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Fun Activities for ESL/EFL Students

Updated on September 4, 2013

Fun Activities for Learning English


No Preparation Necessary

I’m a TESOL teacher in Portugal and our school has very poor resources; the photocopier has an attitude and the computer sometimes doesn’t like to be turned on. I could go on, the list is truly disheartening, but instead I’ve decided to write this article to provide a solution.

If you’re a teacher like me and you need wonderfully engaging activities that take little or no preparation, you’ve come to the right spot. Below are a list of games and activities to keep all levels happy.

1. Describe the picture/word – Can be used with most levels. Students simply choose a picture/word and describe it to the class without saying the actual word. The pictures/words can be nouns, adjectives or verbs. It’s a good one when you’re not in the mood to hammer home some new grammar or if the class looks a bit sluggish.

Here are some suggestions: Tired, Walk, Think, Lonely, Fast, Credit Card, Sandal, Mirror, Dragon, Fingernails, Strong, Bored, Horse Riding, Sofa, Sunglasses, Euros, Sneeze, Comfortable...etc.

TEFL Games: Freeze


2. Freeze – Split the class into 2 teams and stand them up. One team turns to the wall and covers their eyes (be warned, there will be cheating if you have windows in your classroom!). The other team has to act out something, e.g. rowing a boat. You yell freeze and they stop moving. The team who were not looking try to guess what the other team was doing.

This is a great game for teaching the present and past continuous. Another alternative is to give strips of paper to each student, e.g. I/Give/Dog/Bath. Stand the class in a circle and throw a ball to someone. Accuse them of doing something and they have to give their alibi using the cues from the slips of paper.

Learning English: Word Association


3. Word Association – I don’t know why they love this one so much, I guess because they are not sitting down looking at a book. It’s an old favourite - say a word, throw the ball to someone and they have to say a word that is associated. Give them a 5 second countdown and if they cannot think of a word in that time they have to sit down for a period. The ball gets thrown around the room and the vocabulary drifts off into many different categories.

It might be worth penalising the kids who will, no doubt, throw the ball too hard or into glass cabinets, by making them take a seat for a round.

Practice English Tenses Without Trying


4. Bombs Away - Great for practising the past, present, continuous, future, passive and mixed tenses. Print out the sheet and pair the students up. They draw their ships in the top picture, six ships altogether, two of each size, taking care that their partner doesn’t see. They then ask their opponent questions in whichever tense, e.g. Did Ken sing songs yesterday? No, he didn’t. Both players must discover the location of all the ships until there is a winner.

Great game, takes around 30 minutes. All you need is this printout:

Talk About the Future


5.Robots of the Future - Tell students to write a short story about their own personal robot of the future and what the robot will/won’t do, e.g. The robot will print money, the robot won’t use electricity. Get them to read out the story to class and the other students rate the story between one and three (It’s best to use secret ballot to collect the scores). If there is a small prize for the winner, your class strangely seems to pay more attention!

6. Dictionary quest – Not as exciting as it sounds, but still good for a 20 minute activity. The students will need dictionaries. Write a word on the board that they don’t understand and give four definitions, e.g. Tub

1. A tub is a verb - to attack someone.

2. A tub is a noun, it means friend.

3. A tub is a noun, also known as a container.

4. A tub is an adjective, used to describe the speed of something.

The students guess the answer and begin making similar definitions in pairs for other pairs of students.

7. Whispers – The younger classes are especially keen on this one. They all stand up and you whisper something in the ear of one student. They whisper it to the next student and so on until the last student reveals what the sentence is. It usually turns out to be gobbledygook by then.

8. Quiz - Follow this link here for a fun quiz. The questions can be modified or made easier depending on the different levels or the generation of the students.

9. Wordsearch

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Alphabet verb word search.Blank grid for student led word search
Alphabet verb word search.
Alphabet verb word search. | Source
Blank grid for student led word search
Blank grid for student led word search

You can get your students to make their own word searches using verbs, jobs, animals and many other categories. I get my students to aim for 10-15 words and make the words more than 5 letters long. They look for words in their books if they have writer's block. When they are finished they give the word search to another student. Simply print off a copy of the blank grid above and I promise you a silence you've never heard before will descend on the classroom!

10. Guess my Job

Write on the board these clues:

  • I wear a uniform.
  • I make lots of money.
  • I am famous.
  • I am a team player

What am I?

  • I wear a uniform.
  • I take peoples’ orders.
  • I bring food to their tables.
  • I clean tables.

What am I?

Ask students to guess the professions. Answer 1: A football player. Answer 2: A waiter/waitress. Then get the class to write out their own clues and they read them out to the class.

Variation - Have students write clues about objects.

  • It's made from wood.
  • It can be square or circular.
  • Every house has one.
  • We use it every day.

What is it?

  • It's long and thin.
  • It comes in different colours.
  • You use these to draw or colour.

What is it?

Answers: A table, markers.

Other Hubs by the Author

Teaching English – Fun Puzzles for ESL Kids

Two great puzzles for ESL students. They focus on reading comprehension, vocabulary and problem solving. Suitable for Pre-intermediate and Upper intermediate. Fun to do!

Difference Between the Present Perfect Simple and the Past Perfect

How to teach your ESL/EFL students the difference between the Past Simple and the Present Perfect. Includes exercises and fun activities.

Teaching English – 3 Great Vocabulary Activities

Here are 3 great vocabulary activities. They are suitable for different levels and they are very handy fillers, motivational exercises or just for a bit of fun.

Teaching the Present Perfect Simple to ESL Students

Explanation of the Present Perfect Simple, exercises with answers and a fun game to practice what they’ve learned.

10 Fun ESL Activities to Practice Modal Auxiliary Verbs

10 lively speaking activities to practice Modal Auxiliary Verbs. Includes a table for quick reference.

© 2013 Muttface


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    • Muttface profile image

      Muttface 4 years ago from Portugal

      Bonjour Chef!

      Yeah, I heard about that and that's why I omitted the nationality. Don't annoy the sleeping giant! It's called Telephone over here.

      Thanks for reading and voting.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Some really good simple ideas to keep the class entertained, thank you. Not only that, they help the student learn through team work and interaction.

      No7 is commonly called Chinese Whispers - but doesn't go down well in China so I've heard.

      Votes and shared.

    • Muttface profile image

      Muttface 4 years ago from Portugal

      Ha! This is quite strange. I read an article of yours months before I joined HP and hee-hawed all the way through, but I couldn't remember your name. I'll have to have a nosey on your page and try to find the article. It had something to do with your wretched good looks ha ha!

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      Great ideas! I have done some teaching abroad and having fun activities sure makes it more enjoyable for yourself and for the students (especially if the students are kids). I am impressed by all of your articles here! Voted up and sharing.