Using games is a different and exciting way to introduce new vocabulary, give your students opportunity to practice it, and get them to show you what they have learned. Here are some fun activities that will make your classroom a lively destination for your learners!
Team students up and one person is the designated scribe. I divide the board to give each groups a designated column. Give the class a topic. Ex: Things that are red. Each team shouts out items that are red to their scribe. No one should erase words that go up. If the same word goes up for more than one group it is disqualified (or you can just count it for each group and it will serve the same purpose). Each team votes on the other team's choices (they only get points that fit the criteria). You can make spelling a component, and in that case, points are only awarded if something is spelled correctly. This encourages teammates to help the scribe.


Start with a word. Throw the ball to a student. That student must then make a natural word association within 3 seconds (the time limit can be more or less depending on the level). If the student runs out of time or does not make a “natural” association, they must sit down. Keep going until only one person is left. They are the winner!
The teacher (or student/ group of students) will read the definition of a word. The students playing the game will then find the words until they get bingo. You can also use flashcards of pictures if you are teaching young learners or low level learners to read.
Have students make their own vocabulary board. It will help them learn the vocabulary, possibly spelling it, and it will save you time!
Use the fun game of Taboo (or your own variation of it) to teach vocabulary to your learners. It will help build your students ability to communicate. Students have to get their team members to guess a word, but are not allowed to say ‘taboo' words. It really gets them thinking.
Go to or make your own.
These can be used to dress up a simple vocabulary match worksheet. Rather than matching words in column A to definitions in column B, students read definitions to fill the words into a crossword puzzle.
Play a song for your learners. This is an activity that builds listening, pronunciation and writing skills. Students listen to a song in order to fill in missing words or phrases. You can add words choices to the task that contain minimal pairs to make this even more challenging. It is always good to choose a song that is repetitive, upbeat and not too fast.
Show pictures and have students either shout out or write down the words.
Say or show a word and have students draw the picture. If they are good, ask if you can keep them for future lessons!
These can be used to play the following games: snap, a guessing game (Is it a ….? Does he…..? etc), concentration, go fish.
Students think of a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word mentioned. E.g. Elephant > tiger > rabbit > ?
Once a student is no longer able to give a new item, the game starts again. It does not have to stick to one theme, but this can be useful is the purpose if for review.
For more ideas for using games in the classroom go to ESLFocus's Using Games to Motivate Your Adult ESL Students and Games For the Adult ESL Classroom.