27 Free ESL Games to Teach English Like an All-Star

What Successful ESL Teachers Eat For Breakfast

27 free esl games
All you have to do is: Download. Print. Teach. It's all 100% free to use in your classroom and any setting. Here are the best 27 free ESL games to teach English like an all-star instructor.
Last Updated: May 22, 2018

Download Free ESL Activity Sheets

You don’t have to be a human voice recorder anymore.

Because we have a list of free ESL games that will transform you from zero, to an ESL teaching hero.

All you have to do is: Download. Print. Teach. It’s all free. And it will always be.

And if you’d like more free ESL worksheets, don’t forget to check out our other free activities to engage your students in English. All are free and can be used for any purpose.

But let’s start with our free list of ESL games to transform your classroom into something special.

1 Reverse Quiz Show

01 Reverse Quiz Show

Out of all the ESL games in this list, this activity never fails me. Not a single time… It’s even unsilenced the quietest kids.

The thing about Reverse Quiz Show is that it always boosts students talking time. I’ve had all levels of students enjoy this ESL game. They just have to know how to play.

Instead of answering questions like in a quiz show, students are making the questions. Each card has a word with a point value. Similar to Jeopardy, you create 5 categories. Each category has 5 questions with harder cards as a higher point value.

In groups of 4, students pick the category and point value. After flipping over the card, the fastest group to raise their hands make a question. Give a countdown for how fast they have to respond. Don’t be afraid to give negative points if they are too slow to respond or make an incorrect question.

Students get quite competitive when you tally points. And this is a good thing.

Quiz Questions: Jeopardy in Reverse

2 Business Card Introductions

02 Business Card

How many times have you introduced yourself in your lifetime? Think about it for a second… Of all ESL games, this one helps students practice introductions.

In business culture, new contacts often exchange their company information, phone number or email address. They do this by exchanging a handy business card.

Using the business card template, ask your students to fill these out. In the next class, they can practice introductions by walking around the classroom and greet fellow students.

Not only does this help students, but you get to put a name to each student’s face. And if they don’t have a photo, just have them draw a picture of themselves.

Business Card Introductions

3 Cultural Dictionary

03 Cultural Dictionary

Have you ever wanted to live in another country just for a sense of culture shock? The purpose of this ESL activity is to transform your class into a culture exchange.

One of the best parts of teaching English abroad is the culture exchange between you and where you teach English abroad.

And don’t forget that culture exchange is two ways. Not only do your students learn about your culture, but you can learn about theirs.

Ask students to write down one culturally significant item about their country. Ask for volunteers to share. Once you collect all the students answers, you can compile everyone’s ideas in a culture exchange dictionary that you can keep in class.

Cultural Dictionary

4 Group Charades Ideas

04 Group Charades

Charades works for outgoing classes. But for introverted classes, it can be an epic failure.

However, suddenly for group charades introverts become extroverts… and they’re much more likely to be more relaxed.

Rather than one person acting out, the entire group acts it out and one person guesses. In the ESL worksheet, there are tons of ideas to get started.

This is why reverse Charades can put a well-needed twist to the instant classic.

Group Charades Ideas

5 Detective Clues

05 Detective Clues

Because your students are usually chained down at their desk every class, this ESL lesson will get them off their feet.

In groups of four, students will walk around the ESL classroom searching for clues. While one student is the secretary, the other three are detectives.

The detectives memorize each clue in English. They return to the secretary who writes down the clue – of course all in English.

Finally, once all the clues are found, the student detectives solve the puzzle.

Detective Clues Activity

6 Talktastic Board Game

06 Talktastic

The Talking Gameboard is one of those great filler ESL activities to use with extra time at the end of class. All in all, It lasts for a good 15 minutes.

In groups of two, students roll the dice and move their game pieces. You’ll need to be a bit prepared by providing the material, but trust me it pays off big.

When they land in a square, they’ll ask their partner the question in the box. Accordingly, their partner responds until they go around the entire game board.

Despite having rules to only speak in English, there’s never enough times you can emphasize this point.

Talktastic Board Game

7 What’s in the Box?

07 What's in the Box

At the start of the class, bring a box. In that box, you can put any object inside, but your students can’t actually see what’s inside.

Students investigate the contents by asking yes or no questions.

The student who can figure what is in the bag wins. As a prize, they can get that item in the bag or something completely different. With all these questions activities, here’s hoping that your students are finally mastering the art of asking questions.

PRO TIP: Put your students homework in the bag.

What’s in the Box?

8 Pushy Salesperson

08 Pushy Salesperson

Have you ever had a pushy salesperson try so hard to sell you a product to the point that you wanted to scream?

It’s time to put your students in their shoes and get them to sell something no one wants.

You can start this activity by showing any infomercial from your home country. You can lead by example and try to sell a product to your students.

Now, give your students any product – good or bad. For example, they can sell a 1st Generation iPhone, an expired can of fruits, knives that are not sharp, an old calendar, video cassette tapes or a broken umbrella.

Pushy Salesperson

9 Talking Bingo

09 Talking Bingo

Stand-up bingo is a stupid-simple twist to Bingo.

The purpose is to find other students who can answer yes to questions in the bingo sheet. When they ask a question and get a yes answer, they mark X on their Bingo sheet.

The first student to fill out their sheet with a line comes to the teacher as the winner.

Students don’t want to be handcuffed in their classes. These mixer activities alleviate some of that stress.

Talking Bingo

10 Tongue Twisters

10 Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are an effortless way to challenge students at pronunciation. The nice thing is that they have so much fun doing it that they don’t even notice they are speaking English.

I like to start this class by doing a tongue twister in their native language. If I mess up, it gets students laughing. But nothing to worry about because mistakes are OK. Point proven!

First, practice the tongue twister with “repeat after me” style drills. Next, have students practice in pairs, but don’t give them too much time. Finally, open the classroom up for volunteers for who can say the tongue twister the fastest.

You might be surprised to see the most shy student in class get in the action! They’re challenging themselves to speak faster. And they are having fun doing it. This is a good recipe for success.

Tongue Twisters

11 The Ultimate Christmas Present

11 The Ultimate Christmas Present

Imagine your students had enough money to buy the ultimate Christmas for you…

What would they buy to impress you? Or would they even buy you anything at all?

Hopefully, they’ve been talking notes on some of your hobbies along the way. In this ESL game, you get to learn about what your students think of you.

What present would they buy? And most importantly, why would they buy it?

The Ultimate Christmas Present

12 Talking Time Bomb

12 Ticking Timebomb

Only the stealthiest survive in ticking time bomb. You need no preparation time at all for this ESL game. It’s simplistic like hot potato, but better…

The teacher starts the music and students have to think of a person, place or thing… You can use anything here. Words that start with TH… Types of fruits… Words that rhyme

Someone starts with a ball. When they come up with a word, they pass the ball to another student. You can’t repeat something that has already been said.

When the teacher stops the music, whoever is holding the ball when the music stops must speak for one minute about a topic the teacher gives them.

Talking Time Bomb

13 Minimal Pairs ESL Cards

13 Smush It

This is a fail-proof ESL activity that helps students review pronunciation.

Students sit in groups of two with the activity sheets cards cut out on their desk. The cards contain challenging sounds or rhyming words.

As you read, students have to smush the word on the card that you say. The student who grabs the card faster keeps it. At the end, the students count their to see who the winner is.

Students love competing, especially with their classmates. You’ll not only challenge their listening skills, but they’ll have fun doing it.

Minimal Pairs ESL Cards

14 Dream Job and Interview

14 Job Interviews

The unexpected job interview that registers at all levels. Use this when you want them to get serious about their future.

In pairs, students ask each other the list of questions in the sheet. After answering all the questions, everyone can find out their perfect job.

Now that students have learned about different job types, it’s time for students to prepare for a job interview.

Imagine students have landed interviews for their dream job. With the set of questions in the handout, students can write down answers to the interview questions.

In the next class, students will interview each other in pairs. On top of this, they will evaluate each other with a simple pass or fail.

The focus here is to only speak in English.

Job Interview

15 No Subtitles

15 No Subtitles

Have you ever watched a movie with no volume and pretended to be them? How about in another language? Let me tell you: It can be quite a challenge keeping up with the flapping lips.

Turn any English movie on mute – preferably a romance movie. In groups of two, have your students re-enact the voices.

The purpose of this ESL activity is to get them speaking in English. Anything! Right or wrong, who cares! As long as they say something.

As you play the video, watch them practice everything they’ve learned in your class. If not, they aren’t trying hard enough.

No Subtitles

16 Elephant in the Room

16 Elephant in the Room

Kick-start your ESL class with this lesson that really gets your students moving… And getting your students moving around is never a bad thing.

Start by telling students there is a ‘yes’ side and ‘no’ side. Add yes and no posters to the wall to help remind them which side is which.

As you say ‘Have you ever…’ questions, your students can run to either side of the room.

There’s something satisfying about investigating your students while building their listening skills at the same time. Overall, my students can’t resist mixer-style ESL games like this.

Elephant in the Room

17 Hometown Newspaper

17 Hometown Newspaper

A genuine newspaper from your hometown? While boring for you, your students find it fascinating.

In this ESL lesson, you first remove all the headlines. With only the articles, students have to match the headline with the article.

In the next part of this ESL activity, it’s question and answer time. How’s the weather? What sports are popular? What made the front page? Write it down. Talk about it.

My students were surprised to see pictures in colors for my hometown newspaper.

Hometown Newspaper

18 Multi-purpose Items

18 Multi-purpose Items

This is the creative ESL activity that doesn’t die.

The teacher gives the class an object, any object. Give the students a couple of minutes to think of all of the different uses for that item. After about five or six minutes, the teacher asks students to share what they have come up with.

For example, you can use forks to eat food, comb your hair, open cans, mix ingredients and clean pans. Not so bad for a simple fork.

This is a great time filler that usually catches the students off guard. I love hearing their creative responses.

Multi-purpose Items

19 Famous Foreheads

19 Famous Foreheads

A proven party game that you can use in your ESL classroom?

In this ESL game, all players sit in a circle. Give each student a post-it note and a pencil. Each player writes down the name of a famous person and passes the note facedown to the player on the left.

Each player sticks the note on his/her forehead and everyone take turns asking “Yes” or “No” questions to find out who they are.

The first player to guess the name on his forehead is the winner. But encourage students to keep on asking questions until they find out the famous person on their forehead.

Famous Foreheads

20 Would You Rather…

20 Would You Rather

“Would you rather” questions are great because there are only two answers! And the other person has to provide an answer.

In this ESL game, students ask each other questions on the worksheet. When they find someone with one of the answers, they mark an “X” in their worksheet.

As soon as they have three in a row, they are finished that game board. Finish both game boards and you’re the champion.

This ESL game is a mish-mash of connect-3 and tic-tac-toe. Kids love hunting for the one missing element.

Would You Rather Questions

21 Celebrity Interview

21 Celebrity Interview

It’s your students time to shine in the spotlight with a celebrity-style interview. This ESL exercise helps students create questions with a bit of a twist.

Using the activity sheet, students can practice with the examples.

After, students pick any celebrity they want to pretend to be. In groups of two, they write down questions and take turns giving each other interviews. Students can take a guess which celebrity their partner is.

Have you ever wanted celebrity status? If you have them, bring microphones and watch your students shine.

Celebrity Interview Q & A

22 Dice Questions

22 Dice Questions

This activity requires a big and small dice and this activity sheet. Put your students in pairs.

Each number on the small dice corresponds to a type of question – who, what, when, where, why and have you ever. The big dice is worth a point value.

Students roll the dice. When the student asks a successful question, they earn that value of points.

Keep track of points in hopes this gets them talking.

Dice Questions WH Questions

23 Timeless Timelines

23 Timeless Timelines

Out of all the ESL games in the list, no other deals with time as good as this one.

Starting with famous people, students arrange the timeline according to their birth date and the invention year. From youngest to oldest, the teacher will go through the correct order.

The teacher then helps everyone by giving the correct answers. Further to this, who else belongs in the list? What other inventions are important enough they should be added? Or what are future inventions you want to see on this list in the future?

There is a lot of discussion topics that can come out of this activity.

Timeline Worksheet

24 Like or Dislike

24 Like or Dislike

Can someone identify you by what you completely love or despise?

Here’s a fun interactive guessing game that gets personal. Best of all, it gets the whole class involved and usually gets some laughs.

Each student writes down their likes and dislikes. After, the teacher collects everyone’s answer and read aloud.

Can you figure out who wrote what? It’s interactive. There’s an element of intrigue in it. And most importantly, you can learn more from your fellow students in English.

As a result, it gets a big thumbs up in the ESL classroom.

Like or Dislike

25 Green Screen

25 Green Screen

It’s amazing what a green screen can do in an English class or club.

I brought one into class. All of a sudden, students were making up their own English movie ideas. And the ideas were pretty awesome – one took place at the Eiffel Tower!

When students start taking control of their own fate, their own English improves 10 fold. This ESL lesson has the potential to do that.

From your typical every day students to Hollywood movie stars. And it’s all because you came prepared with a green screen.

Classroom Movie: The Green Screen

26 Shout It

26 Shout It

The point of this ESL lesson is to get your partner to say the word on the card. But the key point is that you can’t say that word.

Students have to describe it in English. If they want, they can even use gestures. But you can’t say the word

Go through all the cards in the worksheet and the team who can get the most words said by their partner wins. Simple as that.

Focus on English. Make things fun. Keep track of points. This is a recipe for success.

Shout It

27 101 Free-Talking Topics From a Hat

27 Topics From a Hat

If you’re struggling to grab your students attention, these 101 free talking topics are the cream of the crop. Sometimes it’s just best to keep it simple, stupid.

Energize your classroom with these engaging topics from a hat like these 101 ESL Conversation Topics.

Print them off. Cut them up. Put it in a hat. Select a topic at random and let your students talk in pairs or as a classroom.

This is fantastic filler for the end of a lesson. Depending on the class, this can score big.

Free Talking Topics From a Hat

ESL Games That Work

It’s no secret that amazing ESL games make your English class 10x easier. We have more ESL activities and ESL lesson plans to quick-start your class.

Overall, these free ESL games not only challenges your students English but they also have fun learning it.

Do you have anything to add? Which ESL games work wonders for you?

Let us know with a comment below.

All of our worksheets are free to use for any purpose and ready to print for your classroom.

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