5 quick and easy ESL games for teaching young learners

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ESL games young learners

Can we play a game? How many times have you been asked this in class? And how often do you say yes? Young learners love to play games and if you choose the right ones, they can have a hugely beneficial impact on their learning.

As well as being fun, games can provide learners with necessary language practice, as well as lowering the affective filter (i.e. the anxiety, fear, boredom and other negative emotions that can all impact on learning). Games also foster a positive, relaxed environment.

If you still have doubts about why you should incorporate games into your lessons, read this post about the importance play can have in the young learner classroom.

So are you ready to play? Here are a few tried and tested games that work especially well in the primary classroom. Each game is designed to consolidate and review language students have been learning, and takes from 5 to 15 minutes. The games are flexible enough for you to adapt them to different levels, age groups, and skills.

1. Keep it!

Card games are easy to prepare and can be used to practice anything – vocabulary, grammar, speaking skills, and so on. Single words, phrases, pictures, or questions on cards can prompt students to use new language without realizing it as they are focused on the game itself.

For this card game, you will need a set of cards with questions. If you are teaching Pearson Test of English Young Learners (PTE YL) see the guides for examples of questions for each level.

Download the teaching notes and sample cards here.

2. Hot Potato

In this game, students pass around a “hot potato” and answer questions. All you need is a ball (a ball of paper will suffice) and a set of questions or definitions.

Download the teaching notes and sample cards here.

3. Roll and Play

Combine all your traditional classroom games into one with this team game to review vocabulary. Students roll the dice to find out what they need to do to help their team members guess the word.

Download the teaching notes and sample cards here.

4. Basketball Quiz

A quiz-style game played as a whole class in two teams, this game requires students to work together to answer questions and score points. You only need a whiteboard to play.

Download the teaching notes and sample cards here.

5. Board Race

This popular team game can be used to practice spelling, vocabulary, and grammar, depending on the level of your students. All you need is a whiteboard, pens, and a timer.

Download the teaching notes and sample cards here.

What games do you play with your young learners? Let us know in the comments below.

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