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Five Top Lists of Vocabulary Games to Play for Your ESL Class

Updated on August 20, 2012

Vocabulary is fun. Err..yeah, I thought so too. If you love vocabulary or likes to teach vocabulary, then- this is for you. When I was teaching vocabulary to my students, I loved the energy they possessed when I told them we were playing a game.They were like young kids again excited and having fun.

Game is fun. Who would have thought that you can have fun in class? Well, as a teacher, you should make your class exciting so that your students would not fall asleep in class. Playing a game as a sort of motivating them before you start your hardcore lesson (hardcore seems intense, doesn't it?) is always appreciated and encouraging.

Now, lets go down to our lists of games.


1. Taboo (known as Hot Seat)

"Yes or No"

Difficulty: Medium

Group size: Whole class, small group, large group

Divide the class into three, four or even five depending on the number of your class. Prepare three chairs, facing in front of the class and away from the board. Call three students in each group. Let them sit on the chair that you have prepared for them. Give these students specific instructions on what they need to do. It is best if you would tell students first about the category you want them to explore. Write the word on the board and let the students on the hot chair ask questions to figure out/ or guess the word that is written on the board. The group member would only reply to the questions, "yes or no". If someone guess the word right away, call another person from each group and take turns until everyone can play the hot seat. The group who guess the highest number of words will win.

You can play this game before you start your class. This is a sort of motivation so that your class is engage enough to be interested in your lesson. Or you can play this game after you introduced your lesson and if you want students to remember the words that has been discussed, you can improvised the game by letting students form a sentence from the word the student have guessed.


2. Pictionary

Who wouldn't love to play pictionary? Pictionary is a game of two pairs, or a small group or the whole class that develops students ability to think, to remember and to associate the drawings to a certain object or words. If you are bad at drawing (no pun intended), it is hard for your group to guess the word. But hey, isn't that the beauty of the game? You need to be bad at drawing in order to appreciate the fun and the essence of the game.

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Divide your whole class into two. Team A and Team B. Choose one student from each group to come up on the board. Student A and student B will draw the object that you told them to draw and each team will guess what student A and B draw. The first team who can guess what the word is will win.

Call another student to play for the next round. Having your whole students involved in the game is a great way to encouraged learning.


3. Vocabulary Charade

Difficulty: Medium

Divide your students into two groups. Preferably an equal size. Team A or Team B. If you want to be more creative, have them pick a name for their group. Prepare a small paper that has vocabulary word written on it. Placed them in the cup or bag or any container. Asks each group to have a volunteer to come up in front. Tell the whole class about the object of the game. Student will use gestures, facial expressions, body movements and any actions as long as she/he will not utter any word from her/his mouth. First player from team A draws the word slip from the bag you prepared. Give the student time to reflect or review what is the word about. If the student seem to have difficulty about the word, teach her/him or give him/her ideas what is it all about. If the student is ready to act the word, have the timer ready. Team A's group has 1 minute or 2 minutes to guess the word. If team A's group could not get the word, Team B has a chance to steal. Team B has only one chance to do it. They must decide what word to tell to you in order to not waste the chance. Do the same thins with the Team B's group.

4. Challenge Their Memory

Difficulty: Easy

Good for reviewing the vocabulary lesson.

Divide students into two pairs or into three groups. Asks each group to get a piece of paper and pen. Tell students to write the words they can remember from yesterday's lesson, from last week or last month or from the start of the class. They can also write phrases that they learn, or expressions. Give students 3 or 5 minutes to lists most of the words. The pair or group of students that lists most of the words, phrases or expressions wins.


5. Scrambled Letters

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Write down 7-8 words with their letters shuffled. Words should be related to the topic or part of your lesson that you introduced for the day. You can do this game individually/ or in pairs. Pick one student/or pair to come up front and have students unscrambled the letters to form the word. The pairs who unscrambled the word first wins. Run through each word listed on board and elicit information from students.


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