Tuesday, April 9, 2013

5 Games to Kill Time

Working at an English Summer Camp where we had to create lessons on the spur of the moment, I occasionally needed to find fun games to kill time, while waiting for the next session to begin.

Word haiku

Teacher writes a word on the white board (i.e. United States)

You can create teams or pass out a blank sheet of paper and have the students do this individually. Have them create as many words as they can with the word given.  The team or person with the most words wins.

*  The great thing about this game is that it will keep them quiet and busy on their own for a while.

10 questions

Teacher:  Guess what I'm thinking of- It's an animal, it large, it has a long neck.  ( I usually give 3 hints)

Then the students as me questions:

Student: Is it an elephant?
Student: Does it eat bananas?
Student: Can I see it at the zoo?

By the time the 10 questions end, they will have had to solve the riddle. Do this a couple of times. If you have a really smart students who are pretty good at English, you might have the winner come up and create his/her own riddle to the class.

Riddle ideas can range anywhere from something hidden in the class, to animals, foods,... even describing a student in the class or even the school principal.  This game is great for descriptions and adjectives.  Korean students like riddles and often you'll see them used in Golden Bell games.

The Car Game

I'm not sure why I call it the car game other than I've occasionally used it with friends on a long road trip, but it's one of those games challenging students to keep the chain going.

Teacher:  Bicycle

Student: Boy
Student 2: Banana
Student 3: Boat

You would go down the line with the students. Everyone is given some time depending on how slow or fast you think they are.

Advanced Level:

This is for extremely advanced students.

In the original car game, we'd use celebrity names like - Brad Pitt and the next person would need to use the first letter of the last name to start the next name.  For instance:

  • Brad Pitt
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Bette Middler
  • Mark Wahlberg
  • Wesley Snipes
So if your students are good at spelling, you can take the last letter of the word to start the new word. For instance:

  • Bicycle
  • Egg
  • Girl
  • Love

Secret Numbers

Teacher writes "7" on the white board
Teacher: Guess why this is an important number to me?

Student: It's the day you were born?
Student: It's the number of sisters and brothers you have?
Student: It's number on your apartment?

They get 10 guesses

Teacher:  It's the month I was born.

The student that guesses the secret gets to think of their own secret number. It can range anywhere from birth dates, locker combinations, addresses, you name it...


This is the all favorite game and students know and love this one. This is pretty self explanatory, but if you're alien to this planet and for some reason you don't know what it is, read here.

An interesting reverse however, is to draw your hangman pole and sentence blanks, then add something like 23 letters on the board for students to choose from. Each time they guess the wrong letter, they get a strike and a part of the hangman body is drawn. Some good examples at www.manythings.org  (click here)


  1. Great activities! When I taught in Korea a GEPIK conference taught me a slightly different version of Hangman that I tweaked even more to get a more involved version I use now. http://eslcarissa.blogspot.com/2012/10/alternate-hangman-hangman-you-knew-and.html

    To try to introduce rhyming (which Korean students struggle with) you can do 10 questions with rhymes: http://eslcarissa.blogspot.com/2012/11/i-am-thinking-of-word-that-rhymes-with.html

    1. Those are great games, Carissa! Thanks for sharing. I especially love rhyming ones. =) Great site, by the way.

  2. It often surprises me how unaware instructional professionals can be about the issues and best practices for ESL students.

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