ESL Vocabulary Games
in the Classroom
Using ESL vocabulary games in the classroom is an effective
way to help students learn English.
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
Why use vocabulary games in the classroom?
Interacting with others in a fun, relaxed manner encourages
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
How to use ESL vocabulary games in the classroom
ESL vocabulary games are more effective if the teacher and classroom
- 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
This game will reinforce the use of colors vocabulary.
- Choosing 4-6 common colors, write each color on a card.
- Divide the students into the same number of colors as you
- Have each group list all the items they can think of that
are that color.
- Exchange the cards after an allotted time so all groups
have a chance to list items.
- Regroup and discuss what they have listed.
The group with the most unique items wins.
Items of Clothing
- Bring in clothing items, each in its own bag (so that
students cannot see what is inside).
- Divide the class into two teams, facing each
- 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
- The object is to have the student with the item answer the
questions accurately and the other student to guess what is in the
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.
- Have the students read a short non-fiction passage from a
newspaper or website.
- Discuss the passage together and explain any vocabulary,
idioms, or terms that might be new to them.
- Put the students in groups.
- 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
- Display the posters and have a member of each group explain
why they chose their particular words and illustrations.