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You just found the best site for learning how to use ESL games and activities in your classroom.

Not only are these activities fun, but they are also good for learning and efficient. Most of them also require very little to no prep.

These are not stupid time wasting games like Bingo or Hangman like I saw on some other site that claimed to have the "best" games and activities.


Those games are very inefficient and boring. They are not good for learning.

Good games and activities for TEFL use multiple skills at once (and often emphasize speaking). They are also efficient. That means they are fast and little time is lost waiting around or for students to take turns. They are active.

The purpose of using a game most of the time is to get your students to practice the language. To help them learn.

Here I will show you why ESLinsider is the best site you will find for learning activities on how to teach English (especially to kids) online. Finally I'll let you know the 3 ways how you can help support ESLinsider at the end of this article. 

Warm-up Activities & Icebreakers

   How-to videos -> Warm-up Activities & Icebreakers

These work well for warming up your class or icebreakers can be used on the first day. I want to show you why my site is awesome;-).

Compare the layout of the first 3 examples in the beginning here.

1. Word chain

This warm-up activity works well with children. In my years teaching abroad it is probably the activity I used the most for warm up. Who doesn't like tossing a ball around?

So to do it... Get a ball or a soft die. Have your students stand up and then pass the ball to a student and give them a letter ("T"). That student gives you a word that begins with that letter ("Time"). They pass the ball back to you. Then pass the ball to the next student. Take the last letter from that word ("e").

Pass the ball and give the next student that letter. Continue.

That's example 1 on how many sites out there will teach you. It's not that easy to follow and there is no visual. I'll try to make the next one a little easier.

2. Categramble

This can work well as an icebreaker or as a warm up activity. It tends to work well with intermediate to higher level students. Come up with a list of different ways of grouping people together. You can really come up with some odd things that most people never think about. It's interesting!

Come up with a list of different ways of grouping people together.

  • Have your class stand and gather around an open area on the floor.

Here are some ideas for grouping your students together:

  • clasp your hands together
  • cross your arms
  • what leg do you put in first when putting your pants on
  • if you were born in the summer, winter, spring, or fall
  • whether you prefer to eat: pizza, chicken, hamburgers, or vegetarian
  • whether you were born in the morning, afternoon, or evening
  • whether you prefer basketball, skiing, martial arts, or tennis
  • if your favorite color is red, blue, orange or green, etc.

Then divide your students and send them to the appropriate area in the room. So if you're "right handed" come over here and if you're "left handed" go over there. 

So was example 2 any easier to follow than the first? But still no visual. Humans are visual creatures. Research shows that you need visuals to learn faster and better. Now I'll give you some visuals.

3. Line up 

Elementary Children-Adults, Beginners+



  1. Come up with three questions (perhaps two basic questions and one more interesting question)
  2. Write your questions on the board
  3. Have your students form two lines facing each other
  4. Say "go" and have the students begin asking the person opposite them the questions
  5. After some time or when the first student has asked the three questions say "switch"
  6. One line stays still while the other moves down one
  7. Continue

The basic questions used here are:

  • What's your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • Who would you most like to eat dinner with?

So which was better? Example 1, 2, or 3?

If you are like most of us then you learn better with visuals and "Line up" (example 3) is the best example of instruction that you will find on ESLinsider.

4. Teacher says

Kindergarten-Early Elementary, Beginners

Teacher says is one of the more popular ESL games for kids.


It can be used for warm-up, to teach body parts, or actions like walk, stand, sit, open your book, etc. You need to create a list of commands or actions and then:

  1. Have your students stand up
  2. Say "Teacher says _____ (command)" or "_____ (command)"
  3. Read more.

Vocabulary Games & Activities

   How-to videos -> Vocabulary games

These games and activities work well when teaching vocabulary and phrases.

5. Sprite

Elementary Children-Adults

This is a writing activity for teaching vocabulary to children


This is a fun and efficient activity that can be used when teaching and practicing vocabulary words. Students get the chance to practice the four skills; writing, reading, listening and speaking.

To do this activity:

  • Divide your class into two or more teams depending on the size of the class
  • Say a vocabulary word from your lesson
  • One student from each team races up to the board to write it
  • After they write it they say it
  • The first student to say it and write it correctly gets a point for their team
  • The other students seated can help them spell it correctly
  • Make sure that they correct any mistakes before sitting down

You could also have them draw a picture of the word as well as write it.

6. Pass the marker

Elementary Children-Adults


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.

  • 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"
  • Read more.

7. Charades

Elementary Children-Adults

Charades is popular and it can work with most levels of students. It is a miming activity. Action words and phrases work best.

  • Pick a word or phrase, for example, "play basketball"
  • Pretend to play basketball without speaking
  • Read more.

Activities for Teaching Sentences & Q&A

   How-to videos -> Sentence and Q&A games

These games and activities work well when you are teaching sentences and Q&A.

8. Paper, scissors, stone!

Elementary Children+

This is a simple, fun and an efficient tool for doing some repetition to practice proper pronunciation and speaking in sentences. It requires no prep. It works well with children who are at the beginner-intermediate level.

  • 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 heHe is a firefighter."
  • Read more.
ESL students doing an activity

9. Make a sentence

Elementary Children-Adults

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

  • 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.
  • Read more.

10. Whispers


This is a popular and simple activity that can be used to practice sentences.


To do this:

  • Divide your class into two different teams. It's easier if they form lines.
  • Take a sentence from your lesson
  • Have your students stand
  • Read more.

Passive Activities

   How-to videos -> Passive activities

Passive activities are often individualized activities where the student gets to mostly work by him/herself.

11. Comics



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.

12. Essay Writing

Intermediate Elementary-Adolescent

They're also good for the teacher because they tend to bring quiet time to the classroom! It is a writing and drawing activity.


There are a few ways that you can do this activity. The first and simplest way is to create a list of questions and have your students answer them.

I like to create a piece of paper with a space on top to draw and lines below where they can write. Here are some example questions. You can adjust these to suit their level or age.

Phonics Activities

   How-to videos -> Phonics activities

These activities work well for when you are teaching phonics.

13. Tongue twisters

Learn how to teach phonics with "Tongue Twisters".


Tongue twisters are an excellent way for language learners to practice pronunciation and phonics.

Many student books for teaching phonics will have tongue twisters already in them. However, they can be easy to make on your own.

  • Create 3 different tongue twisters using whatever phonics you are teaching them on that day.
  • Write them on the board.

Here's an example. Let's say that we are teaching them the sound "SL". Create a tongue twister using those letters like, "Slade is sliding slowly on the slippery slope." Create two or so more different tongue twisters using different phonemes.

  • After you have written them on the board, select a student.
  • Say a phoneme or sound (not the letters).
  • Have the student circle the words that contain those letters.
  • Continue


Help! Can you help support ESLinsider?

1. If you want to transform your teaching take this course

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Donate and send me an email. ESLinsider needs your support and if you donate over $10 I'll throw in an ebook of your choice.

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