Games for teaching English to young learners
Let’s face it, learning English as a second language is most likely not going to make a young learner’s list of top three favorite activities. However, there are several things you can incorporate into your TEFL lesson plans that will keep your students interested and engaged. Here are five great ESL games for teaching English to young learners that are sure to keep them excited about learning a new language.

1. H-A-N-G-M-­A-N.

This is a great game to have your students practice vocabulary and spelling skills. Have one student think of a word in their head. Have the student count how many letters are in the word and then draw underscore marks on a board for each letter in the word.

To put a little twist on the game draw a person with a parachute. Draw the same number of strings attaching the person to the parachute as the number of letters in the chosen word. The other students then take turns guessing letters from the alphabet that they think may be in the chosen word. If they guess a correct letter, this is written above the corresponding underscore and that student then gets a chance to guess what the word is. If they guess an incorrect letter, this letter is noted on the board and one of the parachute strings is erased. The goal of the game is to guess the word before the person loses all of their parachute strings.

2. Categories

This is another great game for practicing vocabulary. Brainstorm with your students to come up with a list of categories and write each category on a flashcard. Chose two students to stand up. Call out a category and a letter of the alphabet. The first student to come up with something from within that category that begins with the letter called is the winner and remains standing. Chose another student to go against the winner and repeat with a new category and letter.

3. Bingo!

Create (or print out) bingo cards as well as a call sheet. Cut out the call sheet and put the squares into a hat. Give each student a bingo card as well as something to mark their card with. Allow each student a turn to be the “caller”. Have the “caller” pick one square at a time from the hat and call out what is on the square (you can use numbers, letters, objects, etc.) The other students listen for what is called and mark the called image on their card. The first student to mark their entire bingo card calls out “Bingo!” and is the winner.

4. Alphabet Relay

Divide your students into two groups. Have each group write the letters of the alphabet on flash cards. Shuffle each group of flash cards and place them in two piles on one side of the room. Have each group line up on the opposite side of the room. On the word “Go” the first student in each line has to run across the room, find the letter A, and bring it back to their group. The next student finds the letter B and so on. The first group to get to Z wins!

5. Memory

Pick five small objects and hide them under a piece of cloth. Show the objects to your students for a minute or two and then cover up the objects again. See how many of the objects your students can remember. Add more objects to make the game more challenging.

Keeping young learners interested and engaged can be a difficult task, but a rewarding challenge that everyone in the classroom (including the teacher) can benefit from. Stay excited about teaching English and your students are sure to follow your behavior.

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