ESL Kids Games & Activities Tips
Alphabet Boxes. Here is a great class activity I came across recently called Alphabet Boxes: You need 26 tissue boxes or plastic tubs and various items to go with each letter (e.g. apple magnet for the letter A) & permanent marker. Write the upper and lower case letter on each wipe box, one letter of the alphabet for each box. Get your Ss to fill each box with items that begin with items to the children and pass them around, this captivates the children! One box is used at a time. You don't even have to fill all the boxes at once but fill them as you go through the year. This hands-on experience is a big hit!
Blindfold Activities (1). A blindfold is a great teaching supply to have (a cotton scarf is fine) as kids love to be blindfolded. There are lots of activities you can do with a blindfold: for question practice have Ss stand in a circle with one S in the center wearing the blindfold. Spin him/her around a few times and have him ask the nearest S a question. When the S answers the blindfolded S must guess who it is. Blindfolds can be used for fun "Where are you?" "I'm here" games, and for giving directions: to find a hidden object give directions to the blindfolded S, such as "Go forward (3 steps); go back, turn left, turn right".
Blindfold Activities (2). Blindfolds can be used in many fun ways - I use ones that airlines give out for sleeping. For younger kids have Ss stand in a circle with the blindfolded student in the center. Spin him/her around a few times and have him/her approach the nearest student to ask general questions in order to guess his/her identity. Also, have blindfold Ss guess objects by feeling or even food by tasting. Another use is to practice giving directions - the blindfolded S is directed around the classroom by his/her partner to reach a target.
Christmas. Our Christmas games and activities page is packed full of ideas to use in an ESL kids class. There are also links to popular Christmas songs.
Classroom Races. Races are a fun way to teach a lot of different action verbs and adjectives/adverbs. Line the students up and tell them the action they have to do during the race and then shout go. Actions include: giant strides, little steps, run backwards, skip, jump, hop, crawl like a crab/baby, hop like a rabbit/frog, fly like a bird, walk quickly/slowly and so on.
ESL Bingo. All kids love bingo! Here are 2 excellent links: Peter Warner's Livening Up Bingo has instructions and ideas for using Bingo with ESL kids as well as a great prepositions bingo game with board and cards. David Lisgo's Double Sound Bingo can be found at the bottom of his webpage.
Flashcard Activity. Here is a great activity for using flashcards with large groups (by Katherine MacKay, ETJ's Snakes & Ladders): "Have 4 children each hold up a flashcard at the front of the class, flash and then hide their card. The teacher calls out one of the words and the children have to remember where the word is and line up in front of the child holding that flashcard. Children have great fun trying to remember, jumping from one line to the next, following their friends and excitedly waiting for the card to be revealed. In a second round, it's fun to add an additional challenge and get the children holding flashcards to change places, and then repeat the activity with the whole class".
Halloween. Check out our Halloween page! You can find over 25 Halloween games and activities ideas to use in your ESL classroom as well as lots of links to useful Halloween websites.
Mixed Bag. This is a good 5 minute review activity that you can do with any age group. Take a bag and put in various objects that the class have studies in the past (plastic food, toys, stationary, model cars, etc.). Pull out each object, elicit it and then throw it somewhere in the room. When all the objects have been thrown out T shouts out the word for one of the objects and the Ss race to collect it and put it back in the bag. If you do this activity on a regular basis put a new object or two in the bag each time - recently my students have learnt words like 'watch strap', 'chopstick', 'hair band' and 'dinosaur' through this activity!
Numbers Snap. This is a very simple but effective card game for practicing numbers 1-10. Kids love playing with playing cards. Take a pack of cards to class and teach 'king', 'queen', 'jack' and 'ace'. Deal out the cards and play "Snap". As students lay down their cards they must say the number. The student to lose all his/her cards is the winner!
Outdoor Activities. The ETJ discussion list recently had some postings on outdoor activities and games (for summer class parties, camps, picnics, etc.). Here are some ideas: TV tag, 4 square, bug/insect hunting, a scavenger hunt (e.g. Ss have to find a yellow leaf, a cup of sand, a caterpillar, etc.), alphabet find (Ss have to find as many things as possible which start with a different letter of the alphabet), What's the time Mr Wolf? (or Ms Wolf!), bubbles (counting bubbles, blowing the biggest ones, blowing as many as you can, catching as many as you can), collecting leaves and doing leaf rubbings, outdoor painting (especially hand and feet painting on a huge piece of paper), three legged races, play doh.
Teaching Months: Here's an activity I use for teaching the months of the year called 'Months March'. You'll need a fairly long classroom with space for everyone to march up and down. T stands at one end of the room against the left wall. Line the Ss up along side the T and T says "Go!". As you all march together, T starts calling out the months in order ("January", " February", etc.). Ss repeat each month (T:"January" Ss:"January"). March along at a slow pace, but smartly (backs straight, arms swinging). At certain points T suddenly shouts "Stop!". Everyone must stop and be EXACTLY in line with the T. If someone is out of line order them back in line and then continue marching where you left off. Turn around each time you reach the end of the room and continue the march. Once finished start again, but this time walk briskly. You can do it the final time running! This is even more fun when there are tables, etc, in the room that the Ss need to climb over/under. After a few lessons you shouldn't have to chorus the words - just get the students to chant together as they march. My students LOVE this activity and request it every week!
Thanksgiving. On our Thanksgiving page can find great games and activities ideas to use in your ESL classroom as well as lots of links to useful Thanksgiving websites.
Time Bomb. You need a timer (such as an egg timer - see here) for this exciting game. Choose a category (e.g. animals, food, words beginning with 'S', etc.), set the timer to 1 minute, say a word (e.g. "Elephant!") and then throw the timer to a student. S/he must catch the timer and continue with another word in the category before s/he can throw to another student. The S holding the timer when it goes off is out of the round.
Tongue-Twister Races. Tongue-twisters can be great fun and good pronunciation practice. You can have Ss race against each other individually or in teams. Here are 5 tongue-twisters: "She sells sea shells on the sea shore"; "Five fleas fly faster than four fleas"; "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers"; "Rubber baby buggy bumpers"; "Red lorry, Yellow lorry". For some more: click here.
Vanishing Objects Game. Place a number of objects in front of the Ss. Give them a few moments to memorize the objects and then tell them to close their eyes. Take away one of the objects and then tell the Ss to open their eyes again. The first S to guess the missing object can win that object (for 1 point) and take away an object in the next round.
Question Review Activity. Spin the bottle is a great way to review and practice 'wh' and 'yes/no' questions and answers. Sit Ss in a circle with a bottle in the middle. T Spins the bottle. When it stops spinning the S it is pointing to has to answer a question. If the answer is correct then that S can spin the bottle. This is also a good class warm up activity.
What's In The Bag Game. Kids love this activity. Take a small cloth bag to class. Have the Ss close their eyes while T puts an object in the bag (such as a plastic fruit). One S then puts his/her hand in the bag to feel the object and try and guess what it is. This activity works well with the following themes: fruit, vegetables, classroom objects, toy vehicles, plastic animals, alphabet letters and even plastic insects!