Board games for ESL students are one of my favourite in-class activities. Students generally love them, and they’re an excellent way to recap a class or unit. Try them out before a midterm or final exam!
Board Games in ESL Classes: When and Why to Use Them
I’ve used ESL board games many times as a review activity in the class before a midterm or final exam. It’s quite easy to make a question to cover just about everything you’d possibly include on a test in a conversation class, or general English class.
Some of the grammar points most conducive to board games include the simple past, giving advice, reported speech, frequency adverbs, and must/might/can’t. Although almost anything can work where there is a simple right/wrong answer.
For an example of an ESL Board Game that I made for my students, be sure to check out:
Here’s how you can set up ESL board games for your students
ESL Board Games: Here’s How to Use Them
Time: 25 minutes
Materials Required: Board Game Sheet/marker for each student (a coin or an eraser), “dice”
Group Size: 4 students is best, 3 or 5 is okay too
Are there Ready-Made ESL Board Games?
Board Games often come in the “teacher’s resource book,” so take a look there before making your own. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if someone has already done the work for you!
Or, You can Make your Own Very Easily
However, if there isn’t a board game for the unit you covered, don’t despair. It’s actually very easy to make your own ESL board games, and they’re often better than the ones in the books!
You can use questions based on the grammar or vocabulary that you’ve been studying. during the previous classes.
Also include some fun squares, such as “switch positions with the person on your right,” “go back 3,” or “take a vacation!” The best board games have an element of skill, but also an element of luck to them.
I generally use the same template for each game that I make. It took me about an hour to make the first one, but then after that? I can design it in less than 15 minutes. Not bad, right? Just be sure to keep your board games somewhere like Google Drive where you can edit and adapt them easily.
All About Dice for Board Games
As far as “dice” go, I don’t like to actually use dice. It gets kind of loud and I find that they often roll off the small desks, creating chaos.
Instead, I like to use two coins. You can choose what each “roll” equals, and I often mix it up, depending on how much time I have. For example,
2 heads = 1 space
1 head + 1 tail = 3 spaces
2 tails = 5 spaces
If you have less time to complete this activity, make it 2/4/6 spaces. Does that make sense? If not, leave a comment below and I’ll explain it a bit better.
Question Style for ESL Board Games
The style I usually use is a question of some kind where each student has to give one or two sentences in response to it. The other students in the group listen for incorrect answers, in which case the student has to move backwards to the square that they started that turn on.
I always tell the students to not fight about whether or not an answer is correct, or not. They can just ask me and I’ll be the final judge.
It’s more fun if you have a little prize for the winner of each game, a small chocolate bar or something like that. You know, a little incentive for trying hard!
How Often Should I Use Board Games in my Classes?
It does take a bit of time to teach students how to play them, but after doing it once, you can use board games a few more times during the course easily. I find that students enjoy playing them about once every 1-2 months. Sure, it can be tempting to use them more, but it can get a little bit boring so use them sparingly for the best results.
The best English classes have a variety of games and activities, so keep things fresh and interesting with the students by not overusing any certain one of them.
Board Games for ESL Students: Top 13 Recommendations
If you’re looking for some ready-made board games to use in your ESL/EFL classes, here are the top recommendations:
- Phase 10
- Scrabble Slam
- Apples to Apples
- Catch Phrases
More Details about ESL Board Games
Do you want to find out more about how I use board games with my English learners? Then you’ll want to check out this short video below for all the details:
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ESL Board Games: Have your Say!
What do you think about ESL Board Games? Love them, hate them, or never use them in your classes?
Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.
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