EFL Games DB


A very simple and effective way to practice vocabulary or expressions is to simply assign each student a word or phrase and have them say it on cue. The teacher acts like a band conductor and just points to students to get them to stand up and say the English word or phrase. The teacher can give students flash cards of the words they have to say, or just have the students remember the word.

This game is particularly effective to review words that students have trouble with. It can be used with any vocabulary set but I usually use this game when students are having problems with just a few specific words. For example, some students may regularly forget a month, day of the week or number. After this game they will never forget again. 🙂

Even though this is a simple drill, it can be a lot of fun because students always have to be on guard to wait for their cue to speak. I usually only place for a couple of minutes and then go on to other activities in the class. However, once students are immersed in a new game, I will point at random students to cue them to say their word again. Students really enjoy being challenged and surprised like this.

Treasure Hunt

This is a game where students have to guess the correct card from all the face down cards. It is great for younger and new students especially because they just have to guess where the guard is. They don’t have to produce the English, so it takes some of the stress away.

This game can be used with any flash card set, but I personally tend to focus on family cards for some reason.

I usually say the word on each card as I put it face down on the table or floor. You can keep them in the same position so that students can try to remember where each card is or you can mix them up after they are all face down.

For the family flash cards, I ask, “Where is father?” I get the students to touch the card they choose and say, “Here.” Then with exaggerated excitement I say, “Is this father?” Then the kids answer “Yes” or “No.” If they are correct, make sure to give a huge round of applause and lots of congratulations. This fun of this game comes from how you flip the card over to reveal the student”s choice. Anything can be made boring or fun, it is up to how you play the game.

Try to break up the game by asking real questions that are of interest to students. “What is you mother”s name?” “Do you have a brother?” “What color is the carrot?” “Do you like carrots?” “How many strawberries?” etc.  Don’t get to caught up in the target drill. Try to engage in real communication with your students every opportunity you have.

Slap (Karuta in Japan)

Students sit on the floor in a circle, facing in, and 3 or 4 flash cards are laid out face up in front of them. They put their hands on their heads and the teacher calls out the name of one card, which the students must slap. That card is then taken out and set aside. The activity continues until all the cards have been called and slapped. It is important that children keep their hands away from the cards before you call an image. That will keep it fair and interesting. I always change the body part where children rest their hands. For example, “Touch your knees” then call out the flash card image. Every time you play the slap game can be a fun a quick review for body parts. You should always try to cover multiple targets with each game you do.

It can be competitive, by having students keep the cards they are first to touch. However, I usually prefer to keep the game a group effort and make sure that everyone touches the card before we put it to the side.

To make the game more fun, try to trick the students by calling out cards that aren’t there. You can also slap the wrong card, to make sure they are paying attention. This is very important for new students of English. They need to learn to listen and not just copy what the teacher or other students are doing. Remember that you don’t always have to be the “teacher.” Select students to call out images.

Try to keep students sitting down and not leaning over the cards, obstructing others’ view. Have them repeat the word on the flash card in a “big voice” as a class or individual after it has been slapped. Watch out for kids diving into the middle too zealously, risking bumping heads with others.

Key Expressions:
Touch your head, shoulders, etc. What’s this? What is it? etc. Don’t touch
“How many?” “How many cards do you have?” for older students. “I have 4 cards.” (at the end)

True or False

Divide large classes into groups of 5 or 6 students. Hand each student a true and false card. The cards can use the words themselves, or just a check mark for true, and ‘X’ mark for false. Each student in turn makes a statement, eg. “I like tomatoes.”, “I play soccer.”, “My mother’s name is Tomoko.”, “I have a dog.” etc. The other students hold up either their true or false card, depending upon whether they believe the student asking the question, and shout “Is that true?” The student who asked the question replies, “Yes, it is!” or “No, it’s not!” The students who guessed correctly are awarded a chip/point. The next student then asks a question, and so on. The student with the most chips/points at the end is the winner.


This game is best suited to vocabulary for which students have strong likes or dislikes, like food, drinks, animals etc. It works well even with very large classes. First, gather all the students in the center of the room. Assign each corner of the room to ‘like’, ‘don’t like’, ‘love’ and ‘hate’. Hold up a flash card and all the students shout out the word. Then, they run to the corner of the room that corresponds to their feeling for that item. The teacher then turns to each corner of the room in turn and the student(s) shout “I/We like apples”, “I/We hate alligators” etc. Sometimes, in the case of food for example, the students may have had no opportunity to form an opinion. Assign the center of the room to “I’ve never eaten…”. Obviously, there is no competitive element to this activity, but it is a fun way to practice likes and dislikes.

What is it?

Another game that is great for review purposes. Choose a set of flash cards that your students are familiar with. Hold the cards facing away from the students so that they can’t see the picture. The teacher looks at the first card and asks, “What is it/are they?”/ “What is he doing?” etc. Each student in turn asks “Is it a monkey?”, “Are they grapes?” “Is he running?” etc. Continue around the class until someone guesses correctly, and hand them the card. If the card hasn’t been guessed correctly within 2 or 3 turns the teacher says, “Sorry, it’s a….” and reveals the card to the students. Repeat the process for the next card in your hand. The student with the most cards at the end is the winner. Again, it’s not necessary to use the whole set of flash cards because they will be practicing lots of different vocabulary in any case. 5-8 minutes, depending upon the size of the class, should be sufficient if a fast pace is maintained throughout.


This is a great game for reviewing vocabulary that is already well known. Choose a category – eg. fruit, or words beginning with ‘B’. Each student, in turn, has to name an item within the vocabulary target. A chip, or point is awarded for each correct answer. The same word may not be repeated by another student. The game can either be timed, or continues until the student’s can’t think of new  vocabulary. It’s important to maintain a fast pace. Give the students just three seconds to answer (a little more for weaker students) and they miss their turn if they are too slow. The winner is the student with the most chips or points.

In order to make the game fairer, divided students into teams and mix weaker students with stronger ones. Remember, not every game has to be competitive. Have all the students work together to get all the words together. The challenge of finishing as a can be more fun than competition.


This can be played like the traditional kids game, or with a points scoring system like the American TV show, Wheel Of Fortune. ie. 1 point per correctly guessed letter. That latter system makes it easier to create a competitive game. It’s not necessary for students to be proficient readers, as this is a great game to practice phonics. Each time they guess a letter, they should say “A-ah”, “D-duh” etc. For beginners choose words which are easy to illustrate, phonics-wise. For more advanced learners of phonics, use more difficult words that they have studied. For the most advanced students, use whole phrases. It’s often better not to allow the students to guess the whole word once they have a few letters in place. That way, they get to remember common spelling mistakes caused by confusion between ‘L’ & ‘R’, ‘B’ & ‘V’, ‘A’ & ‘U’ etc. For larger classes, or those of varying ability, it’s best to divide the students into teams. For smaller classes, of equal ability, the students can play individually.

Memory Pairs

You can use any set of flash cards that has two of a kind. Ideally, the cards should be as small as possible, otherwise they will take up a lot of space. Shuffle the cards and lay them face down on the floor or table. Laying them in a grid pattern tends to speed up the game and makes it easier for younger children. The student to your left begins by turning over two cards, one at a time. As they turn over a card they have to produce the target language. If the student turns over two identical cards, they get to keep them by removing them from the grid. If the cards are different, they are turned over again and the turn passes to the next student. Personally, I prefer to allow individuals to guess only one pair of cards per turn, as this gives every student an equal opportunity to speak. When all the cards have been found, the student with the most pairs wins.

New Card, Please!

You can use any set of flash cards that has four of a kind. Deal roughly half the cards to the students. The teacher holds the remaining cards face up and places one card on the table. If the student to the left has the same card, he/she can place it on top of the teacher’s card, while producing the target language eg. “It’s an apple.” If not, they ask “May I have a new card, please” and the teacher hands them a card from the pile. “Here you are” etc. That student must then place a card that is not already on the table, and produce the target language.. And the turn passes to the next student. If he can match either of the two cards on the table, he places a card on that pile, if not he asks for a new card…and so on. The game continues until every kid has laid down all their cards. This game can be used for any kind of target – picture vocabulary, phrases practicing tenses (He is running.), prepositions, phonics, reading etc.
Note 1: When a student asks for a new card, they are not be allowed to place that card on an existing pile. Instead, they select a card to start a new pile.
Note 2: The teacher holds the cards face-up so that students can see which card is coming next. Older, more tactically-minded children will use this to their advantage.
Note 3: For very young or inexperienced students, the expression can shortened to “New card, please!”
Note 4: In a strict version, where students are reviewing vocabulary they should know, they should not be allowed to place a card if they incorrectly produce the target language. For new material, simply correct mistakes and allow them to place the card.

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