Simple Touching Games -- Phonics Games -- Circling Games -- Board Writing -- Spelling Games -- Pattern Games and Vocabulary Games
Teaching English in Taiwan Page

Games are good ways to teach, to force students to practice patterns, to increase interactions, and so forth. I have selected games which require no preparation. Go ahead and use any you like, no need to credit me, since I only thought of a couple.

Some things you might consider doing when playing games:

*Play class against you. Students often get fed up with the constant competition with each other and beating you is a welcome relief. However, you must win from time to time to ensure that something is at stake. Some class-against-you games may be found below.

*Put yourself in the game. When none of the teams can come up with the answer, you get a point (or collect points for the question).

*Insist on grammatical, complete answers to questions, otherwise the effectiveness of the game is much curtailed.

Simple Touching Games

For younger kids, flashcards with pictures or words may be placed on the board, floor, etc. You can assign the students numbers, or call out their names. Students must touch the proper flashcard. These games are not much good for anything, but they are diverting for younger kids. Some things to improve them:

*Kids must call out the name of the flashcards they touch.

*After modeling the pattern, bring a kid up to be the teacher. Let him/her select the card and the players who are to touch it. Or the loser of the touching race may be assigned to this duty.

*Play three teams instead of two. The first two teams to touch get a point, or the first team gets two points, the second one point and the third nothing.

Back to the top

Phonics Games

Game 1

Divide the class into pairs. The pairs will be allowed to work together. Write down each pairs' names on the board for scorekeeping.

Next, write three lines on board like this: _ _ _. Say the word "bad" and model the sounds. The students must write B-A-D. If they write BAD, they get three points, BED, two points, BET, one point, and PET no points. Each correct letter counts for one point. As students improve, you can make the words longer and more complex.

A variation of this is to play class against teacher. Each student must write the word. Each student who writes the correct word, the class gets a point, each student who is wrong teacher gets a point.

Another variation, also class against teacher, for slower classes, is to write three words on the board (BED, BAD, BID). The students must select the correct word and write it down when you say it. Each correct word, the class gets a point,each incorrect word, teacher gets a point.

If your school teaches the KK phonics system, this game is good for that too.

Back to the top

Circling Games

Circling games are good for vocabulary. Write the vocabulary words on the board and students have to circle the ones you say. This game is also good for phonics. You can write 20-30 words like BAD, BID, BED on the board and have the students search for the one you said. It is also good for alphabet recognition -- write the letter of the alphabet on the board out of order. Students must race to circle the proper letter. Played with three teams as above these games can be fun.

Back to the top

Board Writing

Very simple. You say it, students race to write it, from single words to whole sentences, phonics, etc. Drawing games are also good.

A variation on this is to write the words down on a notebook and have the students draw them, then classmates must guess the word from the drawing.

Back to the top

Spelling Games

*Hangman, always a good standby.

*Spelling race. Divide class into two or three teams. Write a long word on the board in blanks, for example, TELEPHONES should be written _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

Next, ask the first student on team 1 to supply a letter. If the letter is in the word, write it in the appropriate blank. Team 1 gets one point for each occurrence of the letter (for example, in TELEPHONES "e" would be worth three points, because it occurs three times). Move on to the next player from team 1. If she supplies a letter in the word, write on the blank, give the team a point and move on to the next player from team 1. Keep going until they fail to supply a letter. Then move to team 2. And so on. Note that when you return to team 1, you must start where you left off, not at player 1. For example, if player 3 on team 1 failed to name a letter in TELEPHONES, then the next time you return to team 1, you must start with player 4, not player 1. Thus, everybody plays. Write the letters they have missed on under the word clearly. You can assign yourself a point each time they repeat a letter which has been spoken before (I don't do this all the time).

When a word is completed, the team to put the last letter in the word gets an additional three points. Rotate the teams which start.


This game is an old standby. The object of the game is to force the other player to finish a word which is spelled out letter by letter. For example, let's say we have a four player game. Player A begins with "F"....

A: "F" (thinking of "fish")

B: "I" (also thinking of "fish")

C: "L" (thinking of "fill")

D: "T" (avoids death with "l" by remembering "filter")

A: "E" (continuing "filter")

B: "R" (can't think of a way out and is forced to finish the word.)

A student who is forced to finish the word receives a "P." The next time they fail, they get an "I." When they have spelled out PIG they are out (or GHOST if you have time).

Now let's suppose that B had said "q" instead of "r" at the end. C can then "CHALLENGE." If B cannot supply a word that begins FILTEQ, then B gets a "P." But if B knows such a word, than C gets a "P."

This game is either roundly hated or loved.  It can also be played in four or five teams, alternating turns among the players of each team.

*Spelling Chain.

This is a fun game that causes students to explode with tension. Divide the class into two or three teams. Now say a word, like TELEPHONE. Team 1 must spell the word ONE STUDENT AT A TIME. For example, the first kid says T, the second E, the third L and so forth. If one kid blows it, move on to the next team which must start over AT THE BEGINNING, not where the other team left off. Each correct word gets a point. If the teams just can't spell the word after several tries, give yourself a point (that infuriates them). After the teams have the idea downpat, you can change it by calling on players out of order. That way, players will have to pay attention during the entire time, in case you call on them. The more rapidly you play this game, the more fun it is.

Back to the top

Pattern Games


This is a very complex game that students often love. It's my signature game.

First, you need to make a table with five rows and a number of columns. The rows are numbered 100,200,300,400,500. The columns will be categories of questions, just as in the real Jeopardy game. The values are the number of points the team earns when they get the question right. Additionally, they represent the difficulty of the question.

Each column is given a category. For intermediate classes, these are typically TAIWAN, TAIPEI, PAST TENSE, SPELLING, STORY, MAKE A QUESTION etc. A beginning class might have CLOTHING, GREETINGS, TIME, BE-VERBand so on.

Begin the game by having a student from team 1 select a column and row, just like in Jeopardy. For example, let's say the kid selects TAIWAN for 100. Ask a simple Taiwan question, like "What city has the most people?" or "Name the tallest mountain in Taiwan." A 500 point past tense question might be something like "Who wasn't at home last night?" Only the selected student may answer the question. No other student from that team may help them. If that student answers correctly, then you go on to the second student from that team. And so on.  As long as they answer correctly they control the board and may continue to select questions. However, if they blow it, then the question is open to anyone in the class. Anyone may now answer, but the other teams each must get a chance to answer before returning to the original team. Insist on complete, grammatical sentences. If players shout out answers to other teammates, you can penalize them by deducting 50 points. If no team can answer the question, give yourself the points. The kids really hate that.

The reason the board does not rotate between teams is that teams will sleep or talk if they do not have a chance to score at any moment when the selected player misses.

A variation is to supply the answer and have the students formulate the question. This is MUCH tougher.

*Past tense detective

Students love this game and will often demand to play it.

Begin by announcing that a bank has been robbed at 7:30 last night and two students in the class are suspected of being the robbers. Send two students out. They will be the robbers. The remaining students will be the police detectives who will question the robbers.

The robbers go out and create a story which will alibi them. The goal is to break the alibis of the robbers. One robber is brought in and is thoroughly questioned in the past tense while the second robber waits in a place where he can't hear or see the first robber. Then the second robber is brought in. His story must match the first robber's, or they have lost and the detectives have found them out.

This game can be used to practice an almost infinite variety of question patterns and vocabulary. For example, if the first robber says they took the bus or taxi, students may ask "Who paid?" Was the driver a man or a woman?" "Where did he pick you up?" "What bus was it?" "Where did you get off?"

Typical questions involve asking what they were wearing, what they ate, etc. The more detailed, the better. If the robbers say they ate, students should ask what, how much, how long did you wait, what time did you go home, was it overdone or underdone, etc.

It is important to stress that all questions must have answers. "I forgot" and "I don't know" should not be permitted.

*Describe It

Bring a student from team 1 up. She must describe a word which you have written on a paper to the whole class. Words should not be concrete nouns, but should be abstractions like 'tuesday', 'silence', 'tomorrow' etc. One point for each correct guess.


Just like the TV show. Bring two students from team 1 up. One student sits with his back to the board, the other facing the board. Write a word on the board. The hinter, who can see the word, then says one, and only one, word. The guesser must then guess based on some association what the word on the board is. The hinter can only say one word at a time, and phrases or descriptions are not allowed. Give them a minute or thirty seconds to try. For some reason this game is not very popular with students, in my experience.


This is an old parlor game. Draw a grid. Across the top of the grid write a common word, like TABLE. The rows of the grid should be categories of things, like fruits, clothing, verbs, nouns, cities, countries, and so forth. A sample grid might look something like this:

                             T              A                   B                    L                  E


Students must think of nouns beginning with T, A, B, L, E respectively, and so on until the grid is complete. Whoever fills in the most squares within the time limit wins.

*Word Find

Write a very long word on the board, like ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM. Students must use those letters to make shorter words. For example, students could make RATE, or DISEASE or SISTER. Score one point for each letter of a word the students think of. For example, SISTER would be worth six points. For more advanced classes, it is advisable to set a lower limit of four letters per word.

*Short Words

This is a challenging game students often enjoy. Write the numbers 1-10 vertically on the board. Then, next to each number, write two letters. For example:

The letter pairs are used to make words. Words can built on either side of a letter pair, but the base letter may not be separated. Thus, for EA, either SEA or EAT is acceptable, for TT, MUTT or LETTER, but not TOT. For each letter of a word, score one point. Here's the kicker: the lowest score wins. Thus, students must think of the shortest words possible. For beginning classes, it is advisable to use mostly vowel-vowel or vowel-consonant combinations. For more advanced classes consonant-consonant combinations are more challenging.

*Destroy the Sentence

The object of this game is to take a very long sentence and reduce it to the basic subject and verb. Write a very long sentence on the board, like "Yesterday at 4:30 the three fat, ugly, and stupid boys were walking slowly on the dirty gray road by the silver river when they saw seven or eight crazy old men dancing happily under a large brown tree with no leaves and no birds sitting in it, so they waved and shouted at the stupid old men." You can divide the class into three or four teams, or if it is small enough, play every man for himself.

The students must get rid of words. They can get rid of one, two, or three words at a time. Each word eliminated is one point. When a word is removed, the remaining sentence must be grammatical. If they err, do not take off points, but that does count as their turn. The words do not have to be adjacent. For example, in the above sentence, student 1 starts out by removing the phrase "sitting in it" and gets three points. Student 2, not nearly as bold, decides to get rid of "yesterday" and only earns one point. 

Teaching English in Taiwan