Games are just lots of fun. But as I mostly teach adults in professional settings, I don’t have many opportunities to play them. And to be honest, when I taught children, thinking of new games was one of the biggest challenges I ran into. Sure, there are lots of resources out there. But more often than not I relied on my more experienced coworkers for examples of games and activities to play with my classes.

The simple games listed here are things I have played with my students. Some of them I came up with myself, others are adapted from other ideas I’ve found. If you have a great game you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it.

Feel free to get in touch:

ESL English Simon game


To play this game, first place four vocabulary cards on the table. Then call out the card names as the students slap the card you are calling out. Now say them in longer and longer sequences. This works with any kind of vocabulary.

animal basketball horse ESL game

Animal Basketball

This is a classic basketball game. Players take shots trying to make baskets. Each successful basket counts as a letter. The goal is to keep making baskets until you spell the word horse. After you make a basket you move to a new location on the court or in the room to make the next basket. The first basket being the closest and the easiest to make and getting progressively harder as you move on.

ESL telling time BINGO game
ESL telling time BINGO game

Bingo Games

Bingo is a classic game kids go wild for and there are about a billion variations you can play. I’ve made these worksheets to focus on telling time. There are two versions here, one for full hours and one with fifteen-minute increments.


ESL obstacle course game

Awesome Job / Blind Leading the Blind

In this game students lead each other through a simple course where one is blindfolded and the other is speaking. The students use a lot of different language to perform the function and it’s surprisingly fun. This game works with both children and adults.

hit or miss zombie edition

Safe or Say (Zombie Edition)

This game is a quick way to jazz up any drill. Draw a goofy face on the board and students toss a suction cup ball at it. Zombies and monsters work great around Halloween. If you’re brave, draw yourself or have the students draw you. If students hit the face they are “safe.” If they miss, they have to say a phrase or answer a question.

I like using a zombie because it’s just a monster and we aren’t going to hurt its feelings. Also, I like to draw the face up there and then erase bits of it as they get hit to make the target smaller. This way it’s harder and harder for kids to avoid saying the phrases in the drill as time goes by. You might also start off very close with an easy chance of hitting and then move back further and further each time they have a turn to throw.

ESL target language game

Target Language (AKA Zombie Shooting Range)

Thanks to my coworker John for this game. The guy is a games genius!
Print out the sheet, laminate and cut out the zombies and survivors. Stick them to some paper cups and you’re almost ready to play.

Use a nerf blaster or just a ping pong ball to blast the zombies. But watch out! Don’t hit a survivor or you could lose points or be out of the game. Each successful hit means kids get to say a phrase, answer a question or perform an English task.


Pong Cups

Set up some cups in a triangular shape like what’s pictured above. These cups are by Hexcup but any old cups will do. Students bounce a ping pong ball down the table and into the cup. Cups in the back row are worth one point and the points increase with the lead cup being the most valuable. Students get two or three chance each or one each if they are in groups. If they get a ball in the cup someone from the other team has to ask or answer a question or whatever the language point is for the day. If the student or team misses the shots they have to say the language point or perform the language task.

This game works great with kids seven and up.



Set up Jenga blocks. Students take turns removing pieces and putting them on the top. In order to take a turn students have to say the target language. If you’re lucky enough use a Mario Brothers version. In this case, students roll a dice with different block patterns on it to determine the block to be removed. If the student takes the question mark block they have to ask a question to one of the other students. If you don’t have the Mario Brothers set just paint or mark your regular Jenga set with question marks. 

ESL coin toss game

Coin Flip Cards

Take a series of cards laid face up on the floor and have kids flip or toss a coin through the air to land on the cards. Kids say the target language associated with the card. If they say it correctly, they get a point and the card gets turned face down. When the coin lands on the cards that are face down players have a chance to earn two points instead of one.

It’s a fun way to dress up a drill and kids love scoring points and competing with their friends. I’ve found that for little kids a smaller number of cards and simpler targets work best. For older kids or kids with higher language skills you can use the cards as a simple cue for a longer phrase.

ESL battleships game


Here’s a classic game that loads of people are already familiar with. This version uses names and simple verbs as the grid markers. Students make yes/no questions based on the grid. Yes means a hit, no means a miss. There are two pages, one with my own verb choices and a blank one for you to customize.

ESL word find

Word Find Games 

A few games of Scrabble with dictionaries can be a lot of fun. There are lots of words to be found and discussed. Though it isn’t very productive, this can be a good way to get some overworked kids to relax.  The sheet listed here is a lot like Scrabble, just look around for some letter combinations, set a timer and see who is able to find the most words.

Note: Works best with higher level students. 

ESL word find

A Letter Puzzle

This is a simple puzzle game where students follow instructions to move letters around to discover the hidden message. It is deceptively difficult however and as such I’ve included the answers. I originally got this from a  newspaper clipping I found years and years ago. At the time I made the file and played with my students it was lots of fun but I’ve never been able to find which paper it came from or who made the puzzle.

Regardless, adapting simple word puzzles and problems like this can create some great fun and a nice challenge for a lot of the people in your classes. I’d recommend trying to do it yourself without looking at the answers to be sure if it’s level appropriate just in case.

ESL eye contact game

Zoom, Schwartz, Perfigliano

This is a wicked fun game and if you haven’t played it, you have to try. If you have Japanese students, it’s similar to the game, Senda, Mitsuo, Nahanaha. Rules are included in the PDF but for best results, keep it as simple as possible for non-native speakers.

ESL charades
ESL simple charades


The game cards I’ve put up here are of two types. Single actions that show an action in progress and cards that involve two actions at the same time using the word while. It’s this second group I found most helpful when teaching present progressive tenses and showing two things happening at the same time.

ESL phrasal verbs game

Phrasal Verbs

Have students match the verb with the particle and come up with phrasal verbs. Whoever gets the most is the winner. My class went nuts for this one. It stirred up lots of questions and interest, (to my surprise). Use this as warm up and to make some great word lists. In that week’s conversations, students should use the phrasal verbs you came up with.

ESL certificate of achievement


As a prize for the games you conduct in class, this little certificate of excellence is a fun way to reward students after completing a big task.