10 Fun ESL Classroom Games for English Class

Looking for ideas for ESL classroom Games? Below you can find a list of 10 fun ESL English games for kids for beginners and intermediate English class.

When it comes to teaching English as a second language, we English teachers have a challenging job on our hands. We not only want to make sure our students are learning English, but also that they are enjoying themselves while learning in the classroom.

For this reason English resources are important. Having a set of English games for kids to play for each lesson is important in order for our students to leave class with new knowledge, and so they can to go home and tell their parents how fun English class is.

Using ESL classroom games to learn English is a great way to keep students interacting in a positive way as well as continuing to grow their memory, vocabulary and pronunciation. 

I have created a list of 10 ESL classroom games that I have used in my classroom for beginner and intermediate level classes. These English games seem to work wonders with my students!

ESL Classroom Games for Kids in English Class

ESL Classroom Games For Beginner English Class

A list of English games for kids which are perfect for children who are beginner English speakers and still learning the basics o the language.

1: Warm up games with Total Physical Response (get up and move)

The best way to start your ESL class is with a warm up game. Warm up games in can come in all shapes and sizes. A lot of these games should include total physical response, that way children are interacting and using language with physical movement. This is a great way to have all the children involved with learning while warming up their brains for the upcoming lesson.

Warm up games can be tailored to whatever lesson you are teaching your class at that time and can expand depending on learning level.

How to play

Playing warm up games using total physical response can be played in many ways but the main game I like to play is get up and move. All the students will stand in front of their desks or form a circle. The teacher will call out a vocabulary word and the students will have to act it out. You can also play the reverse side of this the teacher can act out a vocabulary word and the students have to say what the teacher is acting out.

Examples:

Using basic knowledge in language:
The teacher will call out words such as:
Stand up
Sit down
Open your book
Close your book
Pencil
Crayon
Rubber

The students will act out actions to these words or will hold up their objects of what vocabulary word the teacher is using.

Using routine in language:
The teacher will call out words such as:
Good morning
Good night
Yawn
Shower
Brush your teeth
Brush your hair
Wash your hands

The students will act out actions to these words or say the words to the vocabulary card the teacher is using.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English

Get up and move is a great way to teach English because it is using total physical response and getting the students not only moving but thinking. Students are using both the left and right side of their brains and the more fun they are having the easier it is to remember vocabulary words.

2. Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs is one of my favourite ESL classroom games that can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught.

How to play

The teacher will make a circle of chairs in the middle of the room, I often like to use 5-7 chairs at a time. Stick vocabulary cards on the back of each chair. This can be words or pictures. Play music, when the music stops all the children have to find a chair, the last student to sit has to say what is on the back of their char.

Pick an English song your class has been practicing and use that to stop and play the music, this is reinforcement of what you have already been learning in the classroom. You can also find a list of recommended nursery rhymes and songs for beginners here.

If you have a large English class, have the students alternate by changing kids when the last one to sit in their chair has answered their question.

Example

Use the alphabet or numbers and have the students say what is on the back of their chair. Those who are advanced learners or if you want to make the game more challenging, you can have the students tell you what letter or number comes before and after.

Use animals or colors and have the students say what is on the back of their chair. Those who are advanced learners or if you want to make the game more challenging you can have the students make animal noises, act out the animal and find the color that’s on the back of their chair in the room.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Musical chairs is a great way to reinforce vocabulary words the classroom is working on. It also makes English more fun and is used as a memory game for students. The background music is an excellent way to use classroom language in a subconscious way for the student as well.

3. Passing the ball

How to play

The teacher will put the students in a circle or place them all around the room. The teacher will start by throwing the ball to a student and asking them a question or showing them a picture of a word that the classroom is learning. Then the students have to throw the ball to each other and ask questions, repeat words, show flashcards or act out actions for the next student to answer.

Examples

Asking questions:
Using basic questions such as:
How old are you?
How are you?
What is your name?
What letter is this?
What number is this?

The students will go around answering and asking each other questions.

Using Categories:
The teacher will pick a topic (clothes) the students will throw the ball and say an item of clothing, that student that caught the ball has to find, point and say the item of clothing that the other student said.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Passing the ball teaches students to pronounce and use language they have been practicing in class. Learning how to ask and answer questions as well as being able find objects or items in the classroom and repeat them. It helps students interact with each other instead of only focusing on the teacher. Every student wants to throw or catch the ball, so it is also keeping them awake and ready for the next throw.

4. Bingo

Bingo can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught.

How to play
To play bingo, you will need bingo boards with at least 16 squares. The object of the game is to have a student shout out bingo once they have gotten the correct number of squares in a row. If you are using a board of 16 then students need 4 squares in a row, if you are using a board with 25 squares, then the students will need 5 squares in a row.

You can give the students little piece of paper, beads, candy or anything exciting to cover their bingo boards with. The teacher will call out topic words and the students have to find the word or picture on their board and cover it. The first student to have the correct number in a row wins and will then have to repeat all the words or pictures back to you for a prize.

Making bingo boards can be challenging and time consuming. Using My Free Bingo Cards is a great resource to make your bingo boards. You can pick the number of squares, write out the words, or copy the pictures to the design and the website will generate a number of bingo boards for you in all different orders.

Example
For beginners using the alphabet and numbers is perfect. With the alphabet, since there are 26 letters and only 25 squares it is a fun way to have the students find which letter their bingo board is missing. Have the students read back each letter or number that is covered up once they have called out bingo.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Bingo helps students with memory because they are constantly looking for the vocabulary word or picture the teacher is saying. When it is in front of them and they have to look for it, their brain is picking up on the words quicker. Having to repeat the words will also help with repetition and memory.

5. Flash Card Memory

Flash card memory can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught.

How to play
The teacher puts up flashcards on the board for the topic that week. The students study it for 1 minute. The students then have to “go to sleep” and turn away from the board. The teacher takes away a card and yells “wake up”! Then the students have to find and say which card is missing.

Examples
I use this game for almost every topic for my beginner classes because they love it so much. You can use it for animals, clothing, basic language, colors, letters, numbers and so much more.

To make the game more fun you can have one of the students play the role of the teacher and they are the one that says, “go to sleep”, pulls the card away and then says, “wake up”.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Flash card memory helps students learn English by using repetition in memory through finding words or pictures over and over again. Like most ESL games it creates an interactive learning environment where students are competing against one another and trying to find the missing card at a quick pace.

Here are some other games to play with flashcards to help teach languages.

ESL Classroom Games for Intermediate English Class

A list of English games for kids perfect for children who are at an intermediate level of English.

6. Warm Up Games (hands on head)

Just like for ESL beginner level classes, using warm up games is the perfect way to get the class moving. I like to use total physical response warm up games for intermediate level classes to help stimulate their brains.

How to play
The teacher breaks the class up into two groups and gives them each a category. The teacher then says a word or sentence from the category and the students correlating with that category have to put their hands on their heads.

Example
Give one team a category of household items and the other a category of food. Shout out words from each category. To make it more challenging use sentences involving the selected category.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Hands on head is awesome for using listening skills while learning English. Students will also have to think about current and past words they have learned in order to know when to put their hands on their heads.

7. Secret Box

Secret Box can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught.

How to play
The teacher will have a box full of objects or items relating to the current lesson. Each student will come up and put their hand into the box, they have to try and guess what’s inside by using describing words. After they have done this, the student then pulls the object out of the box and have to say what it is, shape, color, sound ect.  

Examples
I often times like to use this game for my food lesson. I will categorize the box using fruits for one game and vegetables for another. The students love to feel the foods and guess what’s in the box. I have the students guess which food is inside and tell me what color they think it is then after they pull the food out, they have to tell me what the food is, what category it belongs to, the color, shape and if they like it.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Secret box helps students practice current, past and new language. Having to use describing words as well as practicing how to categorize words. Students are also learning by using their 5 senses as it relates to English.

8. Telephone

Telephone can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught.

How to play
The teacher puts the students into a line or circle and says a sentence to the first student in the line. The students have to whisper the sentence to the next student until it gets to the final student at the end of the line.

The final student then tells the class what they think the teacher’s sentence was. You can switch up the line so the students all have a turn being at the beginning and the end of the telephone.

Example
Telephone is a great game to use when practicing sentence structure and pronunciation. If the topic is, I like/I don’t like, then I will use phrases or sentences using those words. To make it harder I will add in and/or/but to challenge the students. “I like apples, but I don’t like pears ect.”

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Telephone is a great game for pronunciation of current words as well as new words. If the sentences are funny or the students mess up it makes the words more memorable because it is being learned in a fun and interactive way. It is also a great time for the teacher to ask follow up questions to the phrase or sentence that was being used in the game, this helps with student interaction as a class.

9. Board Race

Board race can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught.

How to play
Students are put into two groups. The teacher says a category and the students have to run up to the board and write as many things belonging to the category as they can think of. Students have to use correct spelling and work as a team to come up with the most words before the timer runs out.

Example
I like to use this game for many topics. Animals, colors, shapes ect. You can make the game more challenging by having the students use sentences. For example, the teacher would say “Use Blue in a sentence”, then the student would have to create a small sentence using the word blue.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Students love this game because they get to race against one another and have to win. They are practicing grammar and often times will repeat the words in the categories to look back to see which words are missing. When they use it to write sentences they are again focusing on grammar and sentence structure as well as reading and writing.

10. Hot Seat

Hot seat can be tailored to whatever topic or lesson is being taught, but is one of my favourite ESL classroom games.

How to play
The teacher will put the students into two groups and a chair in front of the board. The teacher holds up a flashcard behind the hot seat, this can be a picture or a word. The students have to try and get their teammate to guess what’s behind the hot seat using describing words. This can also be played in reverse by using actions without being able to speak.

Example
I use this game as a warm up game a lot of times because it gets the students brain moving. You can use any category of flashcards, I like to use this game for foods and animals. The students will have to use describing words about both categories and it is fun to switch it up and have them act it out with no sound.

How this ESL classroom game teaches English
Hot seat is perfect for students to have to use their words and think quickly on the spot. They are practicing memory of vocabulary words as well as pronunciation and having to think back to the English vocabulary they already know in order to get their classmate to guess what is behind them.

What is your favourite ESL Classroom Game?

I hope you have found this list of English games for kids helpful for your future classes! If you have any recommended games for ESL Classroom games for beginner or intermediate classes please comment them below.

We love being able to add new and fun English games to our list. Looking for more ideas on games to play?  Check out our list of English word games for kids.

10 ESL Classroom Games for Kids