My Top 5 ESL games

It's been a little while since my last post, so I wanted to come back with something fun and practical for teachers to use in their English classrooms. Below are 5 of my favorite games that I use in my own classes that can be used with a variety of learners.

Two Truths and A Lie   

Two Truths and a lie is a great game which is perfect for the beginning of a new class as it is a 'getting to know you' kind of game. This game is also wonderful for practicing speaking and listening skills.

Why use it? Ice-breaker; Speaking / Listening skills

Who it's best for: Appropriate for all levels and ages

How to play:

Have students write 3 statements about themselves on a piece of paper, two of which should be lies and one which should be true.

Pair the students up and have them ask each other questions about each statement and then guess which one is the truth. If you want to really extend the game and give students even more time to practice their speaking/listening skills, rotate partners every five minutes.

If they guess correctly then they win.

Bring the whole class back together and have students announce one new thing they learned about another student as a recap.

Hot Seat 

This is one of my students' favorite games and a great way to learn vocabulary. Hot Seat allows students to build their vocabulary and to practice their speaking and listening skills and it can be used for any level of learner.

Why use it? Vocabulary; Speaking and Listening

Who it's best for: All ages and levels

How to play:
Split the class into 2 teams, or more if you have a large class.

Elect one person from each team to sit in the Hot Seat, facing the classroom with the board behind them.

Write a word on the board. One of the team members of the student in the hot seat must help the student guess the word by describing it. They have a limited amount of time and cannot say, 
                                                                                    spell or draw the word.

Continue until each team member has described a word to the student in the Hot Seat.

Grammar Auctions

For Grammar Auctions, students are put into in small groups are given some 'money' with which to bid on various sentences. These sentences include correct and incorrect sentences, the group which 'buys' the most correct sentences wins the game.

Why use it? Grammar Auctions are a great game to assess your students' grammar knowledge while having fun in the classroom

Who it's best for: All ages and intermediate to advanced levels

How to play:

Divide the class into small groups of 3 or 4 students per group.

Write 10 -15 sentences on the board and have students bid of the sentences. Some of the sentences will be grammatically correct, while others will be incorrect.

Explain the rules of this auction.

-The aim of the game is to buy as many correct sentences as possible
-Each group will have $3000 to spend
-Bids begin at $200
-Bids increase by $100 each bid
-The sentence will be sold to the highest bidder (remember? "$400 going once, $400 going twice, $400 sold to group X!")
-The winner of the game is the group which has bought the most correct sentences

Have students bid on the sentences and record who buys which sentence. After all the sentences are bought, go over which sentences were correct and incorrect (make sure you explain why). The team who bought the most correct sentences wins. 


Jeopardy is a fun and easy to play quiz game, and it’s a great way to review previously taught material.

Why use it? To review and cement previously taught material

Who it's best for: All ages and all levels

How to play:

You will need five categories of questions and in each category five questions ranging in difficulty from easy ($100) to difficult ($500).

Draw the Jeopardy grid on the board with the categories written alongside the vertical axis. Along the top divide the columns into prices of one hundred of the local currency up to five hundred. Categories should contain questions related to material that students have recently covered in class.
Split students into teams of three or four.

The first team starts and chooses a category and an amount, depending on how confident they are in being able to answer the question. Read out the question. If the team answers correctly add the value of question to that team’s total score

If the team answers incorrectly, other teams have the chance to answer the question. If another team answers correctly they have control of the board and can choose the next question.

The game ends after a set amount of rounds or when there are no questions left. The winner is the team that has acquired the most amount of money through questions correctly answered.

Pictionary / Charades

This hybrid version of two classic games is a great way to end a class or help student review for upcoming quizzes or tests.

Why use it? To teach vocabulary

Who it's best for: All ages and all levels

How to play:
Split your class into two teams, write on a piece of paper the vocabulary you want them to use. Call up one student from a team and show him a vocabulary word. This student must then draw or act out the vocabulary word and tried to get his team to guess their correct word.

The students that are drawing or acting are not allowed to mime or speak the word, if this happens it is considered cheating and the other team gets the point.

If a team guesses the correct vocabulary they will receive a point. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins,

You will find that playing this game can get very loud as you have two teams calling out their guesses at the same time. Try to use vocabulary that will be a little more difficult to guess, for example a word such as ‘cat’ will be easy to draw and easy to guess, so this won’t last very long.  But a word like ‘bedroom’ will be a little more complex. You can also use phrases as well.

I'd love to hear about the games you use in your own classes, and I'm sure other readers would as well. Please share in the comment box below.


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