ESL Vocabulary Games
in the Classroom

Using ESL vocabulary games in the classroom is an effective way to help students learn English.

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Why use vocabulary games in the classroom?

Interacting with others in a fun, relaxed manner encourages participation.

Vocabulary games are an effective way of reinforcing a formal lesson. They are best used to review a set of vocabulary words the students have already studied or teach new words as preparation.

Playing vocabulary games allows students to learn new ways to use vocabulary words.

How to use ESL vocabulary games in the classroom

ESL vocabulary games are more effective if the teacher and classroom are organized.

For example:
  • All items needed for the game should be on hand. 

  • Instructions should be prepared ahead of time. They should be easy to understand, whether given orally or written on the board.

  • Vocabulary games should reflect the level of the language learners in your particular classroom.

Tips for using ESL vocabulary teaching games in the classroom

  • Tip #1: Make sure the ESL vocabulary games you plan to use are appropriate for your class’s level of English learning.

  • Tip #2: Reinforce your students’ learning as they play.

  • Tip #3: Discuss their experience with the game the next time the students meet.

Examples of ESL vocabulary games to play in the classroom

Adjective Game

This game will reinforce the use of colors vocabulary.
  1. Choosing 4-6 common colors, write each color on a card.

  2. Divide the students into the same number of colors as you have chosen.

  3. Have each group list all the items they can think of that are that color.

  4. Exchange the cards after an allotted time so all groups have a chance to list items.

  5. Regroup and discuss what they have listed.
The group with the most unique items wins.

Items of Clothing

  1. Bring in clothing items, each in its own bag (so that students cannot see what is inside). 

  2. Divide the class into two teams, facing each other. 

  3. One student from one team looks in the bag and then answers questions from a student from the other team. Students will be encouraged to ask appropriate questions about clothing and how it is worn.

  4. The object is to have the student with the item answer the questions accurately and the other student to guess what is in the bag. 
Two rounds of this game can be played if enough items are provided.

"In the News" Game

This game would be suitable for more advanced students.
  1. Have the students read a short non-fiction passage from a newspaper or website. 

  2. Discuss the passage together and explain any vocabulary, idioms, or terms that might be new to them.

  3. Put the students in groups. 

  4. On a piece of construction paper or Bristol board instruct them to write the words or terms they think are most important to the meaning of the passage. Have them illustrate the poster. Encourage creativity.

  5. Display the posters and have a member of each group explain why they chose their particular words and illustrations.

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