While using games to teach English grammar is not the only way - there are many other excellent ESL grammar activities - it is a fun and interesting way to motivate your students. ESL grammar games, when focussed, can provide a lot of grammar practice in a way that doesn't seem like work.
The following ESL games are for children, adults or both. I have written information on the level and ages a game is suitable for in the descriptions of the games.
Conditional Circle is a good ESL grammar activity for practicing conditional sentences. It can be used to practice any kind of conditional sentence, whether it's first, second or third conditional.
If you are teaching the second conditional, you could ask the first student, "What would you do if you saw a snake in the park?" The student then answers, "If I saw a snake in the park I'd make a noise." The second student must then continue. "If I made a noise, people would watch me." The third student then continues, "If people watched me, I'd...." and so on around the class. Other games to teach English conditionals include...
There are so many games to teach English grammar which practice yes/no questions and answers. Some of these can also be used to practice WH questions and simple statements. Here are some of the EFL games that have helped me. Guessing Games can be used with both children and adults, and are good for practicing yes/no questions and answers.
The 20 questions TEFL game is a classic of English teaching, and is explained in the article Top 10 TEFL Games
What's in my bag? is a guessing game that can work well for children. Put a variety of objects into a bag (which the students cannot see into). Students must guess: "Is there's a pencil.." The student/teacher holding the bag must answer, "Yes, there is." "No, there isn't." If this becomes difficult students can be allowed to feel the inside of the bag without looking. They must then make guesses: "There's a potato/pencil etc."
Where is it? is a guessing game. The students must close their eyes while something is hidden in the classroom. They then ask questions: "Is it behind the desk?" etc.
Where are you? The students imagine they are somewhere else. Other students have to guess where. "Are you riding an elephant in India?" ... The location can be restricted to make the game easier. Another one of the many guessing games to teach English is..
Famous personality party This is a mingle activity where students have the names of famous people on their backs and must discover who they are by walking around the classroom and talking to other students.
No Yes No Game In pairs, students ask yes/no questions, but they are not allowed to answer with yes or no. For example: 'Are you from this city?' 'I'm from this city.' 'Do you come here often?' 'I sometimes come here.' A very simple game, but it can also be amusing to play.
What does he/she want me to do? One or more students whisper an instruction to another student. Other students in the class must guess what they want the student to do by asking "Does Marta want you to dance and sing?" etc.
Some of the games to teach English statements and yes/no questions are also easily adapted into games to teach English WH questions. Here are examples of some other games to teach English WH questions.
Tic-Tac-Toe/Noughts & Crosses can be used for many grammar practice activities. Here WH questions are placed in the grid. Students choose the square and answer a question that uses the particular word. It can also be played by giving the students the answer, and they have to give a possible question.
Why Game In this ESL game, ask a student a why question. "Why are you wearing red today?" The student may answer, "Because I like red." This is followed by, "Why do you like red?" "Because it makes me feel good." "Why does it make you feel good?" and so on. This game works well in moderation, but can drive students crazy if used too much.
Q/A Contests Contests can be adapted for more or less any grammar point. Basically they're a method of drilling the students. Divide the class into teams and ask questions. Students must answer within 3 or 4 seconds to get a point. When done orally it is the method of scoring that entertains the children.
Scoring methods can include drawing two people over shark infested sea holding onto balloons, which are popped when a question in answered wrongly. Or simple pictures representing points can be drawn on the board. There are many more possibilities.
Q/A contests can also be done as writing games, where teams stand at the board and write down the answers to questions the teacher asks. Although very simple, children often enjoy this activity.
Whose...? is an ESL game to practice possessives: John's, Emma's etc. Items borrowed from the students are placed on a desk in middle of the classroom. Once a dozen or so items are on the desk a simple Q/A contest can be played with teams. Point to an item and ask: "Whose pen it this?" etc. A student must answer, "It's Ben's pen," within so many seconds for a point. At the end of the game you can ask the question, and when the students answer give back the items.
Preposition Ball Game This game is great for children learning prepositions of place. Draw a picture on the board - I quite like a giant fish with its head facing the students. Divide the class into teams. The students throw the sticky ball (a ball of paper, though not as good, can work as long as you remember where it hits the board).
When it hits the board, ask the students "Where's the ball?" They must answer correctly, "It's on, in, under the fish," etc. In the mouth could be 10 points, on its body 2 points and so on. One team can ask the question to the other team.
Sticky ball games to teach English can be adapted to teach many grammar structures if wanted. These games work better with younger children. While the preposition game can work very well, if this type of game is overused, it can result in lots of excitement, but not so much English practice - unless well managed.
Present Progressive Mime Again, good with children, but it can work with adults. Students stand in front of the class and mime actions. The other students must guess what the student is doing. "She's driving a car," "He's opening an umbrella in the rain," etc.
How? For adverbs & present progressive One student leaves the classroom and thinks of an activity to mime. The other students choose an adverb that the student must mime. The student must come back into the classroom and mime his or her action in many different ways, until the class let the student know that it's being performed in the right way.
Alibi is an old, but good ESL game that can be used with older children, teenagers and adults. A 'crime' has been committed and students must be divided into police and suspects. Give the basic details of the crime to the class. It's best if you can use 2 classrooms for this, at least, the students shouldn't be able to hear each other.
The police prepare questions to ask the suspects. The suspects prepare their alibis. They must decide where they were during the afternoon/evening of the crime, what they were eating, wearing, and how they traveled. The more details the better.
Then the police interview the suspects separately, and take notes. After the interviews the police must use reported speech to tell the class what the suspects had said.
If differences are found the suspects can be found guilty of the 'crime.' The activity can be extended into a writing activity if wished.
Receive the Tesol Post - our free monthly ezine -News and ideas related to teaching English and more...