Teaching games for esl and efl teachers to use in the classroom
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1. Board Race

Board Race is a fun game that is used for revising vocabulary, whether it be words from the lesson you’ve just taught or words from a lesson you taught last week. It can also be used at the start of the class to get students active. It is a great way of testing what your students already know about the subject you’re about to teach.

  • Why use it? Revising vocabulary; grammar
  • Who it’s best for: Appropriate for all levels and ages

How to play:

This is best played with 6 students or more – the more, the better. I’ve used it in classes ranging from 7-25 years of age and it’s worked well in all age groups. Here’s a step by step explanation:

  • Split the class into two teams and give each team a colored marker.
  • If you have a very large class, it may be better to split the students into teams of 3 or 4.
  • Draw a line down the middle of the board and write a topic at the top.
  • The students must then write as many words as you require related to the topic in the form of a relay race.
  • Each team wins one point for each correct word. Any words that are unreadable or misspelled are not counted.

2. Call My Bluff / Two Truths and A Lie

Call My Bluff is a fun game which is perfect at the start of term as a ‘getting to know you’ kind of game. It is also a brilliant ice breaker between students if you teach classes who do not know one another — and especially essential if you are teaching a small class size.

The game is excellent for practicing speaking skills, though make sure you save a time for after the game to comment on any mistakes students may have made during the game. (I generally like to reserve this for after the game, so you don’t disrupt their fluency by correcting them as they speak).

With older groups you can have some real fun and you might be surprised what you’ll learn about some of your students when playing this particular EFL game.

  • Why use it? Ice-breaker; Speaking skills
  • Who it’s best for: Appropriate for all levels and ages but best with older groups

How to play:

  • Write 3 statements about yourself on the board, two of which should be lies and one which should be true.
  • Allow your students to ask you questions about each statement and then guess which one is the truth. You might want to practice your poker face before starting this game!
  • If they guess correctly then they win.
  • Extension: Give students time to write their own two truths and one lie.
  • Pair them up and have them play again, this time with their list, with their new partner. If you want to really extend the game and give students even more time to practice their speaking/listening skills, rotate partners every five minutes.
  • Bring the whole class back together and have students announce one new thing they learned about another student as a recap.
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3. Simon Says

This is an excellent game for young learners. Whether you’re waking them up on a Monday morning or sending them home on a Friday afternoon, this one is bound to get them excited and wanting more. The only danger I have found with this game is that students never want to stop playing it.

  • Why use it? Listening comprehension; Vocabulary; Warming up/winding down class
  • Who it’s best for: Young learners

How to Play:

  • Stand in front of the class (you are Simon for the duration of this game).
  • Do an action and say Simon Says [action]. The students must copy what you do.
  • Repeat this process choosing different actions – you can be as silly as you like and the sillier you are the more the children will love you for it.
  • Then do an action but this time say only the action and omit ‘Simon Says’. Whoever does the action this time is out and must sit down.
  • The winner is the last student standing.
  • To make it harder, speed up the actions. Reward children for good behavior by allowing them to play the part of Simon.

4. Word Jumble Race

This is a great game to encourage team work and bring a sense of competition to the classroom. No matter how old we are, we all love a good competition and this game works wonders with all age groups. It is perfect for practicing tenses, word order, reading & writing skills and grammar.

  • Why use it? Grammar; Word Order; Spelling; Writing Skills
  • Who it’s best for: Adaptable to all levels/ages

How to play:

This game requires some planning before the lesson.

  • Write out a number of sentences, using different colors for each sentence. I suggest having 3-5 sentences for each team.
  • Cut up the sentences so you have a handful of words.
  • Put each sentence into hats, cups or any objects you can find, keeping each separate.
  • Split your class into teams of 2, 3, or 4. You can have as many teams as you want but remember to have enough sentences to go around.
  • Teams must now put their sentences in the correct order.
  • The winning team is the first team to have all sentences correctly ordered.

5. Hangman

This classic game is a favorite for all students but it can get boring quite quickly. This game is best used for 5 minutes at the start to warm the class up or 5 minutes at the end if you’ve got some time left over. It works no matter how many students are in the class.

  • Why use it? Warming up / winding down class
  • Who it’s best for: Young learners
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How to play:

In case you’ve never played, here’s a quick rundown.

  • Think of a word and write the number of letters on the board using dashes to show many letters there are.
  • 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.
  • Continue until the students guess the word correctly (they win) or you complete the diagram (you win).

Check out these game ideas as well:
7 ways to use Flashcards in English Language Teaching
Class Activities – The “I am an Actor” English Vocabulary Game
“What’s Missing?” – English Vocabulary Game – Help Your Students Learn With Fun Games

Originally published at 10 Best Games for ESL Teachers Abroad

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Background in English Studies. Likes nature, technology, languages and the age we live in.