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Three ESL Games for Elementary School Students

written by: WendyRGould • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 6/6/2012

Playing games in the classroom may not seem ideal for the traditional ESL teacher, but they serve as the perfect opportunity for students to have fun and practice their English at the same time. Try these three ideas for fun language practice.

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    These game ideas for Elementary school ESL students can be used no matter the subject matter. Just plug in any lesson’s vocabulary words and expressions and you’re on your way to a jolly good time.

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    Snatching Game

    This game is easy to prepare and the students will have a lot of fun while playing. The only materials you will need is a set of vocabulary/picture flash cards for every two students in your classroom. You can print out a set of cards, make copies and distribute them to your students if you’re low on time and funding. Have them cut the cards out and then review each of the expressions or vocabulary words associated with each card. Once your students are familiar with the cards, call out one vocabulary word/expression. The student who grabs the card the quickest is the winner and can keep the card. Whoever has the most cards in the end is the winner.

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    Fly Swatter Game

    This is a great game for students to play and helps them practice expressions and vocabulary terms from the lesson. Divide the class into however many teams you want (it really doesn’t matter) and then place a set of large vocabulary/expression flash cards on the chalk board or wall. Have one group member from each team come to the front of the classroom and hand them each a fly swatter. After you speak one of the words or expressions, the student who hits the vocabulary word the quickest is the winner. Rotate group members and keep score after each round. To get the rest of the class involved, make a second set of flash cards and hold one up at a time for the class to speak. The students with the fly swatter will listen to the students and hit the correct picture.

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    Hot Potato

    Hot potato is a classic game that a student of any age will appreciate. The concept is simple: Pass an object (like a potato) around quickly while music is playing. When the music stops the person who has the potato in their hands is the “loser." To make this work in an ESL setting, incorporate the lesson material. For example, in a lesson where you are learning how to greet, each student must say “Hello, How are you?" or “Hi, I’m Wendy," before passing the potato on to the next person. Or if you’re learning present tense verbs, for example, the students would have to say one sentence using a vocabulary word before passing the potato onto the next student.