For English language learners speaking is probably one of the most important and most feared language skills they have to learn. They may be shy, in both languages, or they may be afraid of making a mistake in front of their friends or classmates. One of the best ways to overcome this is to use English games and activities, introduce some fun into the lessons and these fears suddenly become less important. We have been teaching English for a lot of years and here are 15 of the best English Speaking games and activities we have researched and trialed in our classrooms. They have been massively useful to us over the years, so we hope they are for you as well.
We have researched English Speaking Games for all levels, backgrounds and ages of students. Activities like the ”Yes/No game. Call My Bluff, On Call” can all be scaled to address student needs. Utilizing speaking games for students is a proven way of maximizing participation and retention of language.
It is important to try to over come students initial fears of speaking, No one likes to make mistakes or look foolish so creating a risk free and non judgmental environment in your classroom is vitally important. I often try to speak in the students first language to show them that of course people make mistakes, and that is perfectly acceptable, of course some times funny, and nothing NOTHING to worry about! This is a more difficult task with adult learners, but still achievable highlighting their motivations for learning the language and how it can benefit them at the beginning of sessions helps with this, especially if you go on to highlight how speaking is going to be the most important skill in the vas majority of these situations. In careers, social occasions and travel.
Speaking is the most important skill they will learn. One thing both younger and older students have in common? We all like to have fun. These speaking games below can all be adapted to suit either a Kindergarten classroom, ESL or otherwise, or a boardroom training session. There is something for every classroom situation.
Also where we have them on our site we will link to the files for you to download to make it more convenient for you. If you want to jump to a specific game just click on the list below.
This English speaking activity is both fun and useful. The aim is to get students to speak for 30 seconds about topics that may or may not be out of their comfort zone. We have a list of topics here for you to choose from, and of course you can think of your own.
There are two ways to approach this, you can introduce the task by asking them to work individually first, or move straight onto the game below.
As they practice the task above write the rules on the board and split class in half
These type of activities used to be in puzzle magazines all the time. There sis a fair deal of explaining required to them but basically it s a logical fill in the blanks. It is better suited to higher level students, but its a great English Speaking game when adapted properly.
The aim is to fill in the table with all the information so you know everything about the residents of Downing street. However you have to walk around and ask the rest of the class for that information, only once you have spoken to everyone will you be able to work it out . This is a great English speaking game that gets the whole class taking to each other, and forgetting about the language they are doing that in!
You will need the table worksheet for students to fill in and the list of information and clues both on the links includes here
Once your students have the answers then it can be gone through together on the board or white board and it adds another speaking element to the lesson. This is a great speaking game for ESL students and other. It really encourages them to speak to each other. As an added bonus for teachers we get to act as facilitator rather than be stuck at the front of the classroom.
Adaptations: It is possible to add clues (carefully to make sure they fit the answers) doing this makes it much easier. The aim is to get the students speaking to each other not just the logic side of the activity.
Ask and respond activities give students the comfort of a script to follow, which means those who are a little self conscious have some scaffolding to work from. It also means these activities are suitable for lower level students who need that extra help
Resources •A copy of a town map, or any town map printable from google for groups of students, a list of place names for students to pick from. We have one designed for younger learners here.
It is possible to actually have the directions already prewritten for students. This means they can practice reading, speaking and listening in one activity.
Also it is possible to have your class spend a lesson coming up with the directions themselves and then putting them all in a box or bag at the front for the whole class to use. This means you add writing and they are actually using their own work to prepare a lesson.
One of the main problems when teacher oral English speaking lessons is that the class invariably turns into robots. This is not intentional, so much effort goes into speaking in another language that putting emotion and expression into what they are saying comes way , WAY down the list.
So sometimes a little nudge in the right direction is all they need. We have designed an ESL speaking game and lesson to do just that.
Adding expression to their speech is a large step towards sounding natural and developing English fluency.
In English to sound more natural we have a set of almost automatic set of responses on hearing good, bad or surprising news. It doesn’t take much to teach these in ESL Speaking lessons and for ESL Students in particular it is a definite confidence builder for them.
As a game you can then repeat the same sort or exercise as the activity above. Have a selection of sentences than usually require a response and then ask for the incorrect response. No one expects you to say congratulations when you tell them your little rabbits died yesterday!!!
This English Speaking game, together with the YES/NO game below are tied for my favorite game to play with any age student ESL or other wise. They can, and have been, played with second language kindergarten students all the way up to native speaking business people with the same amount of fun. The language from the business people was perhaps a little ruder than the kindergarten children but only a little!
It is a superb English speaking game for ESL students and native speakers. It gets really REALLY competitive. you will need an inflatable hammer they have packs of 12 on amazon for about 12 dollars and that’s it!
This game is based on a old TV show from the UK called Wacaday. In it they had a rather colorful character called Timmy Mallet who, among other things, played a game called mallets mallet. In this game the players, always children, had to think of a word associated with whatever Timmy said. There was no hesitation, repetition, or ummm or errrrrs allowed or they got a bonk on the head. (softly of course) the winner was the one who didn’t get hit!
This is easier to show you than explain so here is a video of it! ( it was the 1980s so excuse the poor quality of the video, and of course the hair styles!)
Two students at a time come to the front and the teacher/helper gives them a word. They have to say a word related to the previous word in 3 seconds or less. They can not repeat, pause or say something unrelated.
If they get it wrong they get a ‘bonk’ on the head and 3 times bonked and a new pair or students comes up or you could even play winner stays on. For fun they can play against the teacher as well.
Here are some ideas.
Water, drink, tea, coffee, sugar, sweet, sour …..
You can make this much slower than the video if you are working with second language or ESL students, and if you don’t want a hammer you can use a rolled up piece of paper or just play it as a point game without the hammer. (its more fun with one of course!)
This is a take on the TV Show Call my Bluff, where contestants have to guess who is lying. In this version students have to guess who wishes / wants what. They can do this by picking and reading a wish out of the bag and then trying to guess who it belongs to. They hav to give a reason why they think that.
Note: I have done this, or a version of this, many times without issue. However there was one time when a student wrote that they wished their parents would get back together which was pretty heartbreaking. Although it is superb to share, in front of a class of other students may not be the time or place. I did of course talk to her after and sought some help from others in the school. It may be worth while including instructions to keep it light.
Adaptations: This is also great as an Icebreaker activity for students and teacher to get to know each other. You can keep the activity as wishes or ask them to write three things about themselves. You can even change it to two things true and one lie to add some fun and creativity. ( and to create another English Speaking game called ”would I lie to you” or Call my Bluff.
When I said that The Word Association game above and this game were tied as my favorite English Speaking game I lied. This is my number one game. It is just perfect for all levels of English learner. It can be made easier for younger and ESL students and learners and more difficult for higher levels. No matter what level of learner is in the class you can use this game.
Now watch the video to see someone very VERY good at asking the questions in action. (these are native speakers so of course he tries very hard to catch them out and speaks very quickly)
It is better to teacher this to students with at least a basic abilty, but it doesnt have to be high level as you can level the wuestion you ask.
Write up questions on the board and say that today we are going to look at question that are answered with yes/no. .
Tips: Ask questions starting with do you, can you , will you etc usually catch students out. Also you can repeat the students answer and add yes, or no to the end and it might catch them out to nod or repeat you.
It is simply awesome to play this and as I said earlier even 5 and 6 year olds quickly grasp this English speaking game. Once i have played it with my students it is the most requested speaking game every lesson following that.
Allowing your students to communicate with each other takes off some of the pressure of a whole class environment and allows them to risk take with their English speaking in a less public arena
In this game, each student in the pair draws a picture, keeping their paper shielded from the eyes of their partner. Ideally, pictures should be fairly simple. Once the picture is complete, they explain to their partner, using words only, how to replicate the image this can be done at a desk or as a whispers type activity across school halls if you want a more physical speaking game.
For example, if a student has drawn the stereotypical square house with a triangle roof, he might say: “draw a house, with a red roof and blue door. He may miss out how many windows, the family in front of it or all manner of details.
This allows the teacher to compare the two drawings with the students and ask what language they could have added to get more details into the picture. This really enables students to start to think about expanding and adding to the phrases they say.
The goal of this game is for each partner to replicate the other’s drawing by listening and understanding these spoken directions. The difference in drawings is often pretty funny as well.
Although you can use the Guess Who board game if you have it, its about 15 USD on Amazon if you have a need! It is probably easier and more adaptable for the culture or location you are teaching in to make a simple version with famous people from your area.
Students simpley draw the name of a famous person and photo if needed out of a hat (you’ll need to prepare these slips in advance!) and their partner or the rest of the class tries to guess who is on the paper by asking a series of yes/no questions.
it is a fun and engaging English speaking game that tests questioning knowledge.
This is a similar game to the Make a Wish game above, but Call My Bluff is a more difficult and fun game which is perfect at the start of term as a ‘getting to know you’ kind of game. It is also a brilliant ice breaker between students if you teach classes who do not know one another — and especially essential if you are teaching a small class size.
The game is excellent for practicing English speaking skills, though make sure you save some time for after the game to comment on any mistakes students may have made during the game. (I generally like to reserve this for after the game, so you don’t disrupt their fluency by correcting them as they speak).
With older groups you can have some real fun and you might be surprised what you’ll learn about some of your students when playing this particular EFL game.
Actually this stems for a party (or drinking) game at universities and can be adapted to what ever vocabulary or topic you are teaching at the time. In the university version we all stick a post it to our foreheads and have to guess the famous person we are. Similar to the Guess who game above. In ESL or Classroom use we can do this with Jobs, animals, furniture, absolutely anything all you need are some post its or similar to stick to peoples heads or backs – anywhere they can not read it. It is a great ESL speaking game for classrooms with limited resources.
This classic classroom activity still has a place in modern classrooms. Students simply bring in something they would like to Show and Tell to their classmates. It practices students speaking ability, and their ability to prepare short written scripts that they will have to read. For those not talking it practices their listening ability, especially if you add a could of quiz questions at the end of each show and tell part.
You can change this by having a mystery box and they have to describe the item with out looking to their classmates and have them try to guess ( or the student of course) what it is.
Maybe its because i am writing this just a couple of days after Christmas, but I notice there are a lot of party games in this list. It might be that, but it might also be because they just work. Everyone, young and old, likes to have fun and these games provide that in abundance. Taboo is no exception.
It is simply a deck of cards, you can make your own or pick up a glossy set on Amazon for not much. On the card they have one target word and four words underneath. The player, in one minute or what ever time limit you decide to set has to try to explain what the target word is with out mentioning it, or the four related words underneath.
The beauty of this game is that you can adapt it to whichever topic you have been studying and make it easier or more difficult depending on the age and abilities of your students. It works in ESL and native speaking classrooms.
This is a nice physical game for warm up or for end of class consolidation. You just need a bean bag and some ideas.
It is similar to the Mallets Mallet Word assocation game above but involves the who class rather than pairs at the front.
This is great fun and students of ALL ages get into it very quickly. You can also allow then to pick their own subjects after a few goes.
The simple fact is that students of all ages learn better when they are having fun. If you can try to incorporate some of these English Speaking games and activities into your lessons then you will find that more and more your students are willing to engage and practice the language you are teaching them. There are hundreds more activities, but these are our favorites. We have a booklet of ten of them for free download if you want an idea of some of the resources behind them, but we will also be putting them up on the site as time goes by so you can take them individually as you need.
Hope these helped you as much as they have helped us!
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, English, General Studies and Outdoor Education. Thought it was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children