TEFL Games to Get Your Students Talking

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Written by: Sarah Jane Robinson

Fun Activities to Use as Ice-breakers

No matter how well you think you have prepared, there comes a time in every teacher’s class when you run out of ideas. Maybe an activity goes down like a lead balloon or lasts for a much shorter duration than expected. At times like this it always helps to have a few extra activities up your sleeve. If the previous activity was seen as boring then make sure to use an energetic and fun activity to liven things up. These games can also be used as a warm up while you wait for students to arrive.

Some of my favourite games include:


This simple game seems to have its origins in South America, but is popular with students from all over the world.

TEFL word games

Divide learners into pairs.

Write five or six categories on the board, you can vary these to include newly introduced vocabulary or even grammar words. For an intermediate class, I might include animal, colour, food, part of the body and adjective. You could include country, fruit / vegetable or past participles, it’s up to you. Then choose a random letter, for example E. Students quickly and quietly work with their partner to write a word beginning with that letter for each category. When they have completed each category they shout ‘Stop!’ This means that everyone must now stop writing. Check answers on the board. A team with a correct answer wins 1 point and a team with a unique answer wins 2.

Play as many rounds as the students like or until you run out of time. This game can be played by individuals, but I find it encourages communication to play in pairs. The winning team is the one with most points at the end.

Back to the board

This is a fast-paced and energetic game which has learners furiously describing words. Divide the class into teams of 3-7. The team nominates one student to have their back to the board, this student must not look at the board. Write a sentence on the board, it can be funny, topical or feature a language point you have already introduced or will soon.

For example you could write a lazy old dog slept all day

The teams then have to describe the sentence to the person with their back to the board. They can say first word, article, indefinite, or singular you say it when there’s one. They can say second word “it’s the opposite of hardworking, or it’s someone who doesn’t want to do anything, or an adjective for someone who never does any work/exercise”.

The team who has the person with their back to the board call out first with a correct sentence wins. If you have a lower level class you could brainstorm the phrases that they need to play the game and write them on the board.

Noughts and crosses

Divide the class into two teams. Write a noughts and crosses table on the board and complete it with nine words. Then decide which group goes first by flipping a coin. All teams will usually go for the middle square first so make this a more difficult word. Teams take it in turns to choose a square and describe the words. If they succeed they win the square, the winning team is the one to win three squares in a row.

TEFL games

Alphabet games

Go around the class and each student says a word. You can play it two ways. Either have the words go around alphabetically student one A, student two B, and three C or have the next person say the word depending on the final letter of the previous word. So student one says elephant, two tiger, 3 run. You can play this game with a theme, or just see what students can come up with. It’s more challenging than it appears and students can get really into it.

I went to the supermarket and I bought…

This is another memory / alphabet game. This time students always start with “I went to the shop and I bought…. an apple”. Then student two would choose something different and add it to what student one has said, so “I went to the shop and I bought an apple… and a bird”. Then student 3 would say, “I went to the shop and I bought an apple, a bird… and a camera. And so on. If anyone makes a mistake they are out. Some students can find it a bit frustrating so make sure it doesn’t go on for too long.

Pictionary / Charades

You can play this either with the board game if you have it, or informally with the board. Either write words for the students to draw, or get them to write for the other team. One person then draws the word while their team members guess. If you prefer you could get them to do actions to play charades.

Board games are a great way to get your learners talking and communicating. You can either make your own by creating a board and writing questions or tasks in the squares or use established games. Players can work in teams, pairs or alone. Some great games include Scrabble, Cluedo and even Monopoly. Anything where they must find a common goal or communicate together to solve a challenge is great.

Drinking games can also be adapted for use in the classroom and when a student makes a mistake they are ‘out’, rather than having to drink!

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