What is the most important reason for using games in the ESL classroom? The most important reason to use ESL games is to help your students learn.

That's the short answer.

There are many different kinds of games and activities, but the best ones will help your students learn. There are games for teaching phonics, numbers, vocabulary, sentences and Q&A (conversation) and many others.


In the video here you will find a sample of 3 games and activities that I made while teaching in Korea. The first game for warm up is called Categramble. The second one for sentences is called Whispers. And the final one is a listening activity called One hand, two hands.

It depends on how you use the game.

A game is also used for the most part to get your students to practice the language.

To learn anything you need repetition. It's the same for learning a language. A good game or activity can take the monotony out of the repetition. If you use it too early before they have had any introduction to the language then it probably won't work well.

If they don't understand what they are saying or their level of speaking is less than 50% then maybe you need to back up.

If you make your students suffer through a long boring rote class then before you get to the game or activity you will probably start having problems. Also don't bait students with a game. Never say if you do "X" then we will play a game.

If your students aren't interested then they won't learn. Games and activities are fun and if you can make learning enjoyable then every one can win.

A game should have a purpose beyond being just fun.

There are certainly games that are fun, but your job is to teach them English.

So you should ask yourself...

Is the game that you are using helping them to learn the language? Because if not then you need to either use another game, change the way you are using it or learn more about how to teach.

A good game is efficient.

What does that mean?

It means the best games and activities will not waste time setting them up (in-class) or waste time between when students take turns. It's important that everyone gets involved and you don't have students sitting around doing nothing for minutes.

What are the worst ESL games?

I did a search a search for "best ESL games" recently and I saw a few sites recommending hangman. It's possible there may be a variation of it that I don't know, but...

Traditionally hangman is very low effort game that rarely captures your classes full attention. Usually just a few students will get involved and the rest will just passively watch as the clock ticks. But it's just a guessing and spelling game for the most part. It's not efficient.

It's a time wasting game.


_ _ r _ _ g 

Now try to guess...

The point is that students don't practice much when they use this game. Some students will just sit there and do nothing and another may just blurt out "A, B, C, D, E, F, G..."

It's just spelling and guessing. The skill that you usually want to emphasize is speaking because most of your students will be lower-intermediate level. If you have ever traveled or lived abroad you should know that the language you want to learn first is how to speak.

Writing, spelling, and reading are less important. And in my experience teaching in Asia most language schools want you to focus on speaking too. You're a native speaker and part of the reason why they want you is for your accent and pronunciation.

Other poor games include bingo and tic tac toe. 

I would forget what you already know

Hangman, bingo and tic tac toe might be games you already know, but I would learn some new activities and teaching techniques that are more specialized and suitable.

Again the most important reason to use games in your classroom is to help your students learn. And if they are not learning then either you need further training on how to teach or you need to change what activities you are using or how you are using them.