Teaching English to teenagers can be quite difficult because they are notorious for not really wanting to participate in class. They are often shy, tired, and haven’t chosen to take your English class.
However, help is here with these ESL games for teenagers that are guaranteed to get your teenage students participating in class, speaking English, and having fun despite themselves. Try out just a few of these ESL games for teenagers and you’ll notice that students like your class, like you, and will begin to like English more and more each day.
ESL Games for Teens: Top 25 Picks
Let’s get to the best ESL games and activities for teenagers.
#1: Concentration ESL Memory Game
Concentration is one of the best vocabulary ESL games for teenagers. It takes a bit of time to make the cards, but if you laminate them, you can use them again for different classes in the future, so it’s well worth it to have a few sets of these handy. Students find the game really challenging, but fun and it brings out their competitive natures.
This ESL memory game also works extremely well for little children. You can adapt the cards to make them easier, or harder depending on the level and age of your students. For example, older students may have to match synonyms or antonyms. Younger students may just have to match a picture and a single word.
You can check out all the details about how to play the concentration ESL memory game with your students today:
#2: Apples to Apples ESL Vocabulary Activity
Apples to Apples is a game that can be used for a “game” or “activity” class and it also makes an excellent vocabulary review game. You can buy the cards on Amazon, make your own with the specific vocabulary that you’ve been teaching, or have the students help you make them as well. It really is up to you and how much time you have.
Here’s how to set up Apples to Apples for your ESL classes:
#3: Running Dictation: A 4-Skills ESL Activity
Running Dictation is one of the best ESL games for teenagers I’ve ever used in class. It’s fun, challenging, covers all 4-skills, and can really energize even the quietest, most apathetic of classes. It also makes an excellent review activity if there is a specific grammar point or vocabulary words that you want the students to see one more time.
If you want to do this engaging 4-skills ESL activity with your classes, here are more details about how to set it up:
#4: Board Games for ESL Students
I love a good ESL board game, especially for teenagers because they harness the power of competition in a challenging way. Make sure you design them well, however, so that there is an element of random to them. Also, design the questions so that students must speak English in order to complete the task.
Check out this video where I explain how I use board games in my classes, and a link to an example board game that I made for my students here:
#5: Charades: A Fun ESL Party Game
Charades is an oldie, but a goodie, and it makes an excellent way to review vocabulary. It’s also great for a “party” day where you just want to have some fun with your students.
Fun with a bit of review thrown in there? Love it! It’s ideal for something like Halloween where there are lots of interesting vocabulary options.
Here’s how I set-up the Charades ESL activity for my students:
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 112 Pages - 06/14/2020 (Publication Date)
#6: Making Predictions
Who doesn’t like making some predictions about the future, right? Besides being fun, it’s an excellent way to introduce or review the future verb tenses with your teenagers.
The good news is that there are a ton of fun, engaging games, and activities that can go along with this topic. Check them out here:
#7: Giving Directions
ESL teens and directions are a natural fit! That’s because there are a ton of fun and interactive games and activities you can do with this, including information gap, communicative ones. Do you want to know more? Then you’ll want to take a look at these ideas here:
I love to do some presentations in my English classes for a number of reasons. They can:
- Build student confidence
- Help improve speaking skills
- Be very motivating if you give students a choice of topics
- Be fun if you allow for groups
- Increase student listening skills
- Be a nice change of pace from the teacher being at the front of the class talking
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why teachers might consider doing some presentations in their classes. What I’ve found over the years is that they’re an excellent ESL teens activity. If you want to know more about details about how to incorporate them into your classes, check this out:
#9: Task-Based Activities
If you want to increase student motivation and participation in your classes, then consider using some task-based activities. Teenagers love working with their friends in groups too so they’re a natural fit.
Find out how to incorporate task-based teaching into your English classes here: Task-Based Learning Introduction.
#10: Health Activities
Health is a very relevant topic for teenagers! I love talking about things like smoking, drinking, junk food, and exercising with them because it always leads to some very interesting and fun discussions.
There are a number of things you can do related to this topic. Find out some of them here: ESL Health Games and Activities.
#11: Chain Spelling ESL Activity
If you want to review new vocabulary words, then consider playing the chain spelling game. The way it works is that all the students have to stand up and take turns spelling out words, letter by letter. If someone misses a letter, they are “out” and the game continues until one person is left standing.
Sounds like something you want to try out with your teens? You can see all the details here: Chain spelling ESL Game.
#12: What are you Cooking?
4-skills ESL activities and games are like the holy grail of English teaching. What are you cooking is exactly that, plus it has the added bonus of requiring no materials or prep time, and the students like it too. It’s so ideal to have an activity like this in your back pocket to pull out in case of an English teaching emergency when you get a last-minute class on your schedule.
Want to know more? Find out here: What are you Cooking?
#13: Telephone Speaking Game for Teens
A fun way to review just about any grammar point or vocabulary set is to play telephone which is also known as Chinese Whispers. The way it works is that you give a sentence to the first students who must pass it down the line until the and. At that point, the sentence they have is compared to the original.
The results? Usually hilarious! Sounds like something you want to try out in your classes? Find out all the details you need to know here:
#14: Agree to Disagree ESL Game for Teens
#15: Social Issues English Conversation Lesson
I love to talk about social problems with my students. This topic is super relevant and most students have some interesting opinions related to this.
The good news is that you can use this complete lesson plan for intermediate or advanced level teenage learners for a 1-2 hour class. Yes really. Just print it off and go! Check it out:
Like what you see? It’s from this book:
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 144 Pages - 07/12/2020 (Publication Date)
#16: Sentence Building Activities and Games
Time spent in class on making better sentences will certainly never be wasted time! Sentences are the foundation of the English language and it’s really worthwhile to help students improve this skill. Have a look at some of the top ideas:
#17: Beat the Clock Classroom Games for Teenagers
#18: Role Plays
Many students want to do “free-talking” in conversation classes but if their level isn’t high enough, it can be a little bit difficult to achieve this. A way to get started with it is to use some role plays. It’s kind of like conversation but it has a whole lot more structure and can be a good initial step towards freer conversations. Find out more:
#19: Story Timeline
Reading is a key skill to master and it’s often considered to be the foundation of the other ones. Keeping this in mind, I like to dedicate some time to reading focused activities. One of the best post-reading activities for teenagers who are learning English is story timeline.
It’s challenging and helps students think more deeply about what they just read. Learn how to get started with it:
#20: Guess the Word Interactive Game for Teenagers
#21: Choose your Own Adventure Group Writing Activity
Group writing activities for English learners are hard to come by since writing is generally a more solitary activity. However, this choose your own adventure one makes the perfect choice for teens if you want to have them do some writing in your class. It’s fun, interactive and students love making up their own adventure stories.
Interested in trying it out? Have a look at the details here:
#22: Technology ESL Conversation Lesson
If you teach more advanced teens, then consider using this ready-made lesson plan that’ll save you a ton of time. With bigger classes, consider putting students into pairs or small groups and let them get to work. The lesson is super easy to follow, even without a lot of teacher assistance. For smaller classes, it’s possible to work through this lesson together.
Whatever the case, technology is something that almost all teens are interested in! Check it out here:
#23: Hot Potato Interactive Game for Teens
A fun game for kids, teens, or adults is hot potato. You may have played this when you were a kid but you can also use it in your TEFL classes with a twist. Students pass around an object and when the music stops, they have to do a task.
To make it more interactive and fun, I usually require that the student holding the potato has to choose another student to ask a question to. Of course for teenagers, it’s worth pointing out that they should not ask any questions which might embarrass someone of they’ll be out of the game. Find out all the options here:
#24: Five Senses ESL Vocabulary Activity
Try out this versatile ESL activity with your teens! It’s best for intermediate or advanced level students that have a good range of vocabulary.
Bring in a common object such as a carrot or chocolate bar. Then, students have to think of some descriptive words for that object that fall under the five senses. It can be done through either speaking or writing and in a group or individually. Learn more about it:
#25: Conditional Activities
I love to teach conditionals because they often lead to some very interesting discussions. They can be used to talk about future possibilities or what might have happened in the past if something were different. Here are some of my top picks:
How to Teach ESL to Teenagers FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching ESL to teens. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How can I teach ESL to teenagers?
When teaching ESL to teenagers, here are a few tips:
- Keep it simple and have only one objective per lesson.
- Include lots of practice time.
- Switch groups and partners frequently.
- Use lots of group work.
- Offer lots of opportunities for teens to practise using English.
- Don’t forget to set the context.
- Review frequently.
- Consider using multi-media.
How can I motivate teenagers to learn English?
It’s sometimes necessary to motivate teenagers to learn English as a second or foreign language if they’re reluctant to do so. The best way to do this is to have clear rules and expectations from the start of the class, create a friendly and welcoming classroom environment, understand students’ needs, and use a variety of interactive and engaging ESL activities.
How do you teach teenagers vocabulary?
If you want to help your English learners expand their vocabulary, here are a few ideas:
- Include some extensive reading time into your lessons.
- Encourage extensive listening (podcast, TV, etc.) outside of class.
- Have students keep a vocabulary notebook.
- Review frequently.
- Have weekly vocabulary tests in class.
How do you engage teenage students?
To engage teenage students, use some of the following tips:
- Show a genuine interest in the lives of your students.
- Ask students what topics they’d like to discuss in your class.
- Bring things from pop culture into class.
- Use a variety of mediums, including videos.
- Assign interesting homework assignments like interviewing someone or making YouTube videos.
- Challenge them to do something slightly higher than their level.
- Get active and have students move around the classroom like in running dictation, or a survey activity.
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Have your say about these Games and Activities for Teenagers
What are your thoughts about our top picks for ESL games and activities for teenagers? Have you tried out any of them from this list, or do you have another that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2020-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API