ESL Word Activities

Here are some activities that focus on learning and recycling high frequency words.

Word Activities

Sometimes teachers need to fill a small gap in the ESL writing or conversation class. Here are 10 fun activities that keep students focused on words by recycling high frequency words.

1  Anagrams

It is a word (or phrase) that can be made by moving around the letters in a different word (or phrase). Click here for the ESL worksheet.


2  Sports and Hobbies Theme

Here is a sports and hobbies worksheet with word games and puzzles.  A popular worksheet with my students, this 10-minute filler promotes sound awareness, reading comprehension and problem solving. 


3  Food and Cooking

This worksheet has games and puzzlers related to food and cooking.


4  Food Video

This visually pleasing short video is a great prompt for activating language production about food. Watch the video a couple of times and then ask the students (in pairs) to remember the words and make a list. Add counting words (a jar of milk) to add a layer of complexity.

BSS | Breakfast Interrupted from Bruton Stroube Studios on Vimeo.


5  Adjective Maze 

The maze on this worksheet is filled with adjectives. Student move through the maze by matching two opposites. The aim is to find the pairs of opposites that make a line from START to  FINISH.


6  New Verbs (20)

Verbs are the best way to improve English skills, they it is hard to learn new ones. This exercise builds language skills by adding new meanings to familiar words.

Look at words below. They are all nouns. They are also verbs. Can you guess the meaning of these verbs?

  • 1  eye, foot, elbow, back, head
  • 2  duck, bug, horse, hog, chicken out
  • 3  book, box, pocket, sandwich, paper

Now use each word as a verb. Work with a partner.


7  Everyday Things

For high beginner and intermediate students, naming things that we see in everyday life can be a challenge. This worksheet can help fix that problem. Get the vocabulary worksheet here.


8  Easy Conversation Questions (15)

The focus of this pair work speaking activity is easy questions (meaningful input) that quickly lead to language production (meaningful output).

Get the conversation questions here. Some of these questions challenge word understanding (e.g. disgusting) and also language understanding (e.g. synonyms).


9  Groups of Words

This simple word activity gets students thinking on multiple levels. There are many ways to run this activity. Here is one suggestion for intermediate students.

Print the vocabulary worksheet and cut it in half down the centre. Each student gets half a page with different words.

  • Student A reads a group of 3 words (one box).
  • Student B listens and has to say two answers: 1) the name of the group and 2) one more example.
  • Student A write the answers on his/her paper.
  • Change role, now Student B reads and Student A listens and answers.


10  Say As Many as You Can (15)

Great for intermediate+ level students. Make a team. Read a question from this ESL speaking activity worksheet. Check how many answers you can make in 60 seconds. Keep score.


11  Sound and Sort

This 10-minute sorting puzzle requires students to discover how 30 words can be divided into three groups based on sounds. Then they must put the words into the correct groups.

Set Up

Copy or display the vocabulary worksheet. If you have extra time, consider dictating the words and ask students to write them down in their notebooks.


Explain the name of the challenge, Sound and Sort. Sound refers to pronunciation; sort means organize or make smaller groups.

Break students into pairs. Ask students to read the words on the worksheet and divide them into three groups. Each group has a different characteristic. Do not give away too much information at the beginning.

If students struggle, give them a series of progressively clearer hints, such as:

  1. read the words aloud
  2. ask what kinds of words are in the table (verbs)
  3. ask what kind of verbs
  4. explain difference between regular and irregular verbs
  5. listen for final sounds
  6. teach final ED sounds


The answers are below, or display them with this answer sheet from the ebook The Monster Pack.

  • /d/ sound: answer, earn, enjoy, join, listen, love, plan, rain, serve, stay
  • /id/ sound: chat, connect, download, invite, need, rent, start, update, want
  • /t/ sound: ask, check, finish, help, like, look, practice, talk, walk, watch, work


Like What You See?

Many of these activities come from my ebook, The Monster Pack: 240 pages of word games, logic puzzles and trivia. Help your students learn English with language-focused activities and cut your prep time.

If you like more of the same, why not buy the ebook?

esl conversation


4 thoughts on “ESL Word Activities”

  1. I have purchased the Monster Pack a year ago, and I have it in my Google Drive. However, I cannot locate the pages for some of the activities here, so I am unable to find the answers and detailed instructions. For example, where can I find the answer to the 4-student question cards (e.g., What stays hot all winter…)?

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