6 Fun and Simple Games to Help Your Shy Students

6 Fun and Simple Games to Help Your Shy Students

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 60,983 views

We all know shy people.

We might even be shy ourselves. Talking to others can be intimidating. What if I don’t have the right things to say? What if I sound stupid? Imagine your worst fears, and then imagine them in a foreign language. This is what class is sometimes like for your shy students. Not only are they normally afraid to speak, in English they have the pressure of getting grammar and pronunciation right as well. These students might need a little extra boost when it comes to coming out of their shells in class. Here are some ideas for making them a little more comfortable and getting them to speak up in class.

Try These 6 Fun and Simple Games to Help Your Shy Students

  1. 1


    Bingo is a classic game for the ESL classroom. It is good for outgoing and shy students alike. Since there is no shouting or acting like a loon, shier students won’t be put off by the game. But the activity is nothing near a waste because even students who don’t talk still learn and review vocabulary. This is a great go-to any time of year and especially if you have quiet students who might hesitate to participate in other classroom activities.

  2. 2

    Elbow to Elbow

    This game gets students moving around the classroom and matching up with their classmates. To play, have students stand in the middle of the classroom while you call out a personal attribute some students might have. For example, you might say, “Find someone with blond hair.” Students must then find someone in class with blond hair. When they do, they link elbows with that person. Each blond can only have two people matched to her, one on each elbow, so anyone that can’t find a match is out of luck for that round. Next call out another quality. “Find someone whose name starts with a vowel.” Again, students race to link up elbow to elbow first dropping elbows with the person they found last round. This game is good for shy students because it doesn’t require them to talk but it does require them to understand what you are saying. It also helps them get physically close to other students in class, and that might be just what they need to get socially close as well.

  3. 3


    The word means a bunch of nonsense, and that is exactly what you will encourage your students to come up with in this game. The official board games comes with cards that list a collection of obscure items – a word, initials, a movie title, a person, or a random date. Choose one card and one of the words etc. listed there. Everyone then makes up their own definition or explanation for the obscure item, and you write the real one down. (Don’t worry. It’s on the back of the card.) Collect the definitions with your own, shuffle them, and then read them all to the class giving no hint as to the true one. Everyone votes on which they think is the correct definition or explanation. Players score a point when someone in class thinks their fictitious definition is the real. Then reveal who wrote down each definition and award points. Players also score two points for guessing the real definition. Play to a certain score or just play till you run out of time. Your shier students will enjoy this game because it gives them a chance to be creative without being the center of attention in class.

  4. 4

    Back at It Party Game

    Whether you call it this or something else, you have probably played this game in one group or another. The set-up is simple. Write various people’s names, occupations, or items on small slips of paper and then tape one on to the back of each person in class. Everyone mingles and asks each other questions to try and determine who or what is written on their back. They can only ask yes/no questions of their classmates. When anyone figures out his own identity and you confirm that he or she is right, he can sit back at his desk. Though this game does require your shy students to talk to their classmates, it also challenges them to solve a puzzle. Even if your shy students don’t want to ask a lot of questions, they will still have something to do as they puzzle out what is written on their back based on the clues they have already found out.

  5. 5

    Ice Breaker Jenga

    I made up a set of ice-breaker Jenga blocks, and my students always enjoy when we play in class. To make the set, I took a standard tumbling tower game set and wrote one ice-breaker question on each block. Play the game as you normally would with one addition. Whenever anyone pulls a block from the tower, she must answer the icebreaker written on it before she can place her piece back on top. This is a controlled speaking environment which will challenge your shy students to talk in small measures. You may also find as you play that everyone wants to answer every question that is pulled, and that makes the game even better.

  6. 6

    Would You Rather?

    This is a good game for practicing the conditional structure in English not to mention getting shy students out of their shells. To play, simply ask students a questions beginning with “Would you rather…” You can use any questions you feel like. Would you rather be able to fly or breathe under water? Would you rather get up early or stay up late? Any questions will do, and you can either have a list ready before you play or make them up on the spot. Instead of speaking their answers, students run to one side of the room or the other, each representing one of the options. Once everyone is in place, take a minute to interview one or two people on each side. Students will learn about each other and won’t have to be in a chaotic atmosphere to share. Not everyone will have to speak an answer to every question, but everyone participates for the whole game and there’s no winner and no eliminations.

Shyer students may not want to speak up in class, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to participate.

These games which challenge them to play without expecting shouting and chaos may be the little boost they need to come out of their shells a little bit. And once you get the process started, you may find there is no stopping your used to be shy students.

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking one of those sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow our Facebook page where we share more about creative, non-boring ways to teach English.

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