Top 15 Games For Teaching English In The Classroom - Henry Harvin

The class has assembled, and you are ready to face your students. This is your new batch starting today, and you are all excited about meeting the new lot. They will become a team in no time, and then suddenly, it will be time to say goodbye. The length does not matter, what matters is the quality time spent to ensure that your students excel in their aim of learning English as a Foreign Language (ESL) by the end of these sessions. 

You get to meet a set of new people every time, and each batch is a little different. The challenge for you is to understand the need of each individual and train them as a team.

How do you achieve it?

Do you find that sometimes there is extra time left when you have covered the lesson plan?

Did you ever underestimate how long the planned lesson will take?

Do you wonder how to break the ice in the initial days and create a seamless team?

The learners should work together and help each other. This not only breaks down their barriers but also eases your burden; they figure things out amongst themselves.

There will always be the ones who will be open and happy to participate. Then the bunch that is a little hesitant will need a little bit of time to mix up. And last but not the least, the reluctant lot, maybe shy, maybe less confident whatever the reason, they decide to zip up. You have drawn the cards and now have to create a harmonious blend. What do you do? 

We all anticipate the best always, and thus, you hope this time everyone participates in the class. You are the teacher, so there must always be aces up your sleeve. Your task is to ensure everyone is one the same page and you can reach out to everyone. 

Popular teaching strategies available are always games for teaching English. There are many different varieties and you can choose the most appropriate one for the occasion. The plus point of most of these is you can adapt to most of the skills, be it grammar practice like a noun, adjectives, verb, or something simple, a lexical resource practice.

10 Best ESL Games for Teaching English (with Rules and Video Guides)

You always wonder about ways to interact with your class and are always ready to find new ideas. The interaction must include fun elements and be not only about the lesson elements. Rather it should be fun, creative, and provide the elusive quality of including the entire class and keeping them engaged.

You often find yourself wanting to engage with these individuals. Still, you can’t think of a way to authentically do so until it dawns on you—the eureka moment, You should play a game and thaw the ice today and then the momentum will continue after the class all the students start to know each other.

The games for teaching English are a priceless learning tool. Not only these games for teaching English are an awesome way to revise recently learned topics, but also perfect for warm-up activity, a fantastic refresher after a period of intense hard work, and even as a reward once your students get to know and love these!

This afternoon you should remind yourself of the value games play in helping students connect and learn, even though there will be a language barrier. This is a lesson I learned first-hand while training a bunch of people (not teaching them language skills). Games for teaching English are not only a very powerful tool to help build genuine connections, but it can also be successfully used to teach language skills to a room full of expectant leaners.

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Here’s a video to understand useful games you can use to teach English

Teaching ESL in class, especially abroad, is not very difficult if you have a range of interesting, engaging, and student-oriented activities (read games) at your fingertips. There are many games to choose from, but I have made the final selection based on utility, responsiveness, ease of use, and considering any props that you may need to prepare before the class.

So, let us look at the various games for teaching English in the classroom.

1. Charades

Charades

Charades’s objective is that it is a guessing game in which players give clues with actions and gestures. It’s a great game for all level students, who are not yet confident or skilled enough to product descriptions. The focus of these games for teaching English is simply on recognition and learning vocabulary. It is an exercise you can include during the main class to impress the knowledge.

Many of us will have played Charades in many a party, but the version played in ESL class slightly simplified. Instead of acting out different syllables, students just make the action that gives a clue to the word or phrase. As such, the game can be designed to practice particular types of vocabulary, e.g., sports and hobbies, emotions and feelings, health problems, etc.

In Charades, one student stands up and acts in front of the class and enacts the word or phrase. The class is divided into two or four teams, which might be fine with students, and each team sends different representatives in each turn. There will be a time limit set for the answer. The team that guesses maximum correct in minimum team wins based on points assigned.

2. Countdown

Countdown

TV game shows can be a brilliant place for ideas for Games for teaching English to adults. One of the easiest games that can be adapted is the classic British program called Countdown. The Players either play individually or can make teams, and then they take turns selecting a consonant or a vowel to select nine random letters. Then using these letters, they have to make the longest word they can. It can be an interesting challenge, so it’s best enjoyed with higher levels, but students often get into the spirit of the game, and the competition can get heated. Thus it is an ideal game for more reserved students.

This game lends itself particularly well as a starter activity for a class with maybe a few late students. Though you are not aiming to encourage this because students work on their own and there can be several short rounds people can join in as they arrive with minimum disturbance to the class. You can up the ante with stipulating the word to a specific part of speech, e.g., noun, adjective, etc.!

3. Liar, Liar

Liar liar

Telling tales has been part of all cultures since time immemorial. I grew up with fairy tales first from my country, then around the world, once I could read. Now, but telling tales is another matter altogether.

Who does not enjoy making up all sorts of tales? It allows students to practice their speaking, grammar, and listening skills while having a laugh riot in the class and could be one of the best games for teaching English. So here is how it goes….. this is a fast-paced game of quick wit and ideal for a smaller class size otherwise, it would take up the entire class time! 

So, the students form a team in pairs and are tasked with introducing the other team member. They should present the other person with their name, try to talk about their likes and dislikes, hobbies, and family information, etc. But the catch to this is that they can make up any story about their partner. IT can be entirely made up or can have a mix-up truth and false. The other student must pay close attention to the description (mid you this is meant to be their details), then listen carefully and say, “Liar!” whenever they find a lie. That student now will correct the other person. 

For example, “This is John. John is from Las Vegas.”

John (not really) then shouts, “Liar! My name is Jack, and I am from London.”

Students then switch places once the introduction is complete. This can be a lot of fun and the students get to know each other better. The game can be used as an ice breaker or for a practice session.

4. Concentration

games

Concentration is competitive and tests the memory of your students. It is a variation of the memory game very commonly played by children. Did you play a similar game when you were young or teenager or maybe as an adult? 

There will be motivated to learn new vocabulary and a competitive spirit to use memory skills to win the game. This game can be played individually or in pairs or small teams. And you will be sneaking in a lesson on spelling and vocabulary for your students.

This game is quick to play and can be adapted to suit a small class as well as a big class. Another advantage is that you can control how long you want to play the game for a few minutes or a few rounds. It can be adapted from vocabulary to phrases, idioms, or grammar practice. This came has a wide audience from high school students to advanced learners.

Start by writing for your class a group of 15-20 words on the blackboard. And ask them to memorize the words within a set amount of time, i.e. one minute or so. Then, cover the board and now ask the students to write down as many words as they can remember. You can even offer a small prize for the winner. This will be suitable for a single or team game. Again, it is well-suited for either beginning of class or having a few minutes to spare at the end of the class.

5. Crowdsource the Monster

monster

Let us play with the monster. I am sure everyone was fascinated with monsters at some stage while growing up. Get a student come up to the board and ready to draw. You can also make two groups, in the class, and then have two students at the board.

Now, your job will be to ask the seated learners questions about this monster. You can ask things like:

– What is the shape of its head?

– How big is the head?

– How many teeth does it have?

The seated students provide answers. The person at the board should draw as per the monster is being described to the best of their ability. This can get pretty noisy, so you may assign one person at a time to answer your questions. When all the questions are done, you will have a truly unique monster for everyone to laugh with. Maybe the monster will become the class mascot.

Another way is, get the students to draw their monsters and hang these in the classroom. This is a great filler game to spend those extra few minutes as well as practice English skills.

6. Dictogloss

Dictogloss- listening

This activity focuses on the listening skills of your students and challenges them at the same time. This can be used as a classroom as well as an online game. It is better suited for advanced learners. 

The idea is to test their listening and writing skills. So, you must choose a passage or a paragraph. Then, read it aloud at a slightly quicker pace than your class is used to. They all have to take notes while you are reading about what they hear. Read it twice, and then ask the students to recreate what they have been hearing. 

The person who has provides the closest answer is the winner. This game also tests the concentration, paraphrasing skills, writing, and grammar skills of the student. Hence, a comprehensive exercise.

7. ESL Role Plays

Role play

Some students decide to study English for a specific purpose such as settlement abroad, career abroad even marriage in a new country. Role-plays are a good idea to look at typical circumstances and use related vocabulary while enhancing speaking skills.

You divide the class into two or three teams. Each team picks on a real-life situation i.e. doctor, shopping at the upper market, immigration officer, etc. You become the customer for each group in turn. Ix things up and provide different responses and problems for your student to answer. 

The other teams can observe and take notes. The goal here is to help the students to gain confidence in real-life situations. And then, you can discuss feedback at the end of the session.

8. Call My Bluff / Two Truths And a Lie

call my bluff game

Let your students get to know you or each other better. Call My Bluff is an enjoyable game to teach English. It will be perfect to start that first session and getting the students involved. IT is a brilliant ice breaker and can be played with all ages. But this is best played with a small class size. The Call my Bluff is one of the games for teaching English that is excellent for practicing speaking skills,

You must allow time to comment on any mistakes made, usually after the end of the game. Especially with older groups, you will be able to have some real fun and may even be surprised by what you will learn about some of your students when. 

First, Write three statements about yourself on the board, two of which should be bluffs and only one should be true. Ask your students to enquire about each statement from you. And they should figure out which statement is correct and the other ones which are lies. You should practice your poker face first, though! They win if the guesses are correct.

You can extend the game by dividing the class into pairs or fours and trying out this activity with each other. Give students time to write their own two truths and one lie. Later bring the class together and discover new facts about that the students have learned about each other.

9. Hangman  

Hangman Game

This is a classic game and was a childhood favorite. Did you play it as well? But it can get boring quickly enough, so use this to finish or start your lesson. The ideal duration should be five minutes or so. It works flawlessly, no matter the number of students.

First, think of a phrase or letter and write it on the board marking dashes for the consonants. Fill in the vowels. Ask students to choose a letter. If it appears in the word, fill it in one/more of the correct spaces. If it does not appear in the word, write it off to a side on the board (students will remember not to repeat it) and begin drawing the image of a hanging man. You will continue the process till the students guess the word correctly, so they win Hangman alternatively is complete and you are the winner.

10. Board Race

games for teaching English

Board Race is a fun game to teach English. That is a good way to revise the on-going vocabulary practice that is an essential part of ESL. It will keep the brains and students active, so they participate in the lesson. This game for teaching English is also a lovely way to test the students’ knowledge about the subject you want to introduce…

The minimum number should be six students or more. The first step is to split the class into two groups and give each of them a coloured marker. If your class is large, then divide the students into teams of 3 or 4. Draw a line dividing the board and write a topic on top. 

The students have to think and write as many words as they can think about the topic. You can extend it to sentences instead of words. Each team wins points for correct words, and the team with maximum points wins.

11. Taboo Words

games for teaching English

One of the few games to teach English which can help in practicing synonyms and descriptions. Taboo Words is a fantastic game for teaching English, especially for advanced or adult learners. Use it as part of the lesson, or at the beginning or end of class, the charm persists.

So, let us divide the class into two halves and send them to the opposite end of the room but facing each other. Nominate one person to sit in front of their team, and you stand behind the students to hold out a piece of paper with a word written on it.

The timer then gives those three minutes to get their teammate sitting in front to say the word on paper. The others can not directly say the word but use synonyms and descriptions. So be ready for some fun with this!

 12. Categories

games for teaching English

Another game to either warm up the class in the morning or fill the last few minutes of the class. This will be useful for learners at all levels and all ages. So, let’s see how we go about it. 

The students should take a sheet of paper and draw six columns (can be less) on it. You can choose six (less if you so wish) categories based on the topic of learning in the class, e.g. names, cities or countries, furniture, verbs, adjectives, clothing, etc.

Then, give your class a random letter and write it on the board. Ask them to write down a word for each of the categories that begin with that letter. Again, a way of practicing vocabulary, meanings, and spellings.

13. Chain Spelling 

games for teaching English

Let your pupils have some fun. Playing Chain Spelling as one of the games for teaching English is a good way to teach vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation. You give the word to a student and ask them to spell it. Once the student completes this step correctly, then a second student will say a word beginning with the last letter and spell it.

The game continues in this fashion till someone makes a mistake, i.e., pronouncing the word incorrectly or misspelling it or says a word that has already been said, then that person is out of the game. The last one remaining in the game is the winner. You can further increase the difficulty level by introducing categories e.g. adjectives, nouns, adverbs, food, travel, etc. the winner may even be given a token prize for the achievement!

14. Sentence Race

games for teaching English

A good game to teach English and revise or introduce vocabulary and sentence structure. This game for teaching English is suitable for all levels of pupils. Do you remember making sentences with new words learned in class? I do, and this gave is based upon that exercise. 

Look and prepare a list of vocabulary words that you want to review. Then write each word on two small pieces of paper and fold them, creating two sets of each word. Make sure to keep the identical bundles separate, though!

When in class, divide your pupils into two groups and distribute the folded papers to each team. Ensure that both the teams have a set of identical words. Each student in each team should have at least one paper. Then, get two students with the same words to come to the board and write a sentence with the word. The race is to finish the sentence correctly first. So, of course, the winner will be the one with a correct and written sentence. For your adult and advanced learners, use tougher words.

15. What’s the Meaning?

games for teaching English

Did you use a dictionary? Those thick tomes that I am sure all students dread to find the meanings of words. Now there are digital versions available, much quicker and easier to play one of these games for teaching English. 

You can either use the old fashioned dictionary if there is no internet in class or refer to the online versions depending on circumstances. This is one of the games to teach English that introduces new words and pronunciations for your students. 

Find a word that may be long, difficult, and unknown and maybe even confusing to the students. Now, without using a dictionary, instruct the students to write the definition as they see fit. (There can be teams if your class size is large). Give them a few minutes to complete. Collect their word and read each definition out to the class. 

Get all the students to select which one seems the closest match to the meaning (it may even be incorrect). IF any of the groups guessed correctly, then they win, alternatively use the dictionary to read the correct definition. The game aims to develop an understanding of language and practice writing skills.

End of List

So, I have reached the end list of games for teaching English in your class. There are many more, and you can be creative in adapting other games to teach English in your class. I hope you will find this list of games useful and enjoyable for your class. Always when you are starting something new, see how it goes with the students and make notes for the future. It will help you to learn their preferences and helpful for you as a teacher. Also, isn’t a teacher always a student as well?

I will bid adieu on this note today. Happy Teaching!

Read on: How to teach English to beginners, few tips.

FAQs Related to Games For Teaching English

FAQs
Why play Games in an ESL Class?

The challenge for you is to understand the need of each individual and train them as a team.. There are many different varieties and you can choose the most appropriate one for the occasion. The plus point of most of these that most can be adapted to various skills, be it grammar practice like a noun, adjectives, verb or something simple, a lexical resource practice. They break the monotony of the class and make it fun and enjoyable as well.

How do Lesson Planning and games come together?

Each session you take has a planned schedule. Most of these sessions range from between two to even four hours long. Sometimes, students come to attend after work or class even. So, you should look at ways to make your classes fun and energizing. Most of these games can be adapted in various ways, so I am sure you will be able to match one or adapt one according to your lesson plan. And the games, in turn, would make your lessons more fun and easy to remember.

Some games require a lot of preparation. I don’t have that much spare time. What should I do?

There are indeed lots of games that require some background preparation. But on the other hand, there will always be activities with minimum or no props. You will always have to create a balance between the two. Time constraint is a valid concern, but then you have to improvise. In today’s world, technology has made it easier to look for possible solutions. You can find or think one up, or I am sure you can find some ideas on the World Wide Web as well.

What do I do if students are disinterested?

Different types of students attend class. Some would be naturally talkative., others will speak if spoken to. Further, there will be the ones that are reticent to various approaches. You will realise the balance of the class in the first few sessions and should plan your lessons and games accordingly. As a teacher, you should approach even the most reluctant student to come out of their shell. And if you knock on a door a few times, it will always open. Be available and approachable.

Summary

You get to meet a set of new people in every batch, and each is a little different. The challenge for you is to understand the need of each individual and train them as a team. How do you achieve it?

There will always be the ones who will be open and happy to participate. Then the bunch that is a little hesitant will need a little bit of time to mix up. And last but not the least, the reluctant lot, maybe shy, maybe less confident whatever the reason, they decide to zip up. You have drawn the cards and now have to create a harmonious blend. What do you do? 

A popular option available is always games to teach English. There are many different varieties and you can choose the most appropriate one for the occasion. The plus point of most of these games is that they can inculcate various skills, be it grammar practice like a noun, adjectives, verb or something simple, a lexical resource practice.

There are many games to choose from, but I have made the final selection based on utility, responsiveness, ease of use, and considering any props that you may need to prepare before the class. For details on my choices, read the article and use them in your classes.

There are many more, and you can be creative in adapting other games to teach English in your class. I hope you will find this list of games useful and enjoyable for your class. Always when you are starting something new, see how it goes with the students and make notes for the future. It will help you to learn their preferences and helpful for you as a teacher.

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Author

Seema is your girl next door, managing a home especially an active five year old. She has always been an avid reader and enjoys different genres of books from childhood. Literature has always her passion and she is trying to follow her dreams of becoming a writer. She loves to call Delhi and London her home. She adores exploring historical relics and places, enjoys spending time in the lap of nature and to capture memories with her camera. Professionally, she has been in people facing roles and teaches online at present.

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