ESL Board Games

ESL Board Games, a waste of time, or a welcome break for you and your students?


When teaching English in Japan, a great option is to liven up your English classes with a game. Even adults like the break that a board game using English creates. The key phrase here is "using English."

You would be surprised at the number of teachers who would use a game that uses absolutely no English.

If you are going to use a game that doesn`t naturally need spoken or written English, you MUST incorporate that into the game.

For example if you are going to play a simple game like Jenga. Where students place blocks and try not to let them fall, have them ask a question every turn, to another student. One teacher had the students write questions on wooden jenga blocks and then the students would ask one of the questions on the block to another student.

Have your students using as much English as possible in any activity!

ESL Board Games, (Pictured Around the World another good game for the ESL or EFL classroom)

Guess the Word

ESL Board Games - Teaching English in Japan

Often the games we enjoy, our students enjoy just as much and they can be used for learning English.

Guess the Word is one of those esl board games. For those of you who don`t know Guess the Word, it is a game played in teams, and team members try to give hints so that their teammates can guess the word they are trying to describe (without actually saying the word).

This is a great activity for children to adults provided you change the level for each group. It is great for reinforcing pre-taught vocabulary.

You can make your own cards or use cards from Finding Out or English Land or some other source. Just be sure to instruct the students to not show their partner their cards.

Instructions For Guess the Word

Put the students into teams of pairs or even 3-6 students and number each student.

Time them for 1-3 minutes to see how many words their partner can guess. I usually do this for at least four rounds or more to give both partners at least a couple of tries at describing words.

"It is a thing used for cleaning."

"It is a cute animal with long ears and jumps."

Everyone enjoys this game.

Pictured: The Diplomacy board game by Avalon Hill (Hasbro)

ESL Board Games - Diplomacy

While not a dedicated ESL game, Diplomacy can certainly be used in the classroom!

Students must discuss what they want as they represent a pre-World War 1 nation. This game suits intermediate to advanced students, junior high, high school to adults.

There are seven European nations represented. You could put students into teams of 2-6 if the class is large, plus creating groups would help lower level students.

You may need to pre-teach:

I want _________________________.

I would like _______________________.

Do you agree? Yes/No



Picture Guess

Is basically like the very famous boardgame where there are two or more teams, called Pictionary.

One team member is shown a card and has to draw a picture representing what is on the card.

Her teammates try to guess the word.

You can use cards from a Pictionary game, I use Pictionary Junior for junior high students in Japan, or you can use other vocabulary cards. I often use cards by David Lisgo, Finding Out or English Land to name a few.

You can of course make your own cards.

I often play it simultaneously (so there is no waiting) and all teams see the same card and have to draw it. The first team to guess it wins.


Check out more ESL games for your students

Other ESL Board Games for your students to enjoy

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