How to Create Your Own Games for ESL Classes

How to Create Your Own Games for ESL Classes

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 12,987 views |

The idea of creating your own games for ESL classes might seem intimidating.

After all, don’t professionals work hard to make games that people will love and want to play? And don’t they get training to help them and the pay to prove what they are worth? But games for your ESL class don’t have to meet the needs of best sellers. They just have to accomplish two things: help your students learn English and enable them to have a good time in your class. Anyone can create their own games for their students. Here are simple ways to do just that.

3 Easy to Adapt Game Ideas

  1. Some games just always work in ESL classes. Here are a few games you can tweak to meet your students’ needs without much work at all.

  2. 1

    Memory

    Memory (also known as pellmanism) is a great game that is easy to tailor to your specific needs. In this game, several cards are placed face down in a grid on a table, and students take turns trying to match two cards together. You can have students match vocabulary words to definitions, synonyms, or antonyms. You can have them match questions to answers or fill in the blank sentences to the words that complete them. To make your own set of memory cards, or have your students make them, decide what questions or words you want to review in your game, write them and their match on blank index cards (or print them out in a table), have students shuffle the finished cards and arrange on the table, and you are ready to play. This is also an easy game to have students make themselves if you plan to play several games at one time or if you don’t have time to prepare the cards yourself.

  3. 2

    Pictionary and Charades

    Pictionary and charades are simple games that take almost no preparation to use in class. They work best for reviewing vocabulary with your students. Students take turns acting out or drawing words that you assign or that they draw from a hat, trying to get their team to guess the word. To tailor these games for your class, choose the vocabulary words you want to review and then either put them in a hat for students to draw from or make a list which you will point out to the players.

  4. 3

    Bingo

    Another game you will see frequently in the ESL classroom is Bingo – a simple five in a row game. Normally, players mark numbers that the caller pulls from the bingo bag, but you can make the game more complex when you use it to teach language to your class. You can have students mark pictures whose vocabulary words you call, have them match answers to questions you announce, or have them match synonyms or antonyms to vocabulary words. The hardest part of making bingo games for your classroom is making sure all the boards don’t look alike (that is having the same items in the same boxes on each sheet). To avoid this the most simple way possible, give students the items that they will put in the boxes but have your students do the putting themselves. The odds of anyone in class creating the exact same board as anyone else are rare, and you won’t have to stress about creating twenty different game boards for one activity. As a bonus, students who create their own boards will get an additional review of the material you are covering in the game.

2 Effective Tips to Create Your Own Games for ESL Classes

  1. Making your own games to use in class isn’t too difficult once you have a general idea how to make successful games. Here are some steps you can take to make games that will be winners with your students.

  2. 4

    Path Games

    Path games are simple and easy to create for small groups or your entire class. Start by printing off a blank path. You can find several blank images on line, or make your own. Then decide what you want your students to practice as they play the game. You can write questions directly on the game boards, or you can write your questions on cards that students will draw as they make their way through the game board. Students will also need place markers (they can be as simple as different colored beads or as complex as personalized markers made from photographs) and a die for each group that that will be playing. If you like, have pairs of students write their own set of review questions on index cards (with answers) and have them exchange with another group before playing the game. You can also take questions directly from your text book or from one of busy teachers hundreds of free worksheets. On their turn, students roll, move to the appropriate space, and answer the question. If they answer correctly, they stay there. If they answer incorrectly, they return to their previous position. The first student to reach the end of the path wins the game.

  3. 5

    Dice Games

    Dice games are an inexpensive game that can be tailored to any concept you are teaching. It’s worth investing in some standard six-sided dice (one per two students in your class is usually enough) to use in various classroom activities. Dice games are nice for oral activities. You can set up your game by creating five lists of review questions for your students to answer during play. Questions that can be answered with a specific verb tense or vocabulary word are better than those that start discussions among your students. You can take these questions from exercises in your text book or from worksheets. For some games, you can ask questions on different grammar points for each list. For other games, you can make all the lists the same type of questions but have them increase in difficulty with each list. Label each list from one to five. When students play, they roll the die and then must answer one question from the list labeled with the number they rolled. When students roll a six, they can choose which list they want a question from. If your lists go in increasing difficulty, students earn points for each question they answer. One point for questions on list one, two points for those on list two, etc. Have students play for a certain amount of time or until they reach a certain number of points.

These are just a few of the games you can make yourself (or have your students make) to be used in class. The more games you make, the easier it becomes to make subsequent ones. Just be confident in what you do. Even if your game turns out to be a flop, which is rare, your students will appreciate the effort you put forth to have a fun and engaging activity during class. Then next time, have them design their own game for the class.

What are your best tips for creating your own games for use in class?

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