Games & Activities for the ESL/EFL Classroom
A Project of The Internet TESL Journal

This is a place were English teachers can share games and activities that they have found useful in the classroom. If you know a game or an activity that works well with ESL/EFL students and it is not yet listed here, please submit it.
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Number of Submissions: 132
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Bad Fruit: A Shoppers' Nightmare

Level: Easy to Medium

This is an oral communication activity appropriate for EFL learners in elementary/primary school. (It's optimal for grades 3-6). This game is designed for practicing "shopping" dialogues and vocabulary.

Materials: "produce" and play money.

Object of Game: To accumulate as many products as possible.

*It is recommended giving students as much money as possible since students who run out can no longer participate.

Alternative play for more advanced students: Clerks set the price of items. Shoppers have the option of negotiating the price. There are two winners in this version: The shopper who accumulates the most products and the clerk who makes the most money.

Submitted by: Mike Yough

What's the Question?

Level: Any Level

Type of Activity: listening and speaking

Purpose: review question forms previously studied in class

Form two teams (three will work, but two seems to add just the right amount of competitive tension).

Explain the game, with a few examples of answers in search of questions. Ask, 'What's the question?', and get students to correctly say the corresponding questions for your answer.

Have two players--one from each team--come to the front. Style it like a game show if you like, with the students standing side-by-side. If you have access to bells or buzzers, it's even more fun.

Next, read an answer to a question and say, 'What's the question?' The fastest player to respond wins a point for her/his team. New contestants come to the front for a new round.

Rationale: This game forces the students to think backwards a little, so they must provide a grammatically perfect question. All too often, they are used to answering rather than asking questions, so this is challenging and useful as review.

Submitted by: Tim

Toilet Paper Icebreaker

Level: Any Level

This activity is used as a "getting to know you", icebreaker on the first day of class.

  1. Teacher takes the toilet paper roll and takes several squares of toilet paper, then hands the roll of toilet paper to a student. The teacher tells the student to take some, more than three.
  2. After everybody in the class has some paper, we count the squares we have, then we have to tell that many things about ourselves, in English.

This activity works well with substitute teachers also.

The toilet paper is such an attention getter.

Submitted by: Linda LeBlanc

Chain Spelling (Shiri-tori)

Level: Easy to Medium

The teacher gives a word and asks a student to spell it, and then a second student should say a word beginning with the last letter of the word given. The game continues until someone makes a mistake, that is, to pronounce the word incorrectly, misspell it or come up with a word that has been said already, then he/she is out. The last one remaining in the game is the winner.

This game can be made difficult by limiting the words to a certain category, e.g.. food, tools, or nouns, verbs, etc.

Submitted by: Huang Shufang

Bang Bang

Level: Easy

Divide the group into two teams. Explain that they are cowboys and they are involved in a duel. One student from each team comes to the front. Get them to pretend to draw their pistols. Say "how do you say..." and a word in their mother tongue. The first child to give the answer and then "bang bang", pretending to shoot his opponent is the winner. He remains standing and the other one sits down. I give 1 point for the right answer and 5 extra points if they manage to "kill" 4 opponents in a row.

Editor's Note: Instead of saying the word in the students' mother tongue, it would be possible to use a picture or to say a definition ("What do you call the large gray animal with a long nose?")

Submitted by: Liz

Battle Ships - A Vocabulary Game

Level: Easy to Medium

Divide the students in to groups of four or five. Then ask the student to make the name for their ships for example with the names of animals, cities, movie stars or let them find their own favourite names.

Ask them to choose the Captain and the Shooter. The captain's duty is to memorize his ship's name, so he can reply if somebody call his ship's name. The shooter's duty is to memorize the names of the ships of 'their enemies', so he can shoot them by calling their ship's name.

Arrange all the captains in a circle, the ships' crews must line up behind their captains. The shooter is the last crew member in line.

The teacher must decide a lexical area of vocabulary, this vocabulary will be used to defend their ships from the attacks. Every students (except the shooters) must find their own words. The lexical area for example, "Four Legged Animals". Give the students 1-2 minutes to find as many possible words as they can and memorize them.

Start the game by calling a ship's name, for example the ship name is "THE CALIFORNIAN". The captain of THE CALIFORNIAN must reply with a word from the lexical area given, for example he says "TIGER" followed by his crews behind him one by one, "COW"; "SHEEP" until it  is the shooter turns and he calls out the name of another ship and the captain of the ship called must reply and his crews must do the same thing. No word can be repeated.

If the captain is late to reply (more than 2 seconds) or his crew can not say the words or a word repeated or the shooter shoots the wrong ship (his own ship or the ship that has already been sunk) the ship is sunk, and the crew members can join the crew of another ship.

The teacher can change the lexical area for the next round.

In the last round there will be two big groups battling to be the winner.

Submitted by: Agung Listyawan

Describing Appearances & Characteristics of People

Level: Easy to Medium (Low to low intermediate)

Each student is then give one sheet of paper.  One student sits at the front of a room.  He/she describes a person and the rest of the class draws the person being described.

It is more interesting if the person being described is known by everyone. Once the student has finished describing that person then he/she reveals who it is and each student shows his/her drawing. The laughter from this is hilarious as the impressions tend to make the character in question look funny.

It is a good idea to encourage students to ask the interviewee student questions about who they are describing.

Submitted by: Darrell

Sentence Race

Level: Any Level

A good game for large classes and for reviewing vocabulary lessons.

  1. Prepare a list of review vocabulary words.
  2. Write each word on two small pieces of paper. That means writing the word twice, once on each paper.
  3. Organize the pieces like bundles, 2 bundles, 2 sets of identical words.
  4. Divide the class into 2 teams. get them to make creative team names.
  5. Distribute each list of words to both teams. every student on each team should have a paper.  Both teams have the same words.
  6. When you call a word, 2 students should stand up, one from each team. The students must then run to the blackboard and race to write a sentence using their word.
The winner is the one with a correct and clearly written sentence.

This is always a hit with kids. For more advanced students, use tougher words.

Submitted by: Thomas D. J-B

Paper Airplane Game

Level: Any Level

Draw a target (with points - like a dart board) on the white board or use a cardboard box in the middle of the room. Then, students make paper airplanes and launch them after they answer your question in the form of a sentence. I don't except my beginners/low intermediate students to form complete sentence so I help them to form correct sentences. To my surprise they will repeat the sentence several times (while I'm helping them) just so they can throw their airplane. For beginner and low intermediate classes, I recommend formulating questions that lead to 1 or 2 types of answers. This allows for better memorization. For example, use CAN/WILL questions and write the beginning part of the answer on the board "I can/will...".  I recommend giving a prize to make the target points mean something, thus peaking their interest.

Submitted by: Ell Saunders

Pictionary (Game 1) - revamp - Charades (Game 2)

Level: Any Level

Write out series of categories like professions (doctor, bus driver, etc.), animals, foods, actions (fishing, haircut, etc.) then divide the class into groups of 2. One student draws and the other guesses. Next turn, the guesser draws and drawer guesses. This game works best with the arbitrary stop watch (30 seconds). This is designed for one lesson.

Then for another day take the same categories (or create new ones) and play the same game except students, this time, act it out (no speaking or noises).

Submitted by: Ell Saunders

Spelling Contest

Level: Any Level

First, if you have a large class you have to divide it in 2 teams. then the teacher says a word or a sentence depending on the level for the students to spell.  Students should spell these correctly with not even one mistake. The team that has more points is the winner

Submitted by: Revolle Soyer

What's the Meaning?

Level: Medium to Difficult

You, the teacher, may need a dictionary do this activity.

The idea of this game is to let students be creative and practice writing skills.

Then you can have the students to discuss their writings.

Submitted by: Natalia Iglesias from Argentina

More Games & Activities

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