ESL speaking activities and games for adults

ESL speaking activities and games for adults

Whether you teach English people in a classroom or on Zoom, you should have some engaging and entertaining exercises up your sleeve. Playing games is a necessary part of language lessons to connect previous and current topics, and make the learning process smoother. Language acquisition takes concentration, which might stress some people. We need something to encourage them to use English provoking particular knowledge at the same time.

It isn't so easy to choose appropriate activities for teenagers or adult learners. There are fat chances that they will willingly start singing or playing "Crocodile" as children. Use fillers between important exercises and help to relax for a short time. Firstly, understand the reason of a speaking activity, what skill is supposed to be trained. Even speaking activities may base on certain directions such as reading, listening, vocabulary, and grammar. We prepared some light-hearted ideas, which are sorted in terms of training skills. You may use them teaching online and personally.


Vocabulary review games for adult ESL students

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One of the most difficult problems that English learners face is memorizing vocabulary. Not only is it hard to remember new collocations but also to use them freely in speaking. It takes at least 15 times to come across a new word in order to remember it. That is why ESL tutors come up with different situations, which provoke particular vocabulary. The more ways we suggest using learned words, the sooner students start producing them independently.

Most games don't require long preparation, so you can use them at any time. Moreover, all of them are flexible, just adapt rules depending on a level and a topic. Such activities are funny enough to make students laugh and compete. They are quite popular, so it is likely that learners have already played something like that in their mother tongue.


There is a quite popular board game among teenagers and adults. You can either buy cards or find an online version. The second option is flexible because if you have an online classroom, you can do such cards on your own. For example, if you have already taught food or colors, you should make such cards with appropriate words from the previous topic.

The rules are pretty simple and fit even beginners to review new words from the last session. A student takes a card and explains the word or phrase, that he sees on it. The thing is to explain words on cards with synonyms or antonyms. Pre-Intermediate students can even describe situations, which relate to phrases. That student, who guessed the word is the next speaker.


This vocabulary game works in a different way in comparison with Alias. Give a card with a word to a student. While he is showing the word from the card, his classmates are trying to guess what he is displaying. They should pronounce all options that relate to the topic. The point is learners have to remember all words from the last lesson. In this case, they don't need to look for synonyms or antonyms to explain the word, they have to find certain. It fits lower-level students to have fun and recall such vocabulary as animals, jobs, routine, and hobbies.


There is a fun ESL practice, which helps to master paraphrasing. You can choose a topic such as relationship. Students take turns one by one, having cards with a word they need to explain and a taboo word, which they mustn't pronounce during their explanation. For example, the word is «love» but you can not say «people, person» because they are taboo. It might seem difficult at the first sight, but everyone will love it. Such an exercise provokes using collocations, phrasal verbs, and even idioms. It fits perfectly everyone from Intermediate to Advanced.


There is a fun activity for beginners. It reminds another game, which is called Association. Pair your students up or divide them into small groups. One representative from each team thinks of a password for his secret file and gives others a hint to guess what it is. The mission of others is to name all words, which pop in their minds in order to win. The team, which guessed most of words, is the winner. The amount of words depends on how much time you set to play.


It seems to look like a vocabulary mind-map. Depending on the topic that students have learned recently, you determine how many categories will be. For instance, the last lesson was devoted to animals, there are two branches of it, wild and farm animals. Divide people into two teams and assign them to write down as many words as they can to fill in each category. The rule is to play against the clock. Despite players are adults, they will have fun.

Grammar oriented ESL activities for adults

Drilling exercises are important in order to excel. However, it may lead to a problem of using it appropriately in a speech. That is why a lot of Intermediate learners get stuck. They know conditionals and even Past Perfect, but when it comes to speaking, they do everything in order to avoid these tenses. Teachers' mission, in this case, is to show how many situations require using such grammar and help to use it changing the context. And a game helps to spark a feeling of competition. It works well, especially in groups, when people are in the process of gaining points. But if you teach individually, it looks good as well, because students have a chance to share some fun facts about their life and use their imagination.

Usually, such activities don't imply the teacher's comments and corrections. Just observe and take some notes, what was the most difficult in a task. After it, you may draw students' attention to their mistakes. But don't say names of people, who made them. When it comes to making mistakes and getting feedback, people tend to take advice to heart. We don't want to upset them. Just highlight common mistakes and ask to explain them to each other.


This activity fits perfectly a lot of topics such as crimes, Past Simple, and Past Continuous. You need to prepare a situation to describe what happened. There is a role-play where some students are police while others are suspects. That is a good way to train coherence and understanding. One group should brainstorm to come up with appropriate and grammatically right questions, which another group will answer. If you have no time to prepare, there are a lot of templates of this game on the Internet. It suits all levels.

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