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5 No Prep ESL Games

How much time do you spend a week planning out games and activities for your classes? How many materials do you need to hunt down to inject some laughter and play into your lesson?

Probably far too much is our guess.

That’s why we’ve curated this list of our top 5 no prep ESL games that kids absolutely love and don’t require any preparation time on your part. All of these ESL games are for classrooms, but you can find lots of ideas for teaching online with zoom here.

The only materials you’ll need to play these games are:

  • Flashcards
  • A blindfold (optional)
  • A parachute (not the sky-diving kind but this small one for kid’s play that offers endless opportunities for great games).

All of these games are perfect for kids aged 4-7 and aren’t the same ones that you’re sick and tired of playing.

Our Top 5 No Prep ESL Games your Students will love you for

Game #1 Deep Sea Divers

What you’ll need:

  • A parachute
  • Flashcards (any theme)

This game is incredibly fun and shows you how entertaining these parachutes can really be (seriously, it’s a great cheap investment for hours of fun and endless possibilities).

How to play:

  1. Introduce or reintroduce any vocabulary using the flashcards.
  2. All the kids sit in a circle around the parachute and hold it by the edges.
  3. The teacher puts the flashcards face down under the parachute
  4. The kids stand up and make waves with the parachute by lifting it up and down
  5. The teacher calls out one kid’s name and a vocabulary item from the flashcards
  6. That kid has to “dive” under the parachute and fish out the correct flashcard
  7. When he or she gets the right one it’s their turn to call out another word and choose a different kid to “go diving”

Related Post: Fun ESL Grammar Games for Kids

Game #2 Switch!

Expect lots of laughs with this one! This is another vocabulary focused no prep esl game that involves lots of movement that’ll wake up and enthuse your students.

What you’ll need:

  • A parachute
  • Flashcards
  • Sticky-tape

How to play:

  1. Practise some vocabulary with your kids using the flashcards of your choice – make sure there are as many flashcards as there are students
  2. Once they’ve learnt the vocabulary give them a flashcard and stick it to their chest with sticky-tape
  3. The kids then line up around the edge of the parachute and hold its edge
  4. They pull the parachute up as high as they can so they can see their classmates and teacher under the parachute
  5. You call out two vocabulary items from the flashcards on your students’ chests.
  6. These two students swap places in the circle under the parachute while calling out their vocabulary item
  7. Give the students a chance to be “it” and call out two vocabulary items – they love having an active role in the game

TOP TIP: to make it even more fun you can call out the vocabulary items faster and faster so that four or even six students have to switch places at the same time.

Game #3 What’s for dinner, hungry wolf?

This is a great game for practicing food vocabulary that has the extra cherry on top of requiring zero prep time!

What you’ll need:

  • Flashcards about food

How to play:

  1. Review food vocabulary flashcards before starting
  2. Get the kids to put their head down on the desk and cover their eyes (or get them to line up outside the classroom door) while you hide the flashcards around the room
  3. Tell the kids to look (or come back in) when you’ve hidden them all
  4. Divide the kids up into groups (the size of these groups will depend on how big your class is)
  5. Tell them you’re a hungry wolf and you need their help to find your dinner (you can show them an image of a wolf on your phone so they understand)
  6. They have to ask you in unison “What’s for dinner hungry wolf?”
  7. You say a food item from the flashcards that you’ve hidden around the class and the kids need to find it
  8. The first team to find the flashcard wins and they get to be the wolf and tell the other kids what they want for dinner

Game #4 Watch out!

Not only does this no prep esl game require zero planning, but you don’t even need materials to play it! It’s designed to help kids consolidate and practice their direction vocabulary and have a lot of fun while doing it!

How to play:

  1. Rearrange the tables and chairs of your class to create a kind of circuit (make sure to put some obstacles in the way like a chair or a pencil case)
  2. One kid closes their eyes or puts their hands over their eyes (no peeking!)
  3. The other kids in the class have to call out the directions. This is a great chance not only to practice “left” “right” “straight ahead” etc but also giving commands like “go” and “turn”
  4. Anytime the student is about to hit an obstacle the class have to shout out “Watch out!” and the child has to freeze until the other kids give him or her directions on how to avoid the obstacle.
  5. Once the student reaches the end point another kid can have a chance

TOP TIP: Make this more dynamic by splitting your class into two groups and having a kid from each group go through the obstacle course at the same time.

Game #5 Musical Statues (with a twist)

Want to incorporate songs into your lesson plan? A classic that few kids ever get bored of, but let’s make it more interesting and relevant for the ESL classroom.

What you’ll need to play:

How to play:

  1. Play the music and have the students copy the dance moves and sing the lyrics
  2. Pause the music without warning
  3. The students have to stand very still and not move an inch
  4. If a student moves they have to answer a question relevant to the vocabulary of the song
  5. For example, if you’re using the example video we gave you, you could ask them “Do you like pasta?”

  6. This is an alternative to eliminating someone and helps them practice more vocabulary

Want to cut the preparation time of all your lessons?

Making use of these no-prep esl games will save you a lot of hours of planning outside class time, but what if you could take it a step further? What if you could cut back the planning time of your entire lesson?

We’re offering you just that – all of our videos come with lesson plans and worksheets that build upon each other to reinforce your students’ learning and help you save hours a week on lesson planning.

You can sign up to get access to all our resources for a free 14 day trial.

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