Five of my Favourite Classroom Games

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series My favourite teaching games

Five of my Favourite Classroom Games

After two years of teaching young learners and beginners I’ve built up a nice collection of classroom games. This is the start of series of posts on the different games I use in the classroom. Some are classroom classics, some are twists on traditional games and others are my own creation.

1. The Monster Game

Just lots of fun

This is a perennial favourite of my students and you can use it to review vocabulary items. You need one flashcard per student, and an extra flashcard for the monster.

Students stand in a big circle. Give each student a flashcard. They must hold the flashcard in front of them so everyone can see what it is. You will start as the monster. Explain that the monster likes to eat children. Choose a vocabulary item a student is holding and say it out loud. Start walking slowly towards that student. You might get a few screams at this point! To avoid being eaten, the student must say the name of another vocabulary item. When they say this, you start walking towards the new student. If a student can’t answer in time or makes a mistake they are ‘eaten’ and become the monster for the next round. Swap places with the student and take their flashcard.

There are a few extra rules I use. At the start of each round, the teacher decides which word to start with. This stops students ambushing each other. To prevent the monster just going backwards and forwards between two students, players can’t return the monster to the person that just nominated them.

This game doesn’t work with every class, some kids will just go crazy, and some will only want to be the monster, and not attempt to say any words. But when played correctly, it really injects a lot of energy into the classroom. With small groups you can give each student two flashcards, and feel free to mix up the cards mid-game.

2. 1 to 20 and back again

How fast is your class?

This is a simple way to practise numbers. All you need is a stopwatch and a ball. The class stands in a circle. A horseshoe also works as throwing the ball from one end of the circle adds an extra challenge and laughs when the ball gets dropped. The ball is passed from student to student, saying one number each. They have to start with one, two, three etc. When they reach twenty, they start counting backwards. Twenty, nineteen, eighteen… to one.

I play this in the middle of the lesson. Start with a practise run to make sure everyone understands the rules. It usually goes wrong the first time round. Balls get dropped, people forget numbers and start counting forwards by mistake. You can then discretely time the second attempt and reveal the time, and give the class a challenging looking time to beat. You should now get a much faster time after the practise runs and once students know they are being timed. Leave the record time on the board and you can finish the lesson by challenging them to an even faster time.



This also works for letters of the alphabet, days of the week and months of the year. You can also combine all four topics for stronger classes in a backwards only version. Write the start and end of each category on the board and challenge the class to go from 20 to January as fast as possible.

3. Slow-Fast-Shout-Whisper Drilling

Make drilling vocabulary funnier

Drilling vocabulary helps students focus on pronunciation, but it can get boring quickly. You can use different voices to spice things up. You need some flashcards to hold up.

When you hold a flashcard above your head, students should shout the answer. If you hold it lower down, they should whisper the answer. Holding it on your right means to say it slowly, whereas on your left means to say it quickly.

4. The Unique Game

Get your students to stretch their vocabulary

I often do this on miniature white boards, but they aren’t essential. You give students a category such as fruit, places, or school subjects. Students think of three words from the category and write them down. One by one students read out their three words. If some one else has that word they must put their hand up. That word scores zero. If no-one puts their hand up the word is unique and scores one point.

It takes a little effort to explain this game but it is definitely worth it. First explain the idea of uniqueness, then write an example game on the board and get students to calculate the scores.

My favourite thing about this game is that it gives weaker students a chance to win with the simplest answers if everyone else is trying to be too clever. It’s also amusing that copying from someone else is the worst possible strategy.

5. Bingo

An versatile classroom classic

The simplest version of Bingo is a listening activity. Students each get a square grid with a word or number in each square. They listen to you read out words from the grid and cross out the words they hear. If they cross out a whole row or column, they shout out Bingo! The first, and only the first student to do so wins.

I use to produce bingo grids. I always ask the winners to read out their winning words and write WINNER on their bingo grid. The simplest variations I use are letters and numbers, since listening out for these is so important.

One of my classes in Italy absolutely adored Bingo so I’ve had a lot of practise coming up with variations;

  • You can make number bingo more realistic by including the numbers in a short sentence. Students then have to focus on the important information in the sentence.
  • Bingo is fantastic for verbs. You can give students a grid of verbs, taking care to select verbs you can mime. Students then have to cross out the verbs you mime.
  • In a grammar lesson you can focus on irregular verbs, either in the past or past participle form. You read out the present form, and students must cross out the corresponding verb.
  • For vocabulary you can do opposite adjectives. You read out the adjective, and students cross out the opposite of the adjective.
  • For pronunciation you can choose minimal pairs such as cat/cut, ran/rang, had/head etc. You may have to read out the word many times, as this can be difficult.
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