Tips using ESL Games for Children: Teaching English through games

Primary school ESL games bookBook ReviewsFAQs

Making life easier and teaching fun through games for ESL, EFL, ESOL & TESOL teachers.


Teaching children 6 to 12 years of age places diverse demands on teachers because:


their social skills develop rapidly, they cooperate and share
they like competitions and games
they seek out friendships
open up to friends about their emotions
pay more attention to teamwork



ESL classroom games

Teaching English through ESL language games are the perfect solution to exploit all these evolving behaviours in a fun and exciting way, making your lessons stimulating while your students are effortlessly learning English as a second language.


What results you can expect

As a multitude of researchers have shown using games in the ESL classroom has many benefits, to teachers and students alike.




Playing an ESL game has a purpose to it, an outcome, and in order to play students have to say things – they have a reason to communicate rather than just repeating things back mindlessly. Therefore, they want to get involved because of all the activity with their classmates. Students use the language all the time during the games and the communication games are designed to allow everyone plenty of opportunity to practise speaking, without neglecting spelling, reading and writing.


Shelley's personal view

As a language teacher I believe the greatest gift you can give is the skill and confidence to SPEAK the language and actually use it. What use is a language qualification to someone if he or she cannot actually speak it?




My ESL games are designed to stretch and test the children constantly, helping them to reach new levels of performance in an encouraging and stimulating environment helping inspire the brighter kids while nurturing the slower ones.


ESL games exhilarate and motivate children to new levels. If they do not pay attention during the presentation of new language, and make a mental effort to memorise it, they will not be able to play the games well, and they will let their team and themselves down, so they make more effort to join in and learn as much as possible.


The philosophy of encouragement incorporated into my ESL games allows all students, including the less good ones, to gain in confidence. Usually this doesn't just mean they get better at your subject, but in all subjects.




Many of my ESL games lend themselves perfectly to quick bursts of revision. Using some of these activities you revise a massive amount of vocabulary and grammar in a few minutes. If you use games to revise two or three topics every lesson, as well as teach the new language, imagine how well your kids will do at exam time, and how proud you will feel.


Repetition is the mother of skill. Teaching English involves a lot of repetition, which can be boring, but you can't avoid it.  How do you expect your class or children to remember vocabulary if they never use it?  However if you teach English through games, repetition will be fun, and your pupils will have new vocabulary indelibly printed on their brains!




The physical movement involved in some ESL games helps keep everyone stimulated and focused. Children naturally have a lot of energy and are not good at sitting for long periods so if you throw in a game with movement from time to time you will prevent them from getting restless and bored.

Because children freely choose to get involved in the games and enjoy playing especially with other children, it creates an interactive energy that grows with interest and improves concentration.




“See it, Hear it, Do it” the three learning styles addressed in one fun activity. Games get great results in the classroom for children aged 4 to 12 and that from my experience will bring more success and joy into the lives of the children you teach. Most importantly, they will associate fun with learning by teaching vocabulary and grammar through my ESL language games.


Teachers, you will improve the effectiveness of your teaching by creating a positive learning environment and give your students a real chance at speaking the language while engaging them in the class at the same time. Games are great levellers enabling you to successfully handle mixed ability situations in class.


This makes everybody, including you, more motivated and optimistic, and you can really make a difference by helping your pupils have more self-esteem so they succeed in all areas of life.




Ultimately it is up to each individual how well they apply themselves, but you can make a difference, and certainly make it easier for them and give them every chance to succeed.


Considering what these games can do for you and your pupils, and for your own sense of achievement, they are very valuable – the fond memories, fun, sense of satisfaction, and affection for your students, which you will experience from using them are priceless, for these are the feelings which make life worth living.


Teaching is a wonderful profession, and one thing we all know for sure is that we never forget our teachers, and we vividly remember the few incredible teachers we had who challenged us and made us think, rather than spoon fed us so we could be successfully processed through exams like a sausage.


Your pupils are going to remember you for the rest of their lives, and with that in mind, don’t you want them to remember you as one of the best?



How to get the best out the games book 176 English Language Games for Children by Shelley Ann Vernon




A quick start guide is provided explaining which games to use first and how to progress through the games to teach specific vocabulary or language. The best games to use in each of the 6 steps are listed. The six steps outlined are as follows:


1 Introducing new vocabulary and language

2 Continuing exposure to new language

3 Communicating with the new language

4 Consolidating with more demanding speaking games

5 Reading

6 Writing


The idea here is to help you get off to a quick start while you are familiarising yourself with all the possibilities. Just see which games are recommended at the different stages of learning and go to that game in the manual to apply it immediately to your next class.




What you will find is


an explanation of the categories

the best group sizes

how to adapt the games to different ages and levels

the materials you’ll need

the pace of the games

the pros and cons of competition in the class

how to get the most out of mixed abilities and logistics.


This is all straightforward and will allow you to ensure maximum results in terms of learning and enjoyment. It will save you from making obvious mistakes when using games and put you on the path to successful lessons




To make sure that you get the most out of the games, and that you start using them right away I have created a whole section to the manual to give you as an essential bonus of 16 elementary lesson plans using games. This way you can see how to make up complete lessons with ESL games if you so wish to.  You'll also have a model to follow using the steps progressing from not knowing the target vocabulary and grammar to writing and saying it confidently from memory.




Children in this age group have limited attention spans, so be adaptable to the mood of the class, and switch games if necessary. In the book each game has either a Calm down, Wake up or Excitable category to help you do this. In this way you control the mood to get maximum learning throughout the session.


You do not need many materials to play these games (in some cases you need only your regular black board or classroom props) so switching games becomes straightforward. Be prepared beforehand with one or two different paced games in reserve so you can readily change seamlessly.


Shelley's Personal Message


Who learns their native language by first sitting with a textbook reading out paragraphs? Children already know their native language before learning to read and write it.


A lot of people who attend language classes and even pass written language exams can hardly string a sentence together.


I remember my many language classes (I speak English, French, Spanish and some German), and most of the time we would sit in class reading text books and writing assignments. Hardly ANY time was devoted to speaking the language, and it is the same in many schools today.


Even though most of my school and university friends passed their exams, they could hardly speak the language. I could, but that was not down to my teachers, but to my parents, who sent me on foreign exchanges as a child. The way things have been set up these last few decades frankly does not reflect our pupils' needs.


I got into teaching after my language degree in French and Spanish, when I took a TEFL qualification (teaching English as a foreign language) and taught in language schools and privately for several years. I then started teaching children and I had over one hundred private pupils between the ages of 3 and 14 taking music or French lessons from me in their free time.


As part of the fun I would put a show on every term for the parents. The kids loved it and the parents could also see the results their children were getting.


For parents to pay out and for children to exchange their play time for lessons voluntarily, you have got to be:

a) making your classes fun so that the children, want to come and

b) deliver results so that the parents keep paying! And that is the real test, which all these games have passed with flying colours.


As well as saving on preparation time you'll earn love and respect from children, parents and institutions alike. I hope you'll decide to take action and add this resource to your own, as another string to your bow, to reach out to and inspire more young people today.


I've shown you that these games are great value, they are proven to work, and that they will motivate your pupils and make your classes fun. They will also help your students learn to speak English twice as fast, and remember what they learn, so you will have great results as their teacher.


Primary school ESL games bookBook ReviewsFAQs


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