Games in the English Classroom


Age: Older teens and above
Proficiency level: Low intermediate and above
Objective: To practice modal verbs, simple past and present perfect.
Materials: Masking tape; a plastic knife, ketchup, a crumpled piece of paper; an imitation of an ID card; a piece of rope; any other piece of evidence you can think of.

Before class time, use masking tape to draw the outline of a body on the floor, like the one in the illustration above. Place pieces of evidence around the classroom: the plastic knife stained with ketchup on the window sill; the photo ID in the garbage can; a piece of rope tied to the window latch; a crumpled note ("You will be the next!") under the table or one of the desks, etc.
On the board, write the questions:

  • What happened?
  • How did it happen?
  • Why was the person murdered?
  • How did the killer escape?
 When students arrive, tell them there has been a crime in the classroom, and they will be the detectives. In pairs or small groups, they look around to find the evidence and make guesses about what happened. Instruct them to use modals of speculation and the verb tenses mentioned above.

This activity was suggested by Bruno Cavalcanti Albuquerque, a talented young teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson - Brasília, Brazil. We would like to thank Bruno for sharing his creativity with us.


Age: Older children and above
Proficiency: High beginners and above
Objective: To practice describing pictures, using adjectives and "there is/There are"
Materials: Magazines with lots of pictures. 

Divide the class into smaller groups. Give each group a magazine.
Instruct one student to choose one picture randomly, without letting the other members of the group see it. This student then describes the picture in as much detail as possible. He/She closes the magazine and gives it to the others, who then try to find the picture just described. The other members take turns doing the same. 
This is particularly good to practice describing people (with adjectives related to physical description), actions in the present continuous, different kinds of weather, etc.

This activity was a contribution from Bruno Cavalcanti Albuquerque, a teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, Brasília-Brazil.
Thanks for sharing, Bruno.



Age: Any
Proficiency level: Any
Objective: To review vocabulary, to ask and answer questions, to learn new information about a topic, or anything you can think of that can be encoded in QR. 

  • Printed QR codes created by the teacher for a specific task.
  • a set of questions, answers, synonyms, etc, depending on the teacher's objective for the activity.
  • Tablets or smart phones with an app that reads QR codes.  
 Place the printed QR codes on the walls around the classroom. Pair students up and give each pair a tablet, or ask them to use their own device. Tell them to figure out the message in all the QRs, paying attention to the information given. When they finish, they close their device and try to solve the task presented by the teacher (answering questions, matching vocabulary items, etc). They get together with other pairs to try to complete the task. They open their devices again and check ir they were correct. 

Although we can encode pictures, sound, and videos, the only kind of QR that does not need internet connection is the text message. Therefore, only encode the other items if you are sure your connection will work well. 
Here is an example of activity prepared as a warm-up for a lesson entitled "Amazing Nature". It talks about animals that migrate or hibernate during the greatest part of their lives.The grammar topic related to the unit is the use of future perfect and future perfect continuous, so we made a point of starting to present the topic. 

The sentences encoded are:

1 – In its lifetime, the Arctic Tern will have made three round trips to the moon

2 – The Chilean Flamingos can travel up to 700 miles, or 1,126 km, a day.

3 – Male and Female Arctic Squirrels hibernate in different periods of the year.

4 – The Elephant Seal can travel 21,000 km, mostly under water, and keep its sense of direction.

5 – The groundhog’s heartbeat drops from 80 to 4 beats per minute, and its body temperature can go below zero.

6 – The Sooty Shearwater travels around 64,000 km in its migration round trip.

The questions students were supposed to answer after collecting the information were:

1 – Which animal will have made three round trips to the moon during his lifetime?

2 – Which animal can travel up to 700 miles a day?

3 – What can the elephant seal do?

4 – What happens when the groundhog is hibernating?

5 – How far does the Sooty Shearwater travel in his migration route?

6 – What is interesting about the Arctic squirrels’ hibernation?

We used the site www.qrstuff.com to create the codes, and the app SCAN to read them.


AGE: Teens and above
PROFICIENCY: High beginners and above
OBJECTIVE: To break the ice on a first class, giving personal information in a fun way

This is a quick and fun ice-breaker for the first day of class. The teacher introduces him/herself, giving three pieces of information, one of which is false. Students are asked to identify the false item and to guess the correct information. It has to be made clear that the false item cannot be obvious, since that would spoil all the fun. 
In a circle, students take turns doing the same, and their classmates give their opinions on the false item. When they get to the lie, they then make guesses on the correct information. 
This shouldn't take too long, for it may become boring. Maybe one or two guesses would be enough. Of course, this depends on the number of students in class. The fewer, the longer it can take. 

My personal example: "I'm Brazilian, I have three adult children, and I've been a teacher for more than thirty years."

Wanna guess which one is not true????


Age: Any
Proficiency level: Any
Objective: To review, reinforce, or assess vocabulary.
Materials: Many different sets of two cards, one with the vocabulary items and their definitions or synonyms, the other with only the definitions or synonyms, arranged in a different order from the other card.

Pair students up and give each of them a card. Tell them they cannot let their peers see their cards. The student who has the vocabulary items starts the activity by asking, "What does.....mean?" or "What is a synonym for....?"(Teacher, write these questions on the board for reference.) The other student chooses among the items in his/her card and says it outloud. The other student checks whether the answer is correct. When they are done, move the cards around the class.


Make a list of the items you want to work with. Then separate them into groups of five or six, let's say. The cards will look like this:

 Card 1

FOOTPRINTS  (noun) -  the marks made by a person's or animal's feet.
SOFTWARE (noun) - computer programs
VALUABLE (adjective) - something very helpful and important; something worth a high price 
OUTNUMBER (verb) - to be greater in number than someone or something
 STRUGGLE (verb) - to make great effort to do something very difficult

Card 2 

  • Something very helpful and important; something worth a high price.
  • Computer programs
  • To make a great effort to do something very difficult.
  • The marks made by a person's or animal's feet.
  • To be greater in number than someone or something.

CREDITS - This activity was suggested by Anna Lúcia Seabra Mendes, from Brasília-Brazil. Many thanks to her. 


In this variation, the students will stand on a grid drawn on the classroom floor. The objective is the same: to have three people from the same group in a horizontal, vertical or perpendicular line.

Age – Teens and older
Proficiency level – low intermediate and above
Objective - To practice any grammar point, vocabulary (synonyms, opposites, definitions), verb tenses, irregular/regular verbs, etc.
1 - Pieces of ribbon of two different colors to tie around students’ heads.
– Three copies of a list with at least nine tasks – Each group will get one list, and the teacher will number his/her list randomly, not following the order in which the tasks were typed.
3 -  Masking tape to draw a big grid on the floor. 

4 – A list with two columns of odd and even numbers, which the teacher will cross out as he/she calls on students to stand on the grid.
1 – Divide the class into two groups.
2 - Form two separate circles.
3 – Use odd numbers for the students in one circle and evennumbers for the others. (1,3,5,7, 9, 11, etc… / 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc…). Give each group pieces of ribbon of the same color to be tied around their heads. This will help them visualize their partners on the grid.
4 – Give each group a sheet with the tasks and give them time to work on all of them. Everybody in the group must know the answers to all the tasks.
5 – When they are done, give them some more time to decide on the strategy they will use to position themselves on the chart.
6 – Decide which group will start the game. If the odd-numbered group wins, for example, start calling any odd number and cross it out on your list. This will help you keep track of who has already participated and who hasn’t. FROM THIS MOMENT ON, THERE IS NO MORE COMMUNICATION AMONG THE MEMBERS OF THE GROUPS.
7 – The student decides where he/she wants to stand and answers the task the teacher gives him (also randomly chosen from the list of tasks). If the student is correct, he/she remains on the grid. If not, he/she goes back to the group and the teacher moves on to call a student from the other group. The team that forms a line first is the champion.




Age Level - Teens and above

Proficiency level - Intermediate and above

Material - None

Objective - To develop creativity when solving problems; to use language in a communicative way.

 Divide the class into small groups. Each group must have a sheet of paper to jot down ideas. The teacher reads the following story: 

"Imagine we are survivors from a ship wreck and we are in a desert island, sitting on the beach, thinking what to do next. We have absolutely nothing except the clothes we are wearing. Suddenly, we see a package floating in the water. We run to get it, and when we open it, what is inside??? Twenty-four cans of hair spray (or anything unusual, such as 10 blank notebooks, a box of plastic dishes, a teddy bear, etc). The question that arises is, 'What are we going to do with these things in order to make our life easier here?' "

  • In their groups, students have three minutes to write down five original ideas to use the objects.
  • When time is up, they stop writing, and each group reads their ideas. Each original idea, one that no other group had, is worth 10 points. Ideas that occur in more than one group are worth five points. Groups add their points, and the group with the highest number wins.
(Adapted from "Alternatives", by Richard and Marjorie Baudains - Pilgrims Longman Resource Books).

Age level - Teens and above

Proficiency level - Low intermediate and above

Material - Slips of paper with names of famous people; masking tape

Objective - To practice asking and answering questions and giving information.
  • Bring pieces of paper with names of famous people and stick them to the students' back WITHOUT LETTING THEM SEE THE PAPER.
  • They show their back to a peer and ask five questions to try to find out who the celebrity is (Am I an actor/actress/singer/polititian? Am I male? Where was I born? Am I alive? etc).
  • If after the five questions they cannot find out who "they are", the peer can give five clues: You are blond; you are a famous actor; you are married to a beautiful woman;
  • At the end, students stand in a circle and say who they are, giving some information about the person.
VARIATION - If you are teaching parts of the house, furniture, or any other vocabulary group, you can stick slips with names of objects instead of people. Thus, students would be the stove, the refrigerator, the kitchen, a pizza, etc.

Age level - Any

Proficiency level - Beginners

Material - Slips of paper and a hat or cap

Objective - To give beginners a sense of achievement, since they will be speaking English right away! It also helps them to memorize their classmates' names

  • Distribute slips of paper and ask students to write their names on them.
  • Collect all the slips in a hat or cap.
  • Model the dialog on the board and role-paly it with a student: Is your name.......? Yes, it is / No, it isn't.
  • Disribute the slips randomly, making sure students don't get their own names.
  • Students walk around, talking to each other.
  • After a few minutes, they sit down again and the teacher asks individual students, "Who is he/she?
VARIATION -  instead of writing their names, low intermediate students (and above) can write a piece of personal information (I am an only child; I have 14 dogs; I've never been abroad; etc).

Age level - Any

Proficiency level - Lower intermediate and above

Material - a bowl and candy (M&Ms, or any other)

Objective - This activity can be used as a warm-up in the first day of class or be adapted to any topic being discussed in class. It enhances communication and information sharing.
  • Pass a bowl of candies around and ask students to get as many pieces as they wish, but NOT to eat them just yet.
  • For each piece they have taken, they have to give a piece of information about themselves. In case you want to try the first variation below, these pieces can be either true or false.
VARIATION 1 - The group has to decide whether the information given is true or false.

VARIATION 2 - The activity can be used as a reading follow-up. Students have to remember information, words, or expressions from the text read.

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