Free ESL game for young learners

Listen !


Fun game taken from my young English learners games book available HERE.


Class size: Small group and classroom variations
Level: Ideal for beginners to lower intermediate
Age: Preschool children up to about age 12 
Materials: None required, but props enhance the fun

1. How to Play

This game is excellent for practising new vocabulary, or for

A. Small Group Variation:

Stand in a space with the children all around you and close to
you. The children should either be touching you with an
outstretched hand, or you can tie scarves around you and each
child holds onto the end of a scarf. The younger children love
this kind of prop, but it is optional. You may have two or
perhaps three children holding onto the same scarf. 

Do be careful that the children are not too close to each other
so that they do not bump one another during the game. 

Another optional prop is to stand on a square of coloured
paper. The children must all have one foot on that square.

The children must stay touching you, holding the scarf or with
one foot in the coloured square until you say a specific word.
When you say that word you can try and catch one of the
children and they have to escape before you do. It is
generally best never to catch the three year olds, and maybe
the four year olds as it can make them sad and feel as though
they failed, so be sensitive to this, and make a convincing
attempt to catch them, but just miss!

So for example start by telling the children the magic word, it
could be "mother". You now start to say words such as father,
brother, sister, grandmother etc. When you say, mother, the
children must run off and you try and touch one of them. You
do not have to chase after the children, you just try and touch
one of them before he or she has let go of you, or the scarf,
without you actually moving from the spot. If you like you can
make a rule where you are allowed to take one step only.

You can add great variety to this game by changing the way you
say the words. Sometimes you can use a flat monotone for
several words and then suddenly say a word with great
enthusiasm. This alone can make some children let go of you
even though you did not say the magic word.

You can also add variety by changing the set up. For example
you may have the children seated around you on the floor. When
they hear the magic word they must get up and move away to
safety. You can also use ideas such as having the children
balance on one leg while they listen out for the magic word and
then clap and run away when they hear it. If a child cannot
balance, or forgets to clap before running away he or she is

Instead of having children who are out sit around getting bored
and restless, let them just sit down for one turn and then join
back in again, or have them do a forfeit. There are plenty of
fun forfeit ideas in my e-book of games.

If you have a strong group member you can let them take your
role in the game.

B. Larger Group Variation:

To use this idea in a classroom situation where you have desks
and chairs plus too many students to play the small group
version you can adapt the game as follows:

Use the magic word idea as described above but this time the
children must clap when they hear the magic word and the last
one to clap is out. Or the class sit down on hearing the magic
word, and last one seated is out. Use any action you fancy
that suits your classroom situation.


Get the compelte book of games here:


2. Language ideas to use with this game

This game lends itself to any vocabulary. You may also use
short sentences by way of revision, or in preparation for
introducing those phrases properly later in the lesson, or in
the next lesson. For example you could have the word train as
the magic word and say, I like buses, I like cars, I like
planes, I like trains! Replace the phrase I like with more or
less anything that you would like to practise. For example if
you want to teach the past continuous then the magic word can
be reading and you say sentences such as I was driving, I was
walking, I was reading!

If your children are too naughty then use a quiet version of
the classroom game and have a rule where any noise and the
child is out, or loses a point for his or her team.

I hope you enjoy using this game with your pupils soon.

Kind regards

Shelley Vernon

P.S. An opinion from a teacher using my resources:

Thanks Shelley. Your resources are already saving me heaps of
time and lessening the anxiety from having such a hectic and
mixed teaching schedule. I'm teaching 4 kindy, 15 elementary
and 50 middle school students.
Anthony Bennett, S. Korea 

P.P.S. Order the full resource and never be short of ideas for
class again. for info 

PPPS: Teachers on very low wages may contact me to discuss the possibility of a lower price in relation to wages earned in your country.