Fun ESL Speaking Game for Children in groups up to large classes

Dear Teacher,

Thank you for subscribing fun ESL games for children, and ideas for teaching English. 

On this page is the game Relay Race.

Here is an easy, fun speaking game, which you can use with all class sizes, from just a handful of children right up to a large class.  This game also works well with adults.


      1. How to Play

      2. Language ideas to use with this game

      3. Reading and spelling variant
      4. Tell a Friend!

Relay Race

Category: Speaking

Group size: From 2 players to large classes

Level: Beginners to intermediate

Materials: None

Age: 4 to 12

Pace: Wake up

This game is to be played once your students are familiar with the vocabulary and sentences that you wish to work on.  This is a speaking practice game, or a revision game.

It is ideal for drilling in new vocabulary or grammar, in a fun way of course!


Divide your class into teams.  If you have space then line the teams up in your space.  If you have rows of desks then make each row a team and have the children stand up in between their desks.  If you have children on benches with no room to move, then make each horizontal row a team.

Give the first child in each row a flashcard with a picture on it.  When you say "go", the first child turns to the next one, names the item on the card and passes it along the line.  Each child must take the item and pass it to the next child in the row while naming the item.  

The winning team is the one which gets the picture card down the end of the line first.  You can of course play so that the card has to come back to the front again.

It is a good idea to use referees.  A referee is someone nominated from another team who listens in as the card is passed down the line and makes sure that the word is said properly, and that accuracy is not sacrificed for speed.

If you would like this game to be quiet then play as above but make a rule that only whispering is allowed.

If necessary you can make a rule that anyone not playing properly or messing around, or being loud, will mean that the card in that team has to start back at the beginning again, or is confiscated meaning that the team cannot win a point in that round.

The use of picture cards is good because it adds a fun element to the game.  The children can see the progress of the card travelling down their own line, and the lines of other teams, so it adds some excitement.

In addition it allows you to see who should and who shouldn't be talking.  

You can have a useful rule where only the players holding the card can talk - it is a "pass" to be able to speak.  In that sense you don't even have to pass down a relevant picture, but can use anything - such as a book.

2. Language ideas to use with this game

So now I'd like to explore how else we can exploit this basic idea, and what other language we can use in this game.

You can use it as shown above to drill in and reinforce vocabulary.

However it is also very useful for practising a specific target structure, such as a tense, or question form.

In fact you can have any language passed down the line, which makes this an extremely useful game to have up your sleeve.

If you wanted to make the game a little more challenging then use the game to practise questions and answers.  The first player asks the required question, hands the card over, and the second player answers the question, and then hands the card to the third player, who asks the fourth player the question.

3. Reading and spelling

If you use word flashcards instead of pictures the children will see the spelling of the words frequently.  However it is better to use pictures for memorising.

A spelling variant on this game is to give the first child a sheet of paper with several words on it.  This child is not allowed to show the paper to the second player but must spell out the first word.  The second player has to work out what the word is and say it out loud.

If the second player is correct the first player hands the paper over and the second child spells the second word to the third player, who names it, takes the paper and so on.

This is quite challenging so you could play with intermediate players and even teenagers and adults will find this fun.

4. Tell a friend

This is such an easy and effective game, please feel free to let your teaching buddies and friends know by sharing:



I felt for the first time since starting last September that I did not have to spend most of Monday preparing my lesson. So thanks a million for that.    Isobel Wilkinson, France

All the best,
Shelley Vernon
Teaching English Games

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