Middle School EFL/ESL Games


15-40 minutes Groups of 3-6 Practice making sentences with game board grid

  • Play with ‘Bankrupt’ instead of ‘Typhoon’
  • Use category cards instead of word cards
  • Make a minimum number of words for each sentence
  • Have students listen and repeat after correct sentences
  1. Draw a 6×6 bingo grid on the board
  2. Randomly write points in the squares
  3. In some squares, write ‘Typhoon’ instead of a number
  4. Stick words cards on top of the squares and cover the number/typhoon
  5. One team chooses a word card and must make a sentence with the word
  6. If they make an incorrect sentence, move on to the next team
  7. If they make a correct sentence, they get the number of points under the card
  8. Typhoons allow you to erase all the points from another team
  9. The team with the most points at the end wins

ESL Games: How Many Words Do You Know?

10-15 minutes Any Write down all of the 2-letter words you know

  • Three-letter, four-letter words, etc.
  • Words that begin with the letter ‘S’, ‘R’, ‘Th’, etc.
  1. Divide chalkboard into four equal vertical sections (columns).
  2. Make two rows of deskbound students one team
  3. Have teams pick a team leader to go to the chalkboard
  4. Leaders write all the two-letter words they know on the count of 1, 2, 3, GO!
  5. Team
    members help their leader by shouting out words and by writing words in
    big letters on paper and holding it up for leader to see
  6. Stop with 10, 9, 8,…0, STOP!

ESL Games: In The Mix

5-20 minutes 41690 Review and learn new vocabulary words by slapping flashcards

  • With very small classes, play in a seated circle with very small groups and place enough objects for everyone but one or two students in the middle
  1. Prepare a set of flashcards based on a theme (colors, numbers, months, etc.) with words students know
  2. Prepare another set of flashcards based on a theme with words students don’t know
  3. Break class up into two teams
  4. Have teams line up in two lines space in between
  5. Place a random object in between the teams (card, book, etc.)
  6. Review flashcards that students have learned
  7. Place one flashcard from the new set into the review set and shuffle
  8. Show class one flashcard and have them say the word
  9. Repeat with next flashcard in the pile
  10. When the new word turns up, one first person from each team makes a grab for the object (they can slap it if it is a card)
    1. Whichever team grabs/slaps the object first gets a point
  11. Elicit the new word and teach the meaning
  12. Insert another new word flashcard and call up the next students in line

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


20-40 minutes Any Answer questions and try to knock down bottles with a ball

  • Keep score as in real bowling
  • Use more bottles
  • Use other activities such as tossing coins in a hat, etc.
  1. Divide class into teams
  2. Set up bottles about 10 inches (25.4 cm) apart for form a triangle
  3. Ask a question to one team
  4. If they answer incorrectly, ask a question to the next team
  5. If they answer correctly, one member will get 2 chances to knock over the bottle with the ball
    1. 1 point for 1 ball, 2 points for 2 balls, 3 point for 3 balls
  6. When the student finishes bowling ask a question to the other team
  7. The team with the most points wins

Building Block Stories

20-40 minutes Groups of 2-5 Use colored blocks to develop sentence creation skills and review N, V, & Adj

  • Have students make the sentences as a team
  • Have students make the sentences as individuals
  • Have the sentences tell a short story
    • ‘When the little old king saw the monster, he danced and ran as fast as he could.’
  • Have the groups select their best story to read to the class


  1. Get different colored building blocks or make different colored cards
  2. On each green block or card, tape a noun
  3. On each blue block or card, tape an adjective
  4. On each yellow block or card, tape a verb


  1. Review meaning of verbs, nouns, and adjectives from list on board
  2. Break class into teach of 2-5 students
  3. Give a set of green, blue, and yellow blocks to each team
  4. Have each team select 2 blocks of each color
  5. Teams use the words on the block to make one or two sentences

Clap/Don’t Clap

5-10 Minutes Any number Review vocabulary words by category

  • Use flashcards for younger learners
  1. Choose a category, such as animals, sports, etc.
  2. Call out a vocabulary word that fits the theme (ie ‘cat’ for animals)
  3. Students clap if you call out a word that fits the category
  4. Once they are in a comfortable rhythm, say a word that is not in the category
  5. Share a laugh when someone claps in the wrong place