Games and Activities for the English as a Second Language Classroom

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Level: Any Level

This games works especially with adult students who are reluctant to speak about personal issues.
Prepare three cards (a green, a yellow, and a red one) with six questions each. The questions on the green card are easy and not personal, and the ones on the red card are more difficult and personal. Each student throws a dice twice. The first time is to decide upon the color of the card (1 or 2 = green card; 3 or 4 = yellow card; 5 or 6 = red card) and the second time is to choose the question.
Submitted by Mónica Bresso


Level: Medium to Difficult

The point of this game is to try to answer questions. We often take for granted many things but if we consider them carefully sometimes they are not necessarily logical.These questions are intended to make students speak. In most of the cases there are no "right" or "wrong" answers. Here are some examples:

If you're so WISE can you tell me WHY:

Some birds have wings but never FLY.

not all the monkeys have a tail BEHIND.

Leopards have spots and TIGERS STRIPES.

Grooms dess in black and BRIDES in WHITE.

People wave their hands when they say good BYE.

The ocean´s blue and so is the SKY.

Our EYES shed tears when we CRY.

We must WRITE letters from left to RIGHT.

Roosters crow in the mornings at six or FIVE.

People trhow RICE to the groom and BRIDE.

We strech and yawn when we feel so TIRED.

As you can see I repeated the /ai/sound to create a special sensation to the ears.These questions can also help you to teach pronunciation and intonation if you read them with the proper rhythm.

Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez


Level: Medium to Difficult

I really like this activity because it is easy and fun. Students will say English is music to my ears!

For this exercise you will need the lyrics of a song in English.You will need several copies, one for each student .Cut the lines of the song .The students will try to put the song in order.You will play the song as many times as necessary.The student who finishes first is the winner.

Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez


Level: Any Level

This game has nothing to do with offensive words.I play it just for fun and the students like it a lot.You will be amazed to see how many different words can be generated from a single word!

1.-The teacher writes a four-letter word (not a bad word but word made up four letters)on the board.

For example:

The teacher writes on the board: TIME

2.-Students will take turns generating words from the first one.The idea is to change only one letter but generate a miningful word.


3.-Any letter can be change.Only one at a time, but not on the same place consecutively.Example:

STUDENT2.- LIME (Wrong you should change any other letter but not on the same place consecutively).


The teacher has to limit the time the students take to write the words (may be 20 seconds). The students score a point for each meaningful word they write. If a student takes too much time he loses his turn. Finally the student who makes more points is the winner.
Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez

MEMORY GAME (Long and Short forms)

Level: Medium to Difficult

RULES: The same rules as the regular memory games(the only difference is they are going to match the long forms with the sort forms).

Foreign students sometimes do not realize there are many reductions in English. They feel frustrated when they are not able to understand spoken English. This is in part to because they are not aware of short forms. A way to help them is by showing same expressions in both short and long forms. Examples:

want to- wanna
going to-gonna
ought to-outta
a lot of- alotta
see you-seeya
got to-gotta
let me-lemmi
give me-gimmi
what have-wattav

I advise the teacher to read aloud the cards when the students pick them up in order to encourage them to repeat and learn them.
Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez


Level: Medium

This activity will make students rewiew spelling in a funny way. You can create similar spellings as the following ones:

I.1.2.C.U = I want to see you
R.U.O.K? = Are you O.k?
I´s T = Iced tea
I.C.Q = I seek you
I.O.U. = I owe you
E.Z. = Easy
B.Z. = Busy
I.1.T = I want tea
I.8 = I ate
U.2 = You two/ you too.
Y? = Why?
C.U.@.9 = See you at nine
2E.Z.4U = Too easy for you
R.U.D.Z? = Are you dizzy?

------ = I understand

Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez


Level: Medium to Difficult


I came out with this idea while I was teaching pronunciation in Mexico. The idea is to make a bingo game contrasting the the pronunciation of nouns and verbs with the same spelling.(Use a stress mark (´)to show the students that nouns are stressed in the first syllable and verbs on the second).Examples:


When you name the cards let the students listen to the words but not look at them. This way they will be able to distinguish the difference.


The same can be done to teach minimal pairs.Examples:



Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez


Level: Medium

I discovered this game while watching T.V. With some modifications the idea of the game is the same:

1.-Place a buzz or bell inside a waste basket(a clean one, of course).

2.-Get a light ball that fits into the basket.

3.-The student will make a shot with the ball.If the student scores the bell will ring(saved by the bell) , if the student fails a indiscreet question will have to be answered by him/her.

4.-In advance, prepare as many cards with indiscreet questions as possible. For example:

Have you ever cheated in a final test? Have you ever stolen something? Have you ever had two or more boy/girlfriends at the same time?Have you ever gotten a ticket? If so why?Have you ever had a nickname? If so, which one? etc,etc.

The point of this game is to practise asking and answering in a fun way. However, you have to be very careful with the questions you write on the cards!(some questions may be very offensive if you are not careful).
Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez


Level: Medium to Difficult

I learnt this game when I was chatting with a brazilian girl.It is a very simple but interactive game. As you know people always as the same questions in chats over and over again.What do you do? How old are you? etc. She asked me if I wanted to play THE GAME OF TRUTH. I say yes of course! Here are the rules:( I made some changes for the English classroom)

1.Make a lot of small cards with interesting topics written on them, such as: LOVE,JEALOUSY,PIRACY,MONEY,SMOKING,SEX,DINKING,CLONNING,BRIBING,FRIENDSHIP,DEATH PENALTY,PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT,FAMILY,etc,etc.Look for topics that make students speak.Sometimes even CONTROVERSIAL ones.

2.-Every student in the class will take turns in taking a card.He or she will talk a little about the topic in the card he or she selected. For example:

MONEY: for me money is very important , but is not the most important thing.It is only a way to reach things.Success is not measure by the money you can get,etc,etc.

3.-Allow student to express their feelings even if it is not their turn. Remember the main point of this game is to make students speak!However don´t lose the control of the class.

P.D.If you select very interesting topics I garantee everybody will try to answer the questions even when is not their own turn.This activity is excellento "to break the ice" and to help you know each other in the classroom.

Submitted by Pablo Ortega Juárez

Invitation to an Annual Dinner

Level: Any Level

Pre-activity: The teacher should have taught students about prepositions.
Activity:In pairs, students are required to write a dialogue of about 12-15 exchanges based on an invitation card given by the teacher.
Sample invitation card:


DATE: 24 JUNE 2001
TIME: 7.30 AM

Allow about half an hour to prepare the text and about 3 minutes to present it in class. Ask students to be as creative as possible.

Students get to practice prepositions as well as Wh-questions. I find that my students enjoying themselves while pretending to invite their friends to the annual dinner.
Submitted by Kaarthiyainy Supramaniam, MARA University of Technology

Movie Review

Level: Any Level

This could be carried out in pairs or in groups of 3-4.
Pre-activity:The tearcher should have taught students about adjectives and adverbs.
students can choose a favourite movie, cartoon or television series to review. They should talk about the main plot, actors and actresses, provide a synopsis and tell why they have chosen that particular movie. Once they have discussed and edited their movie review, they would have to present in front of the others, and hand over a copy of the edited text to the teacher to be correceted.They may also include pictures to make their movie review more interesting.
Submitted by Kaarthiyainy Supramaniam

Story telling & Memory Game

Level: Any Level

Ask the children {at least 5 to 6} to sit around in a circle
Ask one child to say a sentence in a story form e.g "once there was a boy".The next child will have to repeat that sentence and add something more to it like "once there was a boy whose name was John"In this way the children keep building up a story as well as remembering what the previous sentences were.The child which forgets a line will go out of the game.This game not only improves a child's memory but also encourages him/her to be creative in story telling.
Submitted by Mrs.Ranjani.R.Gehani


Level: Any Level

I'd like to work on games is classroom. I have got students of any levels and games are a good practise to motivate students in classroom. I'd like to have more instructions of how to work with them and if there are more suggestions of the source.

Best wishes,

Marta Leone

Mini Plays

Level: Medium to Difficult

The teacher makes up a little discussion which she reads or gives to a couple of children to read. E.g.

Mum: Bye, now. Be careful!
John: Yes, Mom. I will.
Mum: Don´t forget to write.
John: No, Mom. I´ll write every day.
Mum: Call me when you get there.

And then the teacher chooses one aspect to the plays that will be improvised based on this short discussion. E.g.

"Your plays must ne about a situation where somebody is leaving away. What happens? What do you say? You have 5 minutes to practise a little play in groups of 2-5."

In five minutes the plays will be presented and some vocabulary can be marked, if you feel like it. The kids love making plays and they are pretty good in improvising incredible plays even in few minutes.
Submitted by Virpi, Finland

Active Brainstorming

Level: Any Level

This activity can be made to fit nearly any level, and works in class sizes of 6 to 40. The aims are to not only to generate lists of relevant vocabulary around a theme, but to invigorate the class with a rather noisy and rambunctious activity.

To begin with, the teacher must select three or four vocabulary subcategories within a theme, for example with a theme of housing/describing rooms, the subcategories might be things found in a bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen; in a sports theme, there might be team, individual, and non-competitive sports. Students are then paired up and asked to generate ideas together for each subcategory, preferably under a time limit to keep things pacey, much as in any brainstorming exercise. Then pairs should be grouped into 2,3,or 4 larger teams (depending on class size, logistics, etc.) to share/compare ideas and lengthen their lists if possible.

Now comes the wild part. The black/whiteboard is divided into sections, one for each subcategory, and one student from each group is called up and handed a piece of chalk or a marker of a color assigned to each team. There must be one color per team, eg. the blue team, the yellow team, and so forth. The designated writers for each team are not allowed to bring any paper up with them. Instead, their team members must shout out ideas which can be put under each/any subcategory, including the correct spelling of same. With all teams shouting at the same time, a seemingly out of control, but quite enjoyable atmosphere pervades. The object is to be the team with the most words on the board at the end.

It is best to stop every minute or two and change designated writers so that all can get a chance. Also, depending on how strict the teacher wishes to be, groups which use L1 might have their entries ereased. It is also a good idea in big classrooms to move the teams as far away from the board as possible, so as to increase the pandemonium. Finally, the teacher shouts "Stop!", and the scores for each team are tabulated.

This activity will take between 30 and 50 minutes, has been used successfully with groups ranging in age from 16 to 65, and would seem to suit younger learners as well. The only materials required are a rather large board and as many different color markers or pieces of chalk as there are teams.
Submitted by: P. Bruce Riley

A Variation on Bingo

Level: Any Level

Instead of making the cards yourself, have your students make them.

  1. Get a set of review quesitons from your classes text book or trivia type stuff that they should know. Make sure the questions cover a variety of grammar points that you have studied.
  2. Give each student a blank bingo grid.
  3. Get the students to fill in the bingo grid with the proper answers to the questions.
  4. Go over the answers just to make sure every one has got it right etc...
  5. Now start the bingo game, except instead of reading off the answers, read the questions. this gets them thinking listening and writting/reading (three out of the 4 ain't all bad eh?)

The Miming Game

Level: Any Level

This is a simple game which requires little preparation. Divide your students into groups of 2 people(there may be two groups or more). Give each group a sentence that includes grammar and/ or vocabulary already practised, and underline the words that should be guessed exactly. One of the students in the group has to mime the sentence and the other has to guess. Of course the other groups will also be allowd to guess, which will create competition.
Submitted by Cris

Bingo Adapted

Level: Any Level

Use basic Bingo board (3x3 0r 5x5 with the middle crossed out)

1. Simple vocabulary bingo
From the list of words the students (Ss) are required to learn they select 9 (or 24) . Teacher to call Bingo 2 or three times until everyone knows their card.

2. Teacher calls the words. Ss with those words have to shout them out. Only the first one to shout gets to cover the square.

3. Grammar point or sentence structure.
Call the words. The first student to shout out their word in the the required structure gets to cover the square.

eg. To use the present perfect.
After practising the vocabulary Ss have to say I've been a nurse or never been a nurse.
NB the truth is not important. I was happy with I've been a village once as long as they knew what was wrong.
Gets very competitive and noisy.
Do not do with a hangover unless you get the winning student to be the bingo caller.
Submitted by jo

Find Someone Who ...

Level: Any Level

Get some questions from:
Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom

Write some of them on the board and ask students to talk to each others as follows:

Find someone who...
..has already finished his/her Christmas shopping?

After a given amount of time, have the students tell the rest of the class who they found.
Submitted by Juan Silva

The Alphabet game

Level: Any Level

This game is used to practice alphabet and check their vocabulary. Do as a competition. Divide Students into groups of five ( it depends on the number of students you have) and ask them to stand in line. give to the students of the front a marker to write on the whiteboard.Then draw with your finger an imaginary letter of the alphabet on the back of the students at the end of the line. They must do the same with the student in front of him/her and so on. the students with the marker are supposed to run to the board and write any word that begins with that letter. Students love it!
Submitted by Andréia Martins

Associations Using the Subjunctive Mood

Level: Medium to Difficult

This game is very useful to teach the subjunctive mood.
All your students take part in this game. One of the students goes out of the room. All the rest think of one student (he or she should be present). The student who went out of the room comes in and asks "If this person were a vegetable (fruit, sweet, animal, car, nature, flower, city etc) what vegetable ( fruit, sweet, animal etc) would he be?"

One of the students answers in a full sentence: "If he were an animal he would be a dog" for instance

After some questions and answers the student who is asking the questions should guess who it is and the game begins again with another student going out of the room.
Submitted by L.Voronina

Making Words from Letters in a Long Word

Level: Medium to Difficult

This game is a good activity for learning new words and for reviving some word knoweledge and for giving a teacher time to prepare other tasks for students.

The class is to be divided into 2-3- teams. Give each team a dictionary and write on the board a long word. Students should compose different words from the letters of this word. After some time, the teams give their words. the team that has the most correct words wins.

For example:


return tribute iron notion note tone rib tube bruit tent tribe bur button rent burin nob bite burr run route tire tore bent bet bonnet rub nib net nub bin nut bit rube ruin rob rot unit union unite tier tie tin tint tone toe brute burn brunt butt butter riot tot tenet tenure terrier retro bone boot born bout totter tote tour bore

Then you can ask them to learn these words.
Submitted by Shipulin Vladimir


Level: Any Level


Prepare a worksheet with 20 or so sentences using grammar points you have recently taught. 2/3 of the sentences should include a grammatical mistake. Make fake money, it is more realistic if you use the currency of whichever country they are living in.

Divide the students into teams of 5 or so. The students then have 10 minutes to study the worksheet and decide and mark which sentences are correct (0) or incorrect (X).

Each team receives a set amount of money.
The instructor(s) reads one sentence (select sentences from the list in random order).
The instructor begins to auction off the sentence. The students should try to buy only the correct sentences. The students bid and the instructor sells to the highest bidder. (This is really fun!)
The instructor tells whether or not the sentence is correct.
IF the sentence is correct the team wins the amount which they bought if for. If it is incorrect the team looses the amount which they bought it for. ANY team may win the lost money buy stating the incorrect sentence correctly. (YOU WILL BE SHOCKED TO SEE EVEN THE QUIET STUDENTS SCREAMING FOR YOUR ATTENTION).
IF the sentence is CORRECT and NO ONE bids on it, ALL TEAMS must pay a fine.
After all the sentences have been read the team with the most money wins!

The students seem to really enjoy this game!
Submitted by Trish in Japan

The Brag Game

Level: Medium

This is a simple game I've made up to practise Present Perfect. You make up about 20-30 sentences in Present Perfect describing various activities one would share to brag. For example: "I've eaten lunch with Al Gore".
"Spielberg has asked me to play in his next movie". Students draw a slip of paper with a statement like that, he/she says it aloud to the group and they try to outdo him/her by thinking up a statement which would be more impressive. It might look something like this:

Student1: "I've eaten lunch with Al Gore"
S2: So what? I've eaten lunch with Bill Clinton!"
S3: So what? I've eaten lunch with Al Gore and Bill Clinton"
S4: So what? I've eaten Gore and Clinton for lunch"
When they can't come up with something, they just say WOW looking impressed and move on to the next statement.

S1: Spielberg has asked me to play in his new movie.
S2: So what? I've asked Spielberg to play in MY new movie.

They seemed to have fun with this game.
Submitted by Andrzej J. Czopek

Adding to the Story: OHPs in the classroom

Level: Any Level

Adding to the Story: OHPs in the classroom

Aim: To give students further practice in expanding paragraphs.

Materials Needed: OHP transparencies/pens/ OHP machine

Stage One: Photocopy a background scene on to a transparency. Next, put it up on the wall next to the white board. Ask students to write down ideas about the place.
Ask the students to predict what is going to happen today in the town, mountainside,etc....

(Before the class, photocopy onto an OHP different people or animals that can be cut out and dropped into the scenary or the background)

Next, say "perhaps" to their suggestions and then begin to add a transparency character to the scene. Elicit from the students information and questions about the person. Keep adding characters and letting students discuss possibilities and changes for the story.

After that, in groups ask students to write a story about the scene. Ask them to describe the environment and atmosphere in the first paragraph and to start to tell the story thereafter.

When the students complete their stories, pass the papers aroung for other groups to read and peer edit before asking the original group to tell their story about the illustration.
Submitted by Christine Canning-Wilson, CERT, Higher Colleges of Technology

Group Dialogue

Level: Any Level

Following a simple warm-up where each person must say a word associated with the word mentioned by the person before him or her, I have them repeat the same procedure but with complete sentences, as if it were a discussion between two people. For example: student 1, "Hi how are you Joe?"; student 2, "Oh pretty good Sue. How about you?"; student 3, " Well, not so good."; student 4, " Why not?", etc. The dialogue must procede in such a way that the last person concludes the discussion and they bid each other goodbye. You never know where the conversation will lead and it's excellent for listening, even without a point system!
Submitted by Tim Morgan

Present Continuous Videos

Level: Any Level

I've used this activity in just about every class I've ever had, it's suitable for any age group and any level but the best thing about it is that it requires almost no preparation.

You'll need a video. I usually use Mr Bean but anything will do as long as it isn't dialogue heavy and has a lot of action.

The students will need a piece of paper and a pen. Arrange students in two rows and seat them back to back so that the video can be seen by one row (watchers) but not by the other (writers).

Explain to the watchers that they are to describe the action taking place on the screen using the present continuous, they can also describe clothing, people, anything really but try to keep the focus on the action.
The writers have to listen carefully to the watcher sitting behind them and write down as much information as they can.

Keep this going for about five or ten minutes (or as long as a Mr Bean sketch) then get them to swap chairs and play a different sketch/segment for the new row of watchers.

Put the students into two groups according to row. They must now pool their notes and create their own version of events. Good past continuous practice!

I usually get them to share their stories with the other group and then at the end let them watch both segments again and compare their version with what actually happened.

Lots of listening, speaking, writing and lots of fun.
Submitted by Vanessa P.

Twenty Questions

Level: Any Level

Using 3X5 file cards I cut and pasted a number of articles from a catalogue. I write on the board questions such as
Would I find this in the house? (If not assume it is outside)
Does it weigh more than 10 pounds?
Does it have wheels?
Does it have a motor?
Does it make noise?
Do you have one ?
Would you like one?
Can you eat it?
Can you wear it?
Is it used in the summer? (if not therefore it is used in winter)

Students work in pairs and may answer only YES or NO and keep track of the number of questions. You can use many more questions perhaps using words that are new or different.
your email address does not work!!!!
Annette Delanghe
Submitted by Annette Delanghe

Essay Planning Made Easy

Level: Any Level

My students find it hard to brainstorm ideas,plan what to write and present balanced opinions. This activity seems to help because it works from a fun speaking base.
Use big pieces of paper. Write a different word within a group on four pieces of paper and stick in different corners of the room(eg. animals: horse, elephant, dog, monkey) Tell the sts to go and stand next to the (animal) you like best/fear most/want to be" etc. Students go to corners and justify their choice to other students.
This can be done in various ways to suit the situation; I sometimes end up with teams having to offer and counteract arguments publicly across the room. The topics can become more abstract, depending on the level of the students.
Finally, bring the activity together by choosing the basis of an essay topic,eg "The Rainforests". Elicit single words for the big pieces of paper, eg 'fuel/building materials/ oxygen/medicines (the brainstorm) and stick them on the board. Then invite students to sort them into two overarching groups; eg reasons for forest conservation or reasons for using the wood (the plan) Repeat the verbal argument 'game' in teams but keep notes of the submissions on the board or on paper(the body of the essay)
Finally write a sentence on the board eg:
"Although it is important to ___ because ___(give one reason) I believe it is more important to ___ because (give two main reasons."
Students then go to one of the two main groups they broadly agree with and produce their final pronouncement(the conclusion).
Review the process overtly. Get the students to write in groups next time, then go it alone with the same methods.
Submitted by Jane King, New Zealand

The Grandfather

Level: Any Level

Objective : to practice the numbers.

Procedure :

Students are sit in circle. Then, they are given a number. One of them or the teacher can be the Grandfather. The game goes like this.

A : When the grandpa died, he left twenty cups of wine.

( the person who has number 20 answers :)
B : why 20 ?
A : So, how many ?
B : what about 2 ?

( the person with number 2 says : )

C : why 2 ?
B : So, how many ?
C : what about 3 ?

(and so on..)
The winner is the person who does not hesitate and make a mistake. Advanced students must play the game in English. But if you have beginners, the game can be played in the students« mother tongue ; however, numbers must be said in English. Students need to be attentive, otherwise they are asked to leave the game.
Submitted by Hermilo Gomez Hernandez - Universidad de Quintana Roo, Mexico


Level: Easy to Medium

Good luck!!!
Gloria from Italy (
Submitted by Gloria


Level: Any Level

First prepare a list of places about 20 on seperate pieces of paper and then divide the students into groups of 4-6. One member of the group chooses a piece of paper and between the group they prepare a dialogue or mini-theatre based on their place. When all the groups have prepared their work they take it in turns to read or play them out and the other students have to guess the name of the place it is taking place. A time limit can be based on the level of the students. I find this works very well with student who do not have enough confidence to just speak without preperation, but after the exercise they gain a lot of confidence by trying to speak by not looking.
Submitted by Gina Tuncer( practical teacher in Turkey)

A variation on the "NAME THE PLACE" activity above is to do the same but put times of the day on the slips of paper. Students have to write a dialogue sketch to get students to guess the time of day.
Submitted by David Hardisty, Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon

More Games & Activities

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