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7 Fun Classroom Games to Play with Your Students

POSTED ON September 11th  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

Do you need something that will occupy your students in the last ten minutes of an exhausting day? Maybe you want to reward them for their productivity and behaviour? These seven games are great for having some fun at the end of the day. You can also link them to the curriculum.

It’s been a long and productive day, but you have noticed your students are getting tired and could use some fun activity. What can you do? Play a game! They probably like the games that they usually play, but why not bring a bit of variety to the table. Get to know these new games and their rules.

1. Password

Choose two students to be the “contestants.” Place them in front of the blackboard so that they are facing the classroom. Reveal the secret word – write it on the board or a card that you keep so that everyone apart from the contestants sees the secret word.

Other students raise their hands to give a one-word clue that could help the contestants to guess the secret word. Contenders alternately try to guess the word until one of them gets it.

Both students then sit at their respective places, and two new students come in front of the blackboard to guess.

TIP: Choose words that match your students’ abilities. Choose a word for which they could know as many synonyms as possible. You can also write the synonyms on cards to be used by the students during the game.

Password example: dangerous

Possible clues: unsafe, serious, threatening, wild, risky

Multiple Passwords: Understand, Taste, Simple, Undercover, Ancient, Dumb, Laugh, Drink, Impatient, Hot, Movement, Destroy.

2. Spark

This game is suitable for spellchecking. Divide students into groups. One student chooses the word. The first person says the first letter in the word. The other person speaks the second letter, the third says the third, and so on. The student who says the last letter turns to the next person in the row and says “spark.” The person who “sparks” must sit in their place. If the student misses the letter, they also sit in their seat. Each time a student is marked as a spark, a new word is selected and the game continues.

Nothing catching your interest? You can find some more games here: Top 5 Games That Every TEFL Teacher Should Know

3. Silence

This is a game that is played in complete silence. The game can have any topic. For example, write the names of the capital cities on self-adhesive paper, and place them on each students’ T-shirt and instruct the students to line up in alphabetical order of the capitals quietly. You can make the game more challenging by asking the pupils to line up in alphabetical order of states of these capitals.

POSSIBILITIES: Students can create their own “tags.” They can write their birthdays and line up in order from January to December. They can also write their phone number and sort in numeric order.

Other categories: The possibilities are endless – presidents, hours, cities with the largest population, etc. can be used.

4. Puzzle

This game requires a little preparation, but it is worth doing! Choose five pictures. Calendar pictures are great for this activity. You can select images related to the subject. Cut the pictures into four to six parts and make sure that each student in the class gets one piece. Have the students “wandering” around the classroom trying to find their partners in the corresponding jigsaw puzzle.

ADDITIONAL CHALLENGE: Choose images from themed calendars. Imagine students trying to put together a picture of a popular music group, or their confusion while trying to place the pieces of a dalmatian jigsaw puzzle.

5. Who? What?

These fast, little riddles are fun. If you have five minutes and want to spend them in a cool way, write a few riddles on the board and let the students decipher them. Each riddle contains several well-known words. When they are carefully spoken, they associate themselves with a familiar person, thing, or phrase.

EXAMPLE: Ilo vey ou – I love you

Encourage the students to make their own riddles.

Of course there are so many more games you can play with students to reinforce their studies: 5 More Games That Every TEFL Teacher Should Know

6. Dictionary Deception

The teacher chooses a word for which no student knows the meaning of. The teacher writes the word on the board, then writes the definition on a piece of paper and puts it in a box. The teacher then gives pieces of paper to every student and they need to write their name and what they think the definition of the word might be and then put the paper in the box.

The teacher collects all the definitions from the box and reads it one at a time. The students consider the definitions. When the teacher rereads them, the students vote for what they think is right. Students get a point if they write the definition correctly and also earn points each time another student chooses their (wrong) definition as right. The person with the most points wins.

7. Chain Reaction

This game can easily be applied to any area of the curriculum. The teacher writes the category on the blackboard – food, for example. Students write letters A to Z on a sheet of paper. They have five minutes to list as many types of food in alphabetical order. Then the game starts. The first student says the first one. The next must tell the name of the food or the dish beginning with the letter in which the first one ended. The third student mentions the food that starts with the last letter of the previous one, etc.

POSSIBLE CATEGORIES: cities, songs, plants, animals, names, etc.

Remember how it was when you sat at a school desk for five or six hours? Now when we see students are bored, we think they have no interest and prefer to sit in front of a computer. We seriously forget that children are children, and they want to play. Why would not you give them that pleasure and teach them something along the way?

Want more teaching tips? Be sure to visit our Teaching Tips blog. Or for learning tips to share with students, click here.

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.

5 More Games That Every TEFL Teacher Should Know

POSTED ON August 14th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Whether you’re a newbie teacher or have been imparting your knowledge for years, you can always do with some extra games up your sleeve! Following on from our article ‘Top 5 games that every TEFL teacher should know’, here we have 5 more games that you can introduce to your language lessons. Whether you teach children or adults, high level or low level, you’ll find a game you can implement.


This is one simple game that can be used for a great variety of vocabulary sets and is adaptable to suit different ages and levels. The basic principle is to think of words in different categories that start with different letters. For example, you might have recently studied animals with your class and want them to brainstorm some of their new vocabulary words. You might give them the letters C, F and T and they’ll come up with Cat, Frog and Tiger. One way to run the game is to have one category (for example, animals) and get students to find one word for each letter of the alphabet – it can be tricky for letters like X, Y and Z! If your students are lower level, just choose a few letters to work with. Another way to do it is to pick several categories (for example; animals, food, body parts) and then just one or two letters (B – bear, brownie, brain). For higher level students, you can have several letters and several categories, or make it harder by giving the students blends that the word has to start with (th, sh, ch, ca, bu…) or the letter that a word ends with. This makes a great activity for pair work or teamwork.

Age/Level: From A2 up to C2+, and great for teens and adults but can also work with middle school children.

Stage of lesson: Good for a warmer to recap, or as a cooler at the end of the class.

Prep/Props: You can get printable tables online, make one yourself or ask students to draw one. You can also prepare a bag of scrabble tiles / letters on paper to pick which letters to use.

Easy Board Games

The area so many simple board games that you can use in your classroom and most of them can be used for all ages and levels. Here are just a few ideas: Hangman is a great way to review vocabulary and practice spelling. Pictionary can be played on a whiteboard as a class, on mini whiteboards in teams, or on pieces of paper. It’s a fun way to review language. Dice Throw Dictation is a great way to create a quirky picture as a class. If you’re reviewing body parts vocabulary, draw a monster on the board and roll the dice for each body part you draw – three eyes, six legs, two noses… To review farm animals, draw a farm with a dice throw for each item – six farmers, one cow, five cats… Be creative!

Age/Level: Any level and age, but particularly good for younger learners.

Stage of lesson: A fun warmer, great to review between activities, or as a cooler at the end of the lesson.

Prep/Props: Whiteboard and pens

Get the most out of your whiteboard: How’s Your Board Work?

Party Games

Remember the games you used to play at children’s birthday parties? Those can make great activities for your ESL classes. Simon Says is a fun way to let a student lead an activity, to get creative and recap language learnt. Musical chairs/statues might not practice a whole lot of language speaking, but it’s good fun and gets the kids moving. You can also adapt it to practice language – when a student is out, ask them to make a sentence using the target language. Duck, Duck, Goose is obviously great for getting students to practice farmyard animal vocab, but you can also adapt it to whatever you’ve taught recently. Why not ‘cat, cat, pig’ or ‘pizza, pizza, hotdog’ or ‘fireman, fireman, doctor’? What’s Missing? Is a great game to use realia with – prepare a tray with different items, then secretly take one away for students to guess which one.

Age/Level: Great for lower levels, and for young children up to early teens.

Stage of lesson: Great for warmers and coolers, or for livening up a class that is going a bit flat.

Prep/Props: Depends on the game.


Another game with very little prep which can be adapted to your lessons. To review recent vocabulary, ask students to act something out for their peers to guess. You can prepare flashcards or slips of paper with items to choose from, and they can pick out of a hat to make it random. Ideas include – acting out different jobs, action verbs, collocations, different animals… be creative!

Age/Level: Middle-grade kids up to adults.

Stage of lesson: A great way to review.

Prep/Props: Slips of paper with charade hints.


What could be simpler than answering a question? Well, if you’ve played the Yes/No game, you’ll know it isn’t as easy as it sounds! Students need to ask each other questions and can’t reply using the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s a good idea to start by brainstorming alternative responses, such as: maybe, sometimes, I couldn’t say, not often, I’m not sure… Make it more difficult by saying that each response needs to be unique.

Age/Level: Good for teens and adults.

Stage of lesson: A fun warmer.

Prep/Props: No prep required!

Want more teaching tips? Check out our Teaching Tips blog. Or if you’re looking for a teaching job, visit our recruitment division at

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.

Top 5 Games That Every TEFL Teacher Should Know

POSTED ON July 31st  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Every TEFL teacher has their favourite games and activities that they use time and time again. There are many games which are better suited to certain age groups (or even certain nationalities!) but there are also games which can be adapted to suit any learner group. When you’re starting out, learn as many new games as you can to get a good foundation to choose from. In this article, we’ll talk you through a number of ‘bread and butter’ games which many teachers add to their collection of favourites.

Fly Swat/Flashcard Game

The Game: When teaching or reviewing vocabulary, flashcards are an invaluable tool. Once the students are familiar with the words, you can review by calling out a piece of the target language and getting the student to touch the correct flashcard. You could place the flashcards around the room (so that they have to run to the correct one – great for young learners) or you could line the flashcards up for the students to whack with a fly swatter (great for competitive pair work, or one-by-one for shy/unconfident student groups). For older learners, mini flashcards are better than big, cardboard ones – they could be just the text, just the picture, or both.

Age / Level: Any age or level, but great for young learners and lower levels
Stage of lesson: Great for a review at the end of the class, or for consolidation after a presentation stage
Prep / Props: Cardboard printed or hand drawn flashcards, fly swats to make it more of a game

Ball Pass

The Game: If you want students to practice speaking, but only want one student speaking at a time, use realia. A ball is a great prop because it can be passed, thrown or rolled. Even adults will get on board with a pass-the-ball game (as long as the ball isn’t, for example, bright pink and covered in Hello Kitty!) You can use ball passing games to practice anything from single vocabulary words to dialogues. For an alphabet game, get the students to pass the ball and say a word starting with the correct letter of the alphabet (apple… beach… chaos…). To practice a certain lexical set, just set the boundaries – for example, animal alphabet (anteater… bear… camel…). You can get students to practice target language with a sentence starter to be completed (on the weekend I played golf… on the weekend I ate fries…). Or you can use the ball pass to ad lib a conversation around the class (Hello, what’s your name?… I’m Maria, and I love pizza… oh, me too! But I love chicken wings best… yuck, I can’t stand meat!) Be creative, and remember that with a ball throw game, it makes it more fun to throw randomly rather than just in a circle.

Age / Level: Any age or level, but great for young learners and lower levels
Stage of lesson: Great for a warmer
Prep / Props: Write sentence starters/target language on the board, a ball/beanbag/soft toy

These not catching your interest? Maybe you need 15 Simple Flashcard Games Your Kindy Kids Will Love

Call My Bluff

The Game: A super-easy verbal game for intermediate learners. Typically, students will write down three things about themselves. Two are true, and one is a lie. They then read out the sentences (or do it as pair/group work) and the other students guess which one the lie is.

Age / Level: Teens / adults, and intermediate or above
Stage of lesson: Great for a warmer
Prep / Props: Paper, pens, whiteboard

Shopping List

The Game: Another great verbal game (that also tests memory!) this is actually quite a flexible game for practising target vocabulary. Basically, you have a sentence starter with a list at the end, which grows each time a new speaker repeats it (for example: “I like pizza… I like pizza and fries… I like pizza, fries and bananas”). You can use it for shopping (I went to the shops and I bought…), or for sightseeing/holidays (I went to the beach and I saw…), for future tenses and conditional forms (if I win the lottery I will buy…) specific lexical sets, such as animals (I went to the zoo and I saw…). Just be creative!

Age / Level: Middle school to adults, pre-intermediate upwards
Stage of lesson: Great as a warmer or to consolidate
Prep / Props: Nothing but a good memory!


The Game: Want your students to review before a spelling best? Try this game. Write a target word on a piece of paper and cut it into individual letters. The students then have to guess what the word is and rearrange the letters. You can also do this on the board by scrambling the letters. For example – donkey… e-o-d-n-y-k. This can also be done with target sentences, for example – I like to eat cheese… cheese-eat-like-I. Make it competitive by having students work in teams.

Age / Level: Middle school to adults, pre-intermediate upwards
Stage of lesson: Warmer, cooler or consolation
Prep / Props: Paper, pen, scissors, whiteboard

Need some games to keep kids moving? Check out Active Games for Young Learners


There are countless games that can be played in a TEFL classroom, and we all have our favourites. Learn new games by observing seasoned teachers, by watching Youtube clips and reading pedagogy blogs. Favourites are great, but it’s always good to mix it up!

For more teaching tips, visit our Teaching Tips blog. Are you looking for a teaching job overseas? We’re hiring through our recruitment division, Saxoncourt Recruitment.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.

Why You Should Include Activities in Your Classroom Instead of Games

POSTED ON July 10th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

ESL classes are meant to be fun. They’re often an additional class that your students take outside of their regular school classes, so it’s good if you can make the classes fun and enjoyable for them. That way, they won’t mind coming to them during the hours they would usually spend playing on the computer or spending time with friends. But that doesn’t mean that your classes should be full of games. Games are fun sometimes, but they aren’t always good for learning for a number of reasons.

Why Games Aren’t Always the Answer

Teaching English abroad is meant to be fun and so are your ESL classes. That’s why lots of schools and literature on the subject talk about the importance of games. But in reality, using games all the time during your classes can damage your students’ learning. Dice games, ball games, games that make the students run from one end of the classroom to the other, they’re all noisy and disruptive. And they don’t always help the students learn. Some of the most serious problems with games in the classroom are the following:

Your students will be thinking about winning.

During your class, you want your students to think about how to say the language and how to use it properly. But they can’t do this if they’re busy competing with other students.

Your students will rush.

It’s the nature of games, isn’t it? When you play a game, whatever you have to do, you do it fast so you can beat other people. This isn’t the way you want them practising new grammar or vocabulary.

Everyone gets excited.

If you’ve ever designed a really good game for the classroom, you know how fun it can be. Everyone starts laughing and jumping around and there’s a general air of relaxation in the air. This is the ideal situation in certain situations, but it’s not the right kind of atmosphere for learning. When your students are laughing and mucking around, chances are they aren’t speaking English. And this is the opposite of what you want.

When to Play Games

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for games in your ESL class. Games are a great icebreaker when you have a new class that’s full of students who don’t know you or each other. They’re also a great way to wake up a tired class, particularly if you’re teaching in the evening when the students have been at school all day and need to get moving and show some energy. And as long as you keep the games short, to the point, and surrounded by more beneficial activities, they shouldn’t disrupt the learning atmosphere too much.

You can find some game ideas here and here.

Activities vs Games

The difference between activities and games in the classroom can be subtle. Activities will encourage students to speak clearly and to think about what they’re saying rather than rush through them to get an advantage. The challenge is in getting it right, not in getting to the end, and that’s the most important advantage of ESL activities.

Planning activities rather than games can help your students learn, keep your classroom calmer, and will help you be a better teacher who has better students. To help you achieve all of those aims, here are some great activities to try:

Find the mistake.

Write a number of sentences on slips of paper with a grammar mistake in each. The students take one slip of paper. Let them mingle and use rock-paper-scissors to determine who speaks first. The student says the sentence with the mistake. Their partner has to listen and say the sentence correctly. If they pick out the mistake, they get the slip of paper. If they don’t, the students swap roles. The student with the most pieces of paper at the end is the winner.

Investigative Journalist

This activity is an old one, but it works. It can be adapted to any level, and it puts the emphasis on correct structures and thought. Pair the students and get them to interview each other on any subject. They have to write down the other students’ answers and then present the findings to the class. For beginner classes, you can have them interview each other about families, their likes and dislikes and even their everyday activities. For more advanced students, the sky is quite literally the limit.

Draw a Picture

This activity can also be used at any level as long as you encourage the right type of grammar and vocabulary. Tell your students to draw a picture without showing anyone else. And then they have to dictate the particulars of their picture to their partner, telling them how to draw the picture. The closest match wins. Just make sure the pictures are sufficiently detailed and that no one cheats!

Crossword Puzzles

Great for improving the cognitive functions of people of all ages, crossword puzzles are a great activity in ESL classrooms as well. Pair the students off and make sure the words and the clues are at their level and you’ll be sure to have a busy silence in your classroom while they work it out.

Tell Me a Story

This activity can be a little more difficult, but if you choose to scaffold the vocabulary and grammar that you want the students to use, it can be used in all but the very beginner classes. Students pair off and one tells the other a story in English. The other writes it down. They then swap roles. The students then edit their work for mistakes because they have to present each other’s story to the class.

These games are all fun without being overwhelming, and they focus on precision rather than competition. This is the best way to ensure that your students get the best of both worlds in your ESL class.

About the Author

Gayle Aggiss an ESL teacher and a dedicated traveller. She’s taught in Fuzhou, China and Hanoi and she much prefers smaller cities to the larger options. When not on the road, she lives in Perth, Australia.  She writes about education, ESL teaching specifically, and you can view more examples of her work at






15 Simple Flashcard Games Your Kindy Kids Will Love

POSTED ON January 30th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Whether your classroom is equipped with a computer and projector or not, laminated flashcards are a simple, old-school, and excellent tool to get your students engaged and learning. Perhaps the best thing about them is the unlimited ways you can use them!

If you think flashcards are boring or if you are looking for some new games to spice things up, then you have come to the right place. Flashcards are very versatile and don’t have to be used solely for drilling, as you will shortly see. With this age group, as long as you are excited, they will be too!

Jump and Say

Line the flashcards in a straight row with space in between on the floor. Depending on your class size, you can either have one student or one student on each side of the line. Have students jump and say the flashcard they land next to. Students hop along saying each card. You can change things up by making it a race or laying out a circle instead.

Lip Reading

Use the flashcards so that you know which word to say and to show students if they are correct. Silently mouth the vocabulary word. Make it as exaggerated as needed.

Fast Flash

Having the flashcards facing down and away from you, start low and raise the flashcard above you head quickly so that the image shows but only for a second. Students try to guess what it is they saw. You can do this in different ways to make it more exciting, such as from side to side and a simple flash turnover.

Slow Reveal

Opposite to Fast Flash is Slow Reveal. Use a blank or piece of coloured paper to cover the flashcard. Slowly slide the cover paper to reveal only a small part of the flashcard at a time. Students can shout out and guess what it is.

Want some more games for young learners? Active Games for Young Learners


A personal favourite, this game will liven up any class. Hold the flashcard in front of you and squat down. Whisper the vocabulary word. Rise up slightly. Say the word quietly, Rise up more. Say the word in a regular voice. Continue on until you when you hold the card over your head and are standing straight up the students shout the word.

Under Over

Have students make a line with an arm length’s space in between each child. Two lines work well after the kids are used to the game and therefore can do it as a race. Give the flashcard to the first person in line. Still facing forward, he/she passes the card over his/her head to the child behind. That child then passes the card through his/her legs to the next person in line.

Pass and Say

This one is simple but effective. Have students sit in a circle. Show them a flashcard and say the word. Pass it to the kid sitting next to you and encourage him/her to say the word and pass it to the next person. For larger groups, you could have two or three cards going around at once.

Roll the Dice

This works well if you have a giant die. (You can make one out of cardboard and tape to use for different activities in all your classes.) Put the numbers 1-6 on the board and a different flashcard or the vocab word next to each number. Each student gets a chance to toss the die up. The number it lands on is the card they say out loud.

Musical Circle Pass

Have students sit in a circle. Give random students a flashcard: one for every 3 or four students you have in your group. Play some music. As it plays, students pass the cards around. When you pause the music have the kids who have the flashcards stand up and say what they have.


Have two students stand back to back. Give them each a different flashcard to hold facing out and away from them. When you say go, they walk three steps, turn to face each other and say what the other student has. You can make it competitive with older kids in your other classes.


You will need the picture flashcard and the written word card for this game. This will only work if you have worked on word recognition with your kindergarteners. If you aren’t already familiar with Memory this is how it works: Lay all cards facedown on the floor. Students take turns to flip over two cards in hopes that they get a match. If not, they are flipped back down for the next person to try.

Say It Fast, Say It Slow, Say It High, Say It Low

If you are a kindergarten teacher, then it’s assumed that you aren’t afraid of being silly. Play with your voice as you say the flashcard word. Students should repeat the word how you say it. They will have a ball!

What’s Missing?

Lay out flashcards on the floor, or display them on the board. After going over them, ask students to close their eyes. Remove one card. Students open their eyes and say which card is missing.

Musical Chairs

Put chairs in a circle facing outwards. Tape a flashcard to the back of each chair or put them on the ground underneath each chair. Have students make a circle on the outside of the chairs. At this age, there is no need for there to be one less chair than the number of students. Some groups will have more fun if it is not as competitive. Play music and have students walk around the chairs. When you pause the music, students find a seat to sit in. They say the flashcard word on the chair. If the students know actions and movements, make it more exciting by telling them to jump, tiptoe, walk, swim, etc. around the circle of chairs.

Slap the Board/Floor

Another oldie but goodie. Lay out the cards on the floor or put up on the board so the kids can reach them. Decide whether to call one or two students up at a time. When you shout out a word, they should hit it with their hand.

Want more like this? Visit our Teaching Tips blog. Or if you want to share some helpful hints with your students, check out our Language Learning Tips.

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.

 6 Favourite ESL Games and Activities to Use in Your Classroom

POSTED ON August 1st  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

In a learning English as a foreign or second language environment, games and other activities form a key part of your lessons. Any ESL teacher knows the value of using a few favourite ESL games and activities in the classroom. It is important to remember that students, whether they are young learners or adults, learn faster when they are ‘playing’ or having fun and when learning does not feel like a chore. (Get more information on the value of games in the classroom here.)

Furthermore, ESL games and activities can be used:

  • at the start of your lesson as a warm up and to get students thinking in English,
  • when you are teaching grammar or vocabulary and the games/activity serves as ‘fun’ practice,
  • during the lesson when students need a break or when you are teaching something particularly tough, or
  • at/near the end of class when there is some time left over ‘before the bell rings’.

In this article, we will look at some games you can use in your ESL class. Where necessary, I will indicate the level for which this activity or game is most appropriate as well as for which area/section it can be used, e.g. vocabulary, grammar, conversation practice, etc.

Game 1: Board Race

  • Group game
  • Appropriate for all ages
  • Vocabulary, grammar

How to Play

Split the class into groups of 3-4 students. Each team gets a different coloured marker. However many teams there are, split the board up in that many columns. For vocabulary revision for a specific topic, groups must write as many words related to the topic in the form of a relay race. Teams get points for each correctly spelt word.

Game 2: Call My Bluff

  • Appropriate for all ages
  • Ice breaker, speaking skills

How to Play

In modelling how to play the game, the teacher writes three statements about themselves on the board, one of which should be true and two should be false. The students need to ask you some questions about each statement to guess which one is true. They win if they guess the correct one.

To make this more student-centered, have students play in a group. One person writes two lies and one truth on a piece of paper, and the other members question the student to guess which statement is true. At the end of the activity, allow the students to share what they learned about their fellow classmates.

Game 3: Word Jumble

  • Group activity
  • Appropriate for all ages and levels
  • Spelling, word order, writing skills, grammar

How to Play

Some planning is needed before the class. The teacher needs to write (or type) a couple of sentences, and each sentence needs to be in a different colour. It works best with between three and five sentences per group. Cut up the sentences so that there are a handful of words and put these into cups, keeping the words per sentence separate. Divide the class into teams of 2-4 members. The groups need to put their sentences in the correct order, and the winning team is the one who correctly puts their sentences in order first.

What about adults? Adults Want to Have Fun, Too! – Games for Beginners

Game 4: Last Man Standing

  • Appropriate for all levels and ages
  • Vocabulary (could be adapted for grammar, too)

How to Play

To play, have a ball ready and get the entire class to stand in a circle. The teacher names a category or theme, such as things found in the house, food, colours, countries, etc. The teacher tosses the ball to a student. That student needs to say a word that is related to the theme and throw the ball to another student. As every student catches the ball, they need to say another word related to the category. No words can be repeated. If a student says a word that had already been said or cannot come up with a new word, they are out and need to sit and listen.

Game 5: Choose Your Victim

  • Appropriate for all levels and ages
  • Grammar

How to Play

This is a good activity to make a question and answer grammar practice session more active. Have all the students stand in a circle. They all need to practice a grammar point by asking and answering questions; for example, they have to ask questions with a past verb form, so they practice the past simple tense. The first student can ask “Did you eat ice cream on the weekend?” and need to throw the ball to another student who needs to answer the question correctly in order to stay in the game. This student then earned the right to ask a question, throw the ball to another student who must answer correctly to ask a question. And so the game continues. If you have a large class, students can play in groups of 4 or 6, and you can walk around and monitor.

Game 6:  Roll the Dice

  • Appropriate for elementary to advanced levels
  • Perfect for review, grammar, vocabulary

How to Play

Divide the class into groups and each one gets a dice to play with. Write numbers one to 6 on the board, and each number needs to correspond to an activity. This can be to ask your group members how to spell a word, say a sentence in the past tense or ask a question in the present perfect simple tense, read a page from the book they have been reading the term, practice a phonic or two, sing the song the class learned, etc. Incorporate points and the team with the most points wins.


This article discussed six easy and favourite ESL games and activities that any teacher can use in their classroom. There are, of course, many, many, many more games and activities out there, and most teachers would tell you that they know at least a hundred games and varieties to incorporate at the start, middle or end of their lesson.

What are some of your favourite ESL games and activities to use in the classroom? Which ones do your students like best?

Want more great articles like this? Check out our Teaching Tips.

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel. For her educational background, she has an MA in Politics, with a dissertation written on post-conflict peacebuilding, a BA Journalism degree, a TEFL and CELTA certificate, and also a few certificates in various other short courses.

Keep It Simple: No-Prep Games and Activities

POSTED ON July 18th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

It’s always a good idea to have a few extra class activities prepared, but it’s not always realistic. There are times when students finish planned activities too quickly and other times when you may unexpectedly take over for another teacher. But have no fear! We’ve got you covered with these three ‘no prep’ activities for your teaching emergencies.

Whether you’re running low on lesson planning time or are covering a class with no handover notes, there are bound to be times in your teaching career when you’re in need of a ‘no prep’ activity, or at least something where the only thing you need is a whiteboard and marker. It’s great to have a few of these games in your repertoire, not just for when you run out of planning time, but also to use as fillers when students finish your planned material too quickly. Take a look at our easy-to-run activities that won’t have you spending hours at the photocopier or cutting up bits of paper for a complicated game.

The Listing Game (Shopping Game)

Not even a whiteboard is required for this one unless you want to write up the target sentence to guide lower level students. The idea is simple – create a list, with each student adding one item to the list, to be recalled from memory. The usual target sentence is I went to the shops and I bought… Perhaps the first student will say a banana. So the next student will say a banana and a rabbit. The next student will say a banana, a rabbit and a mobile phone. The list continues until a student can no longer recall the list correctly. You can make it simpler by having each student name a word beginning with a letter of the alphabet in sequence, to make it easier to remember. Example: an apple, a brooch, a cat, a pan… The target sentence can be changed depending the on level of students and topics recently studied. Examples: The last time I went on holiday, into my suitcase I packed… For my next birthday, I’d like… I have a job in the local shop, and today I sold…

Clap / Stamp Game

This game can be applied to any language point, and all it requires is for your students to either clap their hands or stamp their feet. For example, you could practice CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words and ask students to clap/stamp depending on which medial vowel they hear. You could teach countable/uncountable nouns, verbs in different tenses… pretty much any topic can be worked into this game. Just explain to the students to listen and then either clap or stamp depending on what they hear. You can do it as a review, or make it into a game so that the last one to react is ‘out’. Higher-lever students could even be the game master and say the words.

Simon Says

A great game with younger kids, all you need is your imagination. Explain the rules of the game (TPR works well) just jump right in and start playing. If the students like it, let one of them be the teacher and lead the game. It’s also a great one to review imperatives. Most teachers are familiar with the game, but it’s easy enough to learn if not. The teacher will say something (usually an imperative) like “Simon Says touch your toes” or “Simon says clap your hands”, to which the students react by completing the action. If the teacher says the phrases without the ‘Simon Says’ at the beginning, for example, just “touch your toes”, then the students should do the action. A student is out if they do the action when they aren’t supposed to.

For more teaching tips, visit our teaching tips blog. Or for tips and tricks to share with students, check out our language learning tips.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a long-time ESL/EFL teacher and freelance writer.

5 Fun ESL Games For Engaging Kinesthetic Learners

POSTED ON November 22nd  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Kinesthetic learners have just one of many learning styles you’ll come across, but they often need a little extra help. Make sure your class suits all learning styles by adding a few special activities that are fun for everyone.

Have you ever had a student who just couldn’t sit still? Or constantly needed to be touching something? Then you have faced a kinesthetic learner. These students love to learn through action and don’t respond well to traditional teaching methods.

While your CELTA or TEFL course might have touched on catering to different learning styles, it’s a whole different ball game once you are in the classroom and have to manage all the different little personalities.

Catering to this unique learning style in the ESL classroom can be quite a challenge but will help make your lesson plans more engaging.

Using ESL games that allow the learners to see, do, and touch will help your kinesthetic learners enjoy the lesson and the whole class will be having fun while practising their English skills.

Kinesthetic learners tend to also be active learners. We have more on active games for young learners here.

What Is a Kinesthetic Learner?

Kinesthetic learners take in information by discovering and experiencing. These students want to touch everything, move around, and use their whole body to learn.

Characteristics of Kinesthetic Learners

  • The learner enjoys working with their hands
  • They use their hands to speak and like to describe things with their hands or even their whole body
  • They don’t like sitting down at their desks for extended periods of time
  • They respond best to Total Physical Response activities which let them learn by moving and touching.

ESL Games Kinesthetic Learners Will Love

1. Jeopardy

Jeopardy is a class favourite and for good reason. It encourages teamwork, critical thinking, and gives students an excellent chance to practice their speaking skills.

The game requires little setup on your side and is a great way to review different topics that you have been teaching in your class. Jeopardy also gives students a break from their books and creates an exciting atmosphere of friendly competition.

Set Up:

  • Prepare a jeopardy board with questions on the topics that are being reviewed.
  • Assign a point value that aligns with the difficulty of the question.
  • Split the class into groups of 4, 5 or 6.

How to Play:

  • The first group chooses a topic and a point value.
  • Read the corresponding question aloud and then everyone in the group has the opportunity to raise their hand and answer the question.
  • The first student to raise their hand gets to answer first. If they are right their team receives the designated amount of points.
  • If they get the question wrong, their team loses the points and another team has the chance to answer.
  • After all the questions have been answered, the team with the highest score wins!

2. Fly Swat

Fly Swat is one of the best ways to review vocabulary while getting the whole class away from their desks and physically engaging in an activity.

Set Up:

  • Create a bunch of flashcards for the target vocabulary you will be reviewing.
  • Stick the flashcards onto the board in a random order.
  • Split the class into two teams and have them line up in front of the board.

How to Play:

  • Each team sends up one person to the front and they are given a fly swatter.
  • Read a word aloud and the first student to find it on the board and swat it wins a point for their team!
  • To make it harder, you can also ask questions or definitions.
  • Don’t forget to only let the students only hit one word per turn to prevent them from hitting as many words as possible.

3. Charades

Charades is a classic game that all children love and is an excellent choice for kinesthetic learners. It allows them to use their whole body and be away from their desks while having fun reviewing vocabulary (or even grammar).

Set Up:

  • Create cards with the target vocabulary. You can choose from animals to sports and even action verbs.
  • Write one word on each card and mix up the order.
  • Split the class up into two groups.

How to Play:

  • Each team nominates one person to go up and select a card.
  • The student then has to act out the word and their teammates have to guess the word.
  • If their team gets it right, they get one point.
  • Rotate between the two teams until you have reviewed all the vocabulary.
  • The team with the highest score at the end wins!

4. Memory Game

The Memory Game is a fun way to get students to practice their listening and speaking skills. It encourages them to use their creativity and put their new English skills to the test.

Set Up:

  • Arrange the seating in the classroom so everyone is sitting in a circle or for bigger classes you can divide the class into groups.
  • Demonstrate with an example and check that the students understand the game.

How to Play:

  • The first person (this can be you or a student) starts the story with a fragment like “Once upon a time there lived an evil witch“.
  • The next person then has to repeat the fragment and add a phrase of their own.
  • Keep going around the circle or from group to group until someone messes up.

For younger students or to practice a particular sentence structure, you can adapt the game to suit your lesson plan needs.

For example, if you are teaching the students vocabulary about food and going to the shops you can make the sentence fragment “I went to the shops and bought …

5. Simon Says

Another classic children’s game that is perfect for kinesthetic learners is Simon Says. It’s a great game to play with students to help them improve their listening skills while at the same time drilling vocabulary.

While the most common way to play Simon Says involves pointing to different body parts, there are tons of ways to put your own spin on it and make it more challenging.

Ask students to find objects around the classroom, touch certain colours, practice specific actions or attempt more difficult tasks like “Simon says pat your head and rub your belly.”

So there you go! Spruce up your lesson planning with these five great kinesthetic learner games and start catering to your learners’ different needs.

And while not every single student learns best this way, it’s a break from the monotony and a great way to have fun with the whole class.

What do you do for kinesthetic learners in your class? Tweet your ideas to us!

About the Author

Lauren Melnick is a South African travel blogger and ESL teacher currently living in Ubon, Thailand. When she isn’t making lesson plans and watching nursery rhymes on YouTube, you can find her eating up a storm, taking selfies with dinosaurs, and planning her next adventure.

Follow her travels on Wanderlust Movement, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

5 EFL Warm-up Activities to Switch Students’ Minds to English

POSTED ON November 8th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Using a warm-up activity is a great way to get students in the zone. They are fun and engaging, but they also help students make that cognitive shift from their native language to English.

Adding EFL warm-up activities to a class is essential. If you teach English in a foreign country, chances are that country’s official language is very different than English. This means that generally, and especially at language centres, your students the only times students interact in English is the time allotted to your class.

Place yourself in your learners’ shoes. It’s tough. They eat, breathe, and live in their own language. Then they come to class and are asked to have all of that taken away. That’s why warm-ups are so essential to an EFL classroom. It helps students to transition into ‘English mode’ and be more prepared for the main lesson activities. A bonus is that most warmers are engaging and fun. Here are five to try out with your next class.

Before you read, you may also want to look at some creative scoring methods for EFL games (opens in a new tab).


Bingo is great because it’s adaptable to any level and any topic or language point. Usually, it’s an activity used in the middle of the lesson, but I’ve found that playing Bingo at the beginning is a quick way to get students excited. There are many Bingo templates and premade versions online. You can also hand-make your own.

For lower levels:

  • Phonetic pictures or recently learned vocabulary pictures work great with kids. (You say the word, and they cross off the picture).
  • Play opposite bingo, for example, you say “hot” and they look for “cold” on their boards.
  • Students have simple questions on their board that they need to ask their peers, for example, “Do you have a pet?” If yes, they can cross that box off.

For intermediate/higher levels:

  • Students have more complex questions on their board to ask their peers, like reviewing the present perfect and adding additional information.
  • Boards include minimal pairs or word stress pairs.

Don’t forget about the classic version! Use it to either to review/to practice numbers, or just to have fun!


Charades and Pictionary can be used for all levels and is great fun! Charades is better for actions. Encourage students to make complete sentences when guessing, like “He’s eating a banana!” There are a lot of options so be creative! Pictionary works better with vocab, from concrete to abstract items for more advanced classes.

Taboo is really only for higher-level classes. Like charades and Pictionary, Taboo is a party game that native speakers play. It can be very difficult! There are lots of premade cards online, and after your students get the hang of it, you can ask them to make a card or two of their own and play with those during the next class.

For those who don’t know the game, it goes like this: there is a word at the top of the card that you want your team to say, so you need to describe it. The tricky part is that there is a list of words underneath that would normally be used to describe the given word, and those words are “taboo” to say.

Since you are using these games as warmers, set a limit. Students, especially teens, will be happy to play for half the class period or more. I like to set a scoring goal, say, the first team to 5 points. Don’t forget to use a timer for each turn to make it more competitive!

Memory Chain

This one is good if you’ve just met a class or there is a new student, but again, it can be adapted for many different topics. As a name game, go around the room and have students say their name, but they must also say the name of the students who have already introduced themselves. (First student: My name is Tom. Next: His name is Tom. My name is Jessica. And so on.) Make it more complex by adding another piece of information. For example, also remember something that person likes. The student would then say, “My name is Jerry and I like apples.”

As previously mentioned, this warm-up can be used with different language points, like the present perfect. It’s good because it practices the use of the third person, which is something many students struggle with when speaking.


Riddles are a rather straightforward warmer idea, it’s just a matter of finding them! Jokes also are an option. Brainteasers are good too. Have a look around the web or in your local bookshop. (Or you could click here.)

Question Board Throw

Divide the board into 6 random sections. In each, write one question word- who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then have each student write their name on a small piece of paper. Fold and mix them up. Have each student pick a paper so that they have chosen a different name from their own.

Bring a small ball to class, a sticky ball, or simply wad up a piece of paper to use as a ball. Pick a student to go first. They throw the ball at the board. A question is asked to the person whose name they have, beginning with the word they hit on the board.

For weaker classes, give them time to up come with a question for each word before you start. Try to encourage creative questions for intermediate groups and not questions like “How old are you?”

Hopefully, these ideas will have inspired you to try them out! EFL warmers should be light and fun, relatively short, and a good way to establish rapport. Students will appreciate that the class has started on a good note. The rest of the class time will fly by!

In case you’re wondering, this is great stuff for the presentation phase of the PPP method.

 About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher in Vietnam who also does freelance writing on a variety of topics.


7 Phonics Games and Activities for Kids

POSTED ON August 16th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

phonics activities

Phonics skills are the foundation of good reading, but there’s more to phonics than drills and memorization. Here are a few fun games to make phonics fun again (or the first time).

1. Hunt the Flashcard

Hide flashcards of letters/clusters around the room, then shout them out one at a time. Kids race to find the correct flashcard first.

2. Pogo Drill

Place five or six flashcards, or write letters/clusters, along the board. Have the students (or a team) line up in front of one of the flashcards. A teacher or student shouts out a sound, and the whole line jumps to that position.

3. Fruit Salad

Each student is given a phonics flashcard, make sure that there are 2 of each flashcard in use. One student stands in the middle and calls out a sound. The 2 students with the matching flashcard have to stand and swap seats as fast as they can. The student who called out the sound, needs to try and sit in one of the recently vacated seats before the other student gets to it.

phonics boxes

Phonics box

4. Phonics Boxes

Prepare a grid on the board or piece of paper. Make the grid of dots with a letter or blend written on each side of each square.

Students take turns to read one sound or blend, and then get to draw the line on the grid. When a student completes a box, they then get to draw one extra line. Whoever has the most complete boxes at the end is the winner.

5. Duck, Duck, Goose

Have the students sit in a circle facing outwards and give each student a flashcard with a phonic value on it. One student goes around the outside of the circle and as they come to each student they make a sound. If the sound the student makes and the sound on the student’s flashcard match, then the students have to race around the circle.

6. Exploding Flashcard Chain Drill

Students chain drill and the teacher turns away then shouts out a flashcard. Which ‘explodes’ on the student holding it.

7. Pelmanism

Put two sets of flashcards face down on the floor. This could be phonic sounds such as ‘ee’, ‘or’,’oa’, etc. It could also be a selection of words or blends featuring a specific sound (e.g. Sleep, feet, beep, zeeb, etc.). Students take turns to turn them over and try to find a matching pair. Whenever they turn a card over they have to say the phonic value / read the word or blend on the card.

Want some more activity ideas? Check out the posts here and here.

A version of this article originally appeared in Shane English Schools Taiwan’s Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) program, which is part of all new teachers’ orientation.