ESL Games for Advanced Students

ESL Games for Advanced Students

Teaching with EPIK

ESL games are an important, almost vital, part of the ESL classroom. When you are teaching beginners, it’s easy to come up with simple games to incorporate into your lessons. With advanced learners, finding activities that are fun, engaging, and deeply beneficial gets a lot more challenging.

HangmanYour advanced students are going to get a little bored if you just have them throwing the sticky ball at the board every class. Here are a few ideas for more involved and stimulating activities that will have your advanced ESL students having so much fun they don’t even realize how much they are learning.


The great thing about this game is that you can make the vocab and sentences you use as complex as possible. You can also allow students to come up with words and help fill in the letters as their classmates guess them. Great for spelling, writing, grammar, and a lot of fun.

Never Have I Ever

This old college game can be adapted into a fun and challenging ESL game. You may want to simplify the grammar to “I’ve never…” but the play is basically the same.

Students think of something they have never done that everyone else in the class has done. When they say their action, anyone else who has never done that thing raises their hand. The goal is to come up with something that no one else in the class has done.

Concentration 64

This classic kids’ game challenges your students’ ability to quickly access their vocabulary. Students take turns coming up with words related to a subject (animals, colors, foods, etc.), and the first person who hesitates or can’t think of a word loses. Check out this video for an example of the chant and hand clap that goes along with it.

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Dictionary Game

This game is a blast and often ends in hysterics. It works best with students who have a pretty strong writing ability and who understand how to use a dictionary. You or a student chooses an obscure word from the dictionary (no one should know what it means). Everyone writes their own definition on a piece of paper, and whoever chose the word writes the real definition.

Gather all the papers, read them out loud, and have students vote on which one they think is the real definition. Students get points for either guessing the correct definition or having their made-up definition chosen as the right one. Depending on how much you want to encourage silliness, you can also award points for funniest definition.

Card Games

Teaching your students various card games, and the grammar that they need to effectively play them in English is a great way to help them have fun while using English in a natural way.

Poker, Spit, War, Egyptian Ratscrew, Crazy Eights – all are fun games for anyone to play, and a great way to let your students relax a little bit and speak English in a less structured setting.

20 Questions

This is another classic game that works great for any skill level. For advanced students, you can pick a more difficult word for them to try to guess.


This game idea comes from and is a blast to play in class with upper intermediate to advanced students. The basic gist of it is that you make up a horrible crime; perhaps someone took a bite of the teacher’s apple while your back was turned, or maybe someone snuck into the school and put a whoopie cushion on your chair.

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Students work in pairs to come up with detailed alibis, and the rest of the class will “interrogate” them to find inconsistencies in their stories.  Click over to for the full rules.


This is a great game to get students using their vocabulary, spelling skills, and creative thinking skills. Students work in pairs or small groups for this game.

Give them a piece of paper with 4-8 categories written on it (Food, Celebrities, Songs, Movies, etc.). You then pick a letter, and the groups have to come up with one word that contains that letter for each category.

When one group comes up with a word for each category, everyone stops and puts down their pencils. You then award each group one point for each word they have that fits the category. The winning team is the one with the most points at the end.


This is another great party game that is easily adapted to the ESL classroom. This game challenges students’ speaking and vocabulary skills. A student is given a paper with four words (you can change the number to suit your class).

For example, your list might be apple, red, fruit, or teacher. The first word, apple, is the word that everyone has to guess. The next three words are the “taboo” words, usually the first words that come to mind when thinking about the keyword. The student can say any words but those three to describe the word to their classmates or team members.

Remember, your older and more advanced students love to play games and have fun just as much as younger students. If you plan the right games, you can challenge their English skills in new and unique ways, while still giving them a chance to have a blast in class.

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