ESL Games: 5 Great Ones

(Last Updated On: March 23, 2019)

A big part of teaching ESL classes is playing games – especially for primary school level students. Games keeps students engaged and interested during what can be dry grammar lessons.  Without further adieu I present 5 Great ESL Games for you consideration. Some of these are more useful in smaller classes (5 or less students).

1. Word Jumble

Equipment needed: Chalk or White Board, list of vocabulary words.

How it’s played:

  1. Divide the class into teams
  2. Write a jumbled up word on the board. Example house would become sehou
  3. Ask students to unjumble the letters.
  4. When they have an answer ask them to raise their hands – the first student with a raised hand and write the unjumbled word on the board.
  5. Award points of the winning team.
  6. Continue for a set periods of time or points.
  7. Jumbled sentences can also be used for more advanced students.
  8. For lower grades flashes cards a can be used – affixed to the board with the students slapping them instead of writing.

2. Board Race Relay

Equipment needed: Chalk or White Board, list of vocabulary words.

How it’s played:

  1. Divide the class into teams and have each team assemble in a line.
  2. The teacher will call out a word and the students need to “race” to the board and write it down.  The word must be written correctly.
  3. The student runs back and hands the marker/chalk to the next student.
  4. The teacher will call out another word.
  5. A word bank can written on the board ahead of time for students to consult.
  6. Continue until the entire team has gone once and declare them the winner.

3. 5 Questions

Equipment needed: A mental list of questions.

How it’s played:

  1. This is played one-on-one with students. It’s a great icebreaker to get students talking.
  2. The rules: You will ask the selected student 5 questions in rapid succession These be standard to their level or ludicrous to make the game more humourous.
  3. There is a time limit of 5 seconds for each question. If the students exceed this their turn is over.
  4. After the teacher asks 5 questions, the student must repeat the processes – asking 5 questions, but different questions than the teacher asked.
  5. If the class is divided into teams, assign points if the 5 questions from the teacher and student are asked and answered.

4. Uno

Equipment needed: A deck of Uno cards

ESL Games - UNO
Uno is a great ESL game for the ESL Classroom

How it’s played:

  1. A great game as a warm-up while waiting for tardy students to arrive, at breaktime for longer classes or as a reward at the end of class.
  2. Play Uno as per the game rules.
  3. When each student lays down a card he or she must say the color and number on the card.
  4. It’s fun and can get competitive and boisterous. When used at the end of class you can finish on a high note.

5. Anything with a ball

Troll your local toy and stationary stores for cheap kids sports type games – a stick-on basketball hoop (see image at top of page) for your classroom board, toy bowling pins and a ball, a golf set, or the ever-flexible sticky ball. Having a good supply of these and rotating them from week to week will help keep things fresh.

Equipment needed: Toy ball-type game as listed above

How it’s played:

  1. Mark your own rules.
  2. Use the “ball” as a reward for answering oral questions, completing board work, or whatever tasks you want to reinforce and reward. 

Every ESL Teacher needs a good stable of ESL games in their arsenal. The above and will help set you on the road to developing your own. If you have any ideas please list them in the comments.

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