Games are a great way to engage students and incorporate learning. You can build games into any stage of your lesson to review, teach, and reinforce language. The games are organized by level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), but you can easily modify them to suit your students’ needs.
Memory (Beginners +)
- Place students in groups and give each group a deck of cards with pictures on them (there should be two cards of each item).
- Instruct students to arrange the cards facedown (without looking at them).
- One student at a time will pick up one card and try to find its match, by selecting only one other card. The student must say the term as s/he picks up a card. If it’s a match, s/he keeps the cards. If not, the student must flip the cards back over and give another student in the group a turn.
TIP: You can make this harder by instructing students to use the term in a sentence before they can flip over the next card.
Charades (Beginners +)
- Break the class into two teams.
- Fill a hat with vocabulary words that students have learned.
- Students from each team will take turns coming to the front of the class to mime a vocabulary word that they draw from the hat. Their team has 20 seconds to guess. If they guess correctly, they earn a point.
Swat It! (Beginners +)
- Arrange either vocabulary words or pictures of vocabulary on a chalkboard or wall.
- Place students in two teams, in lines, facing the board or wall.
- The first student in each line gets a flyswatter.
- When the teacher says the clue (shows a picture or says the term), the students with flyswatters must race to the board and swat the correct term or picture. The first student to do so wins a point for his/her team.
Simon Says (Beginner +)
This is a great way to practice body parts and other vocabulary.
TIP: For more advanced classes, you can make the instruction more complicated. For example: “Hop on one foot in front of your desk.”
Hangman (Beginner +)
- Choose a vocabulary word that you’ve taught students and draw the letter spaces on the board.
- Instruct students to guess letters, one at a time, to form the correct word.
Bingo (Beginner +)
- Pass out Bingo sheets with pictures and the terms beneath them.
- Instruct students to cross out the picture/word on their sheet if they hear you say it and that if/when they cross out a whole row, they should shout, “Bingo!” (Draw a picture on the board of a bingo sheet to model how the game is played).
- Repeat the words twice to ensure students hear it.
Trace It (Beginners +)
- Arrange students in single-file lines, facing the board.
- Show or whisper a letter to the student at the back of each line.
- When you say “Go!” the students at the ends of the lines must trace the letter on the back of the student in front of him/her. Then, that student must trace the letter on the back of the student in front of him/her and so on.
- The first student in line must correctly write the letter on the board to win a point for his/her team.
- Students cannot talk. If they want the student behind them to trace the letter again, they must tap their own shoulder.
TIP: To make this more challenging, use short words (i.e. cat, dog, bat).
The Price is Right (Beginner +)
- Divide students into teams and tell them they will work together to guess the price of items you show on a PowerPoint. Instruct them to whisper so the other teams can’t hear their deliberations. After about 30 seconds, the team must write their guess on a piece of paper and cannot change their answer.
- Give an example, by showing an item and asking the teams to guess the price. The teams closest to the price get to guess again. The team that correctly guesses, or is the closest to the real price, wins a point.
TIP: Use pictures of fun/outrageous items to make the game more engaging.
Pictionary (Beginner +)
- Place students in teams; one student from each team will receive a word. They must draw the word on the board and get their teammates to guess.
- Set a timer for one minute. If the team guesses correctly within that time, give the student at the board a new word. The team wins a point for each word they correctly guess.
Red light! Green light! Yellow light! (Beginner +)
- Choose one student to be the traffic light and one to be the traffic cop.
- The “traffic light” will call out commands to the class (e.g., Green Light! Yellow Light!)
- When it’s a green light, students can skip and run around freely. When it’s a yellow light, students must walk only, but they have to be careful because if the traffic cop tags them, they’re out. The traffic cop can also tag them if they are caught moving during a red light.
Hot Seat (Intermediate +)
- Break the class into two teams.
- Place two chairs at the front of the class, facing away from the board or PowerPoint screen.
- One student from each team should come sit in the chair.
- Write on the board or show a vocabulary word on Powerpoint.
- The teams have 30 seconds to give their teammates clues to correctly guess the word.
TIP: Students tend to get very excited playing this game, especially when you use fun words. Ensure students are giving verbal clues only (no miming) in English.
Jeopardy (Intermediate +)
- Create a jeopardy board (either PowerPoint or draw on board) with categories/topics you’ve taught.
- Place students in teams; have them do rock, paper, scissors to determine which team goes first. This team will then select a category.
- If the team answers correctly, they earn a point. If not, the other teams can guess to win the points for that question.
- Alternatively, you can have one student from each team take turns to represent their teams. After a category is selected, students will use their buzzer when they have the answer.
Mad Libs (Advanced)
- Find or create your own Mad Libs and create separate sheets with a list of the types of words needed for each Mad Lib (example: adverb, adjective, noun).
- Label these sheets in some way so you know which word list belongs with each Mad Lib.
- Place students in groups and pass out the word lists; don’t tell them what the lists are for, as it’s more fun this way. Encourage students to be creative.
- After about 10 minutes, collect the word lists and then pass out a Mad Lib to each group along with the word list for that story (each group will get a different group’s word list).
- Instruct students to plug the words into the blank spaces and have one student from each group read their Mad Lib aloud.
Story Writing (Advanced)
- Pass around four pieces of paper with one sentence on each one. Start the papers with four different students in different areas of the classroom.
- Instruct students to write two to three sentences on each paper and to be as creative as possible.
- After each student has contributed to each story, elicit volunteers to read each story aloud.
- Create Taboo cards in advance. Each card should have a word on top that students will need to describe to their teammates. Beneath the word will be a list of “taboo” words that the student cannot use in his/her description.
- Place students in groups and give each group a deck of Taboo cards. They should not look at any of the cards. Within each group, create two groups—so if you have a group of four, one pair is a team competing against the other pair.
- Set a timer for one minute, and shout, “Go!” One student will pick up a card and try to get his/her partner to guess the word or phrase without using any of the taboo words. One student from the opposing team will be the “watcher” and look over the shoulder of the student with the card to ensure s/he doesn’t say any of the taboo words.
- If the student says a taboo word, the watcher can call him/her out and the student must draw another card. Give the watcher a buzzer or whistle, if possible.
- If the teammate guesses correctly, that team gets a point, and the student can pick up another card to try and earn another point before the time is up. Students can skip to a new card if they don’t think their partners will guess the word in time.
- Write a riddle on the board and see if students can guess the answer.
- Start with simple riddles and progress to more complicated ones.
- Mary’s father has five daughters – Nancy, Nellie, Nina, Nona. What is the fifth daughter’s name? [Mary!]
- What starts with ‘p,’ ends with ‘e,’ and has millions of letters? [The Post Office]
- I’m tall when I’m young and short when I’m old. What am I? [A candle]
- What travels around the world, but stays in one spot? [A stamp]
- What occurs once in a minute, twice in a moment, and never in one thousand years? [The letter M]
Guess the Definition (Advanced)
- Place students in groups and give each group a fun-sounding English word they don’t know.
- All of the group members must come up with a definition for the word and use it in a sentence.
- After a minute or so, the group must share their definitions and vote to decide which they think is the best/most accurate.
- Do this two or three times, so each group comes up with a few definitions for a few different weird words.
- Then go over as a class and have the class vote on whether or not they think a definition is correct. Reveal the correct definitions at the end.
- Pick six students; tell them they are suspects in a crime and that you are going to tell them if they are innocent or guilty. Instruct them not to tell anyone, not even the classmate they are going to be paired with. Choose one of these students to be the criminal. In the ears of the others, whisper that they are innocent. Then put them in pairs and instruct them to wait outside the classroom.
- Tell the remaining students about a crime—don’t provide too much detail (Example: a girl was kidnapped from a park yesterday afternoon). Tell them that they will have an opportunity to interview the suspects and to write a list of questions.
- While the class is working on questions, go out to the pairs and tell them they must come up with an alibi with their partner. They should whisper and come up with a story about what they were doing yesterday. Tell them the object of the game is to not be accused.
- Once the pairs have their stories, bring one pair in at a time to answer questions. After a couple minutes, bring another pair in. Then have one student from each pair come in alone so the class can try and poke holes in their alibi.
- After the class has interviewed all the suspects, they must decide which student is guilty.
- The student accused should reveal whether or not s/he was innocent.