10 Super Fun Classroom Games For Middle School Students
If you’re teaching teenagers at middle school you know how easily they can lose interest if they’re not having fun in class. A great way to keep middle school students engaged is to use fun and engaging classroom games. Below we have put together 10 of our favorite classroom games for middle school students . These games are not only great for ESL middle school students but can also be used as a fun classroom activity in any class teaching teenagers.
Related: Debate Topics For Middle School Students / Reading Games For Middle School Students
10 Classroom Games For Middle School Students
1: the 20 questions game.
The 20 questions game is a great ESL speaking activity for middle school students. If you’re not familiar with this game, the rules are simple. One student thinks of a secret object and doesn’t tell anyone. The only thing they tell the other students is the kind of thing it is. For example, they might tell them it’s an animal, a type of food, a famous person, etc.
Next, the students can ask up to 20 yes/no questions to try and figure out what the secret object is. For example, if the secret word is a type of food, students might ask “ Is it a fruit? “, “ Is it yellow? “, etc. This game is a fantastic way to get teenagers talking and best of all, it requires no preparation from the teacher. Check out these 20 question game ideas and examples for some categories and words you can use in this fun classroom game.
2: Top Five Quiz Game
Next on our list of fun classroom games for middle school students is the ‘Top Five Quiz’ game. Teenagers absolutely love this game, especially when they get the top answer. To play, students will need a pencil and paper to write down their answers and points. Students can play individually, in pairs, or in small teams.
In this kind of quiz, each question has multiple possible answers. For example, “ Name an animal you can keep as a pet. ” Students must write down just ONE answer and if their answer is in the ‘Top Five’ answers, they score the following points:
1 = 10 Points 2 = 7 Points 3 = 5 Points 4 = 3 Points 5 = 2 Points
If the students’ answers are not in the ‘Top Five’ answers, they get zero points. At the end of the quiz, the student/team with the most points is the winner. For a ready-made quiz and a template to add your own questions to, check out our Top Five Quiz PowerPoint Game page .
3: The Forehead Game
This next game is often played at parties, but it can also be easily adapted to play in the classroom with middle school students. To play, one student (or the teacher) must write down keywords from the lesson on pieces or paper/post-it notes. Next, the students in the class would choose one of the pieces of paper at random and, without looking at it, stick it to their forehead so everyone else in the class can see.
Next, players take turns asking yes/no questions to find out the word stuck to their head. For example, if you were teaching students about jobs and occupations vocabulary , students might ask “ Do I work in a hospital?”, “Do I wear a uniform to work? , etc. The student who guesses their word with the fewest questions is the winner.
4: Describe And Draw Game
This next activity requires students to use their speaking skills to describe a picture. To play, divide students into pairs and provide a set of interesting pictures or flashcards to one student in each pair. Next, the student with the pictures must describe a picture in as much detail as possible to their partner. The other student must try and draw what their partner is describing.
After a few minutes, have students compare the drawing with the real picture to see how accurate their drawing and descriptions were. This game often leads to some hilarious drawings and teenagers have lots of fun playing this activity.
5: What Am I? Quizzes
Quizzes like our ‘What Am I?’ quizzes are fantastic activities to play with middle school students in class. If you’re not familiar with these kinds of quizzes, the concept is simple. Students will read two or three clues describing something and then must guess ‘What Am I?’. For example, “I have 2 hands but no arms. I have a face but no eyes. What Am I?”, with the answer being ‘A Clock’. Here are 40 ‘What Am I?’ Quiz Questions And Answers you can use in your class.
6: Would You Rather Game
This next activity is great for getting students speaking and expressing their opinions. For this activity, all you need is some Would You Rather Questions . Put students in pairs and provide them with many ‘Would you rather?’ questions, and have them take turns asking their partner the question. After which, students should make their choice and then express three reasons why they chose what they did.
The classic word game Scattergories is a fantastic game to use in class with middle school students. There are several ways to play this game in class, but the basic idea of the game is simple. Put students into small teams and provide them with a category and then give them some time to come up with as many unique words as possible. For each word that they write down which is not on another team’s list, they get a point.
Scategories Example Categories
Here are some example Scattegories categories for ESL students:
- Fruits And Vegetables
- School Subjects
- Feeling And Emotions
- Jobs And Occupations
- Daily Routines
Riddles help middle school students to develop their thinking ability, creativity, and can even improve their reading comprehension skills. Not only that, students really have fun deciphering cryptic clues and working out the answer. However, if the riddles are too hard, rather than having fun, students will just be frustrated. So, if you’re planning on using riddles in class, be sure to choose some easy riddles. The Above video has 10 easy riddles for ESL students that you can show in class.
9: Mystery Box Game
For this game, you’ll need the Mystery Box Game template which is a fun PowerPoint game you can use in class with teenagers. Before the class, you will need to add questions to the PowerPoint template based on the topic you are currently studying in class.
To play the game, divide the class into two teams. Teams will take turns choosing a letter and then answering the question on the slide. After which, students will see the ‘Mystery Box’. They can then choose to KEEP the box or GIVE the box to the other team. Inside the box is either good points (e.g +100) or bad points (-100).
So, if a team decides to keep the box, they could win points but they risk losing points. And if a team chooses to give the box, they might make the other team lose points but they risk giving them points, too. At the end of the game, the team with the most points is the winner.
10: Hot Seat
Hot Seat is a great game you can play with middle school students to review vocabulary, or as just a fun time-filler activity . If you’re not sure how to play Hot Seat, then check out the video above. It shows how to play Hot Seat in class, and you can even show this instruction video to your students to show them how to play.
The basic gist of Hot Seat is to have one student in the ‘Hot Seat’, which is a chair at the front of the class. The teacher would then show the other students a word and then the other students must describe that word without saying the word itself, while the student in the ‘Hot Seat’ must try to guess.
Thanks for reading. I hope your students enjoy these activities. Before you go, don’t forget to check out our other free classroom games, including Activity Videos , PowerPoint Games , and Online Quizzes .
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33 Fun ESL Games and Activities for an Exciting English Classroom
Getting playful with the English language is a great way to push your students’ creativity and show them how useful their knowledge really is.
And the best way to do that is with fun ESL games for the classroom!
There’s nothing like a room full of friendly competition and laughter to make learning more fun.
Read on below for 33 ESL group activities that will get your students engaged and practicing their English.
ESL Vocabulary and Spelling Games
1. vocabulary showcase game show, 2. how’s yours, 3. fly swat, 4. shiritori showdown, 6. jeopardy, 7. backdraw, esl listening games, 10. flash art, 11. find someone who…, 12. telephone, 13. song puzzle, esl games for communication and teamwork, 14. question volley, 15. my name is x, and i like x, 16. reporter, 17. secrets, 18. find a partner, 19. what sweet treat am i, esl speaking games, 20. who am i what am i, 21. question master, 22. time trials, 23. balloon truth or dare, 24. word warm ups, 25. mayor (a.k.a. don’t vote for me), 26. reading race, 27. i took a trip to the usa, esl games for creative thinking, 28. storytelling memory game, 29. two truths and a lie, 30. funny papers, 31. dictionary, 32. oral storytelling, 33. written storytelling, why esl games are an essential part of the classroom.
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Best for: Big groups; communication
In the Vocabulary Showcase Game Show, students will learn new words through firsthand communication. Students must explain the chosen word to their teammate without saying the word.
All you need is a whiteboard, a timer and a list of vocab words that students already have a fairly good grasp on.
How to play:
- Review the vocabulary words if needed or desired.
- Divide the class into two teams. Team A will choose their first contestant to start the game.
- Student A from Team A will stand with their back to the whiteboard.
- The teacher writes a vocabulary word on the board and starts the clock. Two minutes per word is best practice in order to get multiple students involved.
- Once the clock starts, Team A will do their best to describe the vocabulary word. They cannot use the word or spell it out.
- If Student A guesses the correct word, Team A gets a point.
- Switch. Now Team B will send up their first member to guess a new vocabulary word. Same rules apply.
- At the end, the team with the most points wins.
Best for: Small groups; beginners
This ESL game will have students guess the object everyone is talking about by asking the eponymous question: “How’s yours?”
You don’t need anything to play this game, though it may be helpful to have some slightly more challenging words to offer your students if they’re struggling as the game leader.
- Select a student to go first (or ask for a volunteer).
- This player is sent into the hall or somewhere out of earshot.
- The teacher will be game leader first. Pick a body part, type of clothing, common person or common object and inform your students of the secret word. Possibilities might include: shoes, mouth, car, mother, teacher or ring.
- The first player comes back into the room.
- The player’s goal now is to figure out what the secret word is by asking each student, “How’s yours?” Each student should respond in just two or three words. Remind them—no pointing!
- Once the first player has an answer from each student, they must guess what the object is. Use points or rewards as desired.
- Continue by having the first player become the game leader; a new student will go into the hall and be the guesser.
Tip: Pick the shy students early so they can play more confidently after they’ve been the guesser.
The secret word is “teeth.”
When the player asks their question (“How’s yours?”), students might respond:
Best for: End of the lesson; practicing synonyms/antonyms/homonyms
This fun ESL game is a race to the board! Students will compete to be the first to find the answer and swat it with their fly swatter.
You’ll need two fly swatters, PowerPoint and a projector. You can substitute the PowerPoint/projector combo for a simple whiteboard, but just know you’ll probably have to do some rewriting throughout the game. It also helps to prepare your questions ahead of time.
- Using PowerPoint, prepare a slide with vocabulary words scattered everywhere.
- Split the class into two teams.
- If needed, inform students they can only swat one word on their turn to make sure they really think about their answer.
- In turns, each team sends up one person to the board. They are each given a fly swatter.
- Read a question/definition aloud. The first student to swat the answer on the board wins the round!
Feel free to ask the same question more than once (repetition is part of the learning process!).
Best for: Warm ups; quick thinking
The word shiritori is Japanese for “chicken’s behind.” Each student will use the last letter of the previous word to make a new one. If the timer goes off—you’re out!
It can be played in any sized group, and the only thing you need is a timer.
- Choose a student to start the game.
- Enter the time on the timer, perhaps 1-2 minutes depending on the class. Begin.
- The chosen student starts the game by saying any word they’d like.
- The next student has to say a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word.
- Play continues until the timer goes off.
- The student who failed to think of a word may have to write on the board, or elimination can continue each round until there’s one winner.
(Teacher sets the timer to 30 seconds.)
Teacher: I’ll start. Mois t .
Student 1: Umm… T owe l .
Student 2: Hmm… L ik e .
Student 3: Like. Like. Like. Umm…
(Timer beeps. Student 3 is out.)
Best for: All lesson types
Hangman is an oldie but a goodie. Students must guess the letters of the alphabet to figure out a word or phrase before the hangman’s drawing is complete.
All you need is paper and pencils—or just a whiteboard if you want to play as a class. Let students take turns picking the word and drawing the blanks. Encourage using new vocabulary words so they can practice spelling.
(I found the original drawing inappropriate for younger students, so I usually drew my stick figure on the plank of a ship over a sea of monsters. As a bonus, students loved being chosen to draw one of the sea monsters on the board before the game began!)
- The leader draws the setup and the blanks for the chosen word or phrase.
- Students take turns guessing letters of the alphabet to fill in the blanks. Correct guesses are written into place in the blanks. For each incorrect guess, the leader adds one body part of the “hangman” to the drawing.
- If the guessers get the correct word first, they win. If the picture of the person is completed first, the leader wins.
- Switch out the leader and play again!
For extra fun, watch a video clip first, then play Hangman using only words from the clip. And for extra practice, at the end of each round, ask students to talk about the definition of the uncovered word or try to use it in a sentence.
Best for: Big groups; comprehensive review; critical thinking; speaking skills; teamwork
Jeopardy is another classic English classroom game that helps students build their confidence. You’ll set it up just like the TV show: a big board with answers and points, where students will need to provide the missing question.
For Jeopardy, you’ll need PowerPoint or an internet connection with an online jeopardy board, plus a projector.
- Prepare a jeopardy board with questions on the chosen subject matter. You can do this on PowerPoint with a premade template , or use Jeopardy Labs for easy set up.
- Assign point values that align with the difficulty of each question to ensure a fair distribution of points. Don’t forget to include a “Daily Double” for extra fun!
- In class, split the students into even groups of four, five or six. Adjust the number according to the number of students in the classroom. For the ideal playing situation, there should be 4-6 groups.
- After the class has been split into groups, the first group chooses a subject and point value.
- Read the corresponding question aloud. Anyone in class can raise their hand to answer the question.
- The first hand up gets to answer. If they’re right, their group receives the points and gets to pick the next question. If they’re wrong, subtract the points from that team; another group gets a chance to answer.
- The group with the most points at the end of the game wins!
Note: You may want to select a spokesperson for each group to keep chaos to a minimum. Rotate the spokesperson every few turns so everyone gets the opportunity to speak.
Best for: Big groups; all lesson types; spelling and vocabulary skills
Backdraw is one of the most popular games in classrooms and works for any level. In this game, the students aren’t allowed to talk.
- Put the students into equal teams and line them up facing the blackboard. All the students must face the blackboard and cannot turn around.
- Inform the students that they cannot speak during the game, or their team is out.
- Give a word to the last student in each team (the student furthest from the blackboard). Usually, it’s best to write the word down and have them read it, so nobody can overhear it.
- When the teacher tells them to begin, the last student must silently write the word on the back of the student in front of them. Once they’re done, the next student then writes the word they “felt” on the student in front of them. This continues until the first student has the word.
- The first student goes to the blackboard and writes the word, spelled correctly.
- The first team to complete the task correctly is the winner.
Best for: Big groups; teambuilding; from beginner to advanced students
This game focuses heavily on spelling and team skills, and it’s a great way to cement the difficult words on your vocabulary list.
- Divide the students into teams. The number of teams doesn’t matter.
- Approach the first team and give them a word to spell. The following steps should be conducted with each team, one at a time. The other students may listen, or practice silently spelling the words, but there shouldn’t be talking from the other teams.
- The first student on the team may only give the first letter.
- The next student says the second letter, and so on.
- Once the word is complete, the next student must repeat the whole word, to signal they’re done spelling.
- Each correctly spelled word earns the team a point.
This game can also be made more or less challenging by choosing higher or lower level words. Also, for more advanced students, they can be asked to spell the word backward.
Best for: Beginners; big groups; pronunciation practice
This game is an excellent way to use physical activity in the classroom while also engaging the brain in language learning.
- Line up the students in the front of the classroom. If you have a large classroom, have them line up in groups of six students at one time. While each group of six students plays, the other students are encouraged to watch and be engaged in the game.
- Assign each student a different word. Encourage them to repeat the word back to you.
- Now the game begins. The teacher (or a designated higher-level student) must say one word at a time.
- The student who is assigned that word must repeat it back and do a squat right away. A deep squat means they hold their arms out in front of them and bend their knees until the thigh bones are horizontal.
- If the student forgets, says the word incorrectly or is extremely late, they’re out and must sit down.
This game can be made more challenging by having the teacher speak faster, or having the students say and spell the word.
Best for: Creative students; reading comprehension practice
You’ll give your students scenarios in English and let them create quick interpretations through drawing. This ESL game offers a break from tough topics and traditional book learning.
For this game, you need plenty of paper and drawing materials like colored pencils, markers or crayons.
- Decide whether you want to work on students’ listening comprehension, reading comprehension or both.
- Say a scenario out loud or write it on the board.
- Students will transcribe or copy the scenario on a piece of paper.
- Give students an allotted amount of time to draw out the scenario on their paper.
- At the end of the session, students may present their drawings. You may also have them vote on their favorite piece for each scenario.
Note: You may only have time to do one or two Flash Art scenarios per session.
- There is a man running in a park. He is being chased by a dog.
- A mother and daughter are baking cupcakes.
- Many cars are stuck in traffic due to rain.
Best for: Big groups
Students must be quick to listen and comprehend the spoken statement, or they’ll end up in the middle where they’ll have to come up with the next statement themselves.
The teacher can have a prepared list of “Finds,” or students can make up their own in this fun ESL game.
- Have everybody begin in a big circle.
- The teacher calls out something like: “Find someone who… is wearing glasses.”
- Everyone runs to grab the hand of a person wearing glasses. Assuming each student has two hands, only two people can be partnered with each glasses wearer.
- Whoever is left without a hand to hold stands in the middle.
- Select a student in the middle to call the next statement.
The possibilities are endless! Students can find someone who:
- is wearing red.
- has words on their shirt.
- can curl their tongue.
Best for: Big groups; speaking skills; pronunciation practice
Telephone is another classic. Students will whisper a given phrase down the line. The last person will announce the likely convoluted sentence to the class for everyone’s amusement.
This ESL game is easy to play—no materials needed!
- Have all of the students sit or stand in a straight line or a circle.
- Make up a phrase or sentence and whisper it in the first student’s ear.
- That student then whispers the phrase to the next person, and so on and so forth.
- If a student would like the phrase repeated to them, they can say “Operator!” This can only be done once per person.
- The last person to hear the phrase will repeat it out loud. It’s always funny to see how different the phrase turns out!
To make this game competitive, split the class into two teams and see who gets closest to the original phrase.
Best for: Small groups; sentence order review; listening practice; speaking skills
Song Puzzle is a fun ESL classroom game that will get your students jamming along to music. You’ll play a song while they arrange the lyrics in the proper order.
To set up this game, select an appropriate song (if you have young students, check out this resource for some suggestions). Print a copy of the lyrics for each small group in your class. Cut each one into strips to create a complete set of lyrics for each group.
- Make sure all your materials are prepped before class begins (song is printed and cut into strips, and you have enough sets for each group).
- Separate students into small groups of two or three. Give each group a complete set of lyric strips.
- Play the song. Groups will try to organize the lyrics into the correct order.
- Continue replaying the song until a team is done. Check the order of their lyrics.
- The first group to organize the lyrics correctly wins.
- Continue playing until all groups have figured out the correct order of the lyrics.
- Use the lyrics to sing the song aloud as a class!
Depending on the song you choose, you can use the lyrics to teach a specific set of vocabulary or a grammar concept. For example, check out this list of songs with passive voice in the lyrics !
Best for: Big groups; speaking skills
In Question Volley, students will ask and answer questions on the spot to boost their confidence in responding to questions naturally and quickly.
All you need for this fun ESL game is a small ball! For added fun, you can always change up what you’re tossing around: a potato, a soccer ball, a frisbee, etc.
- Tell students the topic so questions remain relevant.
- Teacher starts! Have a student toss you the ball and ask you a relevant question.
- Answer the question.
- Toss the ball to a different student. Ask them a question.
- They will answer, and then pass to another student and ask them a question.
- Continue passing, asking and responding until everyone’s had a turn.
Make sure to encourage quick questions and answers to give this a real-life feel.
If your lesson topic is sports, some questions might be:
- What sports do you play?
- What sports do you like to watch?
- Who is your favorite athlete?
For more example questions, try this resource —and check out our dedicated post on ESL movie activities .
Best for: Combining with a vocabulary lesson; big groups; speaking skills; memory recall
Students will introduce themselves and something they enjoy. Depending on the level of your class, they may learn introductions, transitive verbs and first- and third-person sentence structures.
You don’t need anything for this game, but note that the more randomly you call on students, the more likely they’ll pay attention to others’ responses instead of counting how many more turns until they have to participate.
- Sit in a circle with your class.
- Introduce yourself using this format: “My name is X, and I like X.” For example: “My name is Mr. Smith, and I like to read.”
- Have the next student introduce themself using the same format.
- Continue until every student has had a turn.
For more advanced students, include memory recall. Ask students to introduce themselves and the previous student. That is: “His/her name is X, and he/she likes X. My name is X, and I like X.”
The most advanced way to play this game is to include questions, like so:
- Pick a student, either the next in a circle or at random.
- Ask them: “What’s your name? What do you like?” and let them respond.
- Introduce them in the format: “His/her name is X, and he/she likes X.”
- That student will now choose a classmate and ask them the questions.
- The student who asked the questions must introduce their classmate using the answers provided.
- Continue until each student has asked questions and introduced someone.
Best for: Listening comprehension; conversation practice; speaking/writing skills
In Reporter, students will ask their partner questions in the form of an interview. You may ask them to present or submit their partner’s response in writing.
If you choose to focus on writing practice, you’ll need paper and pencils. Otherwise, simply have some sample interview questions prepared to get the class started with this game.
- Brainstorm questions for 5-10 minutes, either individually or as a class.
- Have students pair up.
- During an allotted amount of time, students will ask their partner questions.
- Students may need to write the responses, take brief notes or simply try to remember the answers.
- After the time is up, switch the role of reporter and interviewee.
- At the end, students may present their partners to the rest of the class using the answers provided during game time. Or, students can hand in their interview notes.
You can also turn this into a more elaborate game by assigning the interviews as homework.
In that case, have students present their partners to the class without giving the identity of the partner. The class has to guess who the person is based on the presentation.
Best for: Quiet/lethargic classes
Students will use questioning skills to work out whose secret they know. Get them moving around the room and chatting with this fun ESL classroom game.
You’ll need some slips of paper and something to hold them in—a hat or a small bowl will do nicely.
- Ask each student to write down a secret on a piece of paper. Check that the secrets are written down correctly, but don’t betray students’ secrets to their classmates!
- Have each student fold their paper and put it in a hat.
- Each student will then draw a secret from the hat.
- Once each student has a secret, they will walk around the classroom asking other students questions to find out whose secret they have. They can’t directly say what’s on the paper!
The secret says, “I have five cats.”
The person holding the secret might ask a classmate:
- Do you like animals?
- How many animals live in your house?
Best for: Big groups; speaking skills; combining with a vocabulary lesson
In this ESL game, you’ll give students a category. They’ll write their favorite thing in that category on a piece of paper. Then they’ll search for someone who wrote the same thing—without actually using any of the words they wrote down!
All you need for this one is some small pieces of paper.
- Decide the topic (books, food, movies, etc.). Make sure it’s something that students can talk about in some detail.
- Each student writes down their favorite book (or food, movie, etc.) on a piece of paper and hides it in their pocket or textbook.
- Without using the words they’ve written down, students then go around the room, asking their classmates questions.
- Students who think they’ve found a classmate with the same answer can sit.
- Once everyone’s discovered a partner or once the allotted time is up, students reveal their papers to each other.
To make sure this game is working as intended, the teacher must moderate effectively. Walk the room to ensure students are practicing proper English. Correct them as needed based on topics you’ve covered in class.
Best for: Beginner and intermediate students; speaking practice
Students will take turns asking questions to figure out what sweet treat they are in this fun ESL classroom game.
For this one, you’ll need tape and as many kinds of candy as you have students in class (so, 10 students means 10 different types of candy). Make sure it’s candy they’re familiar with.
- Tape a candy wrapper to each student’s back.
- Put the students in a circle.
- Tell students how many questions they can ask before they’ll need to make a guess, and decide what will happen if they get it right/wrong (points, guess again, player is out, etc.).
- Select someone to go first.
- The first player stands up and turns around so everyone can see their candy wrapper.
- The player can ask the group yes or no questions to get clues about their candy.
- After the set number of questions, the player must guess.
- Continue until all sweet treats have been guessed and revealed.
The standing player might ask some of the following questions:
- Does it taste like strawberries?
- Does it have chocolate?
Best for: Advanced students; practicing asking questions
This is a slightly more advanced version of the “What Sweet Treat Am I?” activity. It can be modified to include writing if you ask the students to create the cards, rather than doing it yourself.
How to play:
- Before beginning the activity, you may want to brainstorm the types of questions that will help students figure out their cards.
- Using sticky notes or index cards, list common household or school-related objects on each one.
- Have each student pick a card without looking at what it says.
- Have them stick it to his or her own forehead.
- Students then ask their fellow students yes or no questions in order to figure out what their card says.
For more advanced students, cards can list literary characters, book titles or even idioms. Another option is to keep all of the cards related to one theme, like health words, clothing, colors or even slang.
Best for: Experienced speakers; creative thinking
Question Master helps your students figure out what to ask in a given situation. Set up the scenario and let them ask away!
All you need for this game is a timer. Any amount of people is good, but note that this ESL game works best with more experienced speakers who are comfortable creating sentences on the fly.
- Choose a scenario for the class, like at a café, at the airport, or even on a date.
- Set the timer. Begin.
- Each student must ask a question relevant to the scenario. Encourage creativity with this one!
- Continue until the timer goes off. The student is out or the game is over.
(Teacher sets timer to a minute and thirty seconds.)
Teacher: Okay, the scenario is at a shop. Go!
Student 1: How much is this?
Student 2: Do you accept credit cards?
Best for: Individual students
Instead of racing against others, students are trying to get their own personal best time for English speaking. They’re aiming for speed and precision.
While you could do this with an ESL class, it’s particularly helpful for individual learners. You’ll just need a topic and a timer that starts from zero.
- Select something for the student to read/say. This could be anything! A passage in a book, a set of statements, etc.
- Start the clock from zero once the student starts reading/speaking.
- When the student is done, stop the timer.
- Tell the student their time.
- Give them tips on how to improve their speaking speed.
- Have them practice, either in class or out, until they get to a more natural time.
Teacher: Okay, tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and what you do. Ready? Go! (Starts timer.)
Student: My name is… (continues talking)
(Teacher stops the timer when the student finishes.)
Best for: Outgoing students
This is a slight twist on the classic truth or dare. Inside balloons are truths (personal questions) and dares (silly actions), which students must complete in front of the class.
You’ll need balloons (at least enough for each student in the class) and slips of paper, as well as truths and dares. Feel free to adapt statements using vocabulary and grammar suitable for the level you’re teaching.
- On slips of paper, write student-friendly dares and questions. Make sure they’re things that most students would be willing to do and answer.
- Put each slip of paper inside a balloon and blow it up. You may want to color code (red balloons = dares, blue balloons = truths), or let it be random.
- Scatter the paper-filled balloons around the room.
- Select a student to go first. They will pick a balloon and pop it, then read their truth or dare aloud before completing it.
- Continue having students choose a balloon, pop it, read the prompt and complete the task until everyone has gone.
A small tip: You may want to start with your more outgoing students. But don’t let your shy students be last either–try to call them out around the middle to help manage their anxiety.
For some possible dares, you might write:
- Do a popular dance.
- Sing a class song by yourself.
- Pretend like you’re riding a horse.
- Snore or snort.
And for some possible truths, you might write:
- What did you look like when you were 10 years old?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
- When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Best for: Warm ups; grammar review; creative thinking
In Word Warm Ups, students will attempt to use the given English concept in a sentence before time runs out.
You’ll need a timer. If the timer is your phone and you don’t want it passed around the room, you’ll also need a small ball or another easily passable item.
- Set the rules for sentence structure. For example, students must make sentences using “should/shouldn’t.”
- Enter a designated time on the timer. Begin the clock and hand the timer/ball to the first student.
- The first student makes a sentence using the grammar construct, then passes the timer/ball to another student.
- Students continue making sentences and passing the timer/ball until the timer goes off.
- You can make additional consequences as desired for the student holding the timer/ball when it goes off.
(Teacher sets the timer to a minute and thirty seconds.)
Teacher: Okay, so sentences using the phrase, “even though.” Go!
Student 1: Hmm… I like Canada even though it’s very cold.
Student 2: Okay. Even though she’s only 30, she’s too old for me.
Student 3: Hmm, I… umm. Even though, umm…
(Timer goes off. Student 3 is out.)
Best for: Advanced students; speech-giving practice
Mayor requires both higher English ability and an appreciation of irony. If your class has both, this game may get shy students to take risks and even be a bit silly. Students will run to NOT become mayor.
No materials are needed. Note that you may want to lower the intensity for your shy students by having everyone stand at their desk to speak rather than the front of the classroom.
- Explain that you’re going to have a mock election for mayor in your classroom, but it’s a job nobody wants. Each student must convince the class that they should NOT be mayor and why.
- You may need to go first to show the possibilities.
- Select the first student to give their speech. You can set a time limit so no one speaks too much or too little.
- Continue until each student has given their speech.
- The winner is the one who comes up with the best reason not to be mayor, which can be decided by vote. It’s an election, after all!
“I would hate to be mayor. Do not vote for me. I do not like to be around smelly, old citizens. Children are noisy. Who cares about education?”
Best for: Reading class; small groups; reading speed; pronunciation practice
This English classroom game will have students race against the clock to finish the reading passage. The key is that they must do so with no mistakes.
You’ll need a timer and reading material to play, so this game is especially great if your class has a reading text they’re working through.
- Provide students with the reading passage you want them to practice. Make sure everyone’s on the correct page.
- Set the time and begin the timer.
- Each student will attempt to read the next sentence (or the whole passage) perfectly .
- If they mispronounce a word or rush through a sentence, correct them. They must start again from the beginning.
- Once they’ve read the given part with no mistakes, it’s the next student’s turn.
- The student who’s reading when the timer goes off is out!
(Teacher sets the timer to two minutes.)
Teacher: Okay, reading race, page 7. Ready? Go!
Student 1: (Reads passage perfectly)
Student 2: (Reads passage but has an error with pronunciation)
Teacher: (Tells student correct pronunciation) Sorry, reread!
Student 2: (Reads passage perfectly)
Student 3: (Reading but struggling a bit)
(Timer goes off. Student 3 seems to be having some trouble with these games! They’re out.)
Best for: Big groups; listening skills; memory recall
This speaking game puts an emphasis on listening , focus and memory-building skills while also encouraging students to recall vocabulary.
- Teach the students the speech they must learn for every turn in the game: “I took a trip to the USA, and with me I took…”
- The first student says the sentence, and names an object starting with an “A.” For example, “…and with me I took an apple.”
- The next student must repeat the first word, then add a word that starts with a “B.” For example, “…and with me I took an apple and a banana.”
- Every following student must repeat every word previously said, and add a word starting with the next letter of the alphabet. For example, “…and with me I took an apple, a banana, and a cat.”
- The game continues until a word cannot be named or a word is forgotten.
This is a very flexible game that can be adapted to any classroom. First, be specific on wanting students to use articles and the word “and” before the last word. Also, you can give the classroom a category to follow, such as asking them to name animals or foods.
Best for: Speaking skills; memory recall; vocabulary building; sentence structure review
Together, the class will tell a story out loud by finishing each others’ sentences in this ESL game.
Smaller groups make this game easier, while larger groups will really test students’ memories. No materials needed!
- Begin by sitting in a circle.
- The first person (this can be you, but it doesn’t have to be) starts the story with a fragment, such as: “It was a dark and stormy night…”
- The next person in the circle must repeat what the first person said and add a phrase of their own.
- Continue going around the circle until someone messes up. You can start over, prompt them or something else.
- In the end, you could have students write down the story. Or write it on a poster board and hang it up in your classroom for students to remember and get a good laugh!
Teacher: It was a dark and stormy night…
Student 1: It was a dark and stormy night and no one was around.
Student 2: It was a dark and stormy night and no one was around. Suddenly, there was the sound of…
Best for: The first class; advanced students; speaking/writing skills; conversation practice
In this game, each student will present three statements about themselves—two are true, and one is false. Their classmates must ask questions in order to determine which statement is the lie.
Two Truths and a Lie only requires a whiteboard (or anything you can write on).
- Ensure the class understands the meaning of both “truth” and “lie.”
- You’ll go first as an example. On the board, write two truths and one lie about yourself.
- Tell the class that one of the statements on the board is not true .
- Students may ask you non-specific questions about what you wrote. You may want to give a question limit to raise the stakes of the game.
- Once the questioning is over, students will write down which statement they believe to be the lie.
- You can ask them to share their guess and why they came to that conclusion.
- Reveal the lie!
- Select a student to take your place. The game repeats until everyone has had a turn.
One statement says: “I enjoy running every morning.”
Students may ask things like:
- What kind of running shoes do you have?
- What time do you begin your run?
Best for: Writing practice; collaboration; pair or small group play
Funny Papers is a fun ESL game where students are asked to fill in the blank speech bubbles of a comic strip.
Using the Sunday funny papers or some blank comic strips online , white out the text of each character’s speech bubbles or dialogue boxes. Make enough copies for your class.
- Give your students an example. Show them the comic strip and ask what they think is happening in the scene. Write some of their responses in the speech or thought bubbles above each character.
- Now, split the class into groups for the activity.
- Hand out the comic strips and let each group create their own Funny Paper.
- Visit each group to offer insight and answer questions they may have.
- Once the comics are complete, students can present to the class.
Best for: Any level; speaking skills; writing skills
If you know the game Balderdash , you’ll recognize Dictionary. One team member will lead the way. Players will guess the definition of a difficult word, and a judge will decide their favorite answer. In the end, someone wins a treat!
You’ll need dictionaries or vocabulary lists (with definitions) for this game. You’ll also need sticky notes for each group and some prize candy.
- Split the class into groups of five or six students.
- Give each group a packet of sticky notes and a dictionary/vocab list.
- For each group, select a leader and a judge. (Tip: Try picking the shyest students to steer the groups first.)
- The leader finds a word in the dictionary/on the list that they do not believe anyone else knows. The leader writes the correct definition of the word on the sticky note.
- The leader spells the word out loud, and everyone except the judge writes it down on their own sticky note.
- Everyone except the leader and judge will now make up their own definition of the word and write it on their sticky note as well. The students can come up with a silly definition, try to guess the correct definition or try to fool the judge with something that sounds convincing.
- The leader collects the definitions and gives them to the judge.
- The judge reads each definition out loud. (If your judge has a flair for the dramatic, all the better!)
- After reading all the definitions, the judge decides which one they like best. The player who wrote it gets a piece of candy.
- The roles switch. The judge becomes the leader and a new judge is selected.
- Keep playing until every student has had a chance to be both the judge and the leader.
The leader picks the word “sundry.” She spells it out for the players.
The leader writes the correct definition on her note (“miscellaneous”).
One player thinks about the literal meaning and writes: “wet clothes left outside.”
Another player guesses: “popcorn.”
Another player decides to be silly and writes: “lying to your teacher.”
The leader mixes up the definitions and hands them to the judge. The judge reads each definition out loud, and everyone has a good laugh.
The judge decides she likes the “wet clothes left outside” definition. The player who wrote this gets the candy and then the leader explains that the correct definition is “miscellaneous.”
Best for: Listening comprehension; speaking practice
Students have to be able to follow along with the story, listening closely to what the people before them just said, and they have to think critically to build a correct sentence of their own.
For beginning ESL students, consider speaking sentences out loud yourself and asking them to add one word at a time. They could even draw or hold up pictures to add to the story.
- Have students sit in a circle. Begin telling a story by speaking one sentence aloud.
- The student on your left should add to the story by speaking a second sentence aloud.
- The student to his or her left should speak the next sentence aloud, and so on.
- Keep the story going around the circle one sentence at a time until it comes to a logical conclusion.
Remind students that each sentence should build on the one before it.
It’s easy for students to add in something offbeat or random to try to be silly, but the goal of this lesson is to create a logical story. One way to keep the story on track might be to record it.
Best for: Working as a team; writing practice
This is a bit like a word association game, but requires that the students expand on that to create a story.
For more advanced students, consider assigning topics that require students to discuss customs or cultural norms, like privacy, personal space, hygiene or dining.
How to play:
- Divide the class into small groups.
- Each group gets to choose three random words from a bag and must incorporate each word into a short story.
- Depending on your students’ level, you can assign specific numbers of characters, amount of dialogue, length, etc. to be included in the story.
- At the end of the lesson, groups can take turns reading stories aloud.
- For increased participation and extra practice with speaking, you can ask the students who are listening to the story to comment on their classmates’ work. For beginning students, sentence starters like, “I liked….” or “what did you mean by…?” can be helpful to encourage feedback.
Both the written storytelling and the small group discussion that follows are valuable practice time. Together, they’ll help students practice written and spoken English in one swoop.
ESL games are as versatile as they are fun! They’re also a super important part of your lesson plans. Here’s why:
- They’re invaluable for building on your presentation (the first part of your PPP lesson plan ).
- They’ll help your students cultivate essential skills, both directly and organically.
- They’ll often get your students up and moving, which helps get the brain working.
- They’ll help your students internalize grammar and vocabulary through usage.
- They’ll aid the development of students’ English listening, reading, speaking, writing and thinking skills.
- They’ll improve your students’ communication, collaboration skills and confidence.
- They’re usually active —great for both classes that need somewhere to direct their energy and classes that need to kick it up a notch.
- They can be used at any time during class: as a beginning warm-up, as an end-of-class time-filler or in the middle as the bulk of your lesson.
Games can be implemented alongside any other teaching tools as well.
They’re useful during difficult or frustrating lessons to supplement traditional book learning time. They can also be used in conjunction with videos to keep your classes engaged from start to finish.
For level-appropriate videos with helpful tools, the FluentU language learning program uses authentic clips made by native speakers to teach your students English.
The clips are organized by content and level, so you can ensure they’re the right amount of challenging for your class. The videos also have interactive subtitles, so students can hover over a word to see its definition or click on it for more information, including example sentences and contextual notes.
As the teacher, you can assign FluentU videos for homework, track student progress and create vocabulary lists for students to review with the digital flashcard feature. Then in class, you can practice the vocabulary together using one of the games listed above.
Working some fun ESL classroom games into your lesson plans every week creates an atmosphere of enthusiastic learning. Your students will have a blast while working on their English skills!
From artistic creativity to comedic scenarios, your students can experience English in a whole new way through these games. Even grammar can be exciting with games !
So, get started with these fun ESL games and bring learning to life!
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17 ESL Activities for Engaging Classes
17 Essential ESL Activities that are Fun, Relevant and Engaging
Fun, relevant, and engaging ESL activities are the nitrous of every successful lesson. Through hundreds of successful ESL classes, we know what does and does NOT work.
ESL exercises are a controlled way to practice a particular language aspect. Instead, ESL activities engage in discussion and communication focused on a goal.
For example, you can cut our ESL discussion topics into bite-size papers and have them communicate in pairs. And this is just 1 of 17 ideas waiting for you to build these ESL activities into your classes and to perfection,
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in.
1. 101 ESL Discussion Topics: Free-Talking
If you’re struggling to energize your classroom with discussion and debate, these free-talking topics have been tested to keep them engaged.
Depending on the class, the free talking topics worksheet can keep things fresh. Print them off. Cut them up. Put it in a hat. Select a topic at random and let your students talk in pairs or together as a classroom.
If you’re looking for the whole package, here are 101 ESL conversation topics . Like an open microphone, there’s something in this list that will break the classroom silence.
2. Reverse Jeopardy: Formulating Questions
Instead of answering questions like in a quiz show, students are making the questions. Each card has a word with a point value. Similar to Jeopardy, you create 5 categories. Each category has 5 questions with harder cards as a higher point value.
In groups of 4, students pick the category and point value. After flipping over the card, the fastest group to raise their hands make a question. Give a countdown for how fast they have to respond. Don’t be afraid to give negative points if they are too slow to respond or make an incorrect question.
Students get quite competitive when you tally points. Out of all the ESL activities, this one never fails me. Not. A. Single. Time.
3. Lost in Kansas: Asking for Directions
In this map of Wichita Kansas, students practice turning left and right. In addition, they learn to move backwards and forwards.
First, put students into pairs. Next, they ask each other how to get to the destinations on the map. They can practice both asking and giving directions in this worksheet.
For traveling, this is an incredibly useful skill to get familiar with. Beforehand, practice the essentials like “turn left”, “go straight” and “number of blocks or intersections”.
4. Let Me Introduce Myself: Self-Introductions
How many times have you introduced yourself in your lifetime? For example, you introduce yourself to friends, in business meetings, and during round tables.
Using the business card template, ask your students to fill these out. In the next class, they can practice self-introductions by walking around the classroom and greeting fellow students.
Not only does this help students break the ice, but teachers get to put a name on each student’s face. And if they don’t have a photo, just have them draw a picture of themselves.
5. Timeless Timelines: History Exploration
From the start of human civilization, we remember some of the most famous people and inventions. Using this timeline worksheet , students arrange the timeline according to their birth date and the invention year.
From youngest to oldest, the teacher will go through the correct order in the history timelines for kids. For example, paper was invented more than 1300 years earlier than the printing press.
The teacher then helps everyone by giving the correct answers. Further to this, ask questions about inventors:
- Who else belongs in the list?
- What other inventions are important enough they should be added?
- Or what are future inventions you want to see on this list in the future?
6. Einstein’s Riddle: Detective-Style Logic Activity
Einstein’s riddle is a challenging detective-style activity where students have to use logic to solve the nationality, pet, drink, color, and hobby of each homeowner.
It’s believed that at a young age, Albert Einstein created this riddle. Eventually, it made its way as a head-scratcher activity that even challenges your brightest students.
Because of its difficulty, we have provided answers to Einstein’s riddle below. But if you’re brave enough, you can give it a shot with just the clues.
7. Cultural Dictionary
Have you ever wanted to live in another country just for a sense of culture shock? The purpose of this ESL activity is to transform your class into a cultural exchange.
One of the best parts of teaching English abroad is the cultural exchange between you and where you teach English abroad. And don’t forget that culture exchange is two ways. Not only do your students learn about your culture, but you can learn about theirs.
Ask students to write down one culturally significant item about their country. Ask for volunteers to share. Once you collect all the students’ answers, you can compile everyone’s ideas in a culture exchange dictionary that you can keep in class.
8. Group Charades: Action Verbs
Charades works for outgoing classes. But for introverted classes, it can be an epic failure. However, suddenly for group charades, introverts become extroverts and they’re much more likely to be more relaxed.
First, split the class into groups. For example, if you have 30 students, make 6 groups of five. Rather than one person acting out, the entire group acts it out, and one person guesses. In the group charades worksheet, there are tons of ideas to get started.
This is why reverse Charades can put a well-needed twist on the instant classic.
9. The Classroom Movie: Dialogue Practice
It’s amazing what a green screen can do in an English class or club. I brought one into class. All of a sudden, students were making up their own English movie ideas. And the ideas were pretty awesome – one took place at the Eiffel Tower!
When students start taking control of their own fate, their own English improves 10 fold. The classroom movie activity has the potential to do that.
From your typical everyday students to Hollywood movie stars. And it’s all because you came prepared with a green screen.
10. Your Dream Job: Job Interview Practice
If you want to get serious about students’ future, this dream job worksheet might be the answer.
In pairs, students ask each other the list of questions on the sheet. After answering all the questions, everyone can find out their perfect job by counting how many “YES” answers.
Now that students have learned about different job types, it’s time for students to prepare for a job interview. Using the job interview worksheet , students can imagine they have landed interviews for their dream job.
With the set of questions in the handout, students can write down answers to the interview questions. Finally, they can practice with each other for their dream job.
11. Multi-purpose Items: Informative/Explanatory Writing
First, the teacher gives the class an object, any object. Next, give the students a couple of minutes to think of all of the different uses for that item. After about five or six minutes, the teacher asks students to share what they have come up with.
For example, you can use forks to eat food, comb your hair, open cans, mix ingredients, and clean pans. Not so bad for a simple fork. The “Multi-purpose Items” encourages creativity and it’s fun to hear what they come up with.
The purpose of informative/explanatory writing is to explain why or how something works the way it does. In this informative/explanatory writing worksheet, we engage in giving informative answers for multi-purpose items.
12. Rhyme Time: Activity Sheet
First, put your students into groups. Next, hand out the Rhyme Time activity sheet. Now, bring out your stopwatch and get your students to think of as many rhymes as possible for each group. Finally, the group with the most rhymes wins.
Your students are poets and they don’t even know it. Review the rhymes and have a classroom discussion on rhymes. For example, when do you hear rhymes? How about in songs or poems?
12. Simon Says: Imperatives
Only when the teacher says “Simon Says”, students can complete the action. For example, if you only say “Touch your nose”, students should do nothing.
But if you say “Simon says touch your nose”, students should actually touch their nose. This is how to play Simon Says.
If you’re looking for Simon Says ideas, we have provided a worksheet below that you can use. For example, students can touch their noses, jump up and down and run in a circle.
13. Pushy Salesperson: Advertisement Ideas
Have your students sell something that nobody wants to buy like a pushy salesperson. There are tons of advertisement ideas for a school project in this worksheet.
For example, you can use forks to eat food, comb your hair, open cans, mix ingredients, and clean pans. Not so bad for a simple fork. The “Multi-purpose Items” encourages creativity and it’s fun to hear what they come up with.
14. Pass the Ball: Vocabulary Brainstorming
One of the best parts about “Pass the Ball” is that you need practically no preparation time at all. Also, you can practice anything from rhyming to vocabulary to types of things.
First, the teacher comes up with a topic or idea. In the worksheet below, there are some ideas but they can be anything. Next, the teacher starts the music, and students have to think of as many words as they can for that topic.
Someone starts with a ball. When they come up with a word, they pass the ball to another student. This process continues but they can’t repeat something that has already been said.
When the music stops, whoever is holding the ball loses. And the punishment can be anything. For example, they must speak for one minute about a topic the teacher gives them.
This activity was previously called “Talking Timebomb” because you used a timer. Whoever was left with the ball at the end of the music lost the game.
15. Pronunciation Game: Minimal Pairs Pyramid
Minimal Pairs are words that sound similar but one phonological element is different in the two words. For example, glamour and grammar sound extremely similar. But they are different with the /r/ and /l/ sounds.
In the pronunciation game, students have to keep a keen ear for what they hear. For example, we use minimal pairs which are similar sounding words with one different phonological element.
First, they start at the top of the pyramid. Next, the teacher says the word, and students have to circle it. Meanwhile, this process continues until everyone reaches the bottom. Finally, there’s only one spot where everyone should finish.
As the teacher, you have to keep track of where the final landing spot should be. Check your students’ understanding. Finally, review the minimal pairs by practicing each sound together as a classroom.
16. Tongue Twisters: Pronunciation Practice
Tongue twisters are an effortless way to challenge students at pronunciation. The nice thing is that they have so much fun doing it that they don’t even notice they are speaking English.
I like to start this class by doing a tongue twister in their native language. If I mess up, it gets students laughing. But nothing to worry about because mistakes are OK. Point proven!
First, practice the tongue twister with “repeat after me” style drills. Next, have students practice in pairs, but don’t give them too much time. Finally, open the classroom up for volunteers who can say the tongue twister the fastest.
You might be surprised to see the shyest student in class get in the action! They’re challenging themselves to speak faster. And they are having fun doing it. This is a good recipe for success.
17. Talktastic: The Free-Talking ESL Board Game
This free-talking ESL board game “Talktastic” requires a game board and dice to play. But with a bit of preparation, students will be asking each other questions and answering in no time.
First, the teacher makes groups of two. Next, students roll the dice and move their game pieces. When they land on a square, they’ll ask their partner the question in the box. Accordingly, their partner responds until they go around the entire game board.
Even if you have rules to only speak in English in class, this activity is one of those times you should enforce this. Overall, this ESL Board Game lasts for a good 15 minutes and is a lot of fun for students.
Engaging ESL activities are one of the most essential elements of teaching an effective lesson.
These ESL activities aim at boosting awareness and increasing English as a Second Language in an effortless, fun sort of way.
Are you ready to take action? These ESL activities are all free to download and print to teach within your class today.
Let me know what you think with a comment below.
Thank you very much. These are some very interesting ideas.
Great ideas for our ESL table for our upcoming Curriculum Night.
These ideas are amazing. I’m so excited to try them with my teen and adults students
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Free Talking Topics
Have You Ever?
Talking Time Bomb
The Classroom Movie
What’s in the Box ?
12 Fun ESL Speaking Activities for Teens or Adults
Every language teacher knows that speaking is a core skill to teach and practice, but sometimes it can be challenging coming up with creative or engaging ESL speaking activities and games. You can use them to improve the community feeling inside the classroom , too.
Let’s dive into nine quick, easy, and fun ESL speaking activities for teenagers and adults you can integrate into your lessons or use in speaking clubs.
They are designed to be high-quality and enjoyable – and mostly suitable for online lessons, too.
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They don’t need much preparation, but will get your students talking and help them to hone their conversational skills without even thinking about it.
1. Interview Pop
2. word racing, 3. guess who or what i am, 4. would you rather…, 5. how-to presentation, 6. living memory, 7. video talk, 8. talk about your weekend, 9. timed discussion, 10. debating club, 11. taboo words, 12. story chain.
Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced Type of Lesson: Group or Individual
This is a great one for students to have fun and be creative. Put students in pairs, or you could also carry this one out in a one-one lesson.
Students choose one person they want to interview. It can be anybody of their choice, and the person doesn’t necessarily have to be alive still.
I tell students to choose someone they know a lot about or who they admire because then they’ll have more material to talk about when the speaking part of the activity comes around.
Give each student a list of ten to fifteen verbs. (Can be the same list or different) See the example:
Each student has to choose five verbs from their list.
They make a different question using one of their five verbs in each question; these questions are made for the person they want to interview.
Each question will have a different verb.
For example, let’s say a student chooses Barack Obama. They have to make five interview questions for Barack Obama, each question using a different verb from their list.
Here are some examples:
- How did you decide you want to become president?
- Did you want to continue being president after your term finished?
- What did you love about being the president?
- What would you change about the USA?
- What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as president?
While I usually just come up with the verbs myself, you can also find some verb lists online, along with a list of people for your students to choose from.
While the students are making their questions, go through the class and help students fix the grammatical mistakes.
This is a great activity if you are practicing question formation as a grammar topic with your students.
The students then give their partner the questions that they wrote and then assume the role of the person they wanted to interview, while their partner asks them the questions they just made.
So this means that each student answers the questions from the perspective of the person they wanted to interview, as their partner asks them the questions.
Go around and listen for mistakes.
You could also then have students report to the class the person their partner chose and how they responded to the questions.
Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced Type of Lesson: Group
A very interactive and high-energy ESL speaking activity. Many students get so into it and excited that they won’t even notice they are speaking in a foreign language and won’t even have time to think about making mistakes.
All you need to prepare for the game is to write down 15-20 vocabulary terms you want to practice with your students, each term is written on a different small slip of paper. Give a stack of these slips to each group.
You can also let the students write down the vocabulary (for example on the last topic they’ve learned) but then some words might be double and they also might not think of the words you want them to practice.
Divide your students into groups of three or four and explain the rules of the game.
One player from the first group starts. This student then has one minute to explain or define as many words written on their slips to their own group as they can, without saying the word they have on the card.
They want their group to guess as many words as possible in one minute.
Each time the members of the group guess a word, they put the card down, which gets them a point, and then they take a new card and repeat the same thing.
Once the minute is over, the next group takes their turn.
After the minute is up, each group counts their points and the group with the most points wins that round.
If you have time to play more rounds, after all, words are guessed, put them back in the basket and let them play again, although this time they can only use one word to explain the word on the card, for example, a synonym or a word they associate with the word on the card.
An example might be that if the word on the card is ‘handcuff’ then they say the word ‘police’ and the other students have to guess the word ‘handcuff’.
Students only get one guess. Once a student guesses, the student must move on to the next card, whether the word was guessed correctly or not.
In the last round, they act out or pantomime the words on their cards.
Here’s a list with even more fun ESL vocabulary games for adults and kids.
While there are many other good vocabulary-charades type games that can be done with both younger and older students, this one has been my favorite.
Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate Type of Lesson: Group
This is a very simple but effective activity with no preparation needed and can be played in two versions.
It’s usually more suitable for lower-level students but can also be used in intermediate or upper-intermediate students, especially for the other variation of the activity described below.
In version one, one student thinks of a person – it could be someone in the class or a famous person, someone that everyone is likely to know – and the rest of the class asks them yes or no questions about the person until they can guess who it is.
The student who guesses the person with the least amount of questions wins.
In version two, one student goes in front of the door, while the rest of the class decides on a person. Then the student comes back in and has to ask the class yes or no questions until they can guess who the person is.
Another variation of this game is to put students in groups and describe themselves from the perspective of an object, and the other students must guess what that object is in the quickest time possible.
Each student in the group writes down an object and then speaks from the perspective of that object as if they were actually that object.
For example, if one student chooses ‘handcuffs’ they would say something like:
- “The police put me around somebody’s wrists when they break the law.”
- “I have two round rings with chains connected them.”
- “I am on a person on their way to prison.”
Students shouldn’t do any gesturing or acting on this one because that will give it away. The student who is able to guess the most objects correctly wins.
The reason I like this one more is that the students have to get a little bit more creative about expressing their ideas and they also tend to have more fun with this one.
Student level: Intermediate to Advanced Type of Lesson: Group or Individual
This is a great way to practice ‘would’ in the conditional form.
There’s a lot of different ways you can organize this one. One of the easiest ways is to just come up with some of your own ideas (5-10 should be enough), type them out, and cut them up into cards.
Go around the class and have a student draw a card, read it aloud, and then call on another student to answer it.
The goal is to make the “Would you rather” questions funny, crazy, interesting, or controversial. Think about what kind of questions you think would be fun to discuss if you were learning a foreign language.
Bookmark our list of 110 “would you rather” questions, and you will never run out of great questions to discuss.
Here are a few examples:
- Would you rather give up your mobile phone or your pet?
- Would you rather have $50,000 that is legal or $150,000 that is illegal?
- Would you rather be the funniest person in the room or the most intelligent?
- Would you rather have your first child when you are 19 years old or when you are 45?
As stated before, you can make up your own. If you are doing a specific topic for your lesson, then you can try to make them as closely related to the topic as possible.
For example, if the topic for your lesson is Meet the World’s Oldest Ice Hockey Player , then you might want to prepare some ‘would you rather’ questions about age or about hockey:
- Would you rather stop aging at 17 or 35?
- Would you rather date someone ten years older or ten younger?
- Would you rather be a famous football player or a famous hockey player?
Give each group or pair of students the same card and have each of them state their opinion about the topic on the card.
You can give them a few minutes to take notes on their opinion and what they want to say before starting. Then students go around and say their opinion and support their argument.
This is one is sure to bring some good conversations and even laughs in your class.
You can also teach phrases on how to express opinions, such as:
- “In my opinion…”
- “I believe that…”
- “In my eyes…”
- “From my point of view…”
In addition to this, you could also assign students to make their own “Would you rather…” topics for the class or other groups. Make sure they keep them appropriate!
Help facilitate the conversations and ask follow-up questions while students are speaking.
This activity is great for a number of reasons: it’s simple to assign and explain, effective for students to develop speaking, and fun because it’s on a topic they’re interested in.
It’s also practical because they’re teaching the class how to do something or how something works.
Basically, all you need to do for ESL speaking activities like this one is have students choose some topic. It can be any appropriate topic according to their wishes.
Then they give a five-minute presentation on that How-to topic.
In order to get students cooperating together, you could also put them in pairs and have them decide on and organize the speech together.
Here are some of the ones my students have done before and they turned out to be great:
- How to cook [a food]
- How to play [a sport]
- How to travel cheap
- How to do a magic trick
- How to live healthily
There are some great tips you can share with your students on giving a presentation in a foreign language.
Have students prepare the speech at home or during the lesson, and then have them present their topic during the next lesson.
You could take notes on their speaking or pronunciation mistakes while they present and go over them after the presentation.
Student level: Pre-Intermediate Type of Lesson: Group
This is a game based on the classic board game “memory” designed for lower-level students.
Two students go out of the room (Student A and Student B). The rest of the class gets together in pairs.
If you have an uneven number of students, one group can be in three.
Each pair chooses a word according to the learning objective.
For example, if your students are learning about food, then in pairs they will mutually agree on a meal or a food they both like. Then the two students come back into the classroom and these two students play against each other to gain points.
To gain points, Student A starts off and asks any student in the class “What do you like eating?” and that student answers “I like eating…”, and then Student A asks another student what they like to eat.
If the second student likes the same thing, then Student A gets one point. Then Student B goes and tries to match the pairs based on the food they mutually chose together.
This is a fun game to practice vocabulary and simple phrases.
You can make the game more interactive if students make gestures and movement demonstrating the type of food. For example, they gesture peeling a banana if the food they chose is ‘banana’.
Other good questions are:
- What is your favorite subject?
- What do you like doing in your free time?
- What time is it?
Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced Type of Lesson: Group or Individual
Find a YouTube video topic that you think would be interesting for your students. I would choose a relatively short video (two to five minutes), or something like a TedTalk.
Make some preview discussion questions about the topic presented in the video, go through them with students before watching, and then watch the video together.
You can then have some questions prepared based on the video content and some post-discussion activities while going through some of the important vocabulary terms from the video.
Students tend to love working with videos and there are so many good ones out there nowadays.
Using video is effective because it brings the outside world to your students, and they can generate some great discussions in class, inspiring students to speak their mind and share their opinions and ideas.
Browse our full archive of ESL resources and printables.
Student level: Beginner to Intermediate Type of Lesson: Group
This activity is a better choice if your students are happy talking but maybe are a bit nervous speaking in front of a class:
Split the class into pairs.
Students need to discuss their weekend with their partner.
Use only English!
You need to be observant with this type of activity. Keep an eye on each student’s talk time.
If you are finding some students are much more talkative than their partners, maybe set a time limit for how long each student can talk for before switching. This ensures that everyone gets a fair chance to practise.
Information gap activities are great to practice conversation; get more ideas here.
This is another simple yet great activity for building confidence in speaking!
Give the student a topic card, for instance, “Talk about your favorite place.” or “What’s your favorite band or artist?”
The student has a certain amount of time to prepare some ideas for what they will say.
The student then has to talk about that topic for a chosen amount of time.
When starting out with this activity, make sure to give more time for preparation and less time for the presentation. 5 minutes of preparation time and 1 minute of the presentation should be plenty.
With time, you can reduce the preparation time or increase the presentation time.
Prepare a list of controversial topics, and two opposing views about each topic.
Split your students into pairs or small groups (each with an even number of students). Split each groups into two parties. Assign a topic to each group: each party has to hold an opposite view.
Give them some time to prepare arguments for their standpoint. 5 to 10 Minutes should be enough.
Then let each group debate their topic in front of the class. One party starts voicing their first argument, then the other answers.
Each statement shouldn’t exceed 30 seconds – use a stopwatch with a countdown, so students know when they have to stop.
The debate is over after a set time – for example 5 minutes – or when the parties stated all their arguments.
After each debate, the whole class votes which party was more convincing and won the debate.
If it’s an individual lesson, you and the student play the opposite parties – no final vote then.
Make sure to prepare topics according to the fluency level of your students. The topics can be rather serious and controversial, or fun and weird.
Here are a couple of examples:
Current and serious topics:
- Classroom instruction vs. Homeschooling
- Self-driving cars: smart or dangerous
- Buy local vs. buy online
- Death sentence: yes or no
- iOS vs. Android
Fun and weird topics:
- Vanilla vs. chocolate ice-cream
- Get up early vs. go to bed late
- Have no kids vs. have 5 kids
- Travel to Mars vs. to the earth’s core
- Sommer vs. Winter
Student level: Beginner to Intermediate Type of Lesson: Group
Finally, and absolute classic activity. Split your students into groups, each with at least 3 three students.
Prepare a list of words. For each word, think about 3-5 words which can be used to describe the original word. These can be synonyms, adjectives or any kind of related terms.
- Weather – rain, cloud, sun, forecast, outside
- hungry – food, stomach, eat, restaurant, thirsty
- to run – fast, quick, walk, race, legs
Write the words on cards.
Now, one student has to take one card and explain the word to the other in their group. Here’s the catch: He must not use one of the words on the card (also, no parts or variations of the words.). He must not use gestures, facial expressions or voices. He has to circumscribe the word using other verbal expressions.
The rest of the group have to guess the word. Set a time for each round, like one minute. One group has to guess as many words as possible within that time; each guess is one point.
When the explaining student uses one of the taboo words (or other taboo means), he has to skip the current word and continue with the next card.
Count the points after each round. Then, the next group has its turn. The game is over, when each student in each group had their turn to explain words. Sum up the points; the group with the most wins.
Other possible game modes: Let the groups guess one word alternating, and set a 30 seconds time limit for each guess. Or let a student explain a word to the whole class, and who guesses it first, gets a point.
Student level: Intermediate to Advanced Type of Lesson: Group
This activity does not only help students develop their speaking and listening skills, it also fosters critical thinking skills, creativity, and imagination.
Here’s how it works:
- Divide the group into small teams of 3–4 people each.
- Give each team a starting sentence, such as “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away.”
- Set a time limit, such as 5 minutes.
- Each team must take turns adding one sentence to the story, building from the previous sentence.
- The team that completes the most coherent story within the time limit wins.
- To make it more challenging, you can also include a specific vocabulary theme for the story, such as “animals” or “travel”, or you can include a twist, such as “the story must be a horror story”.
- After the activity, teams present their story to the class.
- Encourage the class to ask questions about the story to the teams.
6 thoughts on “12 Fun ESL Speaking Activities for Teens or Adults”
Thank you so much! Some of the suggestions I have already used with my students, but I did get new tips too! will try them out.
Great ideas to get my hgh school students speaking. Thanks so much
Great… These activities are really interesting ones and are helping me a lot. Thank You So Much for Uploading….
Great activities! Greeting from Mexico.
Thank you! This is very clearly written with a lot of additional ideas. Useful! :)
Thanks so much for sharing. Lots of new ideas for me.
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