Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) can sometimes be boring and other times intimidating. An excellent way to avoid these problems is to play games with the class, both as a way of lightening up the mood of the classroom and providing your students practice in using the English language.
Find Someone Who ...
Find Someone Who... is an excellent game for beginners and intermediate students. It is best to play this game with a group. The game starts with the teacher presenting the students a list of characteristics, such as "likes chocolate," "has children" or "can swim." The teacher then allows the students to mingle and find another student in the class who has this characteristic. Pre-teach the proper question and sentence formats, such as "Do you like X?" or "_ likes __." Make sure the students are asking questions and not just pointing at the items.
Pictionary is an excellent game for any age level, provided that there is a sizeable group. Divide the class into two to three groups, and arrange them in front of a whiteboard. Give each team a part of the whiteboard upon which to draw. Tell one member of each team something to write, and when you say "go," have each student draw the picture. Whichever team guesses the picture first gets a point, and whichever team has the most points wins. You can also opt to have each team go individually as opposed to all at once.
Twenty questions is a game for more advanced students, upper intermediate to advanced. Select a person, place or thing, and have the students ask you "yes" or "no" questions about the object until one of them guesses it. Next, allow the student that guessed correctly to select another person, place or thing, and repeat the game with that student answering the questions.
This game, also known as Crazy Story, is also best for intermediate to advanced students. Split the class into groups of four to six students. Give each student a sheet of paper, and have him begin a story by writing just one line. Have the student then fold the sheet of paper over so that he hides the previous line. Next, have the students pass the sheet along to the student to their right or left, and then have the students continue the story on the sheet they receive. Have them pass the story along, making sure to fold over the sheet of paper each time. After a few turns, have each student read the story they end up with.
Telephone is a good game for any level, provided you adapt the material. Line the students up in single file. Whisper a somewhat complicated sentence into the first student's ear, and then have that student pass the sentence on until it gets to the final student. Have the final student share what she believes she heard. Then, share what the sentence actually was.
If you have enough students, split them into two or three teams, and make the team with the closest sentence to the original the winner.
What Am I?
What Am I? is also best for intermediate to advanced students. Find some blank adhesive tags, and write random nouns on them. Place the tags on the students' foreheads, making sure they don't see what it says. Have the students mingle, with each student asking "yes" or "no" questions about what they are. You can also use the names of famous people.
This is an excellent game for more advanced students. You can use it to review verbs, and it is particularly good for reviewing the continuous tenses. Write actions on slips of paper, and have individual students act them out. Have the other students try to guess what the student is doing. In larger groups, make teams and keep score.