These five ESL speaking games are simple and fun. They provide speaking practice and can be used as fillers, vocabulary revision tasks or a set of games to be played in the last lesson in the semester. You can create them yourself or use our ready-made lower-level (A2-B1) and higher-level (B2-C1) guessing games lesson plans.
Guess the word
Of the ESL speaking games described here, this one is probably the one you should start with. It is a simpler version of the game Taboo. It can be played in pairs or teams. A student gets a word and needs to give others clues so that they guess it. They cannot, however, use the word in question or any of its parts. They cannot use any words that rhyme with the target word either. Students have one minute to describe as many words as possible for their partner, team or the whole group to guess correctly. Students might want to see how NOT to play the game in this video (up to 00:28). If your students like to compete, you can award them points for every correctly guessed word.
This game is fun, loud and super engaging. Your students might get very creative as their answers will be considered correct as long as other students agree they are. A student gets a category and has five seconds to come up with three things that fall into it. For example, they might need to name three things people have for breakfast. Some will give simple answers, like cereal, coffee and toast, in which case they get a point (although scores are not that important in the game – students are likely to just want to play it for fun). The challenge, however, is that five seconds is not a lot of time. So a student might fail to come up with obvious things and say whatever comes to mind, like carrot, snack and water, just to say something within the five seconds. Now is the time when other students either accept the answers or not. If they don’t, or if the student fails to provide three answers, the person sitting on their right (or the one whose turn comes after) tries to come up with three new things that fall into the category. If they manage to do that, they get a point. Otherwise the following student gets a different category.
It’s quite important to use a sound to mark the end of the five seconds. You can use a simple timer. Make sure that you start the timer after you have finished reading the category.
This is one of the ESL speaking games that gives students an opportunity to not only speak but also practise question formation. In the game, a student gets a word and others can ask any 20 yes or no questions to guess what the word is. The questions can be as simple as Is it a type of food? to more elaborate ones like Is it something people usually keep in the fridge? or Is it bigger than a fork? For lower-level students, the words could be limited to objects but higher-level students could also use places, ideas or people. This game doesn’t require much preparation and, after seeing some examples, your students can be the ones who come up with the words to guess.
This fun guessing game is also great grammar practice. A student gets a verb that others need to guess by asking questions and using the word coffeepot as a substitute for the verb. So they might ask: Do people coffeepot every day?, Have we coffeepotted in this lesson?, Are you coffeepotting now?, Is coffeepotting something people do on purpose? or Is coffeepotting dangerous? The answers don’t need to be limited to just yes or no, so the answering student can explain that it could be dangerous but people do it regularly and no one gets hurt. Students can also ask open-ended questions like In what situations do people coffeepot? or Why do people coffeepot every day? The answering student may decide to provide more or less help to other students by giving them responses with varying levels of detail. The verbs that work best in this game are those that refer to what people (or animals) do and that are intransitive (e.g. it is fairly easy to guess the verb swim but not necessarily the verb use).
This is one of the funniest ESL speaking games. Students guess a word based on one-word clues. The game is ideally played in groups of four, with two pairs in each group. One person in each pair gets the same word and they need to help their partners guess the word by giving them one-word clues. The game might go like this: students A and B get a word (e.g. roses). Student A gives the first clue to their partner (e.g. red) while the other pair listens. Student A’s partner tries to guess the word but fails (e.g. they say light). Now student B gives a one-word clue to their partner (e.g. dozen) while the other pair listens. Their partner says eggs, which means that it is student A’s turn again. The clues follow until one of the partners guesses the word. You can see (and show your students) how the game is played in this video (00:56-02:18).
Alternatively, the game can be played in pairs, in which case students could be limited to using only two or three words to help their partners guess the ‘password’. It could also be played in threes: two students might give clues to one person.
Are you excited to try these games with your students? You can use our ready-made lower-level (A2-B1) and higher-level (B2-C1) guessing game lesson plans or create your own ESL speaking games. Let us know how it went in the comments below!