3 Fun ESL Vocabulary Games for the Classroom

esl-vocabulary-games

Teaching a large group of younger learners in a classroom requires a lot of patience, tolerance, and creativity. When designing a lesson plan for elementary school children, it helps to include some fun kinesthetic activities that promote movement and interaction.

Why kinesthetic learning?

If kids sit at their desks too long, they can often lose focus and become inattentive. Younger learners respond better when there is more variety and physical activity involved in lessons.

Plus, kinesthetic games can break up the pace and increase participation. Games and interactive activities can also facilitate language acquisition by helping students review important points learned in class.

Below are three vocabulary games for the classroom that you can try with your students. They all require the students to move in the classroom, so you should make sure that you have enough space free of any obstructions that could get in their way.

1. Board Races

Board race ESL vocabulary games are excellent for younger learners. Most students love board races because they can compete with their classmates. Plus, they get excited about not having to be stuck at their desk all day.

To start, push the desks and chairs to the sides of the classroom. You want to make sure there is a clear path from the far side of the room to the board on the other side of the room. Get the students to move everything. With their help, it should only take a minute or so.

Next, divide the class into two teams. For larger classes, you can have more teams.

The teams should form two lines at the far end of the classroom.

The first student at the start of each line must run (or walk quickly) to the board and complete a writing task. You can set the task to be anything that you like. For example, they could spell a word, write a sentence, or write the answer to a grammar question etc.

Whichever student answers your question correctly on the board first, scores points for their team. After writing, the students can return to the back of their team’s line.

Then, the next two students in the lines get ready to race to the board.

The game continues in this way until everyone has had a chance to play. You can have multiple rounds and vary the difficulty level of the tasks that they must complete on the board.

2. Memory Races

Another kinesthetic learning game that kids like involves testing their memory.

For memory race ESL vocabulary games, you need to make sure that there is extra space for the students to move around the edge of the room along the walls. They will be moving around the classroom in a circular fashion.

To begin, split the class in half and form two teams. Again, you can create more teams if the class is particularly large.

Next, assign “waiting stations” at different locations in the classroom. Four waiting stations are usually appropriate for most situations. For instance, you can use the four corners of the room. One member from each team waits at each location.

At the first waiting station (usually at your desk), write down five words on a piece of paper. Show the words to the first two students. Give them about 30 seconds to commit the words to memory.

After the 30 seconds are up, they must go to the second waiting station and whisper to their teammate the five words. Then, the second team member goes to the third waiting station to pass on the words to the next team member. Finally, the fourth team member from each team will eventually return to your desk to tell you the words.

The teams score a point for each word that is remembered. You could even reward bonus points for whichever team gets back to your desk the fastest.

3. Word Whack Races

The last kinesthetic learning game that works really well with younger students is the Word Whack game.

Before you start the activity, you should prepare a couple soft objects that could be used to hit the board with. You could pick up some cheap plastic balloon mallets from a dollar store or try rolling up some paper to form a cylinder shape. Whatever you use, just make sure it is soft enough so that it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Once you have everything prepared, you can start the game.

First, do a brief example for the students so they understand what they have to do.

Write (or elicit) a number of different words on the board. Space them out nicely in different locations on the board. You could base the vocabulary on different themes, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, or a topic that you have recently covered in the course textbook.

Next, with the “word whacker” in your hand, say one of the words on the board and hit it. Say a bunch of the other words and strike them with the object so that everyone understands the task.

After the demonstration, call up one student from each team and give them their word whacker.

Call out words randomly that are on the board and the first student to hit the correct word receives a point. Give students a few chances to score more points for their team. After a minute or so, the students can return to their seats, then call up two more students to complete the task.

Other Fun ESL Vocabulary Games for the Classroom

Check out ESL Expat’s website if you would like other fun ESL vocabulary games to use in your classes. The site also features additional resources for language learning on their blog section, including teaching tips and personal stories about teaching English abroad.  

Guest Post by Paul Young

Paul is a certified language instructor currently based in South Korea. For other fun ESL games and information about teaching English abroad, visit his website ESLexpat.com.

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