eslinsider5 logo


ESL games and activities are an important part of your lesson, especially if you're teaching children. If used properly they will help facilitate language learning and make your job easier and more fun.

"Games should not be described as being marginal activities, filling in odd moments when the class and teacher have nothing better to do. Certainly there are such games, but on the whole the games described here should be central to the teaching program" - W R Lee

In this article I'll point out some different kinds of ESL games and activities with examples and show you how they can be used.

1. Warm-up & Icebreakers

These kinds of games can be used in the beginning of your lesson to warm-up your students or to break the ice. A warm-up activity can typically be used in any class to warm-up your students and to prepare them for the lesson.

An icebreaker works well at getting a group of students (who are new and unfamiliar with each other) comfortable.

2. Content Games and Activities

These kinds of games and activities can be used with the content from your lesson. These include ESL classroom games and activities for practicing:

These games can further be broken down into games and activities incorporating:


Many of the above ESL games and activities combine two or more of these elements.

3. Games for Games Sake

These games may be fun, but they aren't very educational. These games are o.k for a game day or when used occasionally. These are games like Hangman or Musical Chairs.

So how do you use ESL games in the classroom?

Aside from using warm-up activities and icebreakers to make your students more attentive and comfortable, games are not usually used in the first part of your lesson. Typically one must first present the material to the students. This is a basic part of lesson planning. Then the activity or game is used for further repetition and practice.

For example, let's say you're teaching some new vocabulary. First you may show your students some flashcards. Which might have a picture of an animal on it with the word written below it. You'd show it to your students, say "lion" and have everybody repeat 2-3 times. Then you might call on students individually to say what it is. You would continue this process for 5 or 6 new words.

Next you would introduce a game or activity for further practice and repetition. It depends on the activity, but the majority can last from 5-15 minutes at the most. Games and activities make repetition more fun and much less monotonous. So the game isn't a diversion. It's part of the lesson.