5 Fun Games You Can Play in an ESL Class

Updated on January 20, 2018
Susan SJ profile image

Working as a designer for playful learning has opened up my mind to endless ways of teaching. Here's a glimpse into how we make it happen.

An ESL class can be made super fun, exciting, and absolutely productive when the facilitator or teacher brings in a variety of ways to teach English.

In fact, it is important for you to also build a healthy relationship with your ESL students as it will help them come to you and connect with you better.

Using games in class can work wonders. It will help your students enhance their language skills while also keeping the class engaging and fun.



One fun game that can be easily adapted into a classroom setting is Pictionary.

  • You can ask the students to form small groups.
  • You can give one person from the team a word they need to learn.
  • The person needs to draw the word and the team members need to identify the word with the picture.

You can make little cute cards for the different words you want to teach. In fact, if you want to get into the details, you even custom make a dictionary board to add different categories. This will help you teach different words that are related to a particular text. Pictionary will increase word vocabulary and even help students to work as team to learn language better.

Hot Seat

Hot Seat is a game very similar to Taboo. However, in this game only one student will guess the word and not the entire team. This game helps them work together as a team and each person is helping the other to learn the language.

  • First, split your class into two different teams.
  • Sit the students facing the board.
  • Then take an empty chair/ mark a place - one for each team - and put it at the front of the class, facing the team members. These chairs are the 'hot seats'
  • Then get one member from each team to come up and sit in that chair, so they are facing their teammates and have their back to the board.
  • Write one word along with the meaning on the board.
  • The aim of the game is for the students in the teams to describe that word to their teammate who is in the hot seat.
  • They cannot use the word to describe it but they can use the meanings of the word.
  • The person in the hot seat can't see the board. The student in the hot seat listens to their teammates and tries to guess the word.


One perfect game to teach words, meanings, and also related words is Taboo. When you have a bunch of words to teach your ESL students, start with making a list of them.

  • Split the class into groups.
  • Write the words in different pieces of paper and put it in a bowl. (You can also write clue words for every word on the paper)
  • One representative from the team can come to take the words from the bowl.
  • The person has to explain the word with different words but not with the given word.
  • If the team get the word, the paper is put aside. But if they haven’t guessed, the paper will go back to the bowl and the next person will use it.

Sneak Peak

Sneak Peak is one of my all time favorite game for an ESL class. Apart from learning vocabulary, this game enhances a person's communication skills and also points out the need to get into the details.

Here's how it goes.

  • The students need to be sitting in pairs.
  • Find a picture that is easy to draw.
  • Ask one representative from every team to come see the picture
  • Ask them to look out for the little details.
  • next, all the representatives go back to their team and explain the picture to the partner.
  • The partner has to draw the picture based on the instructions.
  • The students can use only English while giving instructions.


Hangman is a fun game that can be played alone, but it can also be played with a bunch of enthusiastic students. To play the game, you need to make the students guess the word by asking them to guess different letters.

  • Choose a word that needs to be guessed.
  • Draw a blank line for each letter in the word.
  • Then the students start guessing letters.
  • Fill the letter in the blanks if the players guess correctly.
  • Everytime they are wrong, you will have to draw a man hanging, one part at a time.
  • When the entire man is drawn on the tree, the students will run out of chances to guess.

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