Games are one of the essential tools in an ESL teacher’s belt. Learners struggling with a complex topic? Help them through it with a game. Got some time to kill between lessons? It’s game time. Want to get those minds whirring into gear? You guessed it. Bring on the game!
Fun ESL games for children are excellent for engaging learners with the topic. Playing fun but simple games makes the lesson more exciting and make children more likely to learn. If they’re bored, their minds may wander, and they’re not going to take in any information from the lesson. So it’s essential to have some games in your pocket, ready to pull out whenever needed.
- All A-board
A simple game- but all the best ones are! Depending on your class size depends on how you want to split up your learners. You could split them down the middle into two teams or smaller groups if that suits your class best. Pick a topic you’ve covered with your class, like animals, food, or anything else, and put it on the board. Split the board into sections depending on how many teams there are. Then learners essentially participate in a relay race within their teams, taking turns passing on the pen and writing a word related to that topic on the board.
- The Association Game
It is an excellent game to help learners build their vocabulary. You can stick with one topic and use it at the end of a lesson for learners to practice what they’ve learned, or even use it at the end of the year and explore a range of vocabulary you’ve covered. To play, all of your children should stand in a circle. You pick a word, and then the person next to you has to say another word that is somehow linked. For example, if the first person said ‘strawberries,’ the next person might say ‘red,’ and then the next person might say ‘tomatoes.’ Set a time limit for how long children have to pick a word; if they can’t think of one, they’re out. It gets harder the further around the circle you go, as you can’t repeat anything that’s been said before you.
- What’s Wrong With Me?
A game where everyone gets sick! (Hypothetically). It is an excellent game when practicing vocabulary related to illness. Write out different diseases onto sticky notes and stick them onto learners’ backs. Learners then walk around the classroom, asking for advice for their illness from classmates. Based on this advice, learners should try to determine their conditions.
- Scrambled words
A fun game that tests vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. A triple threat! Write a sentence on the board with words in the wrong order and include one misspelling. Then, get your learners to work in teams to try and get the sentence back into the correct order again and to find the word that is misspelled. The team that raises their hand first correctly rearranged the sentence and found the misspelled word gets the point.
- What am I?
Split the class into teams. Get learners to take turns to come up to the front of the course, facing away from the board. Pick an item or object to put up on the board that the rest of the class can see but not the learner. Each team has to try and describe the object on the board to the learner without using the word in a set amount of time. Keep playing until at least one team member has come up to the front to try and guess the item.
- The Mime Game
Get a set of actions. Get a learner to come to the front of the class and act out a different activity from one of these cards, like eating or swimming. A point goes to the first person to guess the action.
The game where life is in the balance (the life of a fictional stick man, but still, essential all the same). It is a fun game that can break up the day or be used at the end of the day to kill some time (but hopefully no fictional stick men). Pick a word and draw out dashes to represent each letter. Learners then have to try and guess the letters in the word; get it right, fill in one of the spaces, get it wrong, and then start to draw the image of a hanging man. Learners must correctly guess the word before the idea of the dependent man is completed. You can always break it up when dealing with a big group and have learners playing at their tables. It gives more learners a chance to get more involved.
- Simon Says
A fun game where children develop their vocabulary and follow their teacher’s instructions (don’t they always?). Give instructions to your class, such as ‘hop on one leg, or ‘pat your head.’ But learners should only follow the instruction if first, you say ‘Simon says’ (who is this Simon, and why must everyone do what he says? A mystery for another time perhaps). You could even switch it up and nominate different learners to play the part of Simon.
- Fly me to the Moon
A test of knowledge and paper airplane strength. Then put them into teams and ask them questions- this could be about any topics you’ve covered. If a team gets a question right, they can nominate one team member to try throwing their paper airplane at a target in the classroom. If it hits it, they get the point.
- Interactive Games
The benefit of these games is that they’re so simple to use- pop one up on your screen in your class and get started.
- Sh! It’s a Secret
Give each learner a specific word. Then each learner has to prepare a short speech around the topic, hoping to hide the word they were given. They get the point if no one can guess which word they were given after their speech. On the other hand, if anyone in the class correctly thinks the word they were given to hide, they also get a point.
- Debate Game
So this is less of a game and more of an activity, but it can still be entertaining and gives your learners to chance to voice their opinions and develop their speaking and communication skills. Divide your class into two halves. Give each half a different side of the debate to argue for. For example, if the question is ‘do you prefer pizza or pasta?’ ask one side of the class to say for pizza and the other for pasta. You could award points for particularly persuasive arguments. Or you could get your class to vote at the end of the lesson for who they thought argued their point the best.
- Tell me the Truth
It is an excellent game for the start of a year or a new class to help learners get to know each other. First, have each learner write down two things about themselves that are true and one that’s a lie. Then the rest of the class asks them questions about each statement to discover the lie.
- The Longest List
Split your class into teams. For each round, have each team nominate one learner to participate. Put all the alphabet letters into a hat and pick one out for each round. The nominated learner then has 30 seconds to try and think of as many words starting with that letter as they can, earning a point for each. If someone on their team shouts out, they get the point deducted. See which team manages to make the most points.
- Team Association Game
This one is similar to the association game already mentioned, but this one is played in teams (hence the creatively named title). Put your class into groups and nominate a pair from each team for each round. From the couple, one learner stays in the classroom while the other either wait outside or puts on a pair of earphones- something to block out the noise in the school. The first learner is then given a list of words, and they have to say the first thing that comes to their mind that they associate with that word. Then the second learner comes back into the classroom/takes off their earphones, and is given the same task. But, if the second learner says the exact words as the first learner, they don’t get the point. Instead, for every unique answer they give, they get the point.