ESL vocabulary games are useful for reinforcing student’s absorption and activation of new words and phrases. From the names of foodstuffs and colours, technical terms, set phrases for use when emailing, ways of interrupting a conversation to make a point, through to idioms which only a native (and regional) speaker could ever guess the meaning of. The field of vocabulary learning is vast and these games encompass a wide variety of different categories of vocabulary.
Vocabulary Games & Activities by type
Spelling games and activities to help familiarise students with the English alphabet.
Here are some activities to practise using numbers, times and dates. Including the popular Number Bingo activity.
Comparative adjectives and superlatives
Using Venn diagrams, students categorize two sets of adjectives before rolling dice to elicit comparisons and superlative forms.
One of my favourite vocabulary games. Easy to set up and always popular. Teams race against each other to find a word that fits with each vocabulary category.
Guess the sounds
Can your students identify and name different sounds?
One of the most popular ESL vocabulary games. Great for giving students a nice send-off at the end of the course or before the holiday break. Here’s my own take on the game as well as some questions to get you started.
Test students’ memories, add useful vocabulary and practise there is and there are, all by collecting some random household items before you go out.
Pass the bomb
The greatest single investment I have ever made as an ESL teacher. The bomb never fails to inject life and excitement into the most tired and sluggish classrooms.
Phrasal Verb Match-Up
An ESL game to practice recognising phrasal verbs.
A less boisterous version of Taboo, students describe objects for their classmates to guess.
Scatter Sheets: a fun way to improve vocabulary and fluency
A simple but effective activity to increase students’ vocabulary and speaking confidence. Also available as a handy, easy to photocopy book.
Fed up of being stuck in the classroom on a sunny afternoon? Send your students out on a scavenger hunt.
This very popular and reliable ESL game gets students competing to define words for their teammates. A great way to review vocabulary.
The recipe game
Students get to show off their culinary creativity with this fun recipe creating game.
What’s in your fridge?
A game to practice using countable and uncountable nouns and quantifiers– there is, there are, some, any, much, many etc.
Who lives in a house like this?
Students look at photographs of their classmates’ homes and decide which photo belongs to whom.
Puzzles and worksheets
Collaborative or half crosswords are a vocabulary learning exercise designed to introduce sets of related vocabulary and have learners describe these new words to each other, write them down and in doing so help fix them in memory. Perfect as a lead-in to your next activity.
Printable idiom worksheets to learn and practise popular English expressions.
Activities related to the November 5 occasion.
If you like these ESL vocabulary games, make sure to check out our page of ESL grammar games too.