3 ESL Classroom Ideas: Word Games and More

Use ESL classroom ideas to fill a 20-minute gap with engaging work that helps students learn and review English vocabulary.

ESL Classroom Ideas: Word Games

These word games help students learn and review vocabulary based on a fun puzzle format. As a puzzle, there is an objective and challenge. Teachers can be most productive by resisting the urge to give the answers away too quickly. Most of my students seem to enjoy the challenge of muddling through the brain game, with the occasional hint from the teacher.

ESL Classroom Ideas for students
Fun ESL classroom activities bring smiles

Sound and Sort

This is a classic word game. I always run it during the first week of the semester when the students have new class jitters or just before an exam.

Get the detailed instructions and word list here.

Activity Flow

Explain the name of the challenge, Sound and Sort. Sound refers to pronunciation and sort means organize or make smaller groups. Ask students to divide the words on the worksheet into three groups. Each group has a different characteristic.

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. explain difference between regular and irregular verbs
  4. teach final ED sounds

Word Game: Which One is Different?

Here is another classic word game. Sometimes called Odd One Out, this pair work activity requires students to read, speak, listen and think critically. 

Get the word lists and full instructions here.

Game Flow 

Copy a worksheet for each student. This activity works best when the pair work partner can’t see the word list. 

Student A reads 4 words. Student B has to choose one word and provide a logical reason why it is different. Stress to students that any answer is okay if it is logical. In addition, many different answers are possible.

The worksheets have a few word list options that work with different levels of students.

Old school classroom strategies

Low prop classroom idea: Homophone Puzzle

This word game works well with high beginner to intermediate students. Get the instructions and worksheets here.

Puzzle Flow

The game is easy to play. Students read a word, listen to the sound and write another word that sounds the same, but has a different spelling.

Here is an example:

ate – eight


More ESL Classroom Ideas

All 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 these activities, why not buy the ebook?

esl conversation

Even More Classroom Tips

This ESL classroom tip illustrates a sticky ball game, an old but cool classroom game. It’s better suited for elementary and middle school students. I tried it in a university class once – the male students treated it as a challenge the break my sticky ball.

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