12 Awesome ESL Games and Activities

ESL Games and Activities

ESL Games and Activities

ESL Games and activities are a vital part of teaching English as a foreign language. Whether you’re teaching adults or children, games will liven up your lesson and ensure that your students will leave the classroom wanting more.

Some of the benefits of using ESL Games and Activities are:

  • Playing games in the classroom increases overall motivation.
  • Students can become very competitive in the classroom.
  • ESL Games and Activities help to create positivity around the lesson.
  • Teachers can help to reduce stress by ESL games and Activities
  • Playing games in the classroom increases class cooperation.
  • Playing games requires students to pay great attention to detail

10 ESL Games and Activities

These are 10 ESL games and activities that you can do in the classroom to help students learn English.

#1 ESL Games and Activities: A Cup of Conversation

Cup of Conversation is another good warmer to improve your students’ fluency. Students pick topics from a cup and discuss it in pairs, and then change topics and swap partners.

#2 ESL Games and Activities: Opinion Dictation


#3 ESL Games and Activities: Fast Photos

#4 ESL Games and Activities: Define it 

#5 ESL Games and Activities: Word Board

#6 ESL Games and Activities: Drawing Dictation

#7 ESL Games and Activities: Word by Word Story

#8 ESL Games and Activities: Running Dictation

A Running Dictation is an activity that can engage your learners because they have to get out of their seat and teacher usually use it to practice reading, listening, speaking and writing.

Here is a video of how the Running Dictation activity was implemented in a language classroom

Examples of Running Dictation Activities
  1. Running Dictation (TeachingEnglish.org.uk)
  2. Running Dictation (LearningEnglish.de)
  3. Passive Voice Running Dictation (BusyTeacher.org)

#9 ESL Games and Activities: Board Races

#10 ESL Games and Activities: English Whispers

Chinese Whispers is a game played around the world, in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.

Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. Reasons for changes include anxiousness or impatience, erroneous corrections, and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said to guarantee a changed message by the end of the line.

This game really tests listening and speaking skills and encourages teamwork. To make it more enjoyable, add a competitive element. Split the class into teams, and the team that more closely matches the original phrase scores a point.

Preparation: Bring two set of sentences in separate sheets of paper.

Approximate Time: 5-10 minutes

The aim of this warmer is to break the ice and get students talking, listening and writing.
This game really tests listening and speaking skills and encourages teamwork.

  1. Ask the students to make two rows.
  2. Students choose a leader who is the first student in the row and a writer, the writer is the person who writes the sentence as spoken by last member of the team.
  3. Teacher shows the first two leaders a sentence, their leaders whispers the sentence to their peers and each peer does it subsequently until the sentence gets to the ears of the writer.
  4. Once all sentences have been whispered, teacher checks if the sentences are identical to the ones given by the teacher.

#11 ESL Games and Activities: Hot Potato Balloon

Preparation: A List of key vocabulary

Approximate Time: 5-10 minutes

The aim of this warmer is to break the ice and get students remember how words are spelled

  1. Start by telling students to make a circle.
  2. Give the balloon to one of the students in a circle.
  3. Play a nice song that is fun and catchy
  4. Students start passing the balloon
  5. When you pause, the student with the balloon pinches it and read and answer the question inside.

#12: ESL Ice Breakers: Arrange the Lyrics

Preparation: Bring the lyrics of a favorite song.

Approximate Time: 5-15 minutes

The aim of this warmer is to break the ice and get students talking to one another. It can be used to review key vocabulary found in a song

  1. Start by telling the students that you have chosen a song.
  2. Show students the music video (no audio) and ask them to come up with a list of words based on the video.
  3. Listen to the words that they came up with and check if the words are included in the song.
  4. Distribute small strips of papers with parts of the lyrics
  5. Tell them to stand and that they have to get together with their classmates to arrange the strips of paper into the right order

#13 ESL Ice Breakers: Find Someone Who

I enjoy having students communicating with each other. We as teacher have to do our best to reduce our Teacher Talking Time.

A ‘find someone who’ activity is a speaking activity which involves learners trying to find someone in the group who matches a description.

You can create your own Find Someone Who worksheet or you can download one now

  1. Find Somebody in Class Who
  2. Find Someone Who Worksheet PDF
  3. Find Someone Who Template
  4. Find Someone Who 

#14 ESL Ice Breakers: Speed-Chat Tasks

The days in which you told the students to prepare a Powerpoint Presentation and talk for ten minutes are gone because speaking in front of an audience for ten minutes and making 10 students do the same won’t provide students with enough opportunities to communicate and interact with each other

Speed-Chat is an activity that’s easy to implement and require the use of few or minimal resources. The activity consists of giving learners the opportunity to talk for a short period of time before moving to a new partner, in that way teachers can ensure that no interaction will be identical.

What Can I Accomplish with Speed-Chat?

Applying this activity several times will help your students to:

  1. Improve fluency
  2. Boost their own confidence
  3. Make classroom communication and interaction more comfortable
  4. Make the most out of their classroom time
How to Implement Speed-Chat in the Classroom?
  1. Tell students  to make pairs and sit in front of each other.
  2. Present a discussion topic and tell students to speak with their partner for a short period of time.
  3. When the time is up, students rotate to a new partner and start the process again.
  4. The teacher can be one more participant or he or she can monitor the activity.
Consideration when Implementin Speed-Chat?
  1. If you hear people making mistakes when communicating, note down those errors and mistakes and address when the activity is over.
  2. If you want to focus the activity into a specific grammar structure or vocabulary, send a picture to students and ask them to describe it using target structure and vocabulary.
  3. If you want to create an atmosphere in which students can communicate without being overheard by others, play some music in the background.
ESL Games and Activities

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