10 ESL Family Games & Vocabulary Activities for Students

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Family is one of the most popular conversation topics, so it is important that your students know the ESL family vocabulary. They might use this knowledge later when telling their friends in a new country about their family members.

In this article, we are going to highlight some ESL family activities that will strengthen the confidence of your students during family-related conversations. Use these fun ESL activities and vocabulary games to help with learning. 

Try these activities to teach ESL students family vocabulary

ESL family tree activity

The family tree game is the most obvious way for your students to learn the family related vocabulary. For this activity, you will need a large family tree ESL that depicts the relatives such as mother, father, sisters, brothers, grandparents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Each branch should have a picture and the title of the person. Go over the family tree clearly and slowly to ensure that the students understand the meaning of the words and how to pronounce them. After you are sure that the students have understood everything, present to them another version of ESL family trees, but this time with blank titles. Now the students should “climb” the family tree by guessing each title.

Synonyms activity

Some of the family ESL titles have synonyms, for example grandfather – grandpa, granddad, granddaddy, etc. The lists may vary depending on where the English speaker lives. Discuss all of those synonyms with your students and explain the differences between those synonyms. You can do it by showing the students the synonyms on cards and encouraging them to guess to which title the synonym refers.

Comparisons activity

An ESL family lesson plan can also include the practice of comparatives. For example, “My sister is younger than me” or “My uncle is taller than me.” Have various pictures of families available and encourage the students to come up with similar statements. For more advanced students, you can encourage them to come up with statements regarding the pictures that may or may not be true. For example, “The mother is taller than the father on this picture. – That’s not true. The father is taller than the mother.”

Making a lesson plan? Check out these tips and be done in no time.

Ball game

Standing in a circle, the students toss a ball to each other. Each student who catches the ball should say a title of a family member. A student who fails to come up with the title within 5 seconds should leave the circle. The remaining student is a winner.

Explanations activity with taboo words

Working in pairs, the students should describe various family members to each other. One student explains while another one tries to guess the title. However, the “explainer” should refrain from using titles of other family members, e.g. “a mother’s or a father’s mother” for “grandmother”. A description without such taboo words can be as follows: “An elderly woman who can cook delicious pancakes.”

Family related proverbs and idioms activity

Working in groups, the students try to come up with as many family related idioms and proverbs as they can. The winning team is the one that comes up with the greatest number of idioms and proverbs, such as “black sheep of the family”. The idioms and proverbs should not necessarily be English – the students can translate those from their native language and then explain their meaning to the class or search for analogs in English.

Guess a family activity

Ask the students to bring the printed pictures of their families to the lesson. Gather those pics and put them into a hat or a bowl. Mix the photos up and take them out one by one. The students should guess whose family they see and which student they look most alike. The students should also name the depicted family members. For example, “I think it is Jerry’s brother.”

Number relations activity

Each student says a number that is related to their family (e.g. someone’s age or a number of children). The other students try to come up with a question to which that is the answer. For example, 6 – Is it your brother’s age? Is your sister6 years older than you? and so on.

Guess the famous family or person

During your family ESL lesson, make statements about a famous family or a famous person’s family relationships one sentence at a time until the students guess who it is. Make sure that you choose people famous enough, so that almost all students know about them.

Two truths and a lie

Each student should tell three facts about their families, one of which is a lie. The rest of the students should guess which of the facts is a lie.

How do you teach family vocabulary in your ESL lessons?

Now you know about the family tree and other activities to expand the ESL family vocabulary of your students. Still, we want to know how you’re doing it. Do you have any methods or activities that we missed here? Please feel free to discuss in the comments section. 


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