ESL games and activities are a necessity and all of these games and activities are especially effective for teaching English in the classroom. Not only are these activities fun, but they are educational and efficient. Most of them also require very little to no prep. You'll certainly find more games and activities on the site that are effective as well, but if you're just starting out as a TEFL/TESL teacher these are great games and activities to learn.

These games and activities will work well with elementary children and older. Many would work well with adolescents and adults, however I wouldn't use game number 2 with them.

You can watch these games on video in the playlist below and/or read how to do them below.

1. Sprite

This is a simple, fun and educational activity that works well with beginners+. It is for practicing vocabulary. In it students get to practice speaking, writing and listening. You can watch it here.

  • Divide your class into two teams. For large classes you can have more teams, but you probably do not want any more than 4 or 5 groups as students will need to write on the board next to one another.
  • Say a vocab word from your lesson
  • Have a student from each team race up to the board to write and say the word
  • Have the other students help them spell
  • The first one to write and say the word correctly gets a point (+1) for their team
  • Make sure the loser also writes and says it correctly
  • Say another word and have a new set of students race up
  • Continue

2. Paper, Scissors, Stone!

A simple, fun and an efficient tool for doing some repetition to practice proper pronunciation and speaking in sentences. It works well with children who are at the beginner-intermediate level. You can watch it here.

  • Divide your class into two teams.
  • Write on the board +or-1/+or-5/+or-10
  • Use a Q&A from your lesson/textbook, like, "Who is he? He is a firefighter."
  • Select two students
  • Have them formulate a sentence or Q&A
  • Give the fastest one to say it correctly a choice of either 1, 5, or 10
  • Make sure both say it correctly
  • After the student selects the number do Paper, Scissors, Stone!
  • If they win they get + if they lose they get -
  • Continue

For large classes greater than 15 students or so you can divide them into groups with about 5 students in a group or so. In this case the group will become the individual, meaning instead of having one student from each team speaking we will have two groups speaking and competing against one another. Make sure all the students speak in the group and if not you can give it to the team where everyone speaks. Then just pick a student on the team to pick a number 1, 5, or 10 and continue.

3. Pass the Marker

This is a very efficient vocabulary activity where students get to also practice, speaking, writing, and listening. This activity works well with beginners-advanced students and it can work well with large classes as well. You can watch it here.

  • Divide your class into two teams and into two lines standing facing the board
  • Hand a marker to each student at the front of the line
  • Say a vocab word from your lesson and say "Go"
  • Each student says the word while at the same time passing the marker down the line
  • The last students run up to the board to write and say it
  • Give a point to the first one to say it and write it correctly
  • They then go to the front of the line
  • Continue

For large classes you can divide your ESL students into more than two lines. Due to space I probably wouldn't have any more than 4 lines. This activity goes pretty fast so you put 10 people or so in one line. If someone doesn't speak then you can have them pass the marker back.

ESL students doing an activity

4. Make a Sentence

This activity for forming and speaking in sentences works well with groups and large classes. It works with beginners-advanced. It does take some time to prepare, but you will find that it's especially engaging. You can watch it here.

  • Take a bunch of A4 paper and cut it up into fourths or eighths
  • You'll need a set for each group in your class. Each group should be no more than five people.
  • Use a basic sentence from your lesson with different possibilities. For example, "She/He _____ (hobby) on Fridays." The hobby could be like "plays basketball, plays the piano, rides a bike, etc.". You'll need to write only one word from each sentence on a piece of paper. So the basic sentence structure plus the different hobbies.
  • Mix up the different words on a desk
  • Say a sentence and the students in each group race to put the sentences together
  • Have them raise their hands when they have finished
  • Have the group say it together
  • Continue and give them a new variation of the sentence

For large classes you will need a set for each group. If needed you can create one and then photocopy them and cut them out. Alternatively you can hand the paper to each group and tell them what to write on each piece. This would save you time.

5. Comics I

I found this writing activity to work well with adolescents and intermediates+ as they get to write it as they see it. Writing comics from scratch is another option, but I found that it didn't work well with all students. This one is more simple. You can watch it here.

  • Find a comic strip and photocopy it
  • Whiteout the text in it
  • Copy it again
  • Make a copy for all of your students
  • Hand them out
  • Have them write their own story by filling in the bubbles with their words
  • You can have them write it in a specific tense or it could be a free activity

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