on their card ( I have a headache/fever/stomachache, etc). BUT, the students who have the ‘Spy’ card, can answer anything they want to try become a partner with somebody.
Once students have found their partner(s), they should go to the teacher and then reveal their cards. The aim of the game for the Spy is to become a partner with anyone. The aim of the game for the other students is to find their real partner, without partnering with the spy.
TIP: Before introducing the ‘Spy’ cards, practice simply ‘finding your partner’ so students can practice how to ask and answer using the target language. Once students are ready, introduce the spy cards.
2. ESL Card Games
Many textbooks these days come with vocabulary cards at the back of the textbook which can be torn out and used for many types of card games. If you’re not so lucky, you can download and print many Flashcards / Student cards from our Flashcards Page.
Example 1: ‘Line Bingo’
This game requires a little prep, especially if you are printing and cutting the cards yourself. To save time, you could perhaps ask students to cut their own cards once you have printed them out.
To play, provide each student or pair of students a set of 6/8 word / picture cards. Ask them to arrange the cards in a horizontal line in any order they want. Once students have made a line with their cards, then the game can start.
The teacher will say one of the words / expressions on the cards. If that card is on the left / right end of the line, then students can turn that card over. If the card is in the middle of the line, then the students can not turn over that card.
The teacher would then say another card and the students would again check to see if that card is at the end of their line of cards.
The first student / team to turn over all their cards has bingo and they are the winner.
TIP: This is great as a listening activity. If you want to also practice speaking with this activity, you could ask students to come to the front and choose a card and say it out loud. Alternatively, ask students to repeat after you, or answer using the target language when they turn over their cards.
Example 2: ‘Guessing Game’
This game can be played in pairs / groups of 3/4.
Give each pair / group a set of word / picture cards. Ask students to spread the cards 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 the 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.
3. PowerPoint Games
There are many different types of PowerPoint games that can be used in class. If you are good at using PowerPoint it is relatively easy to make simply games for the classroom.
However, it can be quite time consuming to prepare these, especially if you don’t have a template to add your key expressions to. Below are some examples of PowerPoint Games that you can make / download for your lessons.
Example 1: ‘Hidden Picture Games’
These games are a great way to introduce or review vocabulary. In these types of PPT games, a picture is hidden behind some colored shapes. The shapes slowly disappear to reveal the picture beneath.
When students are ready to guess they can raise their hand and guess using the target language / expressions for that lesson. You can find FREE hidden picture games on many different topics, and a blank template on our PPT Games page.
Example 2: ‘Matching Games’
These PowerPoint games are great to review vocabulary. In these games, the words / pictures are hidden behind numbered squares. Students must find the matching pairs of words / pictures.
To play, divide the class into two teams. The teams take turns in choosing two numbers. Then the teacher clicks on the squares to reveal the word / picture beneath. If the two are the same, then that team gets a point. If they are different, then the teacher can click the red circle to hide the pictures again. Students must remember where the pairs of pictures are.
You can find a FREE editable template, and many ready made matching games on our PPT Games page.
4. Board Games
Using board games in class can be a great way to reduce teacher talking time and increase students talking time. While playing board games, students have the opportunity to use the language that they have learned in a communicative way. Again, simple board games can be relatively easy to create using PowerPoint.
Example 1: ‘Rock, Scissors, Paper’ Board Games.
These kind of board games are the easiest to create and require the smallest amount of prep. There is no need for dice, as students advance in the game by playing Rock, Scissors, Paper.
For example, in Games4esl’s ‘Race Around the World’ board game students place their eraser at the start line, then play Rock, Scissors, Paper.The winner then advances to the next square, and then the students look at the picture and have a dialogue using the target language.
Example 2: ‘The Spinner Game’
This simple board game is easy to create and a lot of fun for young learners. To play, each pair of students needs one pencil, one paper clip, and one board game.
Students must place the paper clip in the middle of the circle. Then place their pencil in the middle of the paper clip. Then they flick the paper clip to make it spin around. When the paper clip stops spinning, the students have a dialogue based on the picture that the paper clip is pointing at.
5. Games on YouTube
Many classrooms these days have fast internet and large TV screens in the classroom. YouTube can be a fantastic resource to find ESL songs, videos, and even CLASSROOM GAMES.
Games4esl makes ready to use classroom games that can be streamed straight into your classroom. These are based on the topics that you typically find in young learner ESL curricula. These games are made using animation software and HD images which really grab and keep students attention.
Below are some examples of the kinds of games you can find on Games4esl. Too see more, check out our Game Videos Page.
These are great for introducing or reviewing vocabulary.
Quizzes are a lot of fun and are a great to use when you have spare time in class.