Games for TEFL TESL, ESL classrooms

Simple educational games that can be used in the ESL classroom.

Headmaster Game

Level: Medium to Difficult
Have each student take out a piece of paper and their dictionary. Write on the board:
You are the new headmaster of this school. You have two years to make this the perfect school. You can have as much money as you want, but you must spend it all in 2 years.
  • What changes would you make immediately?
  • What changes must be gradual?
  • What would you do to make it a better school?
  • What changes would you make?
Be specific. For example, don't say hire better teachers. You must say how you would find better teachers or what kind of teachers you would hire. Also, remember you must think like a headmaster, not like a student! Making school easy and letting the students do no exams or homework will not make parents happy!
Give the students 15 minutes to work alone. Then put them in groups of 3-5 with a leader to organize their thoughts. Each group's leader will give its "report" to the other students during the following class period.
If your students have a small vocabulary you can help them out by listing on the blackboard areas of discussion: teachers, buildings, classrooms, activities, dorms, lunchrooms,curriculum, sports, playground, library, bathrooms,schedules,music, art,etc.
This is a great activity for all ages. We always run out of time!

Can You Find What Is Different?

Level: Easy
Ask a volunteer to go out of the classroom. While the student is out of the room, the other students change their sweaters, shoes, coats and so on. Bring the student who went out of the classroom back inside. He/she has to guess the differences (speaking in English, of course.)

Guess the Letter on Your Back

Level: Easy
This game is used to practice the alphabet. Divide students into groups and ask them to stand in line and give the students in the front of the line a piece of chalk to write on the blackboard. Then write with your finger a letter on the back of the students at the end of the line. They must do the same with the student in front of him/her and so on. The students with the chalk try to guess the letter and write any word that begins with that letter on the board.

Fold-over Stories

Level: Any
This is an old favorite. Give each student a sheet of blank paper. Write the following words on the board in a vertical line: WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHERE, WHEN, WHY. Explain that everyone will be writing a sentence story. Write an example on the board, explain, asking for suggestions.
  1. Tell them to write someone's name at the top of their paper, i.e., their own, a classmate's, the teacher's, a famous person that everyone knows; fold the paper over once so no one can see it, then pass the paper to the person on their right.
  2. Write on the received paper what the subject did (suggest funny or outrageous actions), fold it over and pass it on to the right.
  3. Continue to write one line, how they did it (adverbs), fold and pass; where-pass; when-pass; and last of all, why (because...) and pass it one more time.
  4. Have the students unfold their stories, and read them silently. Help anyone who cannot read what the others wrote, or doesn't understand.
  5. Ask one student at a time to read "their" story aloud, or turn the stories in for the teacher to read. Funny!


Level: Medium
  • Write down names of every student in your class on pieces of paper.
  • Give the names to students. Try to make two students describe each other.
  • Ask them to describe the person whose name is on the paper.
  • After they finish, give the description to the person who is described. He/she has to find any writing mistakes on the paper.
  • Students work in pairs to correct the two papers.

Guessing the Word from a Drawing

Level: Any
  • Ask one student to be in front of the class. Give him/her a word that can not be seen by other students.
  • He/she will draw (on the blackboard) a picture expressing the concept of the word.
  • The rest of the class have to guess the word.
  • If you are keeping score, the one who drew the picture gets the point if the class can guess the word.

Reviewing Tenses

Level: Any
  • Print out three sentences (negative, positive, and question) of the tense you want to review.
  • Cut each sentence into words.
The Activity:
  • Students work in groups.
  • Give each group of students words of a sentence and ask them to make the sentence.
  • Draw a table on the board and ask students to tick sentences at suitable positiions, positive, negative, or question.
  • Ask students to make rules of the tense.
  • Three Sentences:
    • I am a student.
    • I am not a student.
    • Are you a student?
  • The Rules:
    • TO BE at the present simple
      I am a student.
    • Positive: S + am/is/are + O.
      I am not a student.
    • Negative: S + am/is/are + not + O.
      Are you a student?
    • Question: (Ques words) + am/ is /are + S + O?

Find Parts of Speech of Words in a Sentence

Level: Any
  • Prepaire cards with parts of speech. Give these to your students.
  • Write the sentences on the board.
  • Ask your studnets to find parts of speech of words in the sentences.
  • You can divide the class into teams to make the games more fun.
Example: Your sentence:
I        WENT       TO       SCHOOL   YESTERDAY. 
pronoun   verb   preposition    noun     noun

Think Fast

Level: Any
A game for revision (review). It also works well for the last 5 minutes of class
The teacher prepares a list of items for revision e.g. word fields, grammar, facts. In class he/she explains the procedure. Three to five volunteers leave the classroom and wait till their turn has come. The teacher appoints a student to take the exact time and another to take down a tick for every correct answer. No repetitions! (Set up or negotiate rules on pronunciation.) Then the first player is called in.
  • Teacher: You have 20 second to name as many things as come to your mind.
  • Your topic: Parts of the body / London sights / plays by William Shakespeare / the places in a town / traffic signs / weekend shopping-list / etc.
  • Ready, steady, go
Once all volunteers have done their bit, award a small prize (e.g. a sticker) to the winner of the round. Then ask the class for additions before you pick the next item. Then pick the next item.
Allow more time (30 or 40 seconds) for longer answers: What have you done so far today? / What did you do last weekend? / School rules: What do students have to do? What are they not allowed to do? / etc.
If this game is played in groups, they should be evenly balanced.

Alphabet Liar Game

Level: Any
  • Take a pack of letter cards, mixed up. It is better if it is not a complete alphabet, and there are some duplicate cards.
  • Deal all the cards out to the players
  • Students take it in turns to play cards face down. They must go through the alphabet, starting from 'A', playing one card face down and saying the letters in Alphabetical order.
  • Even if they do not have the card to be played for that turn, they must play any card and pretend it is the card they said. Say the sequence has gone A,B. The next player must play a card and say C, even if he has not got an C.
  • If any player does not believe that someone has played the real card, he can say: "You're a liar" and turns the card over. If the card has the letter which was said, the challenger picks up all the cards. If it is not, the liar picks up all the cards in the pile. The winner is the first one to finish all their cards.

Survivor Spelling Game

Level: Any
Use this activity to review vocabulary:
Make a list of vocabulary covered in previous lessons. Have students stand. Call out a vocabulary word. The first student begins by saying the word and giving the first letter, the second student the second letter of the word, the third student the third letter, and so on until the word is spelled correctly. If somebody makes a mistake they must sit down and we start from the beginning again until the word is spelled correctly. The last student must then pronounce the word correctly and give a definition in order to stay standing. The student who is left standing is the "survivor" and wins the game. I usually give them some type of prize. If all the students remain standing we have a pizza party at the end of the week.
The students love it and it is a great way to practise vocabulary!!!

What's Your Name?

Level: Easy
One student sits in the front of the classroom (usually in the teacher's comfortable chair) with his back to the other students. The teacher then points to students in the class and asks "What's your name?" The student indicated must respond "My name is__________" with either his own name or the name of someone in the class. The student in the front cannot see who is speaking. The teacher says to him, "Is it___________?" and he must say "Yes, it is" or "No, it isn't". If the student in front is correct, he gets to stay there, but if he's mistaken, he changes place with the student who fooled him.
To make the game more interesting, the students are encouraged to disguise their voices.
I always do this with my beginners at the beginning of the year, but always at the end of the class, and for not more than 5 to 10 minutes. (My beginners are elementary age.)

Human Bingo - Getting to Know You Activity

Level: Any
Have the students divide an 8.5" x 11" paper into 9 squares (two vertical lines / two horizontal lines. The middle square is the "free" space. Next, put a list of 5 questions on the board (these can vary in difficulty). For example:
  1. What is your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. How long have you been in the USA?
  4. What is the strangest thing you have eaten here?
  5. (they make a question)
The students must then interview 8 different people in the class to fill in the bingo page. Each square on the paper represents one person's answers. When they have written all the answers from one person, they go on to someone else until all of the boxes on the paper are filled. When everyone has finished, the teacher uses the class list to call off names. For example, if the teacher says, "Who has Rodrigo?", the students who interviewed Rodrigo would then provide the answers he gave to the bingo questions. It's a fun game that gets students speaking right away. It usually takes a while to complete.

Ball Game

Level: Any
Students stand up in a circle around the teacher. A ball is tossed to a student and the teacher asks a question, e.g.: "Say a color". The student then responds and throws the ball back to the teacher.The teacher then throws the ball to another student and asks another question. For higher levels, you can ask such questions like "Give me the past participle of an irregular verb". This is a fast game, and it is great for reviewing vocabulary.

Getting to Know a Little More about Your Classmates

Level: Any
The teacher gives every student a piece of paper on which they write a sentence about their personal life. This sentence can be about school, family, music, friends, the last vacation, etc. For example "I went to the beach last vacation" or "I always study for my exams" or "I have two brothers" etc. When they finish writing their sentences they fold the paper and give it to the teacher.
It is very important to tell students before writing the sentence that the information they are going to write is "a secret" and not to show it to their classmates. If they have a question about something, they should ask it to you instead of a classmate. Tell students to write their names on the papers.
After collecting all the papers, ask the students to write the numbers from one to 10 (or 20, depending on the number of students you have in that moment in the classroom) in their notebooks. After that, the teacher reads the sentences in random order (without saying the name of the student), and the students write the names of the people they think wrote sentences.
After reading all the sentences, say the question number and read the sentence again for each piece of paper and ask the students to name who they thought wrote it.
Then tell the students the name from the student who wrote that sentence. Students should write (C) for correct guesses and (I) for incorrect guesses.
This is one way for studnets to start knowing a little more about their classmates.

Draw the Teacher

Level: Any
This game helps to teach children the names of facial parts.
Divide the class into two teams. Then draw 2 ovals shapes on the board. Then yell "Draw the teacher's eyes!" and the two leading students from each team run up and draw your eyes on the oval. Then yell "Nose!" which is drawn by the next two students. And so it goes. The student get a ball out of this as they have permission to make fun of their teacher, and your image can get to look pretty distorted. You can add other features, such as nose or ear hairs. This will also work if you want to do body parts as well. Just draw the basic torso instead of ovals.
If the kids are unsure as to which facial/body part you're talking about, just point to it.
At the end say both images look pretty good and call it a tie.
Another variation on this could be for naming parts of animals. The resulting picture would be a monster. i.e. peacock's tail, snake's head, elephant feet, bat's wings, etc.

Acting Adverbs

Level: Easy to Medium
This activity is a great way to introduce the idea of how adverbs affect the way a verb action is done. Divide the blackboard in two and write as many verbs on one side and as many adverbs on the other as you can (get the class to come up with them). At this stage you can also teach how adjectives 'turn into' adverbs by writing down adjectives e.g. angry, happy, and adding the 'ily'. Then divide the class into two teams and perhaps give them goofy team names (I find they enjoy giving each other names). Then get one team to choose a verb and adverb combination and the other team has to act it out, e.g. talk crazily.
My experience with this activity has been with younger learners where some kind of reward is offered at the end like stamps or being the first team to leave at the end of class. You can think of your own reward (or penalty) to motivate your class. It can be a lot of fun with both the actors and the 'directors' enjoying making fools out of themselves or watching others make fools of themselves.

Suppose That

Level: Easy to Medium
This works well as a fluency activity
  1. You are the black sheep of your family. Explain to us why.
  2. You won a motorcycle and you are planning to embark on a voyage. Explain where you go.
  3. You arrive face to face with a person who you owe 100 dollars to. What do you say?
  4. You help an old woman across the street. It turns out that she is a magician. To thank you, she offers you four wishes. What do you ask for?
  5. You arrive home at midnight, you open the door and ......

Cut-Up Sentence Kabadi

Level: Any
This is a combination of a basic TEFL game and the Indian game Kabadi.
Prepare some cut up sentences from the grammar or vocab area you've been working on and place them on a table at the front of the class. Arrange the students into teams, standing behind a line or marker. They have to run to the table and arrange the words into correct sentences, however, they are not allowed to breathe in. To prevent this the students have to repeat 'kabadi' over and over. If they stop saying the word they have to return to their teams. The first team to correctly arrange all their sentences is the winner. This can get a bit wild but it's fun.

Writing Idea

Level: Medium to Difficult
I asked my students to write in their daily journals what rules they would like to see implemented in our classroom and which rules they beleived would benefit our class the most. I then asked them to imagine how it would be if we had no rules in our class, in our school, and in the world. I asked them to weigh the pros and cons of this idea and write whether or not they would like to experience or live in this type of environment.

Spin Zone

Level: Any
Each set of partners receives a top. One learner says as many sentences or words in the target language as he can before the top stops spinning. His partner counts. The student who says the most words wins. We had fun letting the winners compete in "spin offs". I like to give stickers to all and candy to the winner!

Prepositions Game

Level: Medium to Difficult
Prepare a text that contains prepositions. Take out the propositions and print them on a separate sheet, then cut this sheet so that each preposition is on a piece of paper, then put all of them in an envelope . Divide the class into groups and give each group an envelope. Tell the students that you are going to read a text and whenever you raise your hand they should bring a suitable preposition and put it on your desk and that the fastest team would get points. Read the text with each groups' order and cancel a point for each mistake. Finally read the text with correct prepositions. You can play this game with adj as well as a,the and an.


Level: Medium to Difficult
Tell your class you are a Martian and you are inhabiting a human body to study human ways. You then ask about virtually anything in the room, and ask follow up questions:

What is this?
It's a pen.
What's a "pen"?
You use it to write.
What is "write"?
You make words with it on paper.
What are "words"?


You can make it as difficult as possible for your higher level students; at some point, though, you'll need to say "OK, I understand", and go to the next object. Even your best students will eventually get stuck on this one!

Punctuation Game

Level: Any
I came up with this game to help the students understand what the marks of punctuation are. Draw a period (.), a comma (,), a question mark (?), exclamation mark (!), and an apostrophe (') on the board and leave a few inches between each symbol. Tell the students the name of each and have them repeat each name. When they are comfortable with the names, begin by pointing to each one in succession. Once they are proficient at this, speed up the pace. This is where it gets fun. Once they are able to say the names in order, change the order on them. Speed up each time through to get the kids excited. As a final tactic, have each student go through the names of the symbols at a slow pace and then speed up. I give the one who can say the most right a piece of candy or a sticker. Have fun and you'll see a big improvement in their punctuation.

Good Morning Balls

Level: Any
  1. You have three different coloured balls, (they should be very light weight, Small balls).
  2. Get the class to make a circle.
  3. Then give three people a ball.
    • Red Ball - Good Morning
    • Green Ball- How are you?
    • Blue Ball - Fine thank you and you?
  4. The class members pass or gently throw the balls and the person who receives them says the meaning of the balls.

This is fun and gets the class going first thing in the morning.

Air Write

Level: Any
One person "writes" letters, words, numbers, shapes etc: in the air and others guess what it is. Can be done in pairs, as a group, along a chain.
Can also be played as back-write, that is, writing the letter/word/... on the back of another and they guess what it is.

Lost in a Jungle

Level: Medium to Difficult
This is a game suitable for a class of pre-intermediate and up. The game can be done in groups of three to six students. It keeps everyone involved even the quietest students.
The Teacher prepares a list of say 20 items and writes the list on the board or gives copies to groups. This is a list of things that people may need if they're lost in the jungle and things that they may not need.
For example:
  • A pack of canned food
  • 50 meters nylon rope
  • Knife
  • Torch
  • Tent
  • Cellular phone
  • 6 gallons of water
  • Petrol
  • Alcohol
  • Blankets
  • Candles
  • Matches
  • ...

Then, the students in groups decide on 5 items on the list which seem essential to all of them. This usually takes a whole session since they all come up with different ideas. Sometimes a creative student chooses an item apparently irrelevant, but when he/she explains how to use it, everyone agrees!

Intonation Fun

Level: Medium
Use this activity to underline the importance of intonation when your students, as they often do, talk like robots. Basically, get them to say the words in quotation marks in the contexts that follow.

to a friend
to a friend you haven't seen for 3 years
to a neighbour that you don't like
to a 6 month old baby
to someone you have just found doing something they shouldn't
to someone on the phone when you're not sure if they are still on the other end

to a member of your family as they are going through the boarding gate at the airport
to someone who has been annoying you
to a child starting his very first day at school

'How are you?'
to someone you haven't seen for 20 years
to someone who has recently lost a member of the family
to someone who didn't sleep in their own bed last night

'I never go to pubs'
by a person that totally disapproves of drinking alcohol to someone who often goes to pubs
as a response to someone who has told you they sometimes go to pubs
said before: '…but I quite like discos.'

'What have you done?'
to someone who claims to have fixed your television only that now it's worse than before
to someone who is scolding you for not doing anything when you suspect the same about them.
to someone who has just done something very bad and which has serious consequences

Truth or Lie?

Level: Any
This isn't really new. I got the idea from a book and have expanded on it a bit. It can be used at any level from pre-int. up. It can be used just for speaking practice but it's particularly useful if you're doing present perfect for past experiences. It works soooo well! The students just love it! Lots of question and past tense practice. Even the quiet ones will talk!
Based on a group of three (it can be done in pairs, or fours if you write some more questions), each student has a piece of paper with five questions on it (see below) and takes it in turns to ask the person on their left one of their questions. The student answering the question must answer 'Yes I have.' regardless of the truth. The student who asked the question can then ask as many further questions as he likes in order to help him decide whether the truth is being told or not. Obviously, sometimes they'll be telling the truth. The third student can also join in with questions, thereby 'ganging up' on student B. Listen how students fabricate stories in an attempt to avoid questions! When the first student feels he's heard enough he says 'No further questions' and writes 'True' or 'False' next to the question. The game then carries on (student B asks a question to student C and so on) When all the questions have been asked the papers are passed to the left for marking i.e. the truth is revealed. The highest score out of five wins.
This game will really open your eyes to people's ability to LIE.
Here are the questions. You can use different ones, obviously.

Have you ever…
spoken to a famous person?
danced on a table in a public place?
been trapped in a lift?
taken an illegal drug?
sung karaoke?

Have you ever…
appeared on television?
left a bar or restaurant without paying?
written graffiti on a wall?
appeared in a photograph in a newspaper?
chased a criminal?

Have you ever…
done a very dangerous sport?
won a medal or trophy?
missed a flight?
stayed in a five-star hotel?
swum naked in the sea?

A typical exchange might be something like:
- Have you ever swum naked in the sea?
- Yes I have.
- Where did you do it?
- Erm. On holiday in Majorca.
- Who were you with?
- Some friends.
- What were their names?
- Erm...etc.

Syllable Game

Level: Medium

Write a difficult word on the board for example

Then clap your hands while saying the word. Repeat as necessary.

Then ask them to count the claps in ACCOMMODATION. There are 5 hand claps. Get students to clap and say ACCOMMODATION.

Tell students these hand claps are called SYLLABLES and that every word breaks down into one or more syllables. Briefly practice saying "syllables."

On the board underneath ACCOMMODATION draw 5 medium sized boxes. Put the correct number underneath each box.

Clap and say the first syllable of ACCOMMODATION and ask your students which letters should go in box 1. They should say AC (some might say ACC.)Repeat this process until all of the letters are in the correct boxes. So now you should have

Box1 AC Box2 COM box3 MO Box4 DA Box5 TION

Then choral drill the letters like this.

Teacher: Which letters are in Box1?

Students: AC

Teacher: and in Box2?

Students: COM

Continue this until all 5 boxes (syllables) have been covered.

Then ask a student to give you the contents of BOX1 and 2. Then ask another to give you the contents of box 2 and 3. Then 3 and 4. then 4 and 5.

This gradual building of the word helps them not only to understand the rhythm and concept of syllables, but also helps them to fix the spelling in their minds.

Once they grasp the concept of syllables, Write some 3,2, single syllable words on the board and get the students to work out how many syllables the word has, and then get them to put the letters into the correct boxes


Level: Difficult
-for larger classes
Preparation: choose songs that are easy to understand and somewhat enjoyable.
1. Divide the students up into groups of 4-5 people.
2. Give each group a different song. Have them figure out all the words to the song. Make sure that not just one person is doing the work, but that it is a group effort.
3. Give them the entire class (one hour) to work on it. Next class, have them return to their groups to practice one time.
4. You then have the group as a whole, stand up and sing along with the recording.
-this is fun for the students if they all participate and work together.
-choose both popular and silly songs to keep their attention and interest

Getting To Know You

Level: Medium to Difficult
-for larger classes
1. Give each student an index card
2. Have the students pair up and write the name of their partner on their card.Give them five or six questions that they must ask each other such as:
-Where were you born?
-What is your favorite color and why?
-What did you dream last night?
3. Make sure that they write down the answers to these questions on their card. When they are done, have them each choose a new partner.
4. They will then tell their new partner about their old partner based on the questions answered. Each person will record this information on the other side on the index card (the index card is only to help them remember everything).
5. Once they have finished, they each stand up in front of the class and tell everyone what they learned about one of their classmates.
-this helps them to develop their communication skills and helps them get comfortable with speaking and interacting with all the students in the class

Extreme Situations

Level: Medium to Difficult
The point of this activity is to make difficult questions involving choosing a course of action in extreme situations.Usually This situations will involve feelings, prejudices, ethics,,etc.
Examples 1:
You are on a deserted island. There is a motor boat and you are the only one who knows how to drive it. It is up to you to decide which people of the following people you are going to take with you in the boat. There is space for only you and 3 more people.
Here they are:
  • a prostitute
  • a drug addict
  • a dying old man
  • a doctor convicted of malpractice
  • a child pornographer
  • a convicted criminal
  • (Note: You should adjust the list to suit the students in your class. Delete some if you find them offensive. Add others that you think would generate good discussion.)
Example 2:
You find a wallet with $50,000 and the ID of its owner. That money is exactly the amount of money you need to cover the expenses of a delicate operation for your daughter. She needs that operation to survive. What would you do with the money?
And you can create new extreme questions to challenge students to speak.

Spot the Difference

Level: Medium to Difficult
Divide the group in pairs.For this activity you get two apparently identical pictures.You can get this pictures in puzzle books or Internet. Give one of the pictures to a student an the counter-picture to his/her partner. Make the students sit far from his/her partner in order to describe the picture without looking at the counter picture. The point of the game is to detect the differences without using body language or looking at the partner's counter-picture. The team that finds all the differences first is the winner.
This activity is specially good for those students who are reluctant to speak.

Traffic Light Questions

Level: Any
This games works especially with adult students who are reluctant to speak about personal issues.
Prepare three cards (a green, a yellow, and a red one) with six questions each. The questions on the green card are easy and not personal, and the ones on the red card are more difficult and personal. Each student throws a dice twice. The first time is to decide upon the color of the card (1 or 2 = green card; 3 or 4 = yellow card; 5 or 6 = red card) and the second time is to choose the question.

Tell Me Why

Level: Medium to Difficult
The point of this game is to try to answer questions. We often take for granted many things but if we consider them carefully sometimes they are not necessarily logical.These questions are intended to make students speak. In most of the cases there are no "right" or "wrong" answers. Here are some examples:
If you're so WISE can you tell me WHY:
Some birds have wings but never FLY.
not all the monkeys have a tail BEHIND.
Leopards have spots and TIGERS STRIPES.
Grooms dress in black and BRIDES in WHITE.
People wave their hands when they say good BYE.
The ocean´s blue and so is the SKY.
Our EYES shed tears when we CRY.
We must WRITE letters from left to RIGHT.
Roosters crow in the mornings at six or FIVE.
People trhow RICE to the groom and BRIDE.
We strech and yawn when we feel so TIRED.
As you can see I repeated the /ai/sound to create a special sensation to the ears.These questions can also help you to teach pronunciation and intonation if you read them with the proper rhythm.

Four-Letter Words

Level: Any
This game has nothing to do with offensive words.I play it just for fun and the students like it a lot.You will be amazed to see how many different words can be generated from a single word!
1.-The teacher writes a four-letter word (not a bad word but word made up four letters)on the board.
For example:
The teacher writes on the board: TIME
2.-Students will take turns generating words from the first one.The idea is to change only one letter but generate a meaningful word.
3.-Any letter can be change.Only one at a time, but not on the same place consecutively.Example:
STUDENT2.- LIME (Wrong you should change any other letter but not on the same place consecutively).
The teacher has to limit the time the students take to write the words (may be 20 seconds). The students score a point for each meaningful word they write. If a student takes too much time he loses his turn. Finally the student who makes more points is the winner.

Memory Game (Long and Short Forms)

Level: Medium to Difficult
RULES: The same rules as the regular memory games(the only difference is they are going to match the long forms with the sort forms).
Foreign students sometimes do not realize there are many reductions in English. They feel frustrated when they are not able to understand spoken English. This is in part to because they are not aware of short forms. A way to help them is by showing same expressions in both short and long forms. Examples:
want to- wanna
going to-gonna
ought to-outta
a lot of- alotta
see you-seeya
got to-gotta
let me-lemmi
give me-gimmi
what have-wattav
I advise the teacher to read aloud the cards when the students pick them up in order to encourage them to repeat and learn them.

Spelling Review

Level: Medium
This activity will make students review spelling in a funny way. You can create similar spellings as the following ones:
I.1.2.C.U = I want to see you
R.U.O.K? = Are you O.k?
I´s T = Iced tea
I.C.Q = I seek you
I.O.U. = I owe you
E.Z. = Easy
B.Z. = Busy
I.1.T = I want tea
I.8 = I ate
U.2 = You two/ you too.
Y? = Why?
C.U.$$$.9 = See you at nine
2E.Z.4U = Too easy for you
R.U.D.Z? = Are you dizzy?
------ = I understand

Pronunciation Bingo

Level: Medium to Difficult
I came out with this idea while I was teaching pronunciation in Mexico. The idea is to make a bingo game contrasting the the pronunciation of nouns and verbs with the same spelling.(Use a stress mark (´)to show the students that nouns are stressed in the first syllable and verbs on the second).Examples:
When you name the cards let the students listen to the words but not look at them. This way they will be able to distinguish the difference.
The same can be done to teach minimal pairs.Examples:

Saved by the Bell

Level: Medium
I discovered this game while watching T.V. With some modifications the idea of the game is the same:
1.-Place a buzz or bell inside a waste basket(a clean one, of course).
2.-Get a light ball that fits into the basket.
3.-The student will make a shot with the ball.If the student scores the bell will ring(saved by the bell) , if the student fails a indiscreet question will have to be answered by him/her.
4.-In advance, prepare as many cards with indiscreet questions as possible. For example:
Have you ever cheated in a final test? Have you ever stolen something? Have you ever had two or more boy/girlfriends at the same time?Have you ever gotten a ticket? If so why?Have you ever had a nickname? If so, which one? etc,etc.
The point of this game is to practise asking and answering in a fun way. However, you have to be very careful with the questions you write on the cards!(some questions may be very offensive if you are not careful).

The Game of Truth

Level: Medium to Difficult
I learnt this game when I was chatting with a brazilian girl.It is a very simple but interactive game. As you know people always as the same questions in chats over and over again.What do you do? How old are you? etc. She asked me if I wanted to play THE GAME OF TRUTH. I say yes of course! Here are the rules:( I made some changes for the English classroom)
1.Make a lot of small cards with interesting topics written on them, such as: LOVE,JEALOUSY,PIRACY,MONEY,SMOKING,SEX,DINKING,CLONNING,BRIBING,FRIENDSHIP,DEATH PENALTY,PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT,FAMILY,etc,etc.Look for topics that make students speak.Sometimes even CONTROVERSIAL ones.
2.-Every student in the class will take turns in taking a card.He or she will talk a little about the topic in the card he or she selected. For example:
MONEY: for me money is very important , but is not the most important thing.It is only a way to reach things.Success is not measure by the money you can get,etc,etc.
3.-Allow student to express their feelings even if it is not their turn. Remember the main point of this game is to make students speak!However don´t lose the control of the class.
P.D.If you select very interesting topics I garantee everybody will try to answer the questions even when is not their own turn.This activity is excellento "to break the ice" and to help you know each other in the classroom.

Invitation to an Annual Dinner

Level: Any
Pre-activity: The teacher should have taught students about prepositions.
Activity:In pairs, students are required to write a dialogue of about 12-15 exchanges based on an invitation card given by the teacher.
Sample invitation card:
DATE: 24 JUNE 2001
TIME: 7.30 AM
Allow about half an hour to prepare the text and about 3 minutes to present it in class. Ask students to be as creative as possible.
Students get to practice prepositions as well as Wh-questions. I find that my students enjoying themselves while pretending to invite their friends to the annual dinner.

Story Telling & Memory Game

Level: Any
Ask the children {at least 5 to 6} to sit around in a circle
Ask one child to say a sentence in a story form e.g "once there was a boy".The next child will have to repeat that sentence and add something more to it like "once there was a boy whose name was John"In this way the children keep building up a story as well as remembering what the previous sentences were.The child which forgets a line will go out of the game.This game not only improves a child's memory but also encourages him/her to be creative in story telling.

Mini Plays

Level: Medium to Difficult
The teacher makes up a little discussion which she reads or gives to a couple of children to read. E.g.
Mum: Bye, now. Be careful!
John: Yes, Mom. I will.
Mum: Don´t forget to write.
John: No, Mom. I´ll write every day.
Mum: Call me when you get there.
And then the teacher chooses one aspect to the plays that will be improvised based on this short discussion. E.g.
"Your plays must ne about a situation where somebody is leaving away. What happens? What do you say? You have 5 minutes to practise a little play in groups of 2-5."
In five minutes the plays will be presented and some vocabulary can be marked, if you feel like it. The kids love making plays and they are pretty good in improvising incredible plays even in few minutes.

Active Brainstorming

Level: Any
This activity can be made to fit nearly any level, and works in class sizes of 6 to 40. The aims are to not only to generate lists of relevant vocabulary around a theme, but to invigorate the class with a rather noisy and rambunctious activity.
To begin with, the teacher must select three or four vocabulary subcategories within a theme, for example with a theme of housing/describing rooms, the subcategories might be things found in a bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen; in a sports theme, there might be team, individual, and non-competitive sports. Students are then paired up and asked to generate ideas together for each subcategory, preferably under a time limit to keep things pacey, much as in any brainstorming exercise. Then pairs should be grouped into 2,3,or 4 larger teams (depending on class size, logistics, etc.) to share/compare ideas and lengthen their lists if possible.
Now comes the wild part. The black/whiteboard is divided into sections, one for each subcategory, and one student from each group is called up and handed a piece of chalk or a marker of a color assigned to each team. There must be one color per team, eg. the blue team, the yellow team, and so forth. The designated writers for each team are not allowed to bring any paper up with them. Instead, their team members must shout out ideas which can be put under each/any subcategory, including the correct spelling of same. With all teams shouting at the same time, a seemingly out of control, but quite enjoyable atmosphere pervades. The object is to be the team with the most words on the board at the end.
It is best to stop every minute or two and change designated writers so that all can get a chance. Also, depending on how strict the teacher wishes to be, groups which use L1 might have their entries ereased. It is also a good idea in big classrooms to move the teams as far away from the board as possible, so as to increase the pandemonium. Finally, the teacher shouts "Stop!", and the scores for each team are tabulated.
This activity will take between 30 and 50 minutes, has been used successfully with groups ranging in age from 16 to 65, and would seem to suit younger learners as well. The only materials required are a rather large board and as many different color markers or pieces of chalk as there are teams.

The Miming Game

Level: Any
This is a simple game which requires little preparation. Divide your students into groups of 2 people(there may be two groups or more). Give each group a sentence that includes grammar and/ or vocabulary already practised, and underline the words that should be guessed exactly. One of the students in the group has to mime the sentence and the other has to guess. Of course the other groups will also be allowd to guess, which will create competition.

Bingo Adapted

Level: Any Level
Use basic Bingo board (3x3 0r 5x5 with the middle crossed out)
1. Simple vocabulary bingo
From the list of words the students (Ss) are required to learn they select 9 (or 24) . Teacher to call Bingo 2 or three times until everyone knows their card.
2. Teacher calls the words. Ss with those words have to shout them out. Only the first one to shout gets to cover the square.
3. Grammar point or sentence structure.
Call the words. The first student to shout out their word in the the required structure gets to cover the square.
eg. To use the present perfect.
After practising the vocabulary Ss have to say I've been a nurse or never been a nurse.
NB the truth is not important. I was happy with I've been a village once as long as they knew what was wrong.
Gets very competitive and noisy.
Do not do with a hangover unless you get the winning student to be the bingo caller.

The Alphabet Game

Level: Any Level
This game is used to practice alphabet and check their vocabulary. Do as a competition. Divide Students into groups of five ( it depends on the number of students you have) and ask them to stand in line. give to the students of the front a marker to write on the whiteboard.Then draw with your finger an imaginary letter of the alphabet on the back of the students at the end of the line. They must do the same with the student in front of him/her and so on. the students with the marker are supposed to run to the board and write any word that begins with that letter. Students love it!

Associations Using the Subjunctive Mood

Level: Medium to Difficult
This game is very useful to teach the subjunctive mood.
All your students take part in this game. One of the students goes out of the room. All the rest think of one student (he or she should be present). The student who went out of the room comes in and asks "If this person were a vegetable (fruit, sweet, animal, car, nature, flower, city etc) what vegetable ( fruit, sweet, animal etc) would he be?"
One of the students answers in a full sentence: "If he were an animal he would be a dog" for instance
After some questions and answers the student who is asking the questions should guess who it is and the game begins again with another student going out of the room.

Making Words from Letters in a Long Word

Level: Medium to Difficult
This game is a good activity for learning new words and for reviving some word knoweledge and for giving a teacher time to prepare other tasks for students.
The class is to be divided into 2-3- teams. Give each team a dictionary and write on the board a long word. Students should compose different words from the letters of this word. After some time, the teams give their words. the team that has the most correct words wins.
For example:
return tribute iron notion note tone rib tube bruit tent tribe bur button rent burin nob bite burr run route tire tore bent bet bonnet rub nib net nub bin nut bit rube ruin rob rot unit union unite tier tie tin tint tone toe brute burn brunt butt butter riot tot tenet tenure terrier retro bone boot born bout totter tote tour bore
Then you can ask them to learn these words.

Betting / Auction

Level: Any
  • Prepare a worksheet with 20 or so sentences using grammar points you have recently taught. 2/3 of the sentences should include a grammatical mistake.
  • Make fake money, it is more realistic if you use the currency of whichever country they are living in.
  • Divide the students into teams of 5 or so.
  • The students then have 10 minutes to study the worksheet and decide and mark which sentences are correct (0) or incorrect (X).
  • Each team receives a set amount of money.
  • The instructor(s) reads one sentence (select sentences from the list in random order).
  • The instructor begins to auction off the sentence. The students should try to buy only the correct sentences. The students bid and the instructor sells to the highest bidder. (This is really fun!)
  • The instructor tells whether or not the sentence is correct.
  • IF the sentence is correct the team wins the amount which they bought if for. If it is incorrect the team looses the amount which they bought it for. ANY team may win the lost money buy stating the incorrect sentence correctly. (YOU WILL BE SHOCKED TO SEE EVEN THE QUIET STUDENTS SCREAMING FOR YOUR ATTENTION).
  • IF the sentence is CORRECT and NO ONE bids on it, ALL TEAMS must pay a fine.
  • After all the sentences have been read the team with the most money wins!
The students seem to really enjoy this game!

The Brag Game

Level: Medium
This is a simple game I've made up to practise Present Perfect. You make up about 20-30 sentences in Present Perfect describing various activities one would share to brag. For example: "I've eaten lunch with Al Gore".
"Spielberg has asked me to play in his next movie". Students draw a slip of paper with a statement like that, he/she says it aloud to the group and they try to outdo him/her by thinking up a statement which would be more impressive. It might look something like this:
Student1: "I've eaten lunch with Al Gore"
S2: So what? I've eaten lunch with Bill Clinton!"
S3: So what? I've eaten lunch with Al Gore and Bill Clinton"
S4: So what? I've eaten Gore and Clinton for lunch"
When they can't come up with something, they just say WOW looking impressed and move on to the next statement.
S1: Spielberg has asked me to play in his new movie.
S2: So what? I've asked Spielberg to play in MY new movie.
They seemed to have fun with this game.

Adding to the Story: OHPs in the Classroom

Level: Any
Aim: To give students further practice in expanding paragraphs.
Materials Needed: OHP transparencies/pens/ OHP machine
Stage One: Photocopy a background scene on to a transparency. Next, put it up on the wall next to the white board. Ask students to write down ideas about the place.
Ask the students to predict what is going to happen today in the town, mountainside,etc....
(Before the class, photocopy onto an OHP different people or animals that can be cut out and dropped into the scenary or the background)
Next, say "perhaps" to their suggestions and then begin to add a transparency character to the scene. Elicit from the students information and questions about the person. Keep adding characters and letting students discuss possibilities and changes for the story.
After that, in groups ask students to write a story about the scene. Ask them to describe the environment and atmosphere in the first paragraph and to start to tell the story thereafter.
When the students complete their stories, pass the papers aroung for other groups to read and peer edit before asking the original group to tell their story about the illustration.

Group Dialogue

Level: Any
Following a simple warm-up where each person must say a word associated with the word mentioned by the person before him or her, I have them repeat the same procedure but with complete sentences, as if it were a discussion between two people. For example: student 1, "Hi how are you Joe?"; student 2, "Oh pretty good Sue. How about you?"; student 3, " Well, not so good."; student 4, " Why not?", etc. The dialogue must procede in such a way that the last person concludes the discussion and they bid each other goodbye. You never know where the conversation will lead and it's excellent for listening, even without a point system!

Present Continuous Videos

Level: Any Level
I've used this activity in just about every class I've ever had, it's suitable for any age group and any level but the best thing about it is that it requires almost no preparation.
You'll need a video. I usually use Mr Bean but anything will do as long as it isn't dialogue heavy and has a lot of action.
The students will need a piece of paper and a pen. Arrange students in two rows and seat them back to back so that the video can be seen by one row (watchers) but not by the other (writers).
Explain to the watchers that they are to describe the action taking place on the screen using the present continuous, they can also describe clothing, people, anything really but try to keep the focus on the action.
The writers have to listen carefully to the watcher sitting behind them and write down as much information as they can.
Keep this going for about five or ten minutes (or as long as a Mr Bean sketch) then get them to swap chairs and play a different sketch/segment for the new row of watchers.
Put the students into two groups according to row. They must now pool their notes and create their own version of events. Good past continuous practice!
I usually get them to share their stories with the other group and then at the end let them watch both segments again and compare their version with what actually happened.
Lots of listening, speaking, writing and lots of fun.

Twenty Questions

Level: Any Level
Using 3X5 file cards I cut and pasted a number of articles from a catalogue. I write on the board questions such as
Would I find this in the house? (If not assume it is outside)
Does it weigh more than 10 pounds?
Does it have wheels?
Does it have a motor?
Does it make noise?
Do you have one ?
Would you like one?
Can you eat it?
Can you wear it?
Is it used in the summer? (if not therefore it is used in winter)
Students work in pairs and may answer only YES or NO and keep track of the number of questions. You can use many more questions perhaps using words that are new or different.


Essay Planning Made Easy

Level: Any
My students find it hard to brainstorm ideas,plan what to write and present balanced opinions. This activity seems to help because it works from a fun speaking base.
Use big pieces of paper. Write a different word within a group on four pieces of paper and stick in different corners of the room(eg. animals: horse, elephant, dog, monkey) Tell the sts to go and stand next to the (animal) you like best/fear most/want to be" etc. Students go to corners and justify their choice to other students.
This can be done in various ways to suit the situation; I sometimes end up with teams having to offer and counteract arguments publicly across the room. The topics can become more abstract, depending on the level of the students.
Finally, bring the activity together by choosing the basis of an essay topic,eg "The Rainforests". Elicit single words for the big pieces of paper, eg 'fuel/building materials/ oxygen/medicines (the brainstorm) and stick them on the board. Then invite students to sort them into two overarching groups; eg reasons for forest conservation or reasons for using the wood (the plan) Repeat the verbal argument 'game' in teams but keep notes of the submissions on the board or on paper(the body of the essay)
Finally write a sentence on the board eg:
"Although it is important to ___ because ___(give one reason) I believe it is more important to ___ because (give two main reasons."
Students then go to one of the two main groups they broadly agree with and produce their final pronouncement(the conclusion).
Review the process overtly. Get the students to write in groups next time, then go it alone with the same methods.

The Grandfather

Level: Any Level
Objective : to practice the numbers.
Procedure :
Students are sit in circle. Then, they are given a number. One of them or the teacher can be the Grandfather. The game goes like this.
A : When the grandpa died, he left twenty cups of wine.
( the person who has number 20 answers :)
B : why 20 ?
A : So, how many ?
B : what about 2 ?
( the person with number 2 says : )
C : why 2 ?
B : So, how many ?
C : what about 3 ?
(and so on..)
The winner is the person who does not hesitate and make a mistake. Advanced students must play the game in English. But if you have beginners, the game can be played in the students« mother tongue ; however, numbers must be said in English. Students need to be attentive, otherwise they are asked to leave the game.


Level: Easy to Medium This game is very useful to practice present progressive structures. You have to give to each student a small card with an action (i.E. You are dancing). The student has to mime the action in front of the class and each student in turn will try to guess what he's doing posing a question like: "Are you dancing?". The student who mimes has to answer "Yes i am" or "No i'm not". This way pupils practice and have fun!
Good luck!!!

Name the Place

Level: Any
First prepare a list of places about 20 on seperate pieces of paper and then divide the students into groups of 4-6. One member of the group chooses a piece of paper and between the group they prepare a dialogue or mini-theatre based on their place. When all the groups have prepared their work they take it in turns to read or play them out and the other students have to guess the name of the place it is taking place. A time limit can be based on the level of the students. I find this works very well with student who do not have enough confidence to just speak without preperation, but after the exercise they gain a lot of confidence by trying to speak by not looking.


Level: Medium to Difficult
On the top of a page each student writes the following: category names:
Someone starts saying the alphabet, A, B, C...etc. then someone else interrupts the alphabet-teller shouting : STOP!!!
Let us suppose the alphbet-teller was interrupted on letter "K". All the participants in the game would try to find words that start with "K" to fill out the category chart. For example one may write: Kansas for "PLACE", koala for "ANIMAL", key for "OBJECT", kiwii for "FRUIT" and so on.
The participant that finishes filling all categories first shouts STOP!! And all the others should stop writing.
The participants compare their words. The words repeated by two players are worth 50 points. the words repeated by three or more are worth 25. The words that are not repeated by anyone are worth 100 points. The empty categories are "0". Each player adds up all the points he got for the letter in turn and put the result in the "TOTAL" At the end of the game all the subtotals are added and the one who gets the highest score is the winner.

Verb Review Game

Level: Any
This game can be played in teams or individually, depending on the size end knowledge of the students.
Step 1:
The teacher gives the students 5 minutes to review a list of both regular and irregular verbs.
Step 2:
Then the teacher writes something like this on the board : "things we do with our feet"
Step 3:
The students then have exactly one minute to write all the verbs related to this topic, such as: walk, kick, dance, run, jump, etc.
Step 4:
After the time is up, the teacher checks the students' lists of vebs. Each verb counts for one point. Any verbs appearing in more than one list are elliminated.
Then the teacher writes another topic on the board, "things we do with our mouth", for instance.
The student or team with the most points is the winner. NOTE:This game can be used to review ot only verbs but also adjetives, nouns etc.

Create Your Own Similes

Level: Easy to Medium
  1. Present a few similes and the sample sentences to the class. Write the sentences with underline.
    Ex. - The baby's skin was as white as snow.
    - Finishing up the project by himself,the boy was as
    - proud as a peacock.
  2. Prepare flashcards with one adjective on each. Students pick out one card in turn and create similes by using the adjective on the card. Emphasize that unique ideas are welcome. Instructor shouldn't be judgmental, and accept any similes as long as they are logical.
    Ex. - as big as Mt. Fuji / as soft as a cotton candy
    Students compare their ideas and discuss which ones are interesting or funny.
  3. If time allows play a song which includes a simile, for example the jazz song "As deep as the ocean" and discuss the usage and effectiveness of the simile.
This activity fosters students' creativity and encourage their active participation in the lesson.

Finding the Best Person for the Job

Level: Any
The idea of this activity is to review or learn personality adjectives.
Tell the students that they are the owners of a cafe and they have to choose a new waiter/waitress from a list of four applicants for the job.
The teacher's preparation involves thinking of four personality adjectives for each applicant.Give the applicants a name and a colour. One applicant should be ideal for the job, two neutral and the other totally useless. After this the teacher writes each adjective on a separate card using a different colour pen for each applicant. Four applicants,four colours,sixteen adjectives altogether.
The next step is to arrive at work early before the students and hide the cards in sixteen different places around the classroom.
When the class starts, you explain the activity by telling the students their aim is to decide which applicant is best for the job.There are four applicants, each with their own colour and a total of sixteen words. The pair that finds all the words and chooses the best applicant first are the winners. But first they have to find the cards!
Pair the students off. Student A stays put while student B searches for the hidden words. When a word is found B must read it, (without alerting the other searchers )return to A and quietly say the word.A writes the word, keeping words of the same colour together. If B forgets the word or the correct spelling,he /she has to return to the word. A and B should swap roles after a number of words have been found.
At the end of the activity stick all the words on the board, in their colour groups,under the correct name. All the students can then discuss why the applicants are/are not suitable for the job.
The job could be changed depending on what sort of adjectives you would like to focus on as could the number and dificulty of the adjectives.

Village Fair

Level: Easy to Medium
Aim: To practise interrogatives ; suggestions ;acceptance ; refusal etc.
Each student decides what wares he is carrying to market to sell. Also what he wants to buy to take home.
Melee' : Students move around classroom trying to sell their wares ; haggling over prices , quantities etc.
They use language such as How about...? ; Could you make that...? ; That's a deal ; No deal etc.
End of 10 minutes all students report to rest of class what sales they made , what they couldn't sell and what they bought.
Depending on the proficiency of the class , language help may be provided at the beginning.
Submitted by Parvathi Krishnan India


Level: Medium to Difficult
Aims: To practise giving advice and suggestions. To trigger creative
contributions. To generate interaction from a simple raw material.
1 Get a student to say the first sentence below to his neighbour. The
latter makes a suggestion, and goes on to utter the next of my sentences,
and so on.
2 If the students are a bit cold, do the following; get them all to write
down a piece of advice for the first sentence on a page-give them time.
Then, you can go around the class enjoying the wide variety of
contributions which are sure to ensue.
(I actually did the uttering of the sentences, and allowed the students to
propose the advice).
Note: For some sentences you may get really boring answers, devoid of any
thought-get them to modify it, change it a bit, spice it up, use
IMPERATIVES (Don't ... Do ...)

Animals for a Day

Level: Medium to Difficult
Activity A
Show the students a photocopied list of many different animals (mammals,
amphibians ...), and ask them to choose, individually and without speaking,
an animal they would like to be for a day. Give them a minute. Then
(something they won't be expecting), get them to write a few sentences,
once again working alone, about their day, or their thoughts-as the animal
they have chosen. Give them a few minutes.
Needless to say, you will be surprised by the imagination of your students,
many of whom, I believe, love to indulge in moments of escapism-something
us teachers know all about!
For example, I had a group of five female students, three of whom chose to
be dolphins, one an eagle, and the last a bear.
What I got from one girl:
"I am a bear and I live with my friends in a mountain. I am happy, but when
I see a hunter I attack him, but when I see a tourist I shout at him".
A second:
"I am a dolphin, but I am sad because they have put me into a pool, where I
cannot move like before ...".
Activity B
Now, what you can do is get the students to read/tell their story, adding
in extra bits as they go along.
Activity C
Now, you can ask them why they chose this animal, and then go on to pick up
on what they said, expanding it into a session of exchanges between the
students, involving yourself if you feel like it.
Activity D
Get a blank page and draw a circle in the centre. Then, place the words
"animal in captivity" inside the circle. Give each student a copy of the
page and tell them to do an INDIVIDUAL brainstorming exercise on the words
in the circle. That is, get them to draw lines from the circle, each line
leading up to a word or image suggested by the animal's situation. Give
them all a few minutes to do this.
This, we can call a word-map, or even a mind-map.
Next, get each student to read out the ideas that came spontaneously into
their heads as they thought. You can all marvel at the number of
differences-or similarities that arise, and go on to discuss the matter of
captive animals.
Don't forget to question students on why they put in such and such a thing.
Watch out for strange concepts!
Put all the pages together so that the students can somehow see the work
carried out by the rest.
Perhaps now, as a group, they could all focus on the main aspects of
animals in captivity.
You could then move on to debate issues like endangered species, whale
hunting ...
Activity E
Get the students to debate, or role play, the following incident: Two
German pensioners alighted from their car in a Spanish nature park in order
to get a better picture (christ!) of the tigers, who were relaxing in the
shade of a tree at the time. They were, bluntly, torn apart. There were
signs up in many languages warning people to stay in their cars ...
Should the animals be put down?
Should they be in nature reserves in the first place?
Activity F
Here, you could mention the pros and cons of having a domestic animal-a
pet-at home.

Animals, Our Friends

Level: Medium to Difficult
In February of 1998, a Somerset (UK) man was trapped under a fallen van he
had been repairing. As he cried for help and darkness fell it seemed he
would be left there all night; his leg had been caught beneath the wheels.
The area was rather isolated and nobody heard his cries-except a parrot
perched on a caravan in a nearby camp site. The bird mimicked the man's
cries, which is apparently normal behaviour for this type of animal, and
alerted two men working in the area. These reversed the van off the injured
man, who, in the end, only had slight injuries.
Activity A
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Has an animal ever helped you in
some way?
Activity B
Do you think animals are necessary for humans? Why?
Cosmetic testing
Activity C
List the most helpful animals, and why.
1 The elephant can transport us and pull trees
2 Dogs keep us company
3 Spiders eat flies
4 Cows give us meat and leather
5 .....................
6 ..........................
Activity D
Negative points associated with animals
1 They bite humans
2 They answer the call of nature anywhere
3 They bark and wake us up at night
4 .............
5 .................
Activity E
Should we use animals to test drugs and cosmetic products on? If your
answer is "no", what way do you suggest instead? Humans? Robots?
Activity F
When you are at home, studying or watching TV, and you see a fly or a
spider, what is your first reaction? Do you normally kill it? Why?

Mystery Object

Level: Any
I am teaching my Level 1 writing students how to describe things by means of process (First second then), extended definition (for instance/compare-contrast), and directions (N.S.E.W./right, left, etc). We have done these things one at a time but my students are continually making learning leaps beyond the simple assignments and I want to reward them for their abilities while making sure they have the basics down. Also, we will soon be studying the correct form for personal letters and I think they are ready to move on. We did these two fun assignments:
Imagine a terrible disaster has befallen our class here at the University (Monsoon, earthquake, rainstorm, snowstorm, tornado, flood, etc.) Write me a letter in which you describe this event and tell me exactly how you responded (I ran out the door and turned left! I ran straight ahead to the end of the hall and looked right and left. etc.).
We had such fun with this assignment! Everyone got into the drama! Exciting assignments like this really test the basic understanding of sentence construction as well as show them how all these forms work together in a paragraph. It was clear when they began to put all of the various forms together that some of them had not completely understood directions when they were not directly connected with the book example of street directions (North, South, and Right, Left). After this adventure in creative writing, however, they all felt that every sort of description was easy. So, we went on to another adventure that was even more fun!
Assignment 2: Write me a letter in which you tell me a wild story or an outrageous lie about yourself! (Everyone looks up outrageous in their dictionary). I provided them with stamped envelopes and these letters were actually mailed to me -- so I had the additional fun of getting personal letters in the mail. These letters were the best writing they had done so far and were, in addition, hysterically funny (one of my Turkish students warned me that he was a space alien and that the information he was about to tell me was "specific and secret!"). The following week, I helped each student with grammer mistakes and then read the corrected letters aloud in class. Everyone enjoyed this (particularly the public praise and appreciative applause) and they also saw that there were many ways to tell a story and still use correct English writing style. Two of my students had difficulty with sentence construction when they let their imaginations run in this way so they were provided with a topic sentence/supporting sentence review tool and they then wrote me a third letter while constantly referring to their topic/supporting sentence diagram. The improvement in their writing was astonishing.
I always encourage imaginations running wild; the greatest portion of my student's training tends to be incredibly focused and detail-oriented and an occasional stretch is important. Also, my father, who was an orchestra conductor, told me that when you are about to begin a new piece with the orchestra you do not start by practicing each section and then, when the sections are perfect, putting them together. You start by playing the entire piece through! You tell everyone not to be concerned about their mistakes, but just to try and keep up. Naturally this first "stagger through" sounds terrible! But the psychological result is that when you are done every musician says to himself, "I can do this!" Obviously, they do not want to look bad in the group, so they will self-discipline themselves to improve.

Role Play: The Exclusive Picture

Level: Medium to Advanced
  • Time: One hour, including follow-up debate.
  • Language: As many speech acts as are possible. "Divergent"approach (see The Internet TESL Journal" for a good article by Patricia K. Tompkins).
  • Organization: Small group (in my case, 7).
  • Warm-up/Preparation: Each student compiles a fictitious character profile(or merely thinks up a few ideas on what he mightsay in the context).
  • Procedure: Teacher asks for volunteers, or appoints them ifthe students are stalling too much.


The editor of a newspaper, whose sales are not going well at the moment, has just received a very graphic photo of a horrendous accident involving a school-bus and which occurred on a nearby motorway due to heavy fog. In the photo, you can see the injured and dead strewn around the crash scene. The rest is easy to imagine. The problem is whether to publish it or not. The image could shock, all the more so if it is on the front page. Should not the victims be left in peace, and not appear on the cover of a newspaper. Then again, perhaps by publishing this photo, the editor seeks to educate would-be careless drivers, or would-be drink-drivers. Of course, why should these victims be used as free advertising? Also, it is news, and nobody can fault a journalist for airing a story and photo. Moreover, the photo will attract, perhaps, new customers; people have a morbid interest in the misfortunes of others, it is said.

Role players:

  • The editor, quite young.
  • The photographer who took the shot, single.
  • The accountant, married with two children.
  • A journalist-relative of one of the victims-in favour ofpublication,
  • married (with or without children).
  • A second journalist, single, who is against publication.
  • More journalists from various sections of the paper.
(The ages and marital status may be altered as you see fit).

Facts on newspaper:

  • Employs fifty workers, most with children.
  • Is on the verge of closure.
  • Serious newspaper.


Teacher collects main arguments raised and writes them down in order to fully tease out what was said, the validity/logic of same.
A more open " casual" group debate can ensue in the wake of the role play.


Instead of a photo, it could be a nasty story about a local hero/personality.

Off-shoot Activity:

  • The role of newspapers in society.
  • What sells newspaper.
  • Why do we buy newspapers.
  • Will they disappear in the future?

20 True or False Items

Level: Easy to Medium
Print this out and give it to your students.
  1. I never go to bed after 1 am
  2. I study English more than 2 hours a week
  3. I had a great time at secondary school-I loved it
  4. My ambition in life is to get a permanent job
  5. My parents started giving me pocket money when I was five
  6. I don't mind wet days, there are still plenty of things to do
  7. I really believe that motorbikes are dangerous
  8. Parents spoil their children nowadays
  9. The beach is for relaxing and doing nothing
  10. I am an adventurous person
  11. I never run for a bus-I can catch the following one
  12. In the end, most people are very nice
  13. I absolutely hate Mondays
  14. I have never stolen anything-never
  15. People who smoke are crazy
  16. Tall men/women are more interesting than small ones
  17. People who watch more than 2 hours of TV a day are wasting time
  18. Spending 4,000 pesetas on a permanent is immoral
  19. Keeping animals at home is cruel
  20. I am intelligent

Word Grab with Songs

Level: Any
This is a wonderful activity if you think your class needs waking up a little.
Choose a song that the students have or have not heard before. Choose 10-15 pieces of vocabulary from the song and write them on separate pieces of paper. With lower level groups you may want to pronounce the words with the students first. Stick each word to the board with putty (blue tack). Put the students into 2 teams each one in a line before the board. Play the song. When the 2 students at the front of their line hear a word in the song that is on the board they must race each other to grab that word from the board (this can get quite violent!). They then go to the back of the line and it's up to the next pair. The team with the most words wins.
I don't usually stop the tape so don't choose words that come one after the other. If you want to make it more difficult you can put red herrings up. You can usually play the song a couple of times until they get all the words.

Is Your Conversation Style Feminine or Masculine?

Level: Medium
The following activity is loosely based on Conversation Analysis readings, so nothing is hard and fast doctrine. It seeks to be thought-provoking and there may be a grain of truth in some of the statements below. Remember also that men and women express themselves differently according to the make-up of the conversation group. That is, the group may be mixed gender, all male or all female, hence the type of exchanges will be different-the atmosphere too. Furthermore, the group may be friends, work-mates, academics, a meeting ....
If nothing else, it should generate chat.
Put yes (Y) or no (N) for the sentences below.
Generally speaking, when I converse with people I know:
  • I am a blunt person
  • I criticise people
  • I am a little sarcastic
  • I ask a lot of questions in a conversation, to find out about people, their thoughts, etc
  • I rarely admit I am wrong about something when I am in a conversation
  • I make eye-contact and use body language in conversations
  • I generalise
  • I get personal with people in conversations; I may even gossip about a mutual friend
  • I compliment people spontaneously
  • I use four-letter words, coarse language
  • I like to talk about myself
  • I am a good listener
  • I prefer to talk about non-personal topics, such as unemployment, the economy, current affairs ...
  • I usually talk about personal problems, people, their way of being, hopes, desires, my family ...
  • I get personal when I write a letter to someone, but not face to face in a conversation
  • I help to keep a conversation flowing, I am not provocative, controversial, confrontational ...
  • I like to get my say, get in a few comments, no matter what the topic
  • I don't assert something, but I might preface a comment with "I think, I suppose, perhaps"
  • I talk a lot
  • If I ask a question, it is generally a yes-no answer I am looking for
  • I don't mind talking about a situation where I was embarrassed,humiliated and so on

** Results ** (A personal view)
Men, it is said, are more assertive, sarcastic, long-winded, non-personal and so on, while women are collaborative, personal and happy to take a back seat in many chats-it is said. So, working on the previous assertions-and more-you can score the test the following way:
4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 21 would be more feminine traits-generally speaking The rest, male.
Once again, the activity should not give rise to aggressive exchanges.

A Conversation Idea - Rate the Apparatus

Level: Medium
Activity A
The many household apparatus/machines/gadgets we use at home make life a
little bit easier; the micro-wave oven heats things up quickly; the fridge keeps
perishable goods fresh; the washing-machine cleans our clothes and saves us
time. So, when put to the test, which of these machines/apparatus could we
do without-IF WE HAD TO. In other words, which of these machines is the
most important, generally speaking. Get your students to make a list of ten
common ones, and then get them to list them in order of perceived necessity
(for want of a better word). Here is a list I gleaned from my pupils, don't
show it to the pupils at first.
Washing machine
Tea/Coffee maker
Light bulb
Of course, these items must be rated according to perceived necessity, and
the rating must be justified. Reasons for a choice must be given. Students
will debate the "top" necessity and so on, down to the least important
Activity B
Are these things necessary?
The activity A could branch out into further items we use to make life
easier and, presumably, make life better. For example:
Hair driers
Cigarette lighters
Special wine glasses
Mobile telephones
Expensive furniture
Sweets and savouries
Etc ...

A Conversation Idea - How Do You Kill Time?

Level: Medium
Here is a simple idea to generate chat among your students. We all know
that there are moments during the day when we have nothing to do, no plans.
For example, when you are waiting for a teacher, a friend and so on. How do
we occupy these periods of time, either mentally or physically? For
Activity A
What do you do during the TV advertisements?
Make a list of what the students say
(My students got these)
Talk to my sister
I read something, anything
I get up and do something
I go to the bathroom (!)
I change channels
I look for something to eat or read
I call a friend
I water the plants
I put on some food for the next day
I phone Pizza Hut
I put the children to bed
I brush my teeth
I unload the washing machine/put clothes on line
I rush to do the washing-up
You can also get the students to tick off the ones which they regularly do
and check the most common activities
Activity B
Ways to pass the time/occupy your mind/self when you are:
In a bus queue
Waiting at a supermarket check-out
In a doctor's waiting-room
Waiting for your boy/girlfriend on a cold day-outdoors
In a cinema/theatre, waiting for the film/play
In a traffic jam
In an airport/train station
In a lift/elevator
Getting your hair done/cut
Etc ...

Tell Me about Myself

Level: Any
This game works well with students at pre-intermediate level or above and can be adapted accordingly. It is an original way of introducing yourself (as a teacher) to a class for the first time, but could also be used later on.
Prepare in advance, on an overhead transparency or white-board, a mind map of yourself. Instead of using sentences to describe your life, use single words, numbers, dates, symbols and illustrations where possible.
For example I include information about my life in England, names of siblings, date of birth, name of hometown etc. (My hometown is Stoke-on-Trent which I then illustrate with a cup and saucer - the Potteries, and a football - Stoke City FC. It keeps them guessing.)
I include information about my husband (name and illustration of job) children (names, ages, birthdays). You can add your shoe size, height, illustrations of your hobbies etc. I draw a needle and thread - sewing, a pair of skis - I enjoy skiing, and a pencil - drawing.
Any kind of information can be included. Use your imagination! I live in Sweden and draw a picture of a snowman with a cross through it to illustrate that I don¥t like the winter!
Get your students to tell you what the information means. For example.
  • July - is that when your birthday is?
  • Does the cup and saucer mean you drink tea?
Try and get a good mix of obvious and less obvious information. For example, when I drew a fish (to illustrate that I kept tropical fish) it provoked questions like:
  • Do you eat a lot of fish?
  • Do you enjoy fishing?
  • Is your star sign pisces?
Give them a clue if they¥re having problems guessing.
This game has worked wonderfully for me in many classes of varying levels. To follow up, get you students to take a few minutes to prepare something similar individually, and then work in pairs guessing what the information means about their partner.

People Who ...

Level: Any
An activity whose aim is to complete sentences and also take advantage of the contributions in order to generate debate and interaction.
How: Just hand out the following sheet with the heading
and tell the students they have to complete the sentences with realism-not just adding on a grammatically correct ending.
Etc .......... (Add more!)
NB: The idea is to get personal, individual endings. For example, for
"People who eat crisps in the cinema ...",
I got:
annoy me
should eat them before the show
make a lot of noise
have a right to do so (!)
As you can see, everybody has a different answer-and opinion. The latter is what generates talk.
So you kill two birds with one stone: You practise grammar and you get students talking.

Fly Swat

Level: Any
Divide your class into 2 groups.
Choose 2 ss. and ask them to go to the back part of the classroom and turn back.
Display on the blackboard 20 vocabulary words and over 10 of them paste "flies" made of cardboard paper with a piece of velcro on them.
Give both ss. a fly swatter with the other side of velcro on them.
The objective on the game is that you will say a word and ss. will turn back and run to "fly swat" the word that has the bug over it. The ss. who "kills" the fly has to spell the word and then he will score a point for his team.
With the fly swatter and the velcro flies, you can invent many different games. Try it!!!
I¥ve worked with 4, 5 and 6 graders and they love this game.

Name Six

Level: Any Level
This game is fun and challenging at the same time. It can be adapted for virtually any subject and any grade level. It allows the students to review material they've learned, without having to get out a pencil and paper and answer questions from the text.
  • Arrange 6 chairs in a circle and choose one person, the teacher or another student, to stand outside the circle.
  • Give someone in the circle a stuffed animal, the funnier the animal the better!
  • The person outside the circle states what the person holding the animal has to name six of.
  • The person then starts moving the animal around the circle and the other players pass it around.
  • The player must name six of the objects before the animal gets back to him or her.
For example, let's say that you have just finished a vocabulary unit on animals. The person standing outside the group may say something like,"Name six animals that have fur." The person sitting in the circle begins namimg six animals and at the same time, the stuffed animal is being passed around the circle. If the player cannot name 6 animals with fur by the time the stuffed animal reaches him, he has lost and it's his turn to stand outside the group and stunt the other students.
My students absolutely love this game and so do I because it requires no prep time!! It may take the students a few times before they become successful at the game, but eventually I'm sure it will become one of their favorites. I hope you have as much success with Name Six as I have had.

Career Letters

Level: Medium to Difficult
My high school students have enjoyed this activity very much. It helps them think about more possibilities for a future career and is a great writing activity. They also learn how to write a business letter by writing a real letter.
Many ESL students have limited knowledge of career possibilities. Far too many think only in terms of becoming a mechanic or a secretary. So first you discuss with them some of the opportunities they have.
Students choose a career field and then write a letter to a school requesting information about that field. It could be anything from astronomer (local or out-of-town university) to electrician (technical institute) to travel agent (yes, there are travel agency schools!)
You help them perfect the letters and mail them out. When they get a reply, share it with the class.

Personal Survey

Level: Easy to Medium
Here is a light-hearted idea to get pupils talking in conversation class. I have adapted an idea I found in a gossip magazine.
Get your students to fill out this mini survey. You can ask them questions at the end of the exercise or go through the answers as they are made. Obviously, you don't dwell on the "childhood" question too much-it's meant to be a bit of fun. But you should get some mileage from the "white lies" one.
Did you have a happy childhood?
When do you tell white lies? Tell us one.
The most capable person in your country?
Favourite novelist?
Proudest moment?
Worst moment? (last week if necessary)
Most hated song/music at the moment?
The last piece of music you bought?
Were you good at school?
The greatest influence on you? (parents, friends ...)
Current bedside reading material?
Where will you go when you die?
What do you admire most about yourself?
One of your main faults?
A small crime you once committed? (anything at all)
Music you would like played at your funeral?

My Town

Level: Any
Activity A
Do you like the town/city you live in? Why? Why not?
Activity B
Teacher makes a list of the positive points mentioned by the pupils. Discuss common and original comments.
Activity C
Teacher makes a list of negative comments about towns/cities mentioned
Activity D
The class now makes a list of the characteristics of a perfect town/city. For example, these could include:
Bicycle paths
No smoke
No cars
Sports facilities
No violence
Beautiful buildings
Activity E
Compare your town/city with another one you know, and make a list of the comments. Some examples:
My town is noisier than X, because ...
My city is more boring than Y, because ...
You can go on to mention aspects such as
Green areas
Cost of living
Selfishness ...
Activity F
The best town/city you have ever been to/seen?

Class Mixer

Level: Any
This game can be played with a range of different levels. It can be used purely as a mixer/ice breaker or can be adapted to reinforce target gambits, grammar or vocabulary by directing the 'chat' portion of the game. This game is essentially an adaption of the old 'Who am I?' game. Start with a 'chat' either in rotating groups or in an interview format. This portion sets the level and focus of the game. For example a low intermediate class might be instructed to ask all of their classmates a series of "Have you ever...?" questions. A more advanced group might be told to talk to all their classmates about a certain topic, leaving the specific questions up to them. With a lower level group I find a note taking form to be useful. After the chat portion, do the 'who am I' game using your students' names. They must use the same target language to ask yes/no questions and find out who they are.

Add a Word

Level: Any Level
Rationale: Students practise grammar and syntax.
Materials: None.
Levels: All levels, though better for more advanced students, because the game is more fun at a quick pace.
Method: One student begins a sentence by saying only one word. A second student must say a word which continues the sentence. A third must continue, and so on, until someone says a word that does not fit syntactically or grammatically. If the sentence comes to a logical end without error, the next student may say "period" and begin a new sentence with a new word.
The teacher may suggest a topic to get things started. What the students say may also be recorded and played back, so the class can discuss the error that stopped the sentence.
Teacher: The topic is 'pets'.
First student: "My . . ."
Second student: ". . . dog"
Third student: ". . . has . . ."
Fourth student: ". . . spots . . ."
Fifth student: ". . . brown . . ."

Time Indicators

Level: Any
Rationale: Students practise using different subject pronouns, verb tenses, and the time words and phrases that go with them. They must also be able to recognize different forms of the same verb, especially irregular verbs.
Materials: None.
Levels: All. Beginners can play using only four verb tenses (present, past, future, and present progressive). More advanced can play using all the tenses.
Method: One student says a time word or phrase (e.g. next year, a few days ago). A second student must complete a sentence using the proper verb tense. That student then says a different time word or phrase. A third student uses it to form a sentence, but may not use the same verb or subject pronoun the second student used.
Verb tenses may be repeated if necessary, but verbs may not, and subject pronouns may be repeated only after they have all been used once.
The game can continue as long as the teacher wants, though two runs through all the subject pronouns is an appropriate length. The teacher may write the full sentences on the board, but should at least keep track of which subject pronouns and verbs have been used.
First student: "At the moment . . ."
Second student: ". . . I am sitting in a classroom."
Second student: "Last year . . ."
Third student: ". . . they went to Europe."
Third student: "Every day . . ."
Fourth student: ". . . she takes the bus to work."

Flip a Card

Level: Any Level
Rationale: Students develop vocabulary and, at higher levels, practise proper word order by forming sentences.
Materials: Standard deck of playing cards.
Method: For each card from ace to king, assign two letters of the alphabet, and write these on the board. Assigning letters can be done at random, but it is logical to have some sort of order, e.g.:
A    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    J    Q    K
A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J     K    L    M
N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W     X    Y    Z

For beginners: Flip a card. The student must think of a word beginning with one of the letters that card represents. If, for example, the card is a 3, the student must say a word beginning with C or P. Variation: The word must fit a category, e.g. animals, occupations, etc.

For higher beginners and intermediate: Flip a certain number of cards-say, seven. Each student must write down a sentence using words beginning with the given letters, in order. If the teacher so wishes, the students can work in small groups. Students then read their sentences aloud.

For advanced: Taking turns with each card flipped, students orally form grammatically and syntactically correct sentences. For example:
      Cards: A, Q, K, Q, K, 6, 8, 7, 5, 4, 4, 10, 2, K, 2, 2, 8, 9, A, 7.
   Sample sentence: A lovely monkey laughed merrily, for his green
   elephant drank quickly while orange zebras brought over hungry,
   intelligent, naughty giraffes.

Bingo with Irregular Verbs

Level: Easy

The teacher prepares a 5x5 grid with 25 irregular verbs in the past tense in each square. Make enough variations of these grids so each student has one that is slightly (or very) different.

The teacher then calls out the verbs in their present tense form until a student gets five in a diagonal or horizontal row. Bingo!

While it may seem time-consuming to make the grids, they can be used over and over. This game is received very enthusiastically because often, students are already familiar with it. It is great as a warmup activity and can have many variations (past-participle, time of day, vocabulary)


Level: Medium to Difficult Select 4 or 5 categories - either general (I normally use countries, sports, animals, food and drink and names) or areas from the textbook that is in use - and then divide the board into three - assigning each area with a point score (100, 200, 300 - etc...). Divide the class into teams, or get them to work individually and ask them to select a category and a score.

Countries Sports Animals F&D Names







During your preparation time, think about the easiest and hardest answers for each category and the level of the students and consider how many possible answers there are for each letter of the alphabet (in the case of sports: Archery, Basketball, Cricket, Diving, Equestrian, etc).

If a team or individual is unable to answer or gives a incorrect reply, then that letter remains in that point range until someone answers correctly. If a stalemate situation ever occurs - give correct answers and encourage the students to repeat them a few times, so as they will remember them.

This game is lots of fun, and my students always want to play.

For variation, you can draw a soccer park or basketball court on the board and assign areas in the same way.

Adverbial Charades

Level: Any
Each student is given a card with a familiar adverb on it--i.e. quickly, angrily, loudly, happily. Then the class tells the student to do something so they can guess what adverb is on the card. They can tell the student to do things in pantomime, like drink a bowl of soup, or really do it in class, like open a door or take a book from the teacher. (Can't recall where I read this idea, but it is fun and can be played in teams.)

Who Am I?

Level: Any
You can use use this with any subject. Write the names of famous people (mixed nationalities) on small pieces of paper. Tape a name on the forehead of each student. The individual student should not see his or her paper, but the others should. Then, like with 20 questions, only yes or no questions should be asked. Perhaps start with yourself and ask "Am I am man?" If the answer is yes, I can ask again, but if the answer is no, it's the next person's turn. Play until everyone has guessed who he or she is! This can be played with nationalities, countries, household objects, anything and it's a gas, especially for adult students!!

Guess the Object

Level: Any Level
The teacher prepares cutout pictures that are pasted or taped to index cards. One student selects a card and must describe it in English until another student can guess the object. This is very much like "20 Questions" but instead of the challenge being to ask questions, the bonus is on the cardholder to verbalize the description.
The teacher should be careful to select pictures that reflect the vocabulary level of the students. Simple objects, like "baby", "door" or "car" are good for beginners. Later on, more complicated pictures that suggest actions, scenes and relationships could be used, like: "mother bathing child".

"Tic Tac Toe" or "Noughts and Crosses"

Level: Any
This is a good game for a revision or for a reader's discussion. Divide the class into two groups. Draw a grid of nine squares on the board and write a number on each square (from 1 to 9). Prepare nine questions and set one question for each number. The groups call out the numbers and if they answer the question correctly, they get the point. The goal of the game is to make a line (either horizontal, vertical or diagonal).

Question and Answer Game Activity

Level: Any
Usually students answer comprehension questions after a reading. Why not have students create their own comprehension questions? I have and it works well, especially if this activity is turned into a game. I do this by having students in small groups work together to write questions about the text. Only questions which can be answered by the text are allowed. Opinion questions are not allowed. After groups finish writing their questions, they ask their questions to another group which must answer within a specified amount of time (the teacher decides the time according the class level). If the answer is correct and given within the time period, the answering team receives a point. If the answer is incorrect or not found within the time period, the questioning group receives a point, but they must inform the other group of the answer. Each group takes turns asking and answering questions.

Kim's Game on Video

Level: Any Level
The traditional "Kim's Game" uses a tray full of objects to stretch the memory and vocabulary of the players. This version uses moving pictures. Therefore, a larger range of vocabulary, word classes, and phrases can be elicited.

To Play
1. Select any sequence that scans over a large number of objects, people or includes many actions.

  • The opening of "Masterpiece Theatre"
  • The opening of "Miami Vice"
  • The toy store in "Home Alone II"
  • A display of quiz game prizes
2. Allow players to view the segment once. They are not allowed to take notes.

3.Individually or in groups, form a list of as many of the objects, people or actions in the scene as can be remembered.

4. Play the scene again using still frames to check off the things on the list. Score one point for each correct item but minus one for any item on the list that is not in the scene.

Narrow the range of things allowable on the list.

  • Things that start with (pick a letter of the alphabet).
  • Things that are (pick a color or quality).
  • Things made of (pick a material).
  • Things used for (pick an action).

Video Scavenger Hunt

Level: Any Level
Choose a movie, a series of TV commericals or any other video-taped resource that you like or that learners are familiar with and compile lists of things for viewers or listeners to find. It is also possible to prepare a library of films and allow the players to search the tapes.

Each team gets a different list. If only one machine is available, a time limit may be set and the team that finds the most in the alloted time wins. It is also possible to assign this as a week long hunt (on student's own time). In such a case, one tape or many tapes can be used.

Here are some suggested categories:

Information: Ask players to find specific facts or figures. These facts may be verbal or visual. Information found on charts, graphs and in the closing credits of a film are good sources.

Counts: Count the number of times a certain word is said in a clip. Count the number of people or objects of a certain quality (eg. people who are male, or people wearing blue, or objects made of wood). Count the number of people doing a particular activity (eg. people who talk to a particular character, people sleeping in class, people boarding a train). Count the number of times a particular action is performed (eg. number of times a character goes up and down stairs, crosses a bridge, lights a cigarette).

Scenes: Find a particular scene (eg. a love scene), location (eg. a river, Paris), view or social activity (eg. a picnic, a speech).

Speech Acts: Find an example of a speech act. (eg. inviting, refusing, requesting, making an introduction, apologizing).

Concentration Using an Overhead Projector

Level: Any Level
This is a game for the overhead projector. It is a version of the game "Concentration" in which students flip over cards of items to find matching pairs. For the overhead projector you will need to make a grid of squares on a transparency. Five squares across by four down. I make the square about 1.25 inches on a side. At the top of the grid write the letters THINK, one letter over each column. Down the left side of the grid write the numbers 1234, one number to each row. Make a transparency of your grid. Next, cut out cardboard or heavy paper "tents": small rectangular pieces just large enough to cover each space. I call them tents because they have a little flap which I use to pick them up. Prepare the game in advance. You have to think of ten pairs of any item. For example, ten pairs of opposites, ten pairs of irregular past tense forms (get,got) or ten pairs of a picture and a word. Write (or draw) one word or picture in each space in a random fashion. Place the transparency on the OHP (with the light off) and cover each space. When you turn the light on, the students will see the grid but each image or word will be dark. (You will be able to see the words and images illuminated through the paper)
TO PLAY: Instruct the students (and model of course the first time) that they are to pick two squares by calling out a number and a letter for each square. For example T2 and N4. You uncover the spaces as a students calls out the letter. If the two spaces uncovered are a match write the student's name in the spaces with a marker and toss them a prize (a piece of candy serves nicely). If the two spaces are not a match, cover them back up and call a different student. As spaces are uncovered, excitement builds in the classroom until the last two spaces. Since these are obvious winners, you can take the opportunity for teacher inspired humor and call on either the class "comic" making a big display of "Are you sure?" or any other individual who maybe had repeated incorrect answers.

An individual game usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete.

If you keep several transparencies of the grid handy, you can prepare a game pretty fast for the last part of the class. If you are doing a unit on irregular past tense, you can prepare a grid using the specific verbs that you reviewed in the lesson.

Prove It

Level: Easy to Medium
Give your students one or more statements to prove or disprove. The statements can tie in with the topic or the grammar point of the class. Examples: Nobody in this class likes winter. Everyone here can draw a Volkswagen Beetle car.

Students talk to as many other students as possible to prove/disprove the statements. Then they give feedback to the class: 'This statement is not true. There are at least 5 people in this class who like winter.

What's the Word?

Level: Medium to Difficult
On an index card, write a word (example: school) and write 4 or 5 key words that cannot be used to describe that particular word. (Example: teachers, blackboards, students, desks, tests) Any other words can be used except for the words written on the index card. A sample card would look like this:



What's Your Name?

Level: very easy
One student sits at the front of the classroom (usually in the teacher's chair) with their back to the other students. The teacher then points to students in the class and asks "What's your name?" The student indicated must respond "My name is__________" with either his own name or the name of someone in the class. The student in the front cannot see who is speaking. The teacher says to him, "Is it___________?" and he must say "Yes, it is" or "No, it isn't". If the student in front is correct, he gets to stay there, but if he's mistaken, he changes place with the student who fooled him.
To make the game more interesting, the students are encouraged to disguise their voices.
I always do this with my beginners at the beginning of the year, but always at the end of the class, and for not more than 5 to 10 minutes.

Whispering Game

Level: Easy
Divide the class into two teams. Line up the players. If there's an odd number of players, one can be the teacher's "helper". The teacher or his helper whispers a message to the first person of both group A and group B. The game only starts when both players know the message. Then each player whispers the message to the next player in his group sucessively until the last player gets the message. The team which can repeat the message first and correctly receives a point. Start the game over with the second student of each group becoming the first ones in line.

Who Am I?

Level: Any

You can use use this with any subject. Write the names of famous people (mixed nationalities) on small pieces of paper. Tape a name on the forehead of each student. The individual student should not see his or her paper, but the others should. Then, like with 20 questions, only yes or no questions should be asked. Perhaps start with yourself and ask "Am I am man?" If the answer is yes, I can ask again, but if the answer is no, it's the next person's turn. Play until everyone has guessed who he or she is! This can be played with nationalities, countries, household objects, anything and it's a gas, especially for adult students!!

Words Beginning with a Given Letter

Level: Medium to Difficult
The teacher chooses a letter from the alphabet. Then each student must say a word that begins with that letter. If a student repeats a word that has already been said, then he/she is out of the game. The game ends when only one student remains. That student is the winner. In high level classes students lose if they say a past form of the verb. Example:see-saw. You can increase the difficulty by adding a timer. Only allow each student 5 seconds to think of a word.

Word Grab with Songs

Level: Any

This is a wonderful activity if you think your class needs waking up a little.
Choose a song that the students have or have not heard before. Choose 10-15 pieces of vocabulary from the song and write them on separate pieces of paper. With lower level groups you may want to pronounce the words with the students first. Stick each word to the board with putty (blue tack). Put the students into 2 teams each one in a line before the board. Play the song. When the 2 students at the front of their line hear a word in the song that is on the board they must race each other to grab that word from the board (this can get quite violent!). They then go to the back of the line and it's up to the next pair. The team with the most words wins.
I don't usually stop the tape so don't choose words that come one after the other. If you want to make it more difficult you can put red herrings up. You can usually play the song a couple of times until they get all the words.

A list of simple and quick games and activities that can be used in the ESL classroom when teaching English as a second / foreign language.

Copyright (C) 1999 by The Internet TESL Journal

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