Concise ESL Games

compiled and condensed by David Cherry

These games represent the most common and simple generic activity types from various ESL websites.

Contents:

1. Bag Game
2. Ball Game
3. Battleship
4. Bingo
5. Board Game
6. Card Game
7. Charades, Pictionary, Skits and Stories
8. Flyswatter
9. Hangman
10. Opinion Survey and Debate
11. Personal Info
12. Priorities
13. Rock, Scissors, Paper
14. Role Playing Games
15. Tic-Tac-Toe
16. Word Association


1. Bag Game
Pass around a bag that contains coloured or numbered items that stand for different categories of questions. When the music stops, the student left holding the bag has to answer a question correctly or he is out.

2. Ball Game
Have students pass around a ball or other object. When a student receives it, he must answer a question to score a point and pass it on.

3. Battleship
Make two teams and give them a sheet of paper with two grids, Grid 1 and Grid 2, with columns labeled with letters and rows labeled with numbers. Each team hides 10 words in Grid 1, and uses Grid 2 to keep track of successful hits on the other team's grid coordinates. When the coordinates for a complete word are called out, the word is destroyed.

4. Bingo
Put pictures on Bingo cards. Give hints so students can recognize which squares to mark. If a student can answer a question, they can mark their card.

5. Board Game
Create a game board with a start and finish. In each box write a question. When a student rolls the dice and lands on that square, he has to answer a question.

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6. Card Game
One student asks three questions to guess what is on another student's card. If he guesses correctly, he keeps the card. The student who collects the most cards wins.

7. Charades, Pictionary, Skits and Stories
Give the students a prompt to play charades, draw a picture, do a skit, write a story or news article, sing a song, make a prediction, or explain what they would do in various situations. Prompts might be texts, photos, cards, the beginings of stories, scenarios, proverbs, urban legends, whispered statements, props, product ideas, or movie titles.

8. Flyswatter
Put pictures on the board. Give hints so students can recognize which squares to hit with a flyswatter to get points.

9. Hangman
Have students guess the letters in a word. Each time the students make a mistake, draw another part of a stick man under a hangman's noose. The student who can guess the word or the final letter before the stick man is completed wins. Give clues to elicit definitions, collocations, parts of speech, tenses or topical word lists.

10. Opinion Survey and Debate
Take a survey about a harmless topic and have students guess what the most popular responses were. Then divide the class into groups to debate the topic.

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11. Personal Info
Have the students write facts about themselves. Each fact is read aloud, and the class guesses who wrote it. Or have students write things that they would like to be, do or have in 5-10 years, and the class guesses who wrote it. Or have students write two true texts and one false text about themselves, and the class guesses which are true, and which one is false.

12. Priorities
Have the students imagine being on an island with a bag of items that they need for survival: a pencil, a radio, a knife and fork, a metal bowl, a towel, a sewing kit, a camera, a can of gasoline, a map of the world, a box of matches, a toothbrush, a mirror, a novel, some antiseptic ointment, a compass, a magnifying glass, an axe, a rope a cuddly toy, and a jar of chillis. Have the students work alone or in groups to prioritize these items and explain why. Write the lists on the board, and discuss similarities and differences. Or have students guess prices or bid on items, pictures, cards, words, or letters that are needed for an assigned task. Or have students imagine a space mission that requires items or people to be prioritized. Or give students a topic, such as occupations or animals, and have students explain who or what would win a smackdown fight.

13. Rock, Scissors, Paper
Students use their hands to make rock, scissors, or paper. Rock breaks scissors, scissors cut paper, paper covers rock. Flash cards can be used in a similar way for students to trump each others’ cards.

14. Role Playing Games

Students are given a role in a scenario, and everyone writes down questions to ask so they can identify the other people in the scenario. Or have one student play the part of a journalist who interviews the other student about a scenario. The journalist has to find out what happened by asking 20 questions and present the scenario in the form of a news story. Or have students walk around and ask questions. If a student is a “killer,” he answers the question and winks at the other student. If a student is “killed,” he becomes a killer too. The student who questioned the most people without being killed wins.

15. Tic-Tac-Toe
Write words or categories in the Tic-Tac-Toe squares. Have students answer a question before they can mark the square. Try using small balls of wet tissue paper to throw at the board to select squares.

16. Word Association
Divide the class into three teams. Offer 10 categories. Pick a category and pick a letter. The students have two minutes to come up with words in that category that start with that letter. If two teams write down the same word, nobody gets a point. The team with the longest list wins.

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