I’m sure you’ve played the game “20 questions” before. It’s basically where someone thinks of a secret noun (person, place or thing) and the other team or person gets to ask up to 20 questions to figure out what it is.
It’s a fun way to get ESL/EFL students practicing questions and working on some basic vocabulary.
For kids, I often narrow down the choices for them and sometimes will allow fewer questions. Perhaps 10 questions instead of 20. This is because it can get kind of boring with so many questions because each round takes so long.
Also, for simple topics like animals, 10 questions is a nice challenge but 20 is far too easy.
Some topic examples that work well for 20 questions include: animals, jobs or sports. It just depends on whatever you’re studying in class that day.
Here’s how to Set Up 20 Questions for ESL Students
Time: 20 minutes
Materials Required: Nothing
This is a “20 questions” style game, based on whatever you’re studying (Animals/Jobs, etc). For advanced students, you could just leave it open and use this as a bit of warm-up at the beginning of class instead of as a review activity.
In groups, the students ask the teacher a yes/no question. After the teacher gives the answer, the students can have one chance to guess the secret thing. Play a few rounds and the team with the most points is the winner.
The traditional way is that a guess counts as an answer in this questions game. So you can either ask a question, or guess what it is. The way you play is up to you and depends on the age and level of the students.
You can also have students take turns being the one with the “secret.” This is actually a bit better because it’s more student centred. Students have to listen well, instead of just focusing on asking the questions. I usually make the student quickly tell me their secret thing so that I can assist if necessary and keep the game on track.
Overall, it’s an excellent way for students to practice asking questions in English. Just be sure that students are actually making sentences!
3 Quick Rules for 20 Questions Game
I put in a few rules that make things go more smoothly:
- A guess counts as a “question” if you choose to play it this way. This prevents random guesses which don’t make the game very fun. Or, you can also play it where the team gets one question, and then one guess.
- The team or person must use a full sentence to ask a question.
- The questions have to be Yes/No ones.
- For children, emphasize that they must tell the truth at all times! And, also that they should choose something that everyone knows, instead of some obscure, random thing.
Questions Game: Good for a Big Class?
This activity is ideal for small classes of up to 8 students. This way, everyone can play together.
However, if you have a very large class, divide the students up into smaller groups and have them play with each other. I find that groups of 4-6 work best for this.
Make sure you let your students know that you can help them if necessary. For example, if a student gets a question but they’re not sure about whether they should answer yes or no.
As a further requirement, you can have students take turns asking questions so that everyone gets a chance to work on their English speaking. If the students asking questions use up their 20 questions (or 10), then the person with the secret thing gets a point.
Do you like this English Speaking Game?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Smith, Jennifer Booker (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 133 Pages - 03/31/2016 (Publication Date)
If you like this ESL question game, here’s something you need to check out.
You’re going to love this book over on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities: For Kids (6-13). It’ll be easier than ever to plan fun, engaging and interesting English lessons for your elementary or middle school kids.
The key to happy students is varied, challenging and interesting games and activities. This book will help you do that, while making your lesson planning easier at the same time.
The good news is that the book is available on Amazon in both print and digital formats. The (cheaper!) digital copy can be read on any device by downloading the free Kindle reading app.
Keep a copy on your office bookshelf. Have a copy on your phone for lesson planning on the go.
You can check out the book for yourself over on Amazon, but only if you want to make your life easier:
Have your Say about 20 Questions
What do you think about this English speaking and listening activity? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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Last update on 2022-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Love the idea of using this game for ESL students too with a few adaptations for lower-level students!
Love the idea of turning this game into an ESL version. Or, just playing the regular way with more advanced level students.
Celia W says
I do twenty questions with a few objects in a bag. One student selects an object and the others ask questions.
As a warm-up I might put an example out and ask them to write all the words they can think of to describe the object (ball of string, toy car, comb, earring etc). Useful for eliciting adjectives and correcting spelling.