Educational Games in the Classroom for EFL and ESL Students

An EFL Classroom in Thailand

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Need For Educational Games In The Classroom

Contrary to my prior opinion and prejudice, educational games do have a place in today's classrooms. Most students expect to be entertained in class, and they want learning to be an enjoyable experience. The key to effective use of games in the classroom is making them educational so that they meet your learning objectives. If a game is fun and organized well, students will be able to work together in an enjoyable competitive atmosphere to review topics already introduced in class. In this article I will introduce two educational games which I have used effectively in my EFL and ESL classrooms.

ESL Games

ESL Games

Educational Games

Educational Games to Play in the Classroom

Which is the best educational game to play in the ESL classroom?

  • Word games like Stop the Bus
  • General knowledge games like Jeopardy
  • Spelling games
  • Grammar games
  • Other
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Educational Games in the Classroom

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Fun Educational Games For The Classroom

1. Modified Jeopardy

I call this game modified Jeopardy because it is a spin off of the popular quiz show, Jeopardy. In my classrooms two or three teams of five to six students each have played this game. The object of the game is to get as many points as possible by answering questions about different topics which are written horizontally on the whiteboard. In the games I play there are four or five different categories of topics and five questions of varying difficulty in each category which are arranged vertically from easiest to most difficult. Each of the questions has an assigned value from 20, the easiest question, to 1,000 the most difficult question. Before beginning the game, the students separate into teams choosing their players. I try to ensure that students of varying abilities are on each team. In beginning the game, the moderator or teacher flips a coin and a team captain will call out "heads" or "tails." The team that wins the flip of the coin has control of the board and can select any question of numerical value from any category on the board. Please note that the questions are not shown on the board. They are held by the teacher. After the teacher reads a team's selected question, the team will have 30 seconds to answer the question. If the question is answered correctly, the team will be awarded all of the value points. If the team gives a wrong answer, the value of the question is deducted from the team's point balance. If the team in control of the board can not answer the question within 30 seconds, other teams may volunteer to answer it. If another team answers the question correctly, it will be awarded the points for the question, and then it has control of the board. If the other team, however, answers the question incorrectly, it will not lose points, but control of the board will go to the team which was originally in control. To run a really good game, it is necessary for the teacher to spend some time coming up with challenging review questions which vary in difficulty. Many of my sixth grade EFL students are in special English Programs where all of their core subjects such as math, science, health, and social studies are taught in English. For this reason, my different categories will be English, math, science, health, and social studies.

2. Stop The Bus

According to one of my colleagues, this is a German game. This game is also played with three or four teams. The object of the game is to get as many points as possible by answering questions about different topics. Unlike my modified jeopardy game, I will randomly select a letter of the alphabet and the teams must think of words for agreed upon topics which begin with the teacher's chosen letter. For example, let's say that the categories of topics are countries, capital cities, food, animals, sport, music, and hobbies. The teacher's selected letter is "B." The first team which can write answers for all of the categories on the board says, "Stop the bus.," and then comes to the board to write the words under the categories. Good candidate words would be Brazil for countries, Baghdad for capital cities, burritos for food, beaver for animal, baseball for sport, blues for music, and basket weaving for hobbies. A team will get a point for each correct answer. If a word is wrong or misspelled, a team will not get a point. I have found this a very good game to play when reviewing vocabulary, spelling, and social studies. With a little creativity, I'm sure the game could be adapted for other topics and uses.

Educational games in the EFL and ESL classroom are really great because students enjoy them very much. They are highly motivating, and they also encourage students to work together and answer questions quickly while focusing on a task at hand.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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Comments 3 comments

nifwlseirff profile image

nifwlseirff 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

These definitely work well in younger classrooms! I have used both of these games successfully in junior high school English classes in Japan.

I wish I could use games more in my current adult classes in Germany, but there is a much lower tolerance and demand for 'fun' in this learning environment. Occasionally I can get away with presenting a game as a vocabulary 'activity', which the students enjoy. If I say it's a game, they just groan!


Jen Pearson profile image

Jen Pearson 4 years ago from Alabama

I like "Stop the Bus." It strikes me as very versatile. It could be played with very small teams (even individuals) and even at very low literacy levels. It could also be done "open book" with picture dictionaries.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

I wasn't a big fan of this game until some of my better 6th grade students were just begging me to play the game. Some of the answers the kids come up with are really amazing. Thanks for the comments.

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