Okay, so who doesn’t want more interaction in their ESL or EFL classes, right? That’s where these ESL interactive games and activities come in. They’re fun, engaging, and best of all, will get students interacting with you, and most importantly, each other. Keep on reading for some of my favourite interactive ESL Games.
ESL Interactive Games, Activities, Worksheets and Lesson Plans: Top 25
Are you ready for some ESL teaching awesome? Then let’s get to the best interactive ESL games and activities you’ll need to plan your lesson in style!
#1: ESL Board Games
Board games, by their very nature, are an interactive activity. Did you know that it’s extremely easy to design your own for your TEFL classes? You can easily make them for just about any topic or level of students in just a few minutes. I use them for review at the end of a unit, or as a review before the midterm or final exam.
A quick tip: You can often find board games in the teacher’s activity book that may come with your ESL textbook. Check there first before spending time making your own. Check them out here: Board Games for ESL Students.
#2 ESL Interactive Vocabulary Game: Draw a Picture
If you’re teaching your students about ways to describe people, animals, objects, etc., then you may want to try out this fun and interactive ESL activity. The ways it works is that you put students into pairs, and then show one of the people a secret picture. They have to describe the picture to their partner who can’t see it, and then they draw it. The results? Usually hilarious, so be sure to compare them with each other.
Find out more details here: Drawing a Secret Picture.
#3: Taboo Interactive ESL Party Game
You’ve probably played taboo with friends or family somewhere along the line. You can also play it with your ESL/EFL students! Just be sure to use vocabulary words that they know, and/or that you’ve recently used in class. If you don’t remember what taboo is, basically you have to get your team to say a certain word by describing it. The catch is that you can’t use words from a certain list.
It’s a fun party game so try it out today: Taboo for English Learners.
#4 ESL Interactive Game: Rock-Scissor-Paper
This is a fun ESL game that requires a ton of interaction between students. They NEED to talk with other people in order to complete the activity. It’s ideal for a quick review game before a test, or at the end of a unit. The way it works is that you make a set of questions/answers.
Then, separate them into strips of paper (questions and answers separately too). Give each student 4-5 papers and they have to find their match. Once they do, they do rock-scissor-paper and the winner takes both papers and gets a point.
Here’s everything you need to know about this interactive review game: Rocks-Scissor-Paper ESL Review Activity.
#5: Flip-Chart, an Interactive Vocabulary Review Game
If you teach beginners and are looking for a fun game to help students with new vocabulary, consider “flip-chart.” It’s an ideal way to round out a unit or to do some review before a vocabulary test.
Learn more here: Interactive ESL Vocabulary Game.
#6 Interactive ESL Game: Just a Minute
This is a fun ESL activity that focuses on speaking fluency. It works for just about any topic, is an ideal warm-up and it best for intermediate to advanced level students. The way it works is that students have to speak about a certain topic for one entire minute without stopping. The way you can make it interactive is to put students into groups of 4 or 5. The “listeners” have to ask 1-2 related follow-up questions after the person is finished talking.
Check it out here: Just a Minute ESL Warmer.
#7 ESL Interactive Game for Kindergarten: Flashcard Sentences
If you teach English to kindergarten students, but don’t have a set of flashcards, then you’ll need to get one ASAP! They are extremely versatile and lend themselves to a ton of different activities. My secret? You can often buy a matching set to go along with the textbook you are teaching from.
One of the simplest, interactive games you can do is to hold up a flashcard to each student. Then, they have to make a sentence with the picture. If correct, they keep the card. If incorrect, it goes back into the pile. Continue until the flashcards are gone.
More information here: Flashcard Sentences.
#8 Interactive Activity for ESL Students: The Hobby Unit
Let’s be real. Most teachers are pretty tired of teaching about “hobbies” and I’m sure most students feel the same way. It seems like every single English textbook out there has a unit on this. If you find one that doesn’t, please let me know!
In order to spice things up a bit, I like to do this interactive activity. Basically, each student has to teach their group how to do something. It could be how to make fried rice if their hobby is cooking. Or, how to kick a ball if they like soccer. Just something simple that they can teach someone in a couple of minutes.
Then, to make it more interactive, each student in the group has to ask 1-2 follow-up questions.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 65 Pages - 11/12/2019 (Publication Date)
#9 ESL Grammar Interactive Game: Can/Can’t
This is a fun, interactive game that you can use with your beginner level students when teaching about can/can’t. Students have to choose some secret nouns, and then give hints about it, using can/can’t. I prefer to have students write down the hints because it goes more smoothly than just having them think on their feet, especially if they are true beginners.
Check it out here: Can/Can’t ESL Game.
#10: ESL Christmas Interactive Games
Okay, so Christmas is just around the corner and you’re looking for some fun and engaging ESL games or activities to use with your students? Then you’re certainly in the right place.
Here are 7 of my favorites to try out today: Interactive ESL Christmas Activities
#11: Hot Potato Game for ELL Students
If you’re looking for an interactive ESL game that’s some pure fun and excitement, then you’ll want to consider Hot Potato. The way it works is that students pass around a “potato” and when the timer goes off, the person holding it has to do something. In my classes, it’s usually answering a question of some kind.
If you want to make it a little bit more interactive, you could consider requiring the person previously holding the potato to think of the question themselves instead of the teacher. More information here:
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 66 Pages - 11/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published...
#12 ESL Interactive Games: Charades
I’m ALL about having some fun party type classes with my students to celebrate the end of a unit, an upcoming holiday like Halloween, or the end of the semester. One of my favorite interactive games that I like to play with them is charades. I’m sure you’ve played this with family or friends before.
The way it works is that you have to act out a secret word or phrase and your team has to guess what is it. Find out more about it right here:
#13: Do you Like to?
This ESL interactive activity requires that students write down five facts about themselves on 5 strips of paper. The more unique, the better.
Then, you distribute the strips of paper to other students in the class who have to ask questions to find their matches. It’s a fun game that’s ideal for getting students to work on yes/no questions. Find out more about it right here:
#14: Social Problems ESL Lesson Plan
One of the ways to foster interaction among English learners is to bring an interesting conversational topic into class and then let students get to talking! In particular, I like to use this social issues lesson plan because it’s engaging and almost all students have an opinion about things that are happening in the world around them.
Want to check it out for yourself? Have a look here:
#15 Interactive ESL Activity: Discussion Starters for Children or Adults
One of the best ESL interactive activities is a straight-up discussion! I find that it’s best to offer students some discussion starters so that you’re not met with utter silence when you tell your students to start talking to each other!
Here are some of my top picks for interesting things your students could talk about:
#16: WH Questions Activities
Who, what, when, why, where, and how are by their very nature, interactive words. They are the start of a question in English, and you’ll probably want to have a partner to answer them, right?
There are a ton of interactive ESL games to practice W + H questions. You can see some of our top picks right here:
#17 ESL Interactive Activities for Giving Directions
Another topic that lends itself extremely well to interactive activities is giving directions. After all, you can’t give directions to yourself, right? Well, I guess you could in theory but it’d be a little bit weird!
The best directions activities are those with an information gap of some kind. By that, I mean where one student has the information another student needs. And, they have to interact with each other to find out what it is.
Do you want to know more? Then check this out: ESL Giving Directions Activities.
#18: Tips for Interactive Small Group Discussions
When students think of a conversation class, it’s often free-flowing discussions that they want. Or, if you like to have interactive discussions in your English classes, then you’ll want to check out these top tips for making them even better.
Maybe you’ve been met with blank stares and silence when everyone should be talking? Seriously, we’ve all been there and the good news is that it can be easily avoided These are the tips for you, so neglect them at your peril!
Get your interaction on!
#19: Relay Race ESL Game
#20: Telephone ESL Speaking + Listening Game
A fun game that you can play with kids or teens is telephone. The way it works is that you give the first student in the line a sentence or phrase. They pass that to the next person and so on until the end. At that point, their sentence is compared to the original.
The results? Usually really funny! Find out more about one of my favourite interactive games for ESL students:
#21: Choose your Own Adventure Group Writing Activity
Interactive group writing activities are few and far between as writing is generally more of a solitary kind of activity. However, this is one of the best group writing activities that I’ve come across and I think your students will like it as much as mine.
This writing activity is engaging and very student-centred, so give it a try today! Find out more about it:
#22: Technology ESL Lesson Plan
One of my favourite interactive ESL activities is to put students into pairs or small groups and then give them an engaging lesson plan. This one about technology includes the following:
- Warm-up question
- Vocabulary, idioms, and phrases
- Conversation questions
- Writing prompts that are ideal for homework
Have a look right here:
#23: Tell your Story: An Interactive Activity for Reported Speech
It’s not that easy to come up with interactive, fun reported speech activities, even though this grammar point comes up quite often in real life. So, it makes sense to practice it in class with our students and not just skip over that section in the book.
If you’re looking for an interactive, natural way to do it, then you’ll want to check out this activity: Tell your Story ESL Reported Speech Activity.
#24: The Hot Seat
Try out this ESL interactive game for beginners:
#25: Whiteboard Games and Activities
Who says that the teacher is the only one that gets to write on the whiteboard? Have some fun with these interaction games that make use of the whiteboard:
What about ESL Interactive Online Games?
If you’re looking for some interactive ESL games online, then this isn’t the place for that! We specialize in games and activities for teachers to do with their students in the class.
However, here are some of our favourite sources for online games for ESL students:
A quick tip: Many of the major textbooks these days have online practice for students. This will often require a special code to get this up and running and some support from the admin at your institution as well. But, it’s often quite useful as far as teaching tools go, so it may be worth looking into.
Sure, they’re not ELL games online so your students may not love them that much, but they do have the added benefit of corresponding to exactly what you teach in class. This fact alone makes it worth its weight in gold.
ESL Interactive Lesson Plans
Do you need some help with planning more interactive, communication-focused ESL lessons for kids or adults? Then you’ll most definitely need to check out some of our go-to sources for ESL lesson planning right here:
How to Teach English Conversation?
Surprisingly, it’s possible to teach English conversation in a pretty non-interactive kind of way. Yes, I know. It seems actually difficult to do this, but many teachers do!
The goal of a conversation class is to make it as student-centred as possible. Your students should be doing all the hard work, not you. This means that if you have a class of more than say, four students, you’ll want to get them interacting and talking with each other, instead of with the entire class.
Here are some of my tips and tricks for how to make this happen: How to Teach English Conversation.
ESL Interactive Games and Activities FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about making their ESL lessons more interactive. Here are some of the answers to the most popular ones.
What is an interactive lesson?
An interactive lesson is one where students are able to participate in a number of ways. Students are able to engage with the material presented instead of just passively absorbing it, which can make it more memorable. This can happen in a classroom, during homework activities or online as well.
How I encourage ESL students to participate?
If you want to encourage ESL students to participate in class and be more interactive, here are a few tips:
- Use a wide variety of engaging ESL games and activities.
- Consider group work and change the groups frequently.
- Use some kind of reward system for good participation.
- Use positive reinforcement
- Have a friendly and upbeat demeanour in the classroom.
- Try as much as possible to reduce teacher talking time.
- Offer lots of support and opportunities for practice.
Why is interactive learning Better?
Interactive learning is a better choice for language learning because it emphasizes engagement and participation, which can result in better language gains. This style of teaching allows students to build their own definition and meaning of the presented material instead of just being spoon-fed information. This helps students take an active role in their own learning.
What are some interactive games?
Some interactive games to consider using for language learners are running dictation, dictogloss, speaking bingo, puzzle finders, surveys, board games, telephone, charades, and hot potato.
How can I make my lessons more interactive?
If you want to make your ESL lessons more interactive, consider the following things:
- Use some mystery in your lessons (predictions, games, etc.).
- Try to never repeat classroom materials in terms of topics.
- Use lots of ESL games and activities
- Allow students some degree or freedom (task-based learning activities for example)
- Use technology.
- Don’t take things too seriously!
- Use context to relate any new material to students’ lives.
Did you like these ESL Interactive Games?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 112 Pages - 06/14/2020 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so. Then you’re going to love this book over on Amazon: 71 ESL Interactive Games, Activities, and Teaching Tips. The key to better English lessons is a wide variety of interactional games and this book will help you get there in style.
You can find it in both digital and print formats. Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office to use as a handy reference guide. Or, take the e-version with you to your favourite coffee shop for some lesson planning on the go.
Whatever the case, get ready for some ESL teaching awesome in your life. Head over to Amazon to pick up your copy today:
Have your say about these ESL Interactive Games and Activities
What are your thoughts about these interactive ESL activities or games? Have you tried any of them out in your classes? Leave a comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2020-12-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API