A key challenge for any ESL teacher, whether experienced or a recent graduate, is to keep students engaged, and one of the best ways to do this is to incorporate some classroom games to make learning more fun and exciting! Games also make great rewards for students who do well in class, or as a ‘treat’ if the class focuses on their core work during the body of the lesson. As a teacher, having a few 5 minute activities that require little resource can be hugely helpful if a lesson finishes a bit earlier that expected.
Here’s our top 10 simple games to implement in the ESL classroom…
*Remember that before teaching abroad, many countries (including China), require teachers to hold a Bachelor’s Degree and a minimum 120 hour TEFL qualification. You can apply for a discounted 120 hour TEFL course through Opportunity China.
1. Last Man Standing
This is a game which gives students the time to think and encourage peer learning. As they hear other students speaking, they will pick up on some words. Have all the students form a circle and stand at the center with a ball. All you have to do is name a category (food, places, hobbies, etc.) and pass the ball to one student. Let them toss it to another student as they name a word related to the theme. If they repeat a word or can’t say any more words, they need to sit down. The last man/student standing wins the game.
This is a popular game which is similar to Pictionary. This is a great game to get your students to move. First, you have to write down a couple of words on paper. Make sure most of the students know them. Divide the class into two teams and one person from each team will choose a paper and act the word out. A team receives a point for every correctly guessed word.
Pictionary is like a charade, but your students will draw, instead of acting the words out. You can use the cards from the actual board game for this activity, or make your own!
Similar to charades, you also need to divide the class into two teams. One person from Team A come up to the front and draws a card/word. The student must convey the word to his or her team using only drawings. There are certain rules such as students cannot use words, symbols or hand gestures. Each student should have a time limit of 3 minutes. The first team to get 10 points is the winning team.
4. Board Race
Board Race is a fun game that is used for revising vocabulary. Here’s what to do:
Divide the class into two teams and give each team a colored marker. Draw a line down the middle of the board and write a topic at the top. The students must then write as many words related to the topic in a relay. The first person will write the first word and pass the colored marker to the one next in line. Score each team with one point for each correct word. Unreadable or misspelled words are not counted.
5. Taboo Words
Looking for a game which can help your students practice synonyms and descriptions? Try Taboo Words – suitable for more advanced learners. Divide the class into two and have the two teams sit on opposite sides of the room, facing each other. Choose one person to sit in front of their team and stand behind the students and hold a piece of paper with a word on it
The team has three minutes to get the one in front to say the word on paper. They can’t say the word; they can only mention synonyms and descriptions of the word you’re holding.
A favourite game among teachers, Hangman can be used at the start of the class to warm up the students and get them active. This is especially good for young students.
First, think of a word and write the number of letters on the board using dashes to show many letters there are. Then, ask students to suggest a letter. If it appears in the word, write it in all of the correct spaces. If the letter does not appear in the word, write it off to the side and begin drawing the image of a hanging man.
You have to continue this until the students guess the word correctly, your students will win. If you complete the diagram, you win.
7. 20 Objects
Time to test your students’ memories and vocabulary! Gather 20 objects that can be found in the classroom and lay them all out on the desk. Show them all to the students and then cover everything with a blanket or a sheet after one minute.
Ask the students to write down as many items they remember on a piece of paper. Write a list of the items on the chalkboard and allow students to self-correct.
8. Hot Seat
This game is similar to Taboo Words. You can write the name on the board and one student will guess the word. The rest of the class must guess the word by describing it.
9. Chalkboard Acronym
First, you have to write a word vertically on the board. Each student must come up with a word starting with each letter of the vertical word.
You can change the rule and require the words to be related to the acronym.
This game is a great way to fill up the last few minutes of the class. Ask the students draw six columns on their paper and write a category at the top of each column. You can choose categories that fit your topic. You can include food, names, cities or countries, furniture, verbs and clothing.
Then, choose a random letter and write it on the board. Ask students to write down a word for each category that starts with that letter.
Many thanks to Fazreen Razeek from Edarabia.com for sharing his knowledge. Fazreen has served the education industry for over 5 years, is extremely passionate about education technology and also writes for various local and international publications. A graduate of Edith Cowan University, Perth, Fazreen holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Marketing & Management.