English as a Second Language (ESL) students at all levels need to strengthen their oral comprehension skills. Games that emphasize verbal communication serve as useful ways to educate students while having fun. For example, students can play games each Friday to reinforce the week's lessons. Make sure that you assess general student skills to develop and implement appropriate games since classes often are composed of students at different levels. To increase enthusiastic participation, invest in cheap prizes (e.g., candy, extra points on quiz/test, toy).


One game for beginner ESL students uses large flash cards. Create pairs of 8-inch by 12-inch flash cards by hand or using magazine cut outs. For example, when studying animals, one card may have a picture of the animal and a related card will show its habitat or food. Pass out one card to each student and ask students to find their matching card. Have students prepare a short description of their cards, which they will read out loud. Another game involves music. Pick an easy song that the students can understand. Type out the song lyrics, but block out the majority of words, like by using white out before making copies. Ask students to listen to the song and complete the lyrics.


One way to work on speaking and pronunciation skills is by introducing tongue twisters. For example, start each class with a short tongue twister--grandmother gathers giant green grapes--with definitions of difficult or new words. Also tailor games to your audience. If your class is filled with 12- or 13-year-olds, then play ESL jeopardy (on blackboard/powerpoint) with a pop culture or sports category. If students are adults, emphasize everyday categories like how to bargain, buying groceries, or car repair.


Advanced ESL classes should incorporate several communication games and activities. For instance, assign weekly reports for which one student each week speaks for three to five minutes about any topic--interest, family, hobby, extracurricular. Decide whether will submit written reports. Have students ask questions to the speaker for participation credit. Consider developing a news segment during which students discuss current events. Another game is similar to charades. Break students into teams and have the actor describe the word(s)/phrase using any other words or by drawing a picture.

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