Three Interactive ESL Games to Increase Vocabulary Use

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Guessing Games

Guessing games get students talking and usually elicit a lot of fun. You can play guessing games like these:


This game can be played in two ways. The teacher can either collect posters or large pictures of celebrities, political figures or anyone of interest from magazines, or call a student in front of the class, and ask students to let their imagination run wild by making up answers to the questions you ask about the picture or student. For example: Hold up a picture, or point to the student in front of the class and ask “Who is this?” of “What is his (her) name?" In regards to the student, while the others may know the name, let them know that they are free to use the student’s correct name or give an imaginary name. Your questions which follow can be “Where is (he) she from?” “What does he (she) do?” “What does he (she) like to do?” “How old is he (she)?”

After you have set the pace with about five or six questions, you can change the picture or the student, and have other students take turns at asking the others questions. The teacher can also join in the fun by answering and even give funny answers like “She likes to eat snails.” Students should have their notebooks out to be ready to capture new vocabulary.

Who Is It?

Here is yet another guessing game, which you can use to practice adjectives and descriptive characteristics of people. You can play this as a round table game with a small group of students. Cut out pictures of men, women and children of different ages and races and lay them on a table. You will then pick out a particular quality and say for example “The person is wearing a beard.” Immediately, the students will know that it is neither a woman nor a child, so they will turn face down all the pictures of men and children, and leave only pictures of men upturned. You then continue with “He has brown eyes” or “He has black hair” etc. Play the game a few times again with the students describing the pictures.

Telling the Time

Here is good game for practicing the time. Have students (especially those who like to draw), draw blank clock faces on the board with either the hour or the minute hand only. Next, have them pick students from the class to complete the time which they would give them; for example: “it is twenty to ten.” They can also leave the clock face blank and have other students draw in both the hour and minute hands for the time they give them.

Value of The Games

These ESL games not only reinforce lessons learnt, but also increase vocabulary and create lots of interaction among students, making it easier for them to communicate in the new language.