ESL Literacy

5 Classic ESL Word Games Your Students Will Love

Playing word games with your ESL students is a great way to practice word recognition while developing vocabulary and reading reading fluency skills. 

These ESL Word Games are super simple to make, easy prep which means less time for you fiddling around with the copier. Yes, I know! 

ESL Word Games for the Classroom * this post may contain affiliate links

How do word games in the classroom build vocabulary? 

Word games are a great way to exercise the brain. They are also a fun way to help students learn new words and improve their vocabulary.

A word game is a game in which the player tries to find words that connect with each other, usually by following specific rules. 

There are many different types of word games, but they all have one thing in common: they help you learn more about language and how it works. I’ve outlined many ESL sight word games you could use also on this blog.

For ESL students, these types of games are priceless. Firstly, ELL students struggle to understand new vocabulary if it’s out of context. They need lots and lots of visuals. This is why I’ve created this list of resources that I go to time and time again. 

List of ESL Word Games for the Classroom 

This first one I will feature is an essential one when teaching the basic auxiliary verbs that ELL students continuously struggle with. Verbs do/go/play. 

Play this game in an interactive way over on Wordwall, it is got to be my favorite way to practice vocabulary. The best part is that students get to submit their answers for us teachers to see how each of them did on the activity. 

Sports Categories Wordwall sorting game.

ESL Word Games pdf that will inspire your students 

If you’re looking to add in some sight word practice with you ESL students, don’t forget to add these free sight word play dough mats to your arsenal. 

Sight Word Learning Play Dough Mats
Sight Word Learning Play Dough Mats

You can get the full set here on TPT. Or you can grab it as a set bundle for the year, to work on CVC words, alphabet, math, and more. 

I have Who Has Game Printable PDF Download

Looking for a fun game that ESL students will love? Check out this super simple but fun activity that can be played in the classroom anytime.

Pick up your free PDF copy at the end of this post!

I have, who has game for learning new vocabulary for ESL students

ESL vocabulary games online for free

Let’s face it, when it comes to virtual trachching. We’ve had so many options in the last year. 

Some of my favorite online learning tools include Wordwall, Boom Cards and more. I’ll outline and link my favorite online vocabulary games below. 

Teaching feelings and emotions? This cloze activity with matching words with drag and drop will have your students reading the sentence and then finding the word that matches it and then dragging it. 

Feelings and emotion words online matching game. 

This next match up game is a great one when teaching English to language learners. They will most likely encounter going to the Doctor at some point, it’s an essential skill to be able to communicate their health needs at the doctor’s office. Young kids will also benefit from the scenario practice which they will take with them in real life. 

Going to the doctor vocabulary matching. 

The best part about these games online, is that you can definitely change up the questions and add your own. To each game! 

If students are learning food vocabulary, this practice set is perfect. Students will match the pictures to their respective definitions. 

Food taste vocabulary practice

Teaching English with word games pdf worksheets and printables

Honestly, worksheets get a bad rap for being boring, however I have found that if you mix the worksheet practice with something fun in the classroom like a competitive game, students are less likely to get bored. 

And it no longer stands alone as a worksheet. 

For example here are some of my favorite vocabulary word games that are printable pdfs from ISL Collective. 

This super helpful verb picture match worksheet is a great way to get kids learning the action verbs, a big part of teaching ESL is getting kids to remember their basic verbs. The pictures are so helpful for ESL learners. 

Vocabulary Matching Worksheet - Action Verbs
ESL Word Games Printables

Teaching weather? This weather vocabulary word game is perfect for kids learning all about the weather. Have them complete the picture matching sheet and then create an interactive game where students will compete against each other. 

Vocabulary Matching Worksheet - WEATHER
ESL Word Games for the CLassroom

If you’re teaching ESL kids about food items, this food matching who am I puzzle worksheet is a great way to get kids working on their question formation and vocab. I like to do this activity as part of a class. The best thing about it is the interactive form of the questions, like riddles that kids will love to solve. 

I love teaching all about feelings and emotions. In fact, I have several emotion charts and check in activities right on this blog. This feelings word game worksheets is all about matching the pictures to the emotion. Get kids talking about their emotions and feelings with this printable. 

Feelings&Emotions Vocabulary Exercises

Games on Vocabulary 

If you want particular games to practice vocabulary words and increase the frequency of how many times your students use this new vocabulary, I’ve got some fun tools below that I use with new students as well as ELL learners. 

Games to Learn English is a fun online games website to help engage learners with the vocab in context. Have them do these games independently or within a group. 

English Club includes some fun ways you can get your students engage wit content and working on their vocabulary online. 

This comprehensive list of ESL Word Games is a great start to finding some easy and fun ways to teach ESL vocabulary.


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