Teaching English online can be draining for students and teachers. Online ESL games are a great way to give students a mental break. This can engage students and create a fun environment.
It is not always easy to think of different games and fillers to play when the time comes. This is why it is best to have a repertoire of game resources that you can adapt to the online classroom.
We have compiled a list of our top 10 online ESL games. These games can also be applied in a brick and mortar classroom.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclaimer here.
Possibly my all-time favorite game to play with the students is tic-tac-toe. This is also called naughts and crosses or Xs and Os. My young students absolutely love this game. Lose the game and watch that smile on their face!
Draw out the 3×3 grid. Let the student mark with an ‘X’, for example, and the teacher marks with an ‘O’. The first person who places three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row is the winner.
You can take this game a step further, by practicing a grammar rule or topic.
For example, if the topic is food, you could write a different letter in each grid space. The students must think of food with that letter. If they succeed in naming a food with the letter, they can secure their place on the grid.
If you studied grammar rules, you could write the verbs in the grid and the students put them in their past form. They could also make sentences.
Do you remember playing Hangman growing up? In case you can’t remember, the teacher thinks of a secret word. Next, the teacher writes the number of spaces on the board and students guess the letters of the word.
Each time the student gets a letter wrong, the teacher adds part of a stick man’s body to the board, like so:
The idea is to guess the word before the man is hanged.
A more politically correct version of this is ‘Shark Attack.’
You can draw a stick man with a parachute and a shark in the water below him. The stick man is holding onto 8 strings.
Each time the student gets a letter wrong, he loses a string from the parachute. If he loses all 8 strings, the shark will eat him!
There are other ways to draw this game, like the shark is coming to get the stick man.
Two Truths One Lie
This classic game will get your student thinking. Write three statements and the student must guess which one is a lie. Then the student can write three statements about themselves.
You can make this relevant to a specific grammar rule or topic.
I am scared of spiders.
I have been to China.
I drink 4 cups of coffee every day.
Flash the Flashcard
If you have flashcards with pictures, you can show them the flashcard very quickly. Repeat a few times until the student guesses what’s on the flashcard. This works very well in the online classroom.
Or you can cover part of the flashcard and the student guesses what is on the flashcard. Make sure they know the vocabulary word first!
Retell the Story
Revise vocabulary by encouraging the students to tell a story.
For example, let’s say the topic that they learned today was about a policeman. Include three other words such as mountain, ambulance and dog. Give them a minute or two to come up with an interesting story that includes these words.
Bring some realia to class. Realia are objects used in everyday life. You can show them many things, such as the packaging of a chocolate bar, your coffee cup or souvenirs from different countries.
You could show them something interesting and talk about it, making it relevant to the class in some way.
Give instructions what you want the students to draw. Make it relevant to the class. This is good for topics such as prepositions and new vocabulary. You can ask them to draw their favorite clothes or favorite season, for example.
This is for your students who love to draw. If you have regular students, you will know which ones enjoy drawing. You can then make sure to incorporate drawing time into your classes.
Some students love to sing and it’s worth taking advantage of this. Many young kids have already started learning songs in school, such as “London Bridge” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
Bring your microphone and sing these songs in class. I like to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with some students when I give them a star as a reward.
Draw something on your whiteboard. The students guess what the word is. You can also do this for sentences.
For example, you could draw an eye, a heart and a pizza (I love pizza). The students guess what the sentence is.
This will require some prep. You can tell the students your own riddle, or you can find something on Google. There are a ton of riddles out there!
I am cute.
I have two ears.
I can hop, hop, hop.
What am I?
Online ESL Games Websites
You can also find great games on third party websites, for instance:
Share your screen online and let the games begin! If you are in the physical classroom, you can project the games on screen and divide the class into teams. It can be a great way to review and consolidate vocabulary while keeping a fun classroom atmosphere.
And that’s it! If you have any games to add to the list, let me know so that we can build a repertoire of games to play in the online class.