Improve Your Lessons with ESL
I've seen some really boring vocabulary lessons,
from teachers who ignore ESL vocabulary games.
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Uninteresting reading activities, followed by lists of words to define
or translate. Sometimes students having to do spelling tests.
Although these vocabulary
can be productive, if done incorrectly, they
aren't very exciting for students.
How can you make your vocabulary lessons more interesting for your
Here are some suggestions of how to use ESL vocabulary games.
Most people have a competitive side to their personality. If you put
your students into teams for any quiz or test then they will be likely
to work together to try to beat other teams. Even a simple quiz becomes
much more fun this way.
Don't use the same game all the time. Hangman and Hot Seat (where two
students sit with their backs to the board, you write a word on the
board, and the teams have to describe the word for the two students to
guess) are popular with teachers because they are easy.
Try to find some different games to use to stop your students (and
you!) becoming bored.
3. Mix quiet games and noisy games
An example of a quiet game, which works with individuals or in pairs or
groups is word transformation. Ask students to give you a four-letter
word and write it on the board. Then ask for another four-letter word
and write this underneath the first, leaving space between them.
Then ask your students to change the words, one letter at a time, each
time creating a new word. The object is to reach the second word with
the least possible number of moves.
Obviously, this is best for higher-level classes but it can bring up
some good new words.
4. Games with movement
Games with movement are good to break up a long class (to break up
put short activities in between longer ones).
You could stick words and definitions (or translations) around the room
and have a race to see which individual, pair, or group can match the
Or you could give the students the words and definitions and get them
to find the person who matches with them. This is also a good technique
to get students to work in different pairs.
5. Memory games
Memory games work well with vocabulary. You could have some objects on
the table and give students 5 minutes to find out the words for them
together (if they don't already know) and to remember as many as they
You can also use pictures for this, getting students to look at the
picture then describe it, or answer questions about it.
Storytelling is a great classroom favourite of mine, and of my
students. I get a bunch of unconnected words, including nouns,
adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and conjunctions.
I then get students, in groups or pairs, to write a story using as many
of the words as they can. Sometimes I award points for each word and
turn it into a competition.
I have also had the students work in pairs, with one reading the story
and one acting it out.
Vocabulary activities don't have to be boring. With a few new ideas and
a little imagination, ESL vocabulary games can make your lessons much
more lively and fun
Click here for more advice and specific examples of ESL vocabulary games.