10 Ideas for Games in the Classroom

The teaching of English can be a demanding profession for many, but if you are able to motivate or encourage participation from your learners during the lesson, you will have no classroom management issues. The key for encouraging interest and maintaining motivation during the lesson is to incorporate games or competitive activities during the lesson.  Most teachers tend to start or finish lessons with a ‘game’ to engage and interest their learners, but some of the ideas that I put forward could be included at anytime during the lesson.

1. Rolling Questions

Dice pictureIf you want to get students chatting, particularly adolescent learners, it can sometimes be quite difficult to motivate them to converse naturally in English.  One idea that I have used before in the past is to get a set of six-sided dice for small groups of students, prepare six questions prior to the lesson and write them up on the whiteboard.  Learners then roll a dice and the corresponding question is then asked.  You could change this activity slightly by getting students to un-jumble questions or to speak about a topic for as long as possible.  It is a great activity to promote speaking and enhance fluency and it requires very little preparation.

2. Role Play with a Twist

Every teacher has, at one time or another, used a role play to develop functional language.  However, you could spice it up a little bit.  Get students to think of two people, a place and a topic that these people are talking about.  For example, you may get Justin Bieber and Madonna talking at a bus stop about their weekend.  Before you get into class you do need to cut up some paper and a funny sentence on it such as, “You eyes are beautiful!”, “I can’t stop thinking about coffee!”, etc.  Place the pieces of paper (folded) on a table in the middle of the role play scene and mix them all up.  Get students to start their role play and get into their character and when you clap or blow a whistle the two students then have to pick up one piece of paper and then insert the phrase or sentence naturally into the role play.  It is incredibly funny and students find it very amusing.  I have used this with adult learners as well as young learners.

3. Chinese Whispers

Almost every teacher I have met have used this game at one point in their teaching career with young learners or adult students.  It is an activity which usually can be used as a filler for the last 10 minutes of class.  Most teachers know the game but if you are one of the very few who doesn’t know the game, here is what you do.  You get students either into a line or two lines.  I usually organise two teams to make it a bit more competitive.  Place students in a line or get them to sit down facing the board.  Give the student(s) at the front of the line a board marker and then you reveal a word, sentence or grammar point to the student at the back of the classroom.  The students whisper the word, sentence or grammar point to the person in front and this continues until the person at the front of the row has heard it and then they write the word on the board.  I usually give two points to a team which correctly completed the activity first, one point for those that finished second and correctly wrote the word, sentence or grammar point and minus one point to a team that wrote it incorrectly.  It is a very energetic game when you put students into pairs so expect a lot of enthusiasm in class.

4. Silent Chinese Whispers

A different take on Chinese Whispers is Silent Chinese Whispers!  What is “Silent Chinese Whispers?” I hear you ask.  Well the difference is that students are unable to whisper and have to remain silent during the game.  When students at the back of a row are shown a word, they must write the word on the back of the student in front of them.  It is best to start with small words which are quite easy to write (see, go, red, etc) and build the vocabulary up to something a bit more complicated.  Learners will find this different and they will have to focus a lot during the game.  You can sometimes see the tension rise when one student flounders a bit.  However, it is a wonderful take on the classic game of Chinese Whispers and demands a lot of focus from students.

5. Snowball Writing

You walk into classroom and each time that you try to get students to write they get bored very quickly.  Does this sound familiar?  Well not a problem!  You can do a fun and easy activity which encourages writing with all students.  It is called “Snowball Writing”.  You give each group of students lined paper and you tell them that they must write for a sentence.  When they have finished their sentence, they must scrunch up their paper to a ball – so that it resembles a snowball – and then when you blow your whistle or clap that students must start throwing their pieces of paper around the classroom.  If they see a piece of paper they must pick it up and continue to throw it.  When you clap your hands or blow your whistle again, students must pick up a piece of paper near them and then must continue writing another sentence.  Just repeat the activity as many times as possible.  You will find a lot of written input from students which you could then use for correcting at a later time.  It is a great and energetic activity which I would encourage any teacher (whether teaching young learners or adults) to include in their lessons.

6. Hangman

Hangman is another activity which many teachers have used over the years.  I remember using this with my young learners when I first started teaching and it was a great lesson warmer.  If you have not seen this game in action, don’t worry!  I shall let you know what to do.  You choose some words that you would like to introduce at the start of class, otherwise you could choose a number of words to review at the end of the lesson.  Write them on a piece of paper and make a note of the number of letters in a word.  For example, “helicopter” has 10 letters in it.  Keep a note to the number of letters in each word that you would like to use in the hangman game as this is important.  I always find it easy to have a list of words ready to hand and make a note of the number of letters next to each word.  It makes it easier to prepare the game.  To understand the game more fully, there is a wonderful video on YouTube by ESLClassroomGames describing the game.  I’d recommend that you watch the following video.  There are also some online hangman games available to play which has been created by the British Council.  These are great activities to use in class should you have a projector and internet access.

7. Sentence Hangman

So you have tried hangman many times in the classroom before but have you tried “Sentence Hangman”?  It is a twist of the original hangman but using sentences instead of individual words.  Have a think of a sentence or grammar form you would like to cover in class and write them out on a piece of paper.  Make a note of the number of words in the sentence and number these.  When you come to write out the words on the board, replace them with an underline – so if you have 8 words in your sentence, draw eight long lines to represent each word.  Split the class into two to four groups and each group decides on a word and they score one point if the word exists in the sentence, two points if they can guess correctly where it goes and minus one point if they choose a word which is incorrect.

For example, if you have a sentence such as “I(1) have(2) been(3) studying(4) English(5) for(6) eight(7) years(8)”, you must draw 8 lines on the board which are also numbered: ________(1) ________(2) ________(3) ________(4) ________(5) ________(6) ________(7) ________(8).  The first team shouts out a word such as “for” but they say it is in line 4.  They get one point and you write “for” in line 6.  The second team shout out “I” and say it goes in line 1 and they get two points – 1 for a correct word and one for placing the word in the correct line.  The third team shout out “was” but they score minus one point for an incorrect word.

It is a great game for all ages and it will really get students engaged in the lesson.  It is a wonderful idea to get students interested in sentence construction and getting them more aware of the grammar in an exciting and competitive way.  If students are having difficulty choosing the correct words, you could draw a picture which corresponds with the sentence.

8. Board Games

Talk AboutBoard games are wonderful to use in the classroom with many being created in MS Word or available on the internet but why do you have use the board games that have been created by someone else?  You could create your own board game for use in the classroom.  Or better yet, get the students to make their own board game.  You don’t necessarily need any dice, you could use a coin – heads move two spaces, tails move one space.  If you make your own board game, it is best to use A3 paper and use some felt tip pens.  Create a start and a finish position, add some bonus squares (move two spaces forward, next person misses a turn, etc), add some trapped squares (move back one space, miss a turn, etc) and then either write prompts for questions or discussion topics.  Board games can be used in class to prompt learners into talking English in the classroom and they are suitable for any ages.  You can even get young learners to create their own colourful board games for future lessons.  They are a wonderful resource and teachers should use them more in class.

9. Vocabulary Grab

You have taught some new vocabulary to your students but you want to check whether they can remember it.  What is the best way to check their knowledge?  Well you could test them, but you would have to be really mean to do this.  I would recommend a game which I call “Vocabulary Grab”.  If you have taught some new nouns, get some pictures of these, laminate them so that they don’t get destroyed, and stick them up around the whiteboard with BluTack.  Put students into two separate groups – it becomes a lot more competitive at this point – and when you call out a word, the students have to grab the corresponding picture and the team with the most amount of pictures are the winners.  It is a simple but effective game for all ages and if you use this game as a vocabulary review at the end of the lesson, learners will be leaving the classroom with a smile on their faces.

10. Twenty Questions

The final game in this blog post is another well known classic game called “Twenty Questions” which I assume many teachers have used in the past.  For those that have not come across this game, it is incredibly basic.  A student will be sitting at the front of the classroom and the teacher will give this student a word on a piece of card or show a picture.  This student is the only learner in the classroom who is aware of the word/picture and the other students have to guess the word by asking him/her closed questions.  The student at the front of the class can only say “Yes” and “No” so the students asking the questions have to aware of closed questions and they have twenty questions to ask to find out what the word/picture is.

For example, you show the student at the front of the class a picture of a watermelon and the rest of the class start asking: S1: “Are you a person?”, S2: “No”, S3: “Are you an object?”, etc.  After a bit of practice, the learners will start to understand the concept.  I usually demonstrate by telling students that I am holding a picture of something and they must ask me closed questions – questions where I can only answer “Yes” or “No” – and that they must find out what the object is.  Once the students have had a bit of a demonstration, I then nominate a student to come to the front of the class and then the students ask them closed questions.  During the demonstration process, I encourage learners to raise their hands if they wish to ask a question – it is a lot more controlled and rather less chaotic.


There you have it, my ten favourite games that I usually use in class for both adults or young learners.  What are your favourite games?  Why don’t you share them by either commenting or blogging about them!

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