Engaging Vocabulary Games: 25 Must-Try Activities for English Language Learners

vocabulary games for ELLs

On the Equipping ELLs podcast we’ve been delving into the world of vocabulary development, and the topic of episode #104 is a personal favorite – using games to enhance vocabulary learning among ELLs.nike air max 90 carhartt uk μπουφαν γυναικειο speed x cordura ćwiczenia na rowerze köröm díszítő szalagok logitech c270 microphone not working nike air max ivo black and white μπουφαν γυναικειο speed x cordura nfl jersey sales polaroid κάμερα ipad 2019 hülle mit tastatur und stifthalter nike air max 90 carhartt uk golf d Purchase college team jerseys at a discounted price and of high quality

The Power of Games in Vocabulary Learning

Before we dive into our list of 25 vocabulary-boosting games, let’s explore why games are incredibly beneficial for ELLs:

  • Enhanced Concentration: Games naturally boost students’ ability to focus and concentrate while learning.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Through games, students develop logical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
  • Vocabulary and Memory Improvement: Games offer a platform for practicing and applying learned vocabulary while improving memory skills.
  • Improvement in Speaking and Reading: Depending on the game, students can enhance their speaking and reading skills in a fun setting.
  • They’re fun. Games encourage social interaction, excitement, and peer-to-peer communication, making students happy and engaged in the learning process!

Now let’s check out these 25 games to support your students’ vocabulary development!
To make these even easier to use, I’ve categorized these games based on different language proficiency levels!

Games for Newcomers:

  1. Bingo: A classic game with various versions, adaptable to different vocabulary learning styles. You can use pictures, words, or a combination of the two. Students can even create their own BINGO card.
  2. Word Searches: Remember to adapt font size and complexity to not overwhelm your newcomers.
  3. Headbands: A fun vocabulary description game adaptable to different language levels. You can buy the game, or just use post-it notes! Describing is a great skill to practice!
  4. Pop: A thrilling word guessing game that adds excitement with the “pop” element! Check out the freebie in the resources below.
  5. Pictionary: An excellent way for newcomers to practice vocabulary through drawing. This takes the pressure off of the artist to speak!
  6. Memory: Versatile game adaptable to different levels – picture-to-picture, picture-to-word, word-to-sentence matching.
  7. Dominoes: Create customized game pieces for pairing homophones or related words.
  8. Tic-Tac-Toe: An adaptable game where learners use vocabulary to play strategically. Listen to the episode to hear how students could utilize literacy or oracy skills when playing this classic game!

Games for Intermediate Learners:

  1. Apples to Apples: This game encourages discussion and expanding adjective use. It also gets students talking to share their opinions and to explain why they chose the word they did. Try the Apples to Apples Junior or BIG PICTURE versions!
  2. Guess in Ten: Students guess a word based on questions to expand vocabulary and critical thinking. This is so easy, and can be played while you walk a student back to class, or played between students during class.
  3.  Scategories: Enhancing vocabulary by thinking of words that fit into given categories that begin with the letter rolled on the die.
  4. Guess Who: Encourages detailed description, questioning, and analysis skills. (Guess Where is another great version of this classic game!)
  5. Blurt!: Helps develop auditory comprehension, word recall and vocabulary!

Games for Advanced Learners:

  1. Taboo:A guessing game challenging students to describe words without using specific terms.
  2. Catchphrase: Students will love this hot-potato style vocabulary game that will stimulate quick-thinking and quick-responses!
  3. Tribond: A challenging game requiring finding commonalities between three words. This game works great in groups!
  4. Upwords: A word-building game, similar to Scrabble but with added complexity. It works great to practice word families!
  5. Banana Grams: A fast-paced spelling and word-forming game.

Quick and Completely Prep-Free Games for All Levels:

  1. 20 Questions: A guessing game where students ask questions to identify a word.
  2. Categories: You throw out a sentence and they shout out words that go in that category!
  3. Charades: Act out vocabulary words for others to guess.
  4. Team Vocabulary Races: Vocabulary-based races to encourage quick thinking.
  5. Switching Places: Students will match definitions with words in this game that has everyone moving and on their feet!
  6. Inside-Outside Circle: A game involving word swapping and movement. There are so many variations for this Kagan strategy!
  7. Vocabulary Roll-a-Word: A dice-based game encouraging varied word use and understanding.

Games are powerful tools for making language learning engaging and fun. They not only facilitate vocabulary acquisition but also provide a delightful way to reinforce lessons and foster a love for language exploration. Be sure to get your free sample pack of Pop below in the Resources! And then show us some love on social media! Post a picture of your class enjoying the Pop games from Inspiring Young Learners and tag us on Instagram!

Connect with Beth:
More about Equipping ELLs:

We all know that teaching isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be this hard. Equipping ELLs is a podcast for both ESL specialists and homeroom teachers who are looking for effective and engaging ways to support their English Language Learners without adding to their endless to-do list. Tune in each week to hear tips, strategies, and inspirational stories that will empower you to better reach your ELL students, equip them with life-long skills, and strengthen relationships with colleagues and parents.

Your host, Beth Vaucher, is the founder of Inspiring Young Learners. She is an ESL certified homeroom teacher with over 10 years of experience teaching in the US and internationally. Her background of M.Ed in ESL and Curriculum and Instruction combined with her experience has led her to develop a bestselling newcomer curriculum that has sold in over 90 countries around the globe. She brings a different perspective to teaching ELLs from her years teaching and living abroad and working with ELLs from around the world. You will walk away from each episode with the ideas and tools you need to transform your experience as a teacher and cultivate a thriving and welcoming environment for your ELL students.



Find a variety of best selling resources created specifically with the diverse needs of ELLs in mind.