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Fun ESL games for kids

Updated March 23, 2017

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) can often involve vocabulary lists, essays and rote memorisation. However, many children will benefit from ESL games in the classroom. The key to a successful ESL game is finding an educational focal point for the activity, so that kids are learning English while having fun.

ESL Vocabulary Race

Kids love this game, as it gets them moving and involved in the spirit of competition. The students are divided into two teams, each with an identical stack of index cards. Each index card features a vocabulary word the students have been studying in class. Allow the students to choose fun names for their teams, and write each team name on the board. Ask the students to split up the index cards so each student has one card. When the teams are ready, call out a random vocabulary word. One student from each team should have the card with that word. They race to the blackboard and write an original sentence under their team name using that vocabulary word. The first student to finish writing a sentence that correctly uses that word wins a point for their team. The game continues until all of the vocabulary words have been called, and the team with the most points wins.

Balderdash

This game is fun for kids who are learning how to use an English dictionary. Find a word in the dictionary that the students probably don't know and write it on the board. Ask students whether they think it is a noun, verb or adjective. Then ask each student to write their own definition of the word, encouraging creativity and even a little silliness. After each student reads their definition out loud, read the real definition. Ask students who they think had the closest guess to the real definition, and that student is the winner.

Who Am I?

You can tailor this game to fit children of all ages by adjusting the characters. Write down a list of character names on index cards that kids in your classroom might know, such as Harry Potter, Micky Mouse or Dora the Explorer. Pin one index card to the back of each child, assigning him as a character. Everyone will know who is which character, but no one will know which character they are supposed to be. If the class is particularly large, divide them into smaller groups. Students can mingle and talk, asking one another questions and telling each other hints that will help them guess who they are. When a child figures out who he is, remove the index card and pin it to the front of his shirt.

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About the Author

Kara Page has been a freelance writer and editor since 2007. She maintains several blogs on travel, music, food and more. She is also a contributing writer for Suite101 and has articles published on eHow and Answerbag. Page holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas.