My Favorite Games for the ESL Classroom (plus a freebie!)



I love to use games in my ESL classroom. Not only is it a great team bonding exercise as my students of different languages will have to work together, but it just a fun way to learn! I usually have game days when I know any of my planned lessons will go out the window, like the day before break or after a long day of WIDA or state testing.
Plus, I really think it's important to let the kids have some fun once in while. I will definitely get in on the games, too. I have found that playing games with my students helps to develop a great rapport with them (and a little more respect when I beat them).  They are off their phones, they are engaged and playing in a low stress environment. Finally, so many of my students do not have games at home and thus the concept of sitting around with your family playing board games is a new experience for them.

So here are my top picks for the best ESL classroom games....  (Scroll to the bottom for a freebie!)
(Affiliate links are included.)

1.  Guess Who? Guess Who? is my favorite game of all! It is the perfect way to practice asking and answering yes/no questions AND to review physical appearances.
Guess Who? is similar to "20 Questions", in which players take turns asking yes/no questions about the other's mystery character. For example, "Is your person wearing glasses?" or "Does your person have brown hair?"

2.   Headbanz  Headbanz is a fun game to review basic vocabulary and asking questions. One person wears a picture on his/her headband. He/she asks other players questions to determine what the picture is.  For example, "Am I an animal?" or "Am I a food?"

3. Charades Charades is always a winner in the ESL classroom. I like this version because my students don't have to be able to read since the cards are only pictures. However, there are categories which makes it a little easier.


4. Zingo!  This game works well with level 1 students who need to build their vocabulary. It is similar to Bingo. Students have to match a card with a picture and word to his/her card. When the students sees that a card matches, they have to say the word, thus practicing pronunciation and recall.


5. Scattergories  I love playing Scattergories. Players are given a list of categories and must write a word for each based on a letter.  I would recommend it for Level 3 and above ESL students.
















However, I know it is too difficult for my Level 1 and 2 students.  That's why I created this resource (below) to use with my students. It is much simpler and achievable for them. I have lists for eight different categories and a blank list for you to make up your own category. This can also be used as a  fun review after finishing a unit. For example, after finishing a "Food" unit, have students brainstorm as many vegetables as they can.





Download these free "Category" lists here!
ESL Category Game


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