ESL Warm-up Games and Activities
Start your English as a Second Language class with a Warm-Up Game
This site will help you incorporate lots of fun and excitement into your English as a foreign language classrooms. Teaching ESL has never been so exciting and your students will be learning English without even knowing it because they're having so much fun playing ESL games. A fun and interesting warm-up activity or game is the perfect start to your English as a Foreign Language Class.
By using a warm-up game, you can grab the student's attention and introduce whatever topic you're discussing that day. It works especially well to focus on the theme that you're using that day and incorporate a warm-up game along the same lines so that you can find out how much previous knowledge your students have. Start positive with a fun warm-up game or activity so that you can finish strong in your ESL Classroom.
The World Cup ESL Game: an exciting ESL Activity for Kids
First, write up some questions. I use review things mostly but add in a few random ones like, "What time did you wake up this morning?" or "How long did it take you to come to school this morning?"
Then, in class count up your students and make up a "draw." You know, the round of 16, quarter-finals, semis and the final. If you have an odd number and it doesn't quite work, make up some "last-chance spots." So all the people who lost their game in the section of the draw can compete against each other for the last spot. Write up student's names in the draw, randomly (I use the attendance list). To add some more fun, and for smaller classes you can get students to pick a country. For bigger classes, wait until the semi-finals before you allow country picking.
Anyway, ask the students a question from your list and the person to answer the fastest gets to move onto the next round. That's it!
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SOS Review Game: a perfect ESL Activity for Adults
I'm sure you know the game S-O-S. If you get three "S's" in a row or three "O's" in a row you draw a line through it and get a point. I've adapted this game for my purposes.
I draw a grid on the board, usually 6x6. I give them numbers and letters to make it easier for the students to pick what box they want. Then, I divide the students up into teams of 4 or 5 and give them each a symbol (triangle, square, star, heart, etc). Then, I ask review questions, going from team to team. Simple, easy questions with a definite right or wrong answer are best to keep this game moving quickly. A correct answer gets them a square on the board. I do 6 or 7 rounds, and by this time the good teams will have 2 or 3 points. The top team gets a prize.
As a final note: this game gets boring after 20 minutes or so, so don't plan on playing this for an entire class. It works best as a warm-up review kind of game.
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ESL Speaking Activities For Kids
Comic Strip Challenge: a great addition to your ESL Lesson Plans
There are lots of simple comic strips that you can find on the internet to use for this activity. Post it up on your powerpoint and there are 2 different things you can do:
1. Blank out the dialogue and have students make up their own. Put them in groups of 2-4, depending on the size of the class. Award a small prize for the most interesting one.
2. Leave the dialogue, and give the students a few minutes to read and try to understand what is happening. Then, take the comic off the screen and ask a few understanding questions.
The Toilet Paper Game: an ESL Introduction Activity for the First Class
This is the perfect way to start your first class, if there are less than 15 students. Bring in a roll of toilet paper. Tell students they can choose between 2 and 6 pieces. It's up to them how many they take. Tell them no other details. When everyone has some paper, tell the students that they have to say one sentence about themselves for each piece that they have. Example: name/favorite food/ hobby/ members of their family.
Boggle for an ESL Warm-Up
So maybe you've heard or seen the game "Boggle?" You can make your own version for a quick game in class to use as a warm-up. Make a grid on the board, maybe 6x6. Then fill in the squares with common letters. Then the students make words, with at least 3 letters. Each word can only use each letter once and the letters must be touching. You can go diagonal, up, down, whatever.
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The Alphabet ESL Game: an excellent choice for an ESL Warm-Up Game
This is a simple game you can play for a warm-up when your students already know a lot of the vocabulary about the topic. I put them in teams of 2 and they have to write the alphabet on a piece of paper. Then you can give them a topic. Today, mine was "Words to describe a city." Examples: B-Busy, E-Exciting.
Give them 3 or 4 minutes, collect the papers, check for the inappropriate answers, add up the points and you have a winner!
A Vocab Review Game for English as a Second Language Students
Write the vocab words on a flip chart of some sort. I use an old notebook and write one word/page. Divide the class up into teams. I find that 5-8 people/team works well. One student from the team comes and sits at the front of the class facing his or her teammates. I show one word at a time to the team but not the person sitting at the front. The team has to give hints about the word, in English only, using no body language. An example: EYE. Hints students give: 2, on face, I can see.
I do 2 or 3 rounds of 1 minute each and the goal is to get as many words as possible in that 1 minute. If the team uses body language or their native language, I discount that point. This game is very, very fun.
Describing Anything: an Interesting ESL Speaking Activity
A simple warm-up game that you can use to generate some interest in this topic that is often review for many students. Make up a handout with pictures or names of famous people (around 20 is good). Give some hints, such as, "He's American," "He's black," "He's a sport player," "He plays golf." By this time the students will have guessed Tiger Woods. They will then cross Tiger Woods off their list. Turn it over to the students and they will take turns describing the people to each other.
This game would also work for almost any topic (animals/food/clothes, etc)
The Wealthy English Teacher
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Famous People from the Past: a fun activity for elementary students
Put the students in groups of 2-3-4. Have them pick 4 famous people, dead or alive that they'd like to invite to a party they are having. Then, they have to say the reason why they're inviting them. I do an example like this:
Person: Michael Jackson
Reason? He can play some dance music for us. Also, I want to know why he got so much plastic surgery.
Give them a few minutes, depending on the level. Then, I get the student to pick 1 or 2 of the people, depending on the size of the class and tell the rest of the class their answer.
I've gotten an interesting array of answers and the students are quite interested to hear what the other groups have to say.
Steal the Eraser: an excellent English language teaching game
Divide the students into 2 teams. Have 2 desks at the front of the class, facing each other, with an eraser in the middle of the 2 desks. One student from each team comes and sits in the hot seat. Rotate through so that all the students get a chance to play. You then ask a question of some sort. The first person that grabs the eraser can try to answer the question. My rule is that you can take the eraser whenever you want, but I"ll only say the question once. I then count 10 seconds down on my fingers. Their team can help them with the answer, but only in English. If correct, they get 1 point. If not, the other team gets a chance to answer the question.
This week in class, we're studying "When I _________, I ______/ I __________when I ________.
So, I would say something like, "When I feel happy, I _________." Or "I'm late for school when __________"
And of course, to make it even more exciting or if one team is behind by a lot of points, have a "Bonus Round," where the teams pick their best 3 players and each question is worth 2 or 3 points, or something like that.
A Warm-Up Game to review "P.P."
2 Truths and 1 Lie
Have your students write four "I've....." sentences. 3 are true, 1 is false. Then, if you have a small class (under 8), have the students read out their sentences and the other students guess which one is false. For more advanced (or just really small) classes, they can ask some questions to try to figure out the false one. Once the students guess (individually), they get a point for a correct guess. If you have a bigger class, put the students in groups of 5 or 6 and let them play together while you supervise.
Shootout at the ESL Corral
I play this game with kids but think it could potentially be fun for uni students as well. Divide the class into groups of two. You can do this on 2 sides of the class, at their desks standing up or get the kids to make a line at the front of the class as well.
Then, there are are 2 variations. The first one is that the first 2 students play rock/scissor/paper. The loser has to answer a question about what you've been studying. I used it a lot of math when I was studying that for a couple days with the kids. I'd say what is 5x8 and give them 5 seconds to answer. If they got it, they went to the back of their line, or remain standing. If not, they sit down and the game is over for them. The second variation is to just ask a question to both students and the loser sits down.
It's a fun, high energy game with a lot of excitement to it. The kids seemed like they couldn't get enough of it. And you can use pretty much any topic you want. And it's definitely heavy on the listening and speaking skills.
Memory Circle is an excellent way to learn English vocab
This is a game that I often use with smaller (less than 10 students) and younger students (middle/elementary school) but I've also used it with uni students with good results.
You can make a rule as to what kind of words the students can pick. If we're studying food and drinks, I'll say that the students can only use those. New vocab from a vocab book, only those words. Past tense verbs, then only sentences from the past.
Everyone will stand up, in a circle, and I will start the game off. "I ate pizza last night." The next student says, "She ate pizza last night, and I studied yesterday." The next student, "She ate pizza last night, he studied yesterday and I watched TV." And so on it goes, around the circle. If someone misses and gets it incorrect, they have to sit down and the game is over. I usually let it go until there are 2 or 3 of the geniuses left and then I give them a prize of some sort and start over with the same rules, or a new set of criteria.
An ESL Warm-Up Game
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Warm-up for Writing Class
If you're teaching writing, this could be a good activity to start off every class with. Put up a picture on the power-point screen. Give your students about 5-10 minutes to write in their journal or notebook. Encourage your students to just write anything that comes to their mind, but not cross out anything, use their dictionaries or pay close attention to grammar. The key is just to improve fluency in writing and get brains working and warmed-up.
Concentration Game for students who are learning English
I make up a number of sets of cards.
I feel sad when...
When I'm angry....
Who's your favorite actor?
What was the last movie you saw?
...I fail a test
....I hit something
Brad Pitt is some handsome! He's my favorite movie star.
I watched Harry Potter last week.
I make a number or these matching pairs, and write them up on a chart on my computer. Then, I cut them all out. I'll put the students in groups of 4 or 5 and they'll spread the papers out, on their desk face-down. And then it's just a memory game, with the first student picking 2 papers, seeing if they match and going from there. Simple, but fun. And it can work with any level, even with those that can barely read.
Mixed-up Conversation or Sentences
Put up a “Mixed-Up” conversation or a few unrelated sentences on the board. The students then to have turn them into coherent English. It’s an excellent way to review grammar concepts.
Watch a Short Video for a fun Warm-Up Activity
Not exactly a game, but an interesting thing you can do for a warm-up nevertheless. Find a short video on youtube. I like the "Mr. Bean" animated series. They don't contain a lot of dialogue, which makes it easy for ESL Students. For example, when I'm doing a unit on health and fitness, I show the "Mr. Bean Running Race Cheats" video. It's only 3 minutes and very funny. I use it to introduce "in-shape/out-of-shape," "healthy/unhealthy." I have a short discussion of the problems Mr. Bean had and the solutions he found to them.
One of these things is not like the other ones
This is kind of an odd-one-out game that you can play to review vocab from the previous weeks. Just write up a few sets of vocab words on the board. I usually write 4 in one group, with one of them being the odd one out.
apple, carrot, orange, banana
The students have to write: carrot-it's a vegetable, not a fruit.
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Draw a Picture while someone else is talking
This is a fun way to practice body parts or descriptives (big, small, long, etc). The students sit back to back and one person is the “talker” and the other one is the “drawer” The person talking describes something that they’re looking at to their partner (a face, body, city, etc) and that person draws what they hear. The results are usually hilarious!
Need some dice for your ESL Warm-Up Game?
Playing a game where you need some dice, but you don't have enough sets for the whole class, or are just annoyed by the noise? You can buy some giant dice, or just make your own (kind of).
There are 2 things I do:
1. Make a grid pattern on a piece of paper. Put numbers (1-4, or 1-6, whatever!) on it in a random pattern. Then, to pick the number the students get their pencil, close their eyes and pick a square.
2. Get some of the new, small 10 won coins. Have the students throw them and see how they land. 2 heads is a 1, 1 head and 1 tail is a 2, and 2 tails is a 3. Makes sense?
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