Fun Activities For ESL Students

Learning English is a challenge for any student, and drilling grammar rules and memorizing vocabulary can make class monotonous. Here are a few fun activities for ESL students to try at home or in the classroom.

A quick disclaimer: Be careful with the word “game.” Education can be fun, but if a student tells Mom and Dad that they played games in class, they aren’t going to like it, and neither is your boss. Stick with the word “activity”, and make sure there is a clearly defined educational goal with each one you use that will keep the kids interested and focused.

Memory Chain

This is a quick, fun activity that not only helps increase memory, but ensures all students are paying attention. It can be used with simple concepts, like the alphabet: Have each student say a letter, taking turns around the room, and increasing speed as they go. For more advanced lessons, have each student recite something new along with what previous students already recited. For example, if the topic is “careers”, Student A could say “I work in a restaurant. I am a chef.” Student B would then say “He works in a restaurant. He is a chef. I work in an office. I am a businessman.” The chain continues until the last student recites everyone’s job, including his own.

Sing A Song

Songs are always a hit with younger students, especially in kindergarten. You can make easy songs by choosing a familiar melody – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, or Three Blind Mice – and use a theme for the lyrics. Have them sing songs to remember the days of the week, the months of the year, or to sing during daily activities like clean-up time. Singing is not only great for reinforcing a concept, but it keeps students entertained as well.


Print out cards with the target vocabulary words. There are a few websites with great printable Bingo cards. My favorite is dltk-cards.com. Make it challenging; to win, a student must not only get five in a row, but they must say, spell, and define each word, too.

Be careful with this, however; as educational as you make it, Bingo is still a game to students. Use it sparingly.

Tell Us About…

On the board, write “Tell Us About…” followed by six or twelve numbered questions like “…what you had for lunch” or “…what you’ll do this summer.” Each student rolls one or two dice and must answer the corresponding question with a complete sentence. This activity is a great way to get a shy ESL class talking.


This little trick will get students enthusiastic about copying sentences in their notebooks. Write a scrambled sentence on the board. For example, “you Do gum any have ?” The students race to write the correct, unscrambled sentence down, slapping the table when finished. Make sure before you start to emphasize that neatness counts, as any race can become frantic! This activity can get really complex and difficult with older students, especially for reinforcing the importance of noun/verb order in statements versus questions.

Remember, variety is the key. Keep changing things up and trying new ideas and activities to keep your ESL students on their toes!


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