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10 Fun & Easy Games for Teaching Business English to Adults

games for teaching business english

Have you ever heard the phrase “Games are just for kids” when teaching adults? Well, here’s some great news: You can and should use games for teaching Business English to adults! Let’s take a closer look at why using games is effective and explore some appropriate games to incorporate into your Business English lesson plans!

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

You can also learn even more about using games and teaching Business English in the Bridge Micro-credential Certificate in Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Adults) course and the Specialized TEFL/TESOL Certificate in Teaching Business English course, which gives you the 21st-century tools and techniques to effectively teach English to professionals with confidence!

Why use games for teaching Business English to adults?

  • Since our ability to learn is connected to our state of mind, we learn best when we’re in a positive mental state. Games can open a student’s mind to positive learning moments, also known as “best learning moments.” This positive mental state can be reached when students experience curiosity, interest, engagement, or happiness paired with optimism, confidence, and calmness.
  • Feelings of enjoyment help students retain their newly-acquired knowledge in the long term.
  • When teaching English online to adults, technology-enhanced learning (TEL) is a great and easy way to create these best learning moments. Using smartphones for vocabulary games, virtual crosswords, or any other modern apps or games for teaching adults English online that will grasp your student’s focus and interest are all valid methods. And, using technology in the classroom is easy and requires little preparation!
  • Pro Tip: If you have a student with a strong mindset, who specifically does not want to engage in games, then don’t call them games – call them activities, procedures, or tasks. The only difference is the wording, but if this helps your student to keep an open mindset towards the activity, then adjust your terminology.

Read about the differences between teaching English to adults vs. kids.

Bridge grad, Shawn, presenting to adults
Bridge grad Shawn giving a presentation to adults in China.

10 simple games for teaching Business English

When designing Business English activities, always make sure that the games you choose are appropriate and relevant for your students’ age, language level, and specific needs (if they are studying English for a certain profession, for example).

Here are 10 great games for teaching Business English in the physical classroom or online. All of them require little to no materials, little preparation time, and no expenses (except if you buy the Scrabble board game version).

Get additional tips for creating materials for the EFL classroom.

1. Crosswords/Virtual Crosswords

Crosswords are excellent for when you’re teaching vocabulary around a certain topic, profession, or business situation. You can also use them when you’re pre-teaching vocabulary for a later task or assignment.

You can design your own crossword puzzles using definitions from the dictionary, or you can use software that helps you create them. If you’re teaching a group of high-level students, you can also let them design crossword puzzles for each other.

  • Pro Tip: This would make an excellent asynchronous task when you’re teaching online. During the synchronous lesson time, your students can then solve the crosswords. You can also set time limits or let your students compete against each other if you feel that they’re up for it.

2. The Right Word

In this challenging game, your students have to find which words correspond to the given definitions. This isn’t as simple as it sounds because even if the definition reminds them of a familiar word, they may not know the word on your game sheet. This is excellent practice for extending students’ range of vocabulary and their fluency. You can also give your students clues, depending on their level.

For business professionals, expressing themselves fluently and accurately is an important ability they’ll have to use every day, and this game helps them do just that.

Raise your level of professionalism – and your students’ – with Specialized Certification in Teaching Business English.

3. Embroidery

In this language game, you, the teacher, have to prepare sets of boxes or envelopes that each contain a letter of the alphabet. Your students must find the word hidden within the scramble of letters. You can choose the length and difficulty of the words, as well as the topic or group of words they belong to. For lower-level students, you can also provide some clues to help them find the correct answer.

The skills your students can gain during this exercise are very useful in business situations, as the game trains them to scan through names, flight information, or other paperwork to find the important details.

  • Pro Tip: If you’re teaching online, you can use presentation software to let the letters pop up one by one with sound effects, like in a game show, for example.
Woman Teaching online

4. Seize the Keywords

In this exercise, your students are given a 10-line story and they have to memorize the order in which all of the verbs appear. Then, you collect the stories and give them a worksheet where all of the verbs are listed at random. Your students then have to place them in the correct order, as they found them in the text. If your students are attentive enough and understand the story, it’s easy for them to remember the logical order of the verbs (as verbs imply action).

This is an excellent game to use to teach verbs, verb groups, and tenses since you, as the author of the story, can use all of the words and tenses you wish to teach during that lesson. If you ask your students to retell the story at the end of the lesson, they can also gain valuable public speaking and memorization skills for business presentations and speeches.

5. The Story Is Full of Blanks

Let your students be editors by going through a text in which words are missing. They must then choose the correct word out of a list of words provided. To make it more creative and interesting, you can let your students choose between newsletter articles, prose, drama, or poetry. You can copy any appropriate text passage that will benefit your students’ needs and level, and where the content is relevant for their professional area.

This game provides your students with the skill to choose the best word in a certain context, which helps with writing emails, reports, letters, or handouts.

Jennifer Landini, English Teacher in Rome with her students
Bridge grad Jennifer teaches Business English in Rome.

6. Scrabble

This classic board game is a good activity for reviewing the vocabulary your students already know, and there are many free versions online. Students can use the Scrabble letters to build words according to their language proficiency, and they will most likely try to impress you by remembering all of those specific business terms you taught them!

Scrabble is a good game for lower- to intermediate-level students since advanced students often aim to learn new words and expressions during an English lesson instead of reproducing what they already know.

From conducting needs analyses and considering stakeholder expectations to teaching English as a global language and using authentic materials, Specialized Certification in Teaching Business English will provide you with the skills you need to teach English in the 21st century!

7. Roleplaying

When it comes to ESL speaking activities for adults, roleplaying games are very important to practice fluency, correct use of vocabulary and grammar, appropriate use of specific professional terms, and listening skills all at the same time. Roleplaying is also a great opportunity to teach Business English for specific purposes since you and your students can create a situation that resembles their actual work life.

Roleplaying can also prepare students for upcoming job interviews. It allows your students ample speaking time, while you as the teacher can observe, take notes, and pay attention to important errors that need reviewing and correcting at the end of the activity.

  • Pro Tip: If you’re teaching online, you can simulate an online business conference with video conference software like Zoom, or you can even ask all of your students to turn off their cameras and only focus on what they hear in order to practice making phone calls. If you’re teaching asynchronous lessons, you can exchange pretend work emails with your students or practice follow-up emails after a fictitious job interview.

8. Charades

If you’re teaching an intensive Business English course to a group of students in order to prepare them for taking a job overseas, you’ll likely get to know each other quite well in a short time. You’ll spend a lot of lessons together since preparatory courses are often very comprehensive. Your students will open up to you and trust you in a way that’s not always possible during other ESL classes, where your students are often changing or where you’re teaching one-on-one classes. The group dynamic is a powerful motivator to learn a language together.

In group situations, a game of charades can be very relaxing and freeing for your students; they can let go of pressure and have some fun together while still progressing in their English abilities. However, since charades can get quite silly and requires a certain confidence in front of a group, this game is not very suitable for a small group of, let’s say, CEOs and managers who need to show authority towards others.

  • Pro Tip: Charades can be played in the online classroom if you and your students are equipped with enough space and a good place to set up the webcam.
online English teacher
Jonathan, from Argentina, teaches ESL to adults with Learnlight.

9. First Letter, Last Letter

In this game, have your students sit in a circle if you’re teaching in a physical classroom. If you’re teaching online, you need to decide the order of who goes after who before you start the game.

The first person writes or says a word, and the next person has to come up with another word using the last letter or the last few letters of that word. This is a verbal game that doesn’t require any materials or preparation, which makes it a great activity if you need a spontaneous lesson plan.

For example, the first student says “promotion.” The next student takes the last letter “n” and might say “negotiation,” and so on. To make it more difficult, you can also have students use the last two letters, or the last three letters even. This challenges your students to come up with longer words too.

In the two-letter case, “promotion” may become “online,” while in the three-letter case, “promotion” may become “ionization,” which is a very difficult word relevant probably only to professional chemists. Alternatively, you can teach your students what syllables are and let them use the last syllable of the previous word.

  • Pro Tip: If you’re teaching online, this could be a fun asynchronous game to keep up throughout the day, using smartphones and messaging apps. You and your students can toss around words during a certain time of the day, which also motivates them to look up new words, browse their dictionaries, and read articles to find new words.

10. Twenty Questions

Playing Twenty Questions with business-related topics can be a great way to practice speaking skills, especially when you’re teaching interrogative forms. One student draws a card with a word on it. This can be a person, a thing, an event, or a situation. You can choose the rules with your students ahead of the lesson, and you can prepare accordingly. Then, the other students have 20 chances to ask questions and find out what word is written on the card. The first student can only answer “yes” or “no.”

For example, the rule is that it can be a thing or a person related to professions. The student chooses the word “lawyer.” The flow of questions could be:

1. “Is it a person?” “Yes.”

2. “Does that person work outside?” “No.”

3. “Does that person work inside a special building?” “Yes.”

And so on.

You can prepare cards with words ahead of class or let students choose their own words, and if you’re teaching online, you can send the students words via texting or online messaging.

Business English games train your students to recognize, remember, and understand words, and they facilitate fluency, grammatical skills, and vocabulary. By engaging completely in a game, feeling positive emotions while playing it, and experiencing best learning moments, your students will enjoy your lessons and come back for more!

Interested in taking your teaching skills to the next level? Check out the Bridge Micro-credential Certificate in Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Adults) and the Specialized TEFL/TESOL Certificate in Teaching Business English!

After backpacking Australia on a Working Holiday visa, Bridge graduate Johanna traveled to Japan for a year to teach English. She then moved to New Zealand for another two years before returning to her chosen home country, Japan, where she currently lives. Now, with more than eight years of professional English teaching experience, Johanna enjoys her expat life in Japan teaching teenagers at a private junior and senior high school, where she recently received tenure after only two years. When she’s not teaching, Johanna continues to travel regionally and explore new places.