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Best English Games to Play in Your ESL Classroom

English games

Here is an extensive list of my favorite English games to play with my students.

Board games

  • Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition

Yes, you read that right. Cards Against Humanity. But! This is a family edition, so it’s clean. You can download if for free and print, but, make sure you feel comfortable using it, there are some cards that may still be perceived as inappropriate for school.

  • Free print and play games

I’ve only recently found a website where you can find free board games. My favorite is Dixit which is great for imagination and creativity.

  • Dominoes

This is a very versatil game that can be used to practice vocabulary (phrasal verbs, prepositional phrases, compound nouns and adjectives, etc.) and grammar (conditionals, participle clauses, etc.) You can create your own or try these and these vocabulary dominoes or this great resource.

  • Scrabble

Every classroom should have at least a couple of boxes of this amazing game. This game is a must. That’s all I’m going to say.

  • OrganAttack

This is a medical-themed card game which was created by Nick Seluk, the author of my favorite The Awkward Yeti comic. I liked the game so much that I even backed it on Kickstarter! It looks great, the organ cards are super cute and hilarious, the game itself is fun and easy to learn. Your aim is to remove your opponent’s organ before they remove yours. It is perfect for learning and revising medical-related vocabulary.

  • ESL board games

These are simple, usually one sheet board games used to practice isolated grammar structures or vocabulary. You can also create board games with different conversation questions. You can try this one with a vide range of questions.

  • Taboo

One of the most popular English games. Revising vocabulary is always a good idea. There are plenty of different topics you can choose from.  You can try our free games on the topic of Media or Business. Other topics include Health and Food.

Online games/apps

  • Oatmeal’s free word game

In this game you unscramble words and use them to destroy your opponent. You can get the free game here.

  • Baamboozle

I use this site mostly with my younger learners as it doesn’t have many higher level grammar or vocabulary quizzes. My tip: put your students in teams (max number of teams is 4), choose a quiz and let them play the Classic mode with the power up, it’s much more fun!

  • Merriam-Webster

Merriam-Webster is a dictionary but they also have free games and quizzes that are great for learning vocabulary.

  • The Game Gal

Here you can find plenty of simple, family-friendly English games. I mostly use the Word Generator for charades, pictionary and other games. The great thing is I only need my laptop and I project the words on the whiteboard, so the students don’t need computers.

No-prep games

  • Vocabulary revision

This activity does not require absolutely no prep from the teacher, everything is done by the students. You only need to give them a couple of sheets of paper and they will cut it or you can give them already cut into small pieces. Detailed instructions can be found here.

  • Alphabet game

Students write the letters of the alphabet in a column. Give them a time limit and a topic(e.g. food, classroom items, animals, etc) and tell them to write one word for every letter in the alphabet. When they’re done, put them in groups so they can compare their words.

  • Balderdash

This activity is based on a popular board game. It is a more fun variation of a dictionary game I sometimes play with my students. They get a couple of difficult words and have to invent fake definitions. This game is the most popular among my kids.

  • Questionnaires and surveys

The best thing about these fun ESL activities is that the variations are endless. You can either find some or have your students create their own. It’s more fun and they also learn more. Just give them a topic, have them write 10 questions and after that, they circle the class and interview as many classmates as possible.  Finally, they inform the class about the results. Topics may include Environment, Hobbies, Books, Travel, Science, History, Media, Celebrities.

  • One minute talk

This is a very simple, no-prep game.  In pairs, students give each other a topic to talk about and they have to talk uninterrupted for a minute. It is more difficult than it sounds, especially with topics such as egg yolks, armpit hair o or shoe laces. If your students lack imagination, you can use these ideas: One Minute Talk Cards.


Other resources:

Role-play Scenarios for ESL: Discussing Different Topics and Situations, Even Vaccination!

12 ESL Negotiation Role-plays: Real-life situations

Conversation Starters: 30 Interesting Conversation Questions Not Only For ESL Students

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