Middle School EFL/ESL Games

Spell from a Bag

5-20 minutes Small groups of 2 or more Review vocabulary words and practice spelling

  • Use letter blocks instead of having students write their letters on paper
  • Use sentences with some similar words for more advanced students
  1. Divide the class into groups of 2-4 students
  2. Assign everyone a vocabulary word
  3. Have each student write their word out with each letter on a separate small sheet of paper
  4. Place all the letters in a bag
  5. Students take turns taking one letter out of the bag at a time
  6. If the letter is one found in their word, they keep it and give the bag to the next student
  7. If the letter they select is not one of the letters in their word, they put it back in the bag and give it to the next student
  8. For
    example, say S1 has CAT as their word, S2 has DOG, and S3 has COW. If
    S1 draws C from the bag (even if it is not the C that they wrote), they
    keep it and give the bag to S2. S2 draws a W, puts it back in the bag,
    and gives it to S3, etc.
  9. The first student to spell their word wins

Spin the Coin

10-15 minutes Groups of 3-5 Practice grammar structures and vocabulary words with flashcards

  • Use pictures for less advanced students
  • Have special flashcards such as ‘place your marker on any available card’ or ‘remove 1 marker from a card’
  • Only allow one marker on each card
  1. Lay out an arbitrary number of flashcards in a circle
    formation, making sure the edges of the flashcards are touching (i.e.
    no “holes” in the circle: taping the cards down helps)
  2. Give each player some marker pieces (colored chips work well)
  3. Prepare a ‘coin’ from cardboard, etc. with a line on each side, from the center of the coin to the edge
  4. Spin the coin in the middle of the circle and have the first student slam their hand down on the coin
  5. The
    line on the coin serves as a pointer and the student says the
    vocabulary word or grammar structure on the card the line points to
  6. If they are right, they place one of their markers on the card
  7. The first student to get rid of all of their markers wins

Team Spelling

No more than one minute per word A maximum equal to the number of letters in the target words (less students is fine though) To correctly identify vocabulary from images and spell the word As preparing a lot of words all the same length (e.g. you have teams of 5 students each: it can be hard to think of lots of 5-letter words without going outside the students’ knowledge of vocabulary) you can have words `wrap around`:
If you give a six letter word to a team of five students then the first student has to write down both the first and last letters.
Sitting the students in a ring can help them get the idea.

Put the class into teams.

The teacher shows a team a photograph or drawing and the team must each write down one letter of that word (without showing their teammates), depending on their position. The leftmost student writes down the first letter, the next student the second letter, etc.
e.g. the teacher shows a group of five students a picture of an apple.
The leftmost student writes down “a”, the next student “p”, the next student “p”, the next “l” and the rightmost student “e”.

Give them a short timelimit (ten to twenty seconds depending on their English level) and then have them all reveal the letters they wrote. Award one point if the word is correctly spelled, then move on to the next group.

The Hot Seat

45 minutes Any Communicate words without saying them

  • Use simple words like animals or days of the week for weaker students
  • Use the word ‘pass’ as one of the words on the board to challenge strong students
  1. Break class into 4 or less teams
  2. Place a ‘hot seat’ in front of the class and facing away from the board
  3. Each team selects a leader
  4. One team is up at a time and their leader sits in the hot seat
  5. Write ten words on the board so the leader can’t see them
  6. Number the words 1-10
  7. Each team member is assigned a word or words on the board
  8. Some team members may have more than one word
  9. Team
    members take turns communicating their word to the leader without
    saying the word with No spelling, writing, or drawing allowed
  10. Team members can say ‘pass’ if their word is too difficult
  11. Each team has 1 minute to get as many words as possible
  12. The team with the most points at the end wins


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


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