Improve Your Lessons with ESL Vocabulary Games


ESL Vocabulary GamesI've seen some really boring vocabulary lessons, from teachers who ignore ESL vocabulary games.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here to get the English Short Stories Book and Workbook


Uninteresting reading activities, followed by lists of words to define or translate. Sometimes students having to do spelling tests.



Although these vocabulary activities can be productive, if done incorrectly, they aren't very exciting for students.


How can you make your vocabulary lessons more interesting for your students?

Here are some suggestions of how to use ESL vocabulary games.


1. Competition

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.


2. Variety

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 means to 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 most pairs.

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 can.

You can also use pictures for this, getting students to look at the picture then describe it, or answer questions about it.


6. Storytelling

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.

Get Vocabulary, Grammar and Teaching Tips, Site Updates and Special Offers Directly to Your Mailbox

Join now and get a special bonus:

First 2 chapters of the English Short Stories Book and Workbook.

Are you a teacher or a student?

* We respect your email privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.