Middle School EFL/ESL Games

Three Kingdoms

Three Kingdoms ESL Classroom Game

20-25 minutes Groups of 3-5 Make questions with Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How

Preparation for the Three Kingdoms Game:

For this game you will need to prepare 3 sets of cards:

1) Cards with question words including a card that has the word “China” on it.  You should have 5 to 10 copies of each question word but only have one China card.

2) Army cards (with just the text “10 Attack Points” written on them). You need 30 to 40 of these.

3) Castle cards ( with just the text “50 Defense Points” written on them. You only need 10 to 15 of these.

Kingdom names can be written on the board and points tallied and calculated on the board as well.

You will mix up the question word cards and have them on the table for the students to come up and choose. You will keep the Army and Castle cards with you to give to the teams as they progress.

Game Play for the Three Kingdoms ESL Classroom Game:

  1. Place a number of cards with the words “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” face down
  2. Among the cards is a “China” card
  3. Divide the class into three groups and designate them as one of the ancient Korean kingdoms: Shilla, Baekje, and Goguryeo
  4. All “kingdoms” start with 100 points
  5. Groups take turns flipping over and one card at a time and make a question with the word.
  6. For every correct question they make, they get an “Army” cards, which has 10 attack points.
  7. For every third correct question, they get a “Castle” card which has 50 defense points. (adds to the 100 they started with)
  8. After making a correct question, groups can choose to take an Army card OR they can choose to use up their army cards to attack another group and destroy their points”
  9. When a team wants to attack you ask them: Who do you want to attack? Then they must respond with the name of another kingdom or if you want to make them use a full sentence (Ex. We want to attack the Shilla Kingdom)
  10. When they attack they give you as many Army Cards (worth 10 attack points each) as they have (or as many as they want) and the defending team will lose the same number of points. (Ex. Shilla has 100 points + 1 castle card so 150 defense points and Baekje attacks with 4 army cards now Shilla has only 110 points)
  11. Continue playing until one team has destroyed all other teams points and they are declared the winner.
  12. However, whoever turns over a “China” card will cause ALL groups to lose one Castle (-50 points) and ALL their Army cards! (essentially re-setting the game)

Variations to this ESL Game:

  • Make smaller groups and include other “kingdoms” such as Gaya and Mahan
  • If you are teaching in other countries change names
    • For example, if you are teaching in China, you can change the “Kingdom” names to states or dynasties in Chinese history and have the “Huns” or “Mongols” as the killer card
  • Include other question words, not just the standard who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • Put grammar or trivia questions on cards
  • Assign each group a “capital city” as a starter castle and city names or specific castle names to “castle cards,” this way you can also “Who do you want to attack?” and “Where do you want to attack?” or “What do you want to attack?”


ESL Games: Words in Words

15-30 minutes Teams of 3-4 Use the letters of a long word to spell smaller words

  • Have each time submit words one at a time and write them on the board, with no duplicate words allowed
  • Words that every team has are omitted and have no point value
  • Simply have teams hand in word sheets and tally scores
  1. Make sure each team has a dictionary
  2. Write a large word or phrase on the board
  3. Give teams 10 minutes to come up with as many words as possible by using the letters on the board
  4. When time is up, one leader from each team will say the team’s words
  5. Each word is scored as follows:
  • 1-letter words = 1 point
  • 2-letter words = 3 points
  • 3-letter words = 5 points
  • 4-letter words = 8 points
  • 5-letter words = 10 points
  • 6-letter words = 12 points
  • 7-letter words = 15 points
  • 8 or more letter words = 20 points

ESL Games: Janken Slap

5-20 minutes depending on how many cards are used Groups of 2-4 Review vocabulary words/grammar structures by slapping flashcards

  • Use one flash card for each person in the group
    • 2 for pairs, 3 for groups of three, and 4 for groups of four
  • You can use alphabet letters for younger children and more advanced grammar structures, such as past tense, 10-word sentences, etc. for students of a higher level
  1. Get into groups of two and give each group a set of flashcards
  2. Place two flashcards on the table or floor and label them 1 and 2
  3. Explain to students that they will shoot rock-paper-scissors (ie Janken in Japanese)
  4. Have students shoot 1 or zero fingers instead of rock, paper, and scissors
  5. Students add up the thumbs and try to slap the flashcard with that number
    1. Flashcard #1 for one thumb, #2 for two thumbs, and so on
    2. Do it again if everyone shoots fists
  6. Whoever slaps the correct card first gets a point if they say the word or sentence on the card out loud

ESL Games: Kabura-Nice

One minute per topic Depends on topic, max. 10 Brainstorming vocabulary relevant to the topic In smaller groups (where it would be easy for everyone to have different answers) then reward one point for answers which are *the same*. Perhaps an additional point if a third person has that answer too, etc.

Tell the students that you are going to give them a topic. Each student is to write down (without the others seeing) an example of the topic.
For example if the teacher says “fruit” then one student might write down “apple”, another “orange”, etc.
They will have only ten seconds.
Once the ten seconds are up, ask the students to, one by one, reveal their answers (if you wish you can now check spelling).

In a large group the aim is for students to all have *different* answers. If everyone in the group has a different answer then they get one point (it can be made competitive by splitting the class into two groups).

ESL Games: Minesweep

5-10 minutes Groups of 2-4 Review vocabulary with flashcards

  • Make the whammy card be a “safe” card, where everyone but the student who turned over the card has to perform the silly task
  • Have players get one point for each card the say/answer correctly
  • Play this game with regular playing cards to practice numbers, with one face card as the whammy
  • Combine
    playing cards with a list, using numbers 1-6 or so and having a
    numbered list on the side with six vocabulary words/grammar structures

    • If a student turns over a 3, they say the item that is third on the list
  • Use grammar structures and/or questions for more advanced students
  1. Place a number of flashcards face down
  2. Set one of the flashcards to be a whammy card
  3. Students take turns flipping over and one card at a time and say the word/sentence
  4. Whoever turns over the whammy card must perform a silly task
  5. After someone pulls the whammy card, shuffle the cards and start again

ESL Games: Nim

5-10 minutes Groups of 2-4 Review vocabulary words with flashcard tic-tac-toe

  • Play with the alphabet where the student who says “Z” loses
  • Play with numbers where a number is set ahead of time to be the last number
  • Have the loser perform a silly task
  1. Prepare sets of at least 12 flashcards for each group
  2. Lay out a number of flashcards in several rows
  3. Any number of rows is possible
  4. I like to use at least 12 cards in a 3×4 format
  5. Players take turns saying and removing any number of cards from a single row
  6. The player who has to take the last card loses

ESL Games: Run and Write

10-20 minutes Groups of 3-4 Find word in list and write in on the board

  1. Give each team a list of words
  2. Have each team select a leader
  3. Teacher says one word from list several times
  4. Teams search for word, then have leader go to board and write word
  5. Leaders must give teach a Hi-five after writing the word correctly
  6. First leader to give the teacher hi-five gets five points
  7. Next leader to finished gets 4 points, next one 3, etc

ESL Games: Running Dictation

15-30 minutes Pairs or small groups Remember words and phrases and dictate them to your partner

  • Use pictures for children who can’t spell and have them draw the picture instead of writing the words
  • Use multiple sentences for more advanced students
  • Place
    sentences around the room and have each group member do one each.
  • Groups have to put the sentences into the right order before turning in the paper
  1. Break students up into groups of 3-4, or pairs for small classes
  2. Put one sentence on a piece of paper for each team
  3. One leader from each team goes to the board and tries to remember their sentence
  4. The leader returns to their group and dictates the sentence while team members write it down
  5. First team to finish correctly gets a point
  6. Change words/sentences and switch leaders

Sentence Jumble

30-45 minutes Any Review sentence structures and verb tenses

  • Use easy sentences for less advanced students
  • Use more complex sentences for more advanced students


  1. Make a series of sentences, three more than the number of teams in your class
  2. Print the sentences in large text
  3. Cut each sentence into separate words
  4. Put each sentence into its separate envelopes
  5. Number each envelope with a marker


  1. Diving the class into pairs or small groups
  2. Give each team one envelope
  3. Students arrange the words into a correct sentence, copy it into their notebooks, and put words back into envelope
  4. When finished, students say the sentence, show their notebooks, and bring their envelope to the teacher
  5. If sentence is not correct, they go back and fix the error
  6. If sentence is correct, they can swap their envelope for a new one with a different sentence
  7. The first team to unscramble all of the sentences is the winner


10-15 minutes 2 groups of at least 2 students Make word lists by using the last letter of the previous word

  • Have several 4 to 5-minute game “rounds”
    • In the first round, all team
      members participate
    • In the second round, both teams choose their best
      member and those two students square off in a one-on-one match with
      teams providing support by shouting out words
    • In the third round, two
      of the from each team square off
  1. Divide the class in half
  2. Divide the blackboard/whiteboard in half with a line
  3. Students all stand up and form lines on opposite sides of the room and can only write on their side of the board
  4. Provide a first word in the middle of the board
  5. The
    first student in each team writes a word to follow the first word

    1. The
      word must start with a letter that is the same letter as the last
      letter of the previous word
    2. For example, if the first word is “dog,” then the next word is “good”
    3. The list goes one: dog->good->deer->read…
  6. Each student takes a turn and opposing teams attempt to make the longest list
  7. Set a 5 to 10-minute time limit
  8. Words cannot appear twice on the list