English Vocabulary Games for TEFL Students


Vocabulary is the most important part of foreign language learning. The more words the students know, the livelier their language and the closer to fluency they get.
So how to enrich the ESL vocab of your students in a way that is fun and engaging? In this article, we are going to share some attention-grabbing vocabulary games ideas that will lead to exciting results in English language learning for your students. We already covered general games for ESL students, so these will focus strictly on vocabulary.

Word Bingo

How do you play this vocabulary game?

  1. Draw simple bingo grids with one word per each square. For younger students, you can replace the written words with pictures.
  2. Hand out those grids to the students. Each student should receive a unique grid.
  3. Call out the words that should be marked by the students in the grid.
  4. The winner is the one who completes the grid first.

What is improved?
Such ESL games help the students practice the comprehension of new words by ear, whereas younger students learn to associate the words that they hear with concepts and objects.


Hangman is one of the most popular English games. So, how does it become an ESL vocabulary game?

  1. Choose a secret word and don’t reveal it to the students. Try to line up the difficulty of the word to the knowledge level of your students.
  2. Draw a blank square for each letter in the word.
  3. The students start guessing the letters.
  4. Each time the students guess a correct letter, fill it into the square where it occurs.
  5. When the students name a wrong letter, start drawing a “hangman”, i.e. a schematic figure of a man hanging on the gallows. First you should draw the lines arranged as upside-down “L” that represent the gallows, then the hangman’s head and the body. Finally, you should draw a rope.
  6. After you draw a rope, the players have lost this ESL game. The players win this vocabulary words game when they guess the correct word before you finish the hangman drawing.

If you teach kids, in your vocab games you can replace the hangman with a friendlier figure, such as a snowman, while leaving the playing rules the same.
What is improved?
This vocabulary word game helps the students to improve their spelling skills.

Taboo Words

vocabulary games
Taboo Words belongs to the most fun games to learn English. Here’s how you play as an ESL vocab activity.

  1. Write a taboo word on a piece of paper. This word should be very simple.
  2. Choose one of your students that will see this word.
  3. The other students who don’t see the word should ask this student a series of questions. He or she should avoid the taboo word when answering those questions.
  4. You can enhance this vocabulary review game by adding more taboo words.

What is improved?
With this vocabulary building game, the students learn to use synonyms and descriptive explanations instead of the simpler words. It increases conversational skills.

20 Objects

20 Objects belongs to the word memorizing vocab building games. How do you play it?

  1. Show your students 20 physical objects and let them look at the objects for one minute.
  2. Hide the objects, e.g. by covering them with a cloth.
  3. Give your students time to write down the names of the objects that they’ve just seen.
  4. The winner is the one who remembers most objects.

What is improved?
With such vocab review games, the students train their memories and practice new vocabulary at the same time.


How to play?

  1. On a board, write down a short word, which contains 3 to 5 letters.
  2. Ask the students to make up new words that start with each letter of the base word.
  3. The words should form a coherent phrase or sentence, even an absurd one. For example, “WORD – When Only Rainbows Dance.”

What is improved?
Such TEFL vocabulary games teach the students form correct sentences with random words.

Short Words Out Of a Long Word

How to play?

  1. Choose a long, complicated word and write it down on the board.
  2. The students should form as many new words as possible by using only the letters from this word.
  3. It’s up to you to decide which words should be formed, e.g. only nouns, nouns and  adjectives or any words.

What is improved?
This ELL vocabulary game enhances the spelling of the ELLs.


How to play?

  1. Write down several categories, such as food, furniture, clothes, nature, etc.
  2. Give the students a random letter.
  3. Ask them to write down a word for each category that starts with that letter.

What is improved?
With such ESL vocab games, the students learn to classify and categorize the concepts.
We hope that with these vocabulary-related ESL classroom games, you’ll liven up your lessons and become proud of your students’ broadened lexicon.

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  1. Thank you, I will use some of these with my students…the one with the short word out of a long word will be the first game.

  2. I like the suggestion to substitute a snowman during hangman.
    All great suggestions. Thank you for sharing.


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