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Using Word Games in the ESL classroom

by Lynne Hand

Instructions to the English teacher

These games are a fun way to spend the last 30 minutes of a lesson, or to celebrate the end of a course.

You can find examples of these games on The Learn English Forum .

Word Association

Start with a word. One by one go around the class and ask the students to say another English word that they think links to the previous word. (e.g. If you begin with ‘car, the next word might be ‘bus, and then ‘train‘ and so on). Write down the words on the board. If a students hesitates for too long, uses a word that has already been used or calls out a word that does not really fit with the previous one, they are out of the game. The next person can then picks a new topic and starts with a word of their choosing. Continue the process until there is just one student left.

A-Z

Write the alphabet out on the board. Pick a topic and start with a word beginning with A (e.g. topic animals - first word aardvark). Go round the class and ask for another animal beginning with B (badger) and so on, write down the words next to the letter on the board. The students could use their dictionaries for this game. If a students hesitates for too long or can't think of a word, they are out of the game. Sometimes there may not be a word X / Y / Z etc. Leave a blank for these words.

Tops and Tails

Start with a word and then one by one go around the class and ask the students to say another English word that begins with the last letter of the previous word (e.g. If you begin with ‘dress', the next word might be ‘skirt', and then ‘train‘ and so on). Write down the words on the board. If a students hesitates for too long, uses a word that has already been used or calls out a word that does not really fit with the previous one, they are out of the game. The next person can then starts with a word of their choosing. Continue the process until there is just one student left. If you want to make the game more difficult choose a topic to stick to (verbs, animals etc.)

For an example of this game in action, check the forum .

Add a letter

Start with a short word and then go around the class and ask the students to say another English word that uses all the letters of the previous word (they can be moved around) plus one other letter (e.g. you begin with at - hat - that - ...). If a students hesitates for too long or can't think of a word, they are out of the game. The next student then starts with another short word.

Swap a letter

Start with a four or five letter word and then go around the class and ask the students to say another English word that uses all the letters of the previous word (they can be moved around). If a students hesitates for too long or can't think of a word, they are out of the game. The next student then starts with another word.

For examples of this game in action, check the forum .

How many words?

Start with a long word and then go around the class and ask the students to make up new words that use some of the letters of the main word (they can move the letters around). See how many words they can make. You need to prepare this in advance, use an online anagram finder to get an idea of how many words can be made.

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