How to Teach With Games? Here Are 5 Ideas

Let’s admit it: a classroom is a place that can become very boring. And it’s hard to learn anything if it’s boring. That’s why fun in the classroom is important. And we need games to have some fun. Here are 2 examples of games you can play while helping your students learn.

In my experience, the moments we had fun and played a game in class were the ones that always stuck with me the longest. I even remember what new words I learned during what game.

If you are interested in other ways of teaching or practicing vocabulary, read the article “6 Ways to Use Flashcards”.

1. Find what’s missing 🧐🔎

Before the game:

Separate your class into smaller groups of up to 5 people. To show how the game works, ask all groups to pay attention to the demonstration.

By the way, for this exercise, it’s possible to use real-life objects. It depends on what you are teaching.  For example, if you are working on vocabulary for school supplies, it will be easy to find these items and use them.

If it’s not possible to get real-life objects, use small pictures.

During the game:

Sit around at a table with one of the teams. Ask them to close their eyes for a moment. Place the objects (images) on the table. Now, ask the team to open their eyes and take a good look at what’s on the table and to try to remember what they see. Next, ask them to close their eyes again. With their eyes closed, remove one object and hide it. When done, ask the students to open their eyes and tell you what’s missing.

After this demonstration, provide all teams with the objects or images they need to play with. Aks them to each take turns and hide an object from the rest. If they guess wrong, the object or image must be returned to the table face up.

The team which first manages to find and correctly name all the missing items wins.

This is an image of colorful flashcards of different foods faced up. It demonstrates step one of the Find what is missing vocabulary game.
Step 1: Arrange as many objects or images face up. If you use images, you can play this game with any vocabulary.

This image demonstrates step two of the Find what is missing vocabulary game. There are several flashcards with images of food on them but one is missing. Which one is it?
Step 2 – Remove an image and hide it. Let students guess what’s missing. If incorrect, put the image back and scramble the images a bit.

2. I am an actor/actress 🎭

This game is especially good if you are teaching action verbs, professions, and sports. Of course, you can make it work for any type of English vocabulary you can come up with. ( Barking means dog, right? )

The best thing about this game is that you can work with more vocabulary at a time. With more pictures on the stack, you avoid too much repetition of the same vocabulary, and the game is more fun.

So, if you would like to get your students moving, separate your class into smaller groups of 4 or 5 people. Give each group a stack of pictures of the vocabulary you are teaching.

This is an image showing two separate stacks of flashcards used in a language learning classroom. The flashcards depic people of different professions. The ideas is that learners pick from the stack and try to act out what's on the card so the rest can guess the correct word.
Make a stack of, for example, pictures of different professions which are easy to act out. Give each team a stack, and let them have fun!

Before the game:

For a group of 5 people, you can make a stack of 15 – 20 pictures depending on how long the game will be played. In any case, make sure that every student within the group gets to act at least 3 times. Ask the students to place the stack of pictures on the table face down.

During the game:

Students take turns, and each takes a picture from the stack. The rest cannot see what’s on the picture because the pictures are turned face down. The student that has a picture acts out what they see. They shouldn’t speak while acting because it will spoil the game. The rest have to guess what the word for the action is. Whoever guesses first gets a point/ star.

As an alternative, instead of acting out what’s in the picture, students can simply try to describe what the person does, and where they work, without mentioning the profession, and have the rest guess the correct answer.

Try the interactive game.

3. Board race🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️

Board Race is quite fun and can be successfully used to revise vocabulary. Also, you can use it as a warm-up activity before you move on to your new topic. It’s even better if your board race vocabulary is related to the upcoming topic because in that way you can see what your students already know about the subject you’re about to teach.

This is best played with 6+ students– the more, the merrier :)) 

Before the game:

This is an image of a blackboard which has been divided into two columns by the teacher. On top it says clothes, and the board has been divided for two teams. They race to the board and write as many words for different clothing they can come up with to win the race.
  1. Split the class into two teams and give each team a marker to write on the board.
  2. Draw a line in the middle of the board, splitting the board into two halves, one for each team, and write the topic at the top.

In case your class is bigger, you can have more people in each team, or split the class and the board into 3 or more teams. Just make sure they have enough space to write on the board. Also, time the game, you don’t want to have people running around for too long 🙂

During the game:

As in a relay race, the students of each team take turns to write one word each on their side of the board. 

A photo of women athletes running during a relay race
Photo by Pixabay on When one team member is done writing they quickly give the marker to the next in line.

Each team wins one point for each correct word. Words that are not related to the topic at the top of the board, impossible to read, or misspelled are not counted.

4. Word/sentence race🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️

Like the one above, this game is perfect if you want to teach your students how to work in teams. However, it is not a race, it’s just a competition game.  It’s also quite flexible and you could use it in a variety of situations – to practice word order, tenses, and it helps with reading as well. You can adapt it to different levels and ages.

Before the game:

  1. Write/ type and print out a number of sentences, using different colors for each sentence. Up to 5 is ok, no need to be overwhelming.
  2. Cut the sentences into words.
  3. Put each sentence (meaning the words) into cups or anything similar you have around. If not, put the words in separate piles. Make sure they are scrambled and not in order!
  4. Separate the students into teams of 4 or 5. (You can have more students per team. It depends on how long your sentences are. Make sure that you have enough words/ sentences per team so that everybody can participate.
Let’s say you are revising there is/there are. Cut the sentences as shown in the picture, scramble them, and put them in a pile according to their color.

During the game:

Teams work together to put the words in the correct order. The team that manages to put all sentences in the correct order first wins.

Try the interactive game.

5. Two truths and a lie🤫🤭

Two truths and a lie(also called “Call my Bluff”) is a very good ice-breaker game, and it’s perfect for smaller size classes or groups. It’s ideal for practicing and improving speaking skills. However, don’t be tempted to correct students while playing but make sure you devote some time after the game to talk about the most important mistakes made during the game.

This can be quite fun with older groups, but there is always the challenge that sometimes people are simply not comfortable with sharing information about their families, or anything they consider private, so there is no requirement to be factual. Take time to explain and inform your students about the idea of the game and see what topics are considered ok.  The idea here is to call the opponent’s bluff so the “true” statements should simply sound plausible or possible. The lie, however, should be good, it has to be almost indistinguishable.

Demonstrate the game:

  1. Write 3 statements about yourself on the board. One should be a lie. (Don’t make it too obvious, or you risk to be caught right away.)
  2. Encourage students to ask questions about the statements and guess which one is a lie. 
  3. If they guess correctly then they win. (You could come up with a number of guesses allowed so that the game doesn’t take to long, and doesn’t get boring. )

Before the game:

If you have a larger class, separate it into groups (at least 4 people per group). As an alternative, pair students up, and allow them to take turns asking questions, and guessing. (3 statements, 3 questions, and a guess.)

A photo of a chamelion - an image used to illustrate the two truths and a lie English vocabulary game
(Photo by Alexander Dummer on ) Now it’s time to disguise your lie well! 🙂

During the game:

One person (let’s call them Kai) writes their statements on paper for the other three to read.

The rest take turns asking questions. They get to ask 3 questions in total, and Kai provides yes-no answers to each. When they have asked their questions, they must put two and two together, and come up with a guess (or call his bluff). Whoever finds out which of the statements is a lie, gets a point. If all three fail, the point goes to Kai.

The game is over when all team members take turns to be Kai.

To sum up, apart from talking about any mistakes that were made while speaking, you can ask students to share with everyone if they learned something new or interesting about their opponents.

Your downloads are here 📥💚

If you are looking for Animal Flashcards (A1 Beginner & A2 Lower Intermediate) which can be used in similar games, click here!