Teaching English to teenagers can be quite difficult because they are notorious for not really wanting to participate in class. They are often shy, tired, and haven’t chosen to take your English class. That’s where interactive games for teenagers comes in. Try out some of these fun ESL games for teenagers to make your TEFL classes even better.
ESL for Teenagers
Running Dictation is one of the best ESL games for teenagers I’ve ever used in class. It’s fun, challenging, covers all 4-skills, and can really energize even the quietest, most apathetic of classes. It also makes an excellent review activity if there is a specific grammar point or vocabulary words that you want the students to see one more time.
If you want to do this engaging 4-skills ESL activity with your classes, here are more details about how to set it up:
Running Dictation Set-Up and Instructions
I love a good ESL board game, especially for teenagers because they harness the power of competition in a challenging way. Make sure you design them well, however, so that there is an element of random to them. Also, design the questions so that students must speak English in order to complete the task.
Check out this video where I explain how I use board games in my classes, and a link to an example board game that I made for my students here:
ESL Board Game Set-Up
Charades is an oldie, but a goodie, and it makes an excellent way to review vocabulary. It’s also great for a “party” day where you just want to have some fun with your students.
Fun with a bit of review thrown in there? Love it! It’s ideal for something like Halloween where there are lots of interesting vocabulary options.
Here’s how I set-up the Charades ESL activity for my students. It’s one of the best classroom games for teenagers:
ESL Charades Set-Up and Instructions
Who doesn’t like making some predictions about the future, right? Besides being fun, it’s an excellent way to introduce or review the future verb tenses with your teenagers.
The good news is that there are a ton of fun, engaging games, and activities that can go along with this topic. Check out these classroom games for teenagers here:
ESL Making Prediction Activities.
ESL teens and directions are a natural fit! That’s because there are a ton of fun and interactive games and activities you can do with this, including information gap, communicative ones. Do you want to know more? Then you’ll want to take a look at these ideas here:
Giving Directions Activities for ESL.
I love to do some presentations in my English classes for a number of reasons. They can:
Build student confidenceHelp improve speaking skillsBe very motivating if you give students a choice of topicsBe fun if you allow for groupsIncrease student listening skillsBe a nice change of pace from the teacher being at the front of the class talking
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why teachers might consider doing some presentations in their classes. What I’ve found over the years is that they’re an excellent ESL teens activity. If you want to know more about details about how to incorporate them into your classes, check this out:
ESL Presentation Project Ideas and Tips.
ESL classroom games for teens
If you want to increase student motivation and participation in your classes, then consider using some task-based activities. Teenagers love working with their friends in groups too so they’re a natural fit.
Find out how to incorporate task-based teaching into your English classes here: Task-Based Learning Introduction.
Health is a very relevant topic for teenagers! I love talking about things like smoking, drinking, junk food, and exercising with them because it always leads to some very interesting and fun discussions.
There are a number of things you can do related to this topic. Find out some of the best classroom games for teenagers here: ESL Health Games and Activities.
If you want to review new vocabulary words, then consider playing the chain spelling game. The way it works is that all the students have to stand up and take turns spelling out words, letter by letter. If someone misses a letter, they are “out” and the game continues until one person is left standing.
Sounds like something you want to try out with your teens? You can see all the details here: Chain spelling ESL Game.
4-skills ESL activities and games are like the holy grail of English teaching. What are you cooking is exactly that, plus it has the added bonus of requiring no materials or prep time, and the students like it too. It’s so ideal to have an activity like this in your back pocket to pull out in case of an English teaching emergency when you get a last-minute class on your schedule.
Want to know more? Find out here: What are you Cooking?
A fun way to review just about any grammar point or vocabulary set is to play telephone which is also known as Chinese Whispers. The way it works is that you give a sentence to the first students who must pass it down the line until the and. At that point, the sentence they have is compared to the original.
The results? Usually hilarious! Sounds like something you want to try out in your classes? Find out all the details you need to know here:
ESL Telephone Activity for Teens.
I love to talk about social problems with my students. This topic is super relevant and most students have some interesting opinions related to this.
The good news is that you can use this complete lesson plan for intermediate or advanced level teenage learners for a 1-2 hour class. Yes really. Just print it off and go! Check it out:
Social Issues English Conversation Lesson Plan.
Like what you see? It’s from this book:
Time spent in class on making better sentences will certainly never be wasted time! Sentences are the foundation of the English language and it’s really worthwhile to help students improve this skill. Have a look at some of the top ideas:
ESL Sentence Structure Activities.
Many students want to do “free-talking” in conversation classes but if their level isn’t high enough, it can be a little bit difficult to achieve this. A way to get started with it is to use some role plays. It’s kind of like conversation but it has a whole lot more structure and can be a good initial step towards freer conversations. Find out more:
ESL Role Play Ideas and Tips.
Reading is a key skill to master and it’s often considered to be the foundation of the other ones. Keeping this in mind, I like to dedicate some time to reading focused activities. One of the best post-reading activities for teenagers who are learning English is story timeline.
It’s challenging and helps students think more deeply about what they just read. Learn how to get started with it:
ESL Story Timeline Activity.
Group writing activities for English learners are hard to come by since writing is generally a more solitary activity. However, this choose your own adventure one makes the perfect choice for teens if you want to have them do some writing in your class. It’s fun, interactive and students love making up their own adventure stories.
Interested in trying it out? Have a look at the details here:
Choose your Own Adventure Activity.
If you teach more advanced teens, then consider using this ready-made lesson plan that’ll save you a ton of time. With bigger classes, consider putting students into pairs or small groups and let them get to work. The lesson is super easy to follow, even without a lot of teacher assistance. For smaller classes, it’s possible to work through this lesson together.
Whatever the case, technology is something that almost all teens are interested in! Check it out here:
Technology ESL Conversation Lesson Plan.
A fun game for kids, teens, or adults is hot potato. You may have played this when you were a kid but you can also use it in your TEFL classes with a twist. Students pass around an object and when the music stops, they have to do a task.
To make it more interactive and fun, I usually require that the student holding the potato has to choose another student to ask a question to. Of course for teenagers, it’s worth pointing out that they should not ask any questions which might embarrass someone of they’ll be out of the game. Find out all the options here:
Hot Potato Game.
Try out this versatile ESL activity with your teens! It’s best for intermediate or advanced level students that have a good range of vocabulary.
Bring in a common object such as a carrot or chocolate bar. Then, students have to think of some descriptive words for that object that fall under the five senses. It can be done through either speaking or writing and in a group or individually. Learn more about it:
Five Senses Activity.
I love to teach conditionals because they often lead to some very interesting discussions. They can be used to talk about future possibilities or what might have happened in the past if something were different. Here are some of my top picks:
ESL classroom games for teens
If you want to have a seriously fun English class with teens, then you’ll need to check out this game, Typhoon. It’s an ideal review activity for the class before a midterm or final exam and students love it. Whenever I use it in class, they keep asking me to play it again. Find out more here:
ESL Typhoon Game.
If you’re looking for one of the best interactive games for teens, look no further than ESL basketball. It’s ideal for reviewing just about sort of vocabulary or simple grammatical structures. The only real requirement is that you have a big enough space to play it in. Want to give this school game for teenagers a try? Have a look here:
Basketball TEFL Game.
ESL for teenagers and movies or TV shows are a natural fit! They certainly make one of the best classroom activities for teens and there are a ton of things that you can do with them. Here are some of my favourite options:
ESL Movies Lesson Plan Ideas.
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching ESL to teens. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
When teaching ESL to teenagers, here are a few tips:
Keep it simple and have only one objective per lesson.Include lots of practice time.Switch groups and partners frequently.Use lots of group work.Offer lots of opportunities for teens to practise using English.Don’t forget to set the context.Review frequently.Consider using multi-media.
It’s sometimes necessary to motivate teenagers to learn English as a second or foreign language if they’re reluctant to do so. The best way to do this is to have clear rules and expectations from the start of the class, create a friendly and welcoming classroom environment, understand students’ needs, and use a variety of interactive and engaging ESL activities.
If you want to help your English learners expand their vocabulary, here are a few ideas:
Include some extensive reading time into your lessons.Encourage extensive listening (podcast, TV, etc.) outside of class.Have students keep a vocabulary notebook.Review frequently.Have weekly vocabulary tests in class.
To engage teenage students, use some of the following tips:
Show a genuine interest in the lives of your students.Ask students what topics they’d like to discuss in your class.Bring things from pop culture into class.Use a variety of mediums, including videos.Assign interesting homework assignments like interviewing someone or making YouTube videos.Challenge them to do something slightly higher than their level.Get active and have students move around the classroom like in running dictation, or a survey activity.
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What are your thoughts about our top picks for ESL games and activities for teenagers? Have you tried out any of them from this list, or do you have another that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Jackie Bolen has been teaching English for more than 15 years to students in South Korea and Canada. She”s taught all ages, levels and kinds of TEFL classes. She holds an MA degree, along with the Celta and Delta English teaching certifications.
Jackie is the author of more than 60 books for English teachers and English learners, including 101 ESL Activities for Teenagers and Adults and 1001 English Expressions and Phrases. She loves to share her ESL games, activities, teaching tips, and more with other teachers throughout the world.