For the older children, from six years and up, we can make the games and activities a little more complicated and challenging. I’ve made a list of some of my favorite awesome ESL games for older students.
They love competition, but make sure you keep it fun and fair. Fairness is a major thing for this age group, so set clear rules up front and check if everyone agrees with your decisions or you could get some very upset students. Explain to them there’s no losing, losing just means you get to try again!
Awesome ESL Games for Older Students
Last man standing
This is one of my favorite warm-up games. The teacher names a theme and the students have to say as many objects in that theme. Students stand up in a line and one by one they have to say an object. If a students doesn’t know, makes a mistake or says a word which another student already said, he has to sit down.
It’s great for practicing the basic English stuff and for reviewing too. The students have to make full English sentences. So if the theme is animals, have them make a sentence; ‘I like cats/dogs/elephants/crocodiles.’ For transport; ‘I go to school by car/train/airplane/helicopter.’ For what items are in the classroom; ‘I can see an eraser/book/schoolbag’.
See how many animals or ways of transport they can come up with. I would do the first round without rules and then start setting a 10 second time limit. And then a 5 second time limit. Have everyone countdown together. Great fun. I would reward everyone with a point and the top-3 or top-5 with extra points.
You can also play this with a time bomb, such as an egg timer. Set the timer to one minute. Have the students elicit the word and pass the egg timer down the line. The student holding the timer when it goes off is out of the round.
Shoot the crossbow
You need a crossbow and an arrow for this, obviously. One will be enough. You can put flashcards, write words or draw pictures on the whiteboard for the students to hit. Say a sentence and the students have to listen carefully and hit the word you mentioned. Have them make a sentence of their own, too.
You can make two students compete by letting them run to a flashcard you call out. The winner gets to shoot the crossbow first. You can draw a target, a bulls-eye, for them to hit for points. You can use this as a reward for practicing vocabulary or phonics, their reward is they get to shoot the crossbow for points.
Four in a Row
Draw a grid on the board and write a sentence pattern for the rows and one for the columns. Make up the question and all the different answers together. For example; in the columns you have activities and in the rows you have places. Make up some normal and some crazy, special, funny places and activities. Divide the students into two teams. Both teams get to choose a shape that they’ll use, e.g. circle, triangle, revered triangle, square, star, heart, diamond, etc.
The players have to throw a sticky ball on the grid. They have to read the box where the ball hits and make a sentence, e.g. ‘I always read a book on the roof of the school.’ Then they get to draw their shape in the box. When they get four boxes with their shape in a row, the team wins. Or you can give super points and play on until the time limit. The team with the most times four in a row after time’s up is the winner.
Flashcard Dodge ball
This is a game my students always asked me to play. You don’t need teams, just two players who play against each other. Put the flashcards on a table in front of player A. Player A has to defend the cards by throwing small foam balls at player B. Player B has to get the flashcard that’s called out and run back to his safe position.
For example you’re practicing ‘What do you have to do at home?’ Player B will ask player A this question and he/she will answer: ‘I have to sweep the floor.’ Now player B will have to get this flashcard, run back and say ‘He has to sweep the floor.’ Player B will get five points, but each ball that hits him is minus one point. When done they will switch sides, so both get the throw the balls. Set a time limit, like 30 seconds. Sometimes I would put a chair near the table, so player B can hide behind it. Great fun!
Choose one student to sit in front of the whiteboard with his back to the board. The teacher or another student writes down a word on the board and the other students have to give hints that explain the word. You can play this individually or make teams.
Just listening and repeating a dialogue gets old quickly. Have your students speak and act out the dialogue in front of the class and it gets more fun. Often kids are shy to do this so I would give a demonstration with my assistant, so the students get an idea of what actions and sounds they could make. I would do it very over-the-top and encourage them to be a little crazy. The more actions and the more creative, the more points they will receive.
The classic charades, always good fun. Choose a theme, for example sports, and let a student come in front of class and act out a sport. You can tell him one, or show him a picture of one or he can choose, but make sure he whispers it in your ear then, so you’ll know. The student acts it out, without sound, and the other students guess what it is. Have the student make a full sentence; ‘He’s playing baseball’. The student who guesses right can act out the next word.
Snakes & Ladders
It’s a board game that’s played rolling a dice. Two or three teams get to choose a pawn and each time a player answers a question right, he/she gets to roll the dice for their team. The board game is filled with snakes, reaching the head of a snake means you have to follow it all the way down. And there are ladders, too. Reaching the bottom of a ladder means you can follow it all the way up. Easy, but fun!