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10 Easy ESL/EFL Activities with No Preparation

In need to fill out ten minutes of lesson time and you’ve run out of ideas? Or maybe you’re looking for inspiration for exciting warm up activities or running late the lesson you haven’t prepared for? Sweat not because this list of 10 easy activities exists to make your life easier!

Doing them all will easily fill out your 90 minutes lesson and your ESL students are guaranteed to enjoy every second of it.

Last Letter Word Chain

Level: A1 and above

 

The procedure:

  1. Arrange your students into a circle. If your class is bigger than 10 break them down into smaller circles of up to 10 students. 6 would be the ideal number.

Note: It helps to have a prop for the current speaker such as a ball or a teddy bear, however it isn’t essential.

  1. Start the game by suggesting a simple world like ‘house’ or ‘cat’. The next student has to say a word which starts on the last letter of your suggestion.

In case of the ‘house’ it would be i.e., ‘elephant’. In case of ‘cat’ it would be i.e. ‘table’.

  1. The game continuous like this for few rounds.

Later you may introduce some rules, such as ‘only words relating to food’ or ‘only adjectives’.

A-Z

Level: A1 and above

 

This could be an individual, pair or a group exercise.

Instruct students to write a list of all the letters of the alphabet. Make sure they know that each letter is under the previous one, like this:

A

B

C

 

Variation 1: Easy

Suggest a general topic: food, sports, school, etc.

Each group, or person, has to fill out words starting with the particular letter.

Apple

Buffet

Cheese

 

Variation 2: Harder

Suggest a more specific topic: plans for holidays, being rich, etc.

Students now must write a whole sentence starting with a particular letter.

Adventure in a jungle

Bbq on the beach with friends and family

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Two Lines

Level: A1 and above

 

The procedure:

  1. Put your students into two lines, facing each other.

  2. On the board write a series of simple questions:

  • What’s your favourite colour?

  • What country would you like to visit?

  • What’s your favourite film? Etc.

Note: While your question list can be limitless it generally works best if each student asks only 3 questions. Also instruct them to create their own outside of your list.

  1. The two students from each line face each other and in a quick succession ask each other these questions (and provides answers of course).

When they are done they move to the end of the line and the next pair comences. It’s sort of like a speaking duel or a speaking Dance Off.Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

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Word Association

Level: A1 and above

 

The procedure:

  1. Put students into groups (5 is a good number)

  2. Give each group a theme such as: food, animals. Global Warming or the XX century feminism movement.

  3. Students take turns in saying 1 word that associates with this theme.

For example: Global Warming

Carbon!

Ice!

Oceans!

Temperature!

Etc.

If someone takes longer than 2-3 seconds to think of a word they are out. The last man standing wins. Then you’ll give them another theme.

Words from Word

Level: A1 and above

This one works great for individuals as well as groups. It’s great fun if you turn it into a competition.

 

The procedure:

  1. Write one long word on the board, i.e. COLLABORATION

  2. Instruct your students to write as many words as possible using only the letters from your word.

COLLAR, BOAR, COLON, etc.

The best thing is you can play this game with virtually any long word. I found that it also works great as homework for the lower levels.

 

A4 Story

Level: A2 and above

This is a super easy game which provides endless fun for the learners (especially teenagers). 

 

 

The procedure:

 

1.Give every person 1 blank A4 sheet.

 

2.Tell them to start a story by writing one sentence. It can start: Once upon a time… but it doesn’t have to. Only 1 sentence!

 

3. Next tell them to pass this page to the next person on their right (or left, it doesn’t matter)

 

Note: Make sure that everyone now has in front of them someone else’s story.

 

4. Instruct them to read it and add 1 more sentence.

 

5. When everyone’s finished writing, tell them to pass this paper to the same person as last time.

 

6. This continues until all the students have written in all the stories and the papers come back to their original owners. 

 

7. In the end read all the stories out loud which is always super fun.

Guess the Rule

Level: A2 and above

 

Setup: classroom size

Less than 11 students – play individually

12 – 15 – pairs or groups of 3

Over 15 – groups of 5-6



The procedure:

  1. Tell one student (or a group) to leave the classroom. No eavesdropping!!

 

  1. The rest of the class comes up with a Rule. At first it might be hard for them so you’re expected to suggest the initial few rules..

 

Here are a few examples:

  • People with glasses say YES, people without say only NO.

  • Elbows on the desk say YES, elbows off the desk say only NO (which means the can alternate).

  • Boys say YES, girls say NO.

  • If you smile you say YES, if you frown you say NO.

 

  1. After everyone is 100% clear on the Rule invite the students back in. They must walk around classroom asking closed questions (ones when answer can only be YES or NO). The rest must answer according to the Rule no matter the question.

 

It’s funny how teenagers will always ask about love crushes.

If the Rule is discovered the individual or a group gets a point, if not they fail and next group leaves the classroom.

Unique Words

Level: B1 and above

 

The procedure:

  1. Divide students into teams.

     

  1. Each team has to come up with a difficult (unique) word the rest of the class is unlikely to know the definition of. Let them use dictionaries or the internet if they struggle.

     

  1. When the words are chosen they will write them on separate slips of paper.

     

  1. Provide one, semi-specific, context, i.e. holidays in france, colony on Mars, making a film, first date, shopping in WalMart, family dinner, greek wedding, terrorist on a plane, the Middle Ages.

     

  1. Each team must attempt to explain their words to the rest of the class, using the context you’ve given them. If the rest of the class guesses what it is than they get 1 point.

     

6. Write the words on the board.

Philosophical Questions

Level: B1 and above

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Divide the class into groups of minimum 2 people.

 

  1. Dictate 5 ambiguous questions to each group, one word per turn.

 

Question Examples: Why are we on Earth? Why is the sky blue? Why haven’t we met aliens yet? What happens after death? Why are fruits sweet? What is love? What makes a great person?

 

The goal is to answer these questions in the most creative/funny way possible.

 

What happens after death?

We go to an afterlife KFC and have to forever wait in line to order our fried chicken.

(actual example from one of my students)


Each round the groups read their answers out loud and then vote for the best suggestion. Alternatively they can vote on a creativity scale 1-3 for each answer and the most points wins.

The Mafia (or Werewolf)

Level: B2 and above

 

Setup:

 

  1. Arrange the desks and chairs so that your students sit in a circle (either around the combined tables or an empty space).

     

  1. Explain that you’re going to play the game of Mafia where some of them will be apart of a secret Mafia group that kills the others. The goal of the game is for Mafia to get rid of all the regular members, or townsfolk, and for the townsfolk to discover and exile Mafia members.

     

Note: For this game to work best the Narrator or God should act flamboyantly, creating backstories for characters and really imaginative ways in which characters die. Not necessary but students get super engaged then. I found it a killer to call the town Bananaville and the inhabitants Banananers.

 

The characters:

 

Mafia: assassinate 1 person per turn.

The ratio should be 1:3 so if there are 12 students, 4 will be Mafia. 

 

Doctor: heals one person per night (may heal themselves)

 

Detective: asks the Narrator whether someone is Mafia or not.

 

First round is character picking. Tell all the townsfolk to go to sleep (it works magic if you turn off the lights). All students must have their eyes closed.

 

Note: make sure they don’t touch each other as people waking up will inevitably shuffle.

 

  1. Say that now you’re going to pick the Mafia members.

  2. Walk around the circle and gently touch the Mafia members.

  3. Tell the Mafia to wake up and identify themselves to each other

  4. Tell them to go back to sleep.

 

  1. Next pick the doctor.

  2. Walk around the circle and gently touch the doctor.

 

  1. Lastly, pick the detective.

  2. Walk around the circle and gently tap the detective.

     

Wake everyone up and make it feel super dramatic that there are hidden Mafia members amongst them. Then tell them to go back to sleep again.

 

The procedure (this will repeat every turn):

 

  1. Wake the Mafia up and ask them to silently decide and point to a person they want to eliminate, then make them go back to sleep.

     

  1. Wake the doctor up and ask him/her to heal somebody (can be themselves), then make them go back to sleep.

     

  1. Wake the detective up and ask him/her to silently point to somebody they suspect to be Mafia. Then silently confirm that this person is either a part of the Mafia or not. Back to sleep.

     

  1. Wake everyone up.

     

  1. Introduce the person who was assassinated (unless doctor has healed them). Note: make up a funny circumstance of their death.

     

  1. Ask the townsfolk to decide among themselves who they should exile.

     

This is when the discussion should begin. Some of them will accuse, some will defend. A lot of finger pointing a lot of disagreements. After few minutes start an election.

 

  1. Each person gets one vote. For example, if Anna votes for James, he will raise 1 finger, if Taylor also votes for James he will raise another finger, etc.

     

  1. The person with the most amount of votes (fingers raised) is exiled. They also have to confirm whether they were Mafia or not.

     

  1. Then everyone goes back to sleep and the round starts over.

     

     

Mafia wins if they are the last ones standing.

Townsfolk win if Mafia is all exiled.

 

Note: when choosing the Mafia members remember to get a good mix of the most outspoken and quiet students. The gregarious ones will defend themselves well, whereas the quiet ones won’t raise much suspicion.

 

Additional characters:

 

  1. Mayor

Once in a game Mayor may reveal themselves and cast two votes instead of one.

 

  1. Survivor

Once per game the Survivor may ‘rescue’ themselves at night after the Mafia attack if they think they got killed.

 

  1. Informant

The Informant works similar to the detective. He or She may ask about certain members whether they are Mafia. Then once per game the Informant may reveal themselves during the town debate and raport on 1 Mafia member. After that the Informant dies.

 

Note: Generally it is hard for Mafia to win even without the additional characters which make it even harder so we suggest using them only when the group is very intelligent or when the game becomes repetitive.

 

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