Learning English doesn’t have to be dull! If you need a break from workbook exercises and reading comprehension, get together with some friends or classmates to try these eight fun ESL games.
Taboo is a popular American board game you can easily play with only a whiteboard and marker or pens and paper. This vocabulary-building game requires players to get into teams of two.
To start, players on one team come up with an English word. They will either write this word on a piece of paper and hand it to one member of the other team or write it on the whiteboard so only one member of the other team can see it. It’s the job of the person who can’t see the word to guess what it is based on what their partner tells them.
Their partner can’t point to objects, mime the word, or use variations of the word. If the partner who can’t see the word is able to guess it within a set time period (usually thirty or sixty seconds), their team gets a point.
Divide your group into two teams for this fun revision game. You’ll need either a whiteboard or pens and paper.
First, each team selects a player to go first (everyone will have a turn). Then, the two teams must agree on a category. Recent lessons from your ESL classroom, such as household vocabulary or business vocabulary, make good categories and will give you a great way to reinforce what you’ve learned.
The two teams agree upon a time period, such as sixty seconds, and designate a team member to be the timekeeper. When the time starts, the first two players must write down as many words related to the category as they can think of (and they can’t look at the other player’s words). At the end of the round, players are awarded points for each word—but only if the words are legible and spelled correctly.
Round the Board
This is a variation on Board Race that can also be played with two teams of any number using a whiteboard or pens and paper.
Just like with Board Race, teams come up with a category and name two players to go first. Rather than being able to write any words related to the category, however, players must try to come up with one related word for each letter of the alphabet. This creates an additional challenge and forces players to get creative.
This is a classic English parlor game that works well for language learners who want to get better at writing. All you’ll need is a group of people (the larger the better), writing utensils for everyone, and one piece of paper.
Players should sit in a circle if possible. The group chooses one person to go first, and that person writes the first sentence of a story on the sheet of paper. That person passes the paper to the person on their left, who writes a second sentence that fits with the first one. Players should challenge themselves to keep verb tenses consistent. The second player folds over the top of the paper so the first sentence is hidden but the second sentence is visible. The game continues like this, with only the most recent sentence being visible, until everyone has contributed a sentence. Unfold the paper, and have someone read the resulting story aloud.
Who Am I?
This game works best for four to ten players and requires pens and sticky notes. Players should arrange themselves in a circle.
At the beginning of the game, each player must secretly write the name of a well-known celebrity or fictional character on a sticky note and put the sticky note on the forehead of the player to their left. Everyone should have a sticky note with a name on their forehead but should not be able to see the name.
Next, players go around the circle and take turns asking yes-or-no questions about their names (e.g., “Am I a living person?” “Do I have blond hair?”). The other players must answer honestly but can’t say more than yes or no. All players get to ask one question on each turn, and the goal is to be the first person to guess their name.
This game works best in large spaces, like an empty classroom or a park, and requires players to get into teams of two. The only supplies you need are a blindfold and furniture or other items to use as obstacles.
One person will need to set up the obstacle course by rearranging furniture in a classroom or choosing another space that has natural obstacles (but no really dangerous hazards). That person should also mark a start and finish for the obstacle course. Teams can take turns walking through the course with one person blindfolded and the other person guiding them only by giving verbal instructions. This game is good for practicing prepositions like “up,” “down,” “over,” and “under.”
Two Truths and a Lie
If you’re meeting a new group of ESL students, introduce this game as an icebreaker. Everyone will need a scrap of paper and a writing utensil.
This game is incredibly simple but provides good practice for writing in English. Each person must write down three “facts” about themselves, two that are true and one that is made up. Everyone will have a turn to read their three facts, and the other players must guess which one is the lie.
Dreams and Interpretations
This game can be played with large groups or as few as two players, but there should be an even number of people. No supplies are needed, although players can choose to write down notes if they want.
After dividing into teams of two, players in each team should decide who will be the patient and who will be the psychiatrist. The patient will then think of a dream (either one that they actually remember or one that they’ve made up) and explain their dream to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will then tell the patient what their dream means. Encourage the other players to get creative; the game works best with bizarre or funny dreams and interpretations.
If you’ve enjoyed the fun ESL games described above, share this guide with a friend!