Fun Games & Activities for ESL Students

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ESL games are arguably the most efficient activities for ESL teachers to keep their ELLs, especially younger ones, constantly engaged. There’s a wide variety of ESL classroom games that create fun and exciting ways to learn a foreign language. You can also use these games as teaching aids for ELLs to teach kids English at home.

In this article, we are going to take a look at these fun English games and give basic instructions on how to play them.

Table & Board ESL Games

Board ELL games are awesome student engagement resources. You can play those games with your students at least once a week. Modern board games, such as Alias, Dixit, Scrabble or Mafia are the most exciting ones. Playing them in a foreign language guarantees 100 percent absorption and immersion in a new language. Besides, it’s a quick and fun way to learn new vocabulary.

Some of the board games for students are also suitable for kids. For example, Alias has a Junior Alias edition, where the kids need to explain the pictures by using simpler words.

Pictionary is another board ESL classroom game that the kids love.

Here’s how to play Pictionary:

  1. Divide the players into two or more teams, depending on the class size.
  2. Each team gets a category card, paper and a pencil. The category card explains the meanings of the category abbreviations that you see on the playing board and word cards, such as P for person, place or animal; O for object; A for action; D for difficult words; and AP for all play. For a more active game, it’s also possible to draw on a whiteboard with a marker.
  3. Place the ESL game board and deck of word cards in the center of the group. Place a playing piece on the starting square of the board to represent each team.
  4. Roll the diсe to determine the team that chooses the first card.
  5. Two people from each team are selected to look at the card for 5 seconds and then start drawing the picture based on the word from the card.
  6. They draw for 60 seconds while their team members try to guess what they are drawing.
  7. The winner is the first team that guesses the word.

Active ESOL Games

Your students, especially younger ones, should move around the classroom every now and then, as it’s useful both for their health and their engagement. Some active and fun ESL games will break the ice and engage even the quietest students.

Truth or Dare

The students should choose whether to answer a personal question, a truth, or to do something silly, a dare. To make this ESL classroom game even more exciting, you can write the truths and dares on pieces of paper and put those papers inside of balloons. The kids will pop the balloons and fulfill the tasks. You can adapt these tasks by using the vocabulary and grammar at the level you’re teaching.

Simon Says

During this game, you tell the class what to do and show them so they could repeat what you’re doing. For example – Simon says, “Touch your nose,” or Simon says, “Touch something red.” However, the students should not repeat the action if there’s no “Simon says” phrase before it. If someone still repeats the action, they become the host.

Lego Tower

Lego games for ESL students will help your students practice the adverbs of place. The kids build a Lego tower from Lego bricks of different colors. Then the teacher asks them to describe the location of each Lego brick. For example, “the yellow brick is under the blue brick, between the white bricks, and above the purple brick.”

Flashcard Fishing

Attach staples to flashcards and ask your students to “fish” for them with handmade fishing rods (you can make them together to practice teamwork). The kids pick up random flashcards and should explain what is written on a “caught” flashcard.

Imagination ESL Classroom Games

Some classroom games for teenagers and kids can help them train their imagination by using the learned vocabulary.

Geography

The first player names a city or country (“New York”). The next person has to come up with a place that begins with the last letter of that answer (K―”Korea”). The places can be used only once, and they should be real. This game is good to practice the proper nouns and spelling skills. If you want to make it really fun, use only countries where English is the primary language.

I’m Thinking of an Animal

The first player says, “I’m thinking of an animal that…” and then adds a characteristic of the animal, such as “…has a long tail.” Other players should guess the animals by asking questions.

Synonyms and Antonyms

Name random words and ask your students to come up with synonyms or antonyms for those words.

As you see, there’s a wide variety of English classroom games that are both fun and useful for your students as you teach English as a second language. We hope that your students will enjoy them.

30 COMMENTS

  1. I use “paper games” like tic-tac-toe, 9-man-morris, pictionary, rock-paper-scissors, gestures/charades, connect 4, hang-a-man, “do what teacher does” speed challenge, math puzzles (5 x + 5 = 20, x = 3. Some kids like them), and Alphabet speed challenge (write or flash card for younger students). But most of all, kids love puppet shows and interacting with puppets/stuffed animals (Level 1 – Level 3).

  2. Great ideas. I just wish we had interactive games in our classroom platform. How fun would that be to use games that are readily available from a tab we can pull down? Use them as an extension to the lesson or a reward system.

  3. These are great games. Simon Says is the warm-up for some lessons. I find that students don’t understand how to play the game even after modeling it for them. I think the Imagination Games will work online. I am going to see if I can use ManyCam for the Truth or Dare game.

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