Boring ESL activities=bored students. Avoid this by mixing it up with these fun, interesting games and activities to do with your teens. Check out my top picks for ESL games for teens that can help to create a positive language learning environment.
Fun ESL Activities for Teenagers: Top 30
If you’re looking for some fresh, new ideas for your English classes, check out these ESL games for teens. They’re guaranteed to be fun, engaging, and interesting. These fun ESL games for teenagers cover a wide range of skills, from speaking to writing to listening and reading, and many of them cover more than one skill at a time. Your students will love your classes!
Try out some of these activities and games for teenagers today. Oh yeah, and these ESL activities for teenagers will also work for any foreign language teaching.
#1 Team Games for Teenagers: Running Dictation 4-Skills ESL Activity
If you’re looking for an active, 4-skills ESL activity that teenagers will love, look no further than running dictation! It’s competitive, fast-paced and students always demand to play it again. Running dictation is the perfect ESL activity for a case of the Monday morning or Friday afternoon blues. It’s guaranteed to get a bit of energy and excitement back into your classes.
The basic way it works is that there are sentences (from a dialogue or story) around your class. You can make your own, or find some articles related to your topic in the textbook you’re using or on the Internet.
One student has to read it, memorize as much as they can, and then come dictate it to their partner who writes it down. At the end, the team has to put the sentences in the correct order.
This is a very good activity for intermediate language learners, although can also work for high beginners or advanced. The main requirements are basic reading and writing skills.
Including all four skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) within a single activity is the kind of like the holy grail of language teaching. This one is one of the best for doing that well.
In addition, there aren’t that many writing games for teens (or kids or adults too). They are just harder to design and make them fun. However, running dictation does have a serious writing element to it, which makes it a nice choice for a writing game.
#2 Communication Games for Teens: Board Games for ESL Students
Board games are one of my favorites for teenagers because they can be tailored to any grammar or vocabulary point that you’re teaching. They’re also extremely student-centered when played in small groups of 3-4 students. Make sure you bring in a little prize of some kind for the winner in each group to add a small element of competition.
The best part about board games is that they’re very easy to design yourself. Once you have a template down, it takes only about 10 minutes to produce a board game for just about any vocabulary set or grammar point. You can also find some materials for board games in a teacher’s resource book for the textbook you’re using.
#3: Apples to Apples ESL Vocabulary Game
One of my favorite vocabulary games for ESL students is Apples to Apples. You can make your own decks of cards to suit any level or target vocabulary. Get the students to help you out—they’ll have fun doing it, and will also enjoy playing it all the more! Kids love this one too.
Or, you can check out Apples to Apples Junior on Amazon if you want to use it as a party game.
Have some fun with your students while they practice English vocabulary. You can teach new words, or students can have fun while working the language themselves. I know which one I’ll choose every single time.
ESL for teens: Make it more fun with a game like this one. It’s also one of my top picks for team games for teenagers.
#4 ESL Activities for Teenagers: Password
This is one of the best ESL vocabulary activities for teenagers because it’s challenging. You can play password with the entire class, but it’s best in smaller classes of 10 or fewer in order to increase student talking time.
Or course, if you have a large class, you can break it up into smaller groups to play this as well.
#5: Concentration ESL or EFL Memory Game
Concentration is one of my favorite ESL games for teenagers because it’s an excellent way to calm a rowdy class. You won’t believe how quiet your students will be when playing this one! A sign of a good activity is when the majority of the students are focusing deeply on it, and this one is one of the best.
It’s adaptable for all levels and ages, including young children, up to high school, and adults.
Concentration is played in groups of 3-4 students and doesn’t require a lot of talking. I use it mostly for matching vocabulary words with definitions, but you can adapt it to suit lots of other stuff as well. The best part about this one is that you can adapt it for any age, or level of students.
For higher-level students, you can match the word to definition, opposites, or problem and advice. These are just a few examples so get creative!
Oh yeah, it’s one of the best memory games I can think of. Not only does it challenge the brain, but it helps our students remember English vocabulary as well. After all, students should be doing the hard work, not you!
And this simple activity is a favorite of many of my teenage students. It also lends itself well to holiday-themed classes. Check out this article for even more ideas: Christmas Activities for ESL Students.
Try out one of the best learning games for teenagers today.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 94 Pages - 06/18/2020 (Publication Date)
#6: Surveys for ESL Students
If you ask your students what they want to get out of your class, they’ll often say they want to speak English better. Surveys are an excellent way to help them do that.
With big classes of adults, surveys are one of my go-to ESL classroom activities because they’re student-centered, engaging, and cover all 4 skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking). They are still an excellent ESL activity for teenagers, but you need to judge whether or not they’re mature enough to do it.
Most classes are, but be sure to set the ground rules before you set your students loose to do the activity. I usually say the following:
- Talking only 1-1 and not in groups of three or more.
- The goal is not to finish first. The goal is to have lots of mini-conversations in English with a lot of different people.
- Speak only in English. The goal is not to finish quickly! The goal is to practice speaking English.
- Also, write down notes about the answers in English only. Remember that the goal is language learning, not simply to get it done as quickly as possible.
- Only take notes for the answers. You don’t need to write detailed sentences.
The bottom line? ESL surveys are amazing and I hope that all teachers are using them in their classes!
#7 ESL For Teenagers: Vocabulary Auction
Try out vocabulary auction if you’re looking to introduce an element of competition into your classes. Your students will have so much fun that they’ll forget that they’re learning English at the same time! If you want to review new terms or words that students have been learning, this should be your go-to activity.
It can take a while to get this ESL vocabulary activity organized and it’s certainly not one to prepare in the few minutes before class is starting. However, it’s worth it, especially if you teach multiple sections of the same class because your students will love it!
Seriously, it’s one of the most exciting classes of the whole year. It’s a top pick for an ESL classroom game so try it out today with your students! But, it’s best for 13 and up.
#8 Charades: One of the Best Interaction Games for Teenagers
If you’re having a party day, charades make an excellent ESL activity for teenagers. It’s really fun and also a great way to review vocabulary. You can build your own words or phrases, or get the students to help you out with it.
The way I get students to help is to go in groups of 3-4, look through their textbooks (only what we’ve studied together), and choose 10 vocabulary words that were new to them. Then, collect the papers and compile your own master list to play with from there.
Then, put students into teams and have some fun with this ESL vocabulary game. The team with the most points wins. It’s one of my favorite classroom games for teens.
Alternatively, you could have students do the simple version of this with a partner for a quick lead-in or warm-up. For example, they have to describe a room in a house to a partner who guesses what it is.
For example, “This is where you cook food and eat.”
“This is where you stay at night time.”
#9 ESL for Teens: English Central Videos
Teenagers love videos, but it can be hard to find ones easy enough for your teenage English learners on YouTube. Check out English Central for help in finding ones that are the right level for you. It’s one of the best online resources for your English classes.
You can do so many things in your ESL lesson when using videos! Discussion, comprehension question, a focus on grammar or vocabulary, etc. Get creative because the sky is the limit. It’s English teaching made easy!
There is a huge range of fun ESL topics covered as well. You can find videos about: friends, jobs, school life, movies, dates, family, trips, etc.
#10: Clap & Catch
#11 Learning Activities for Teenagers: Conversation Starters
I know I promised to give you 10 of the best ESL games for teens, but here’s an extra one! These conversation starters work well for teenagers or adults, but you should only use them with high intermediate or advanced students. Beginners usually don’t have the English grammar or vocabulary necessary to talk about one of these questions for more than 10 or 20 seconds.
You can check them out here: https://eslspeaking.org/conversation-starters-adults/
For a more extended activity related to this, have students work in pairs to plan a day walking around their city. For example, would they go to a park or museum? What food would they recommend eating? Then, each group can do a quick presentation to the class and the rest of you can follow along with them!
Another good one is what students see when they walk to school. Encourage them to dig a little bit deeper below the surface. Are there any ways that they go where they can see something a bit out of the ordinary? Do they walk with friends or alone?
#12: Interactive Games for Teenagers
I’m ALL about interaction in my classes. I mean between myself and the students if fewer than 5 people in the class. Or, between students, if it’s a bigger class.
It’s through interacting that people get better at languages. It’s for this reason that I carefully design my games and activities so that they facilitate this.
Check out some of my top ideas for fun activities for teenagers here: Interactive ESL Games and Activities.
#13 Fun Activities for Teens: Drawing a Picture, ESL Speaking Style
Another fun English activity for teenagers is drawing a picture, but with a twist. The way it works is that one student is looking at a picture of something (something like an alien usually works well). Then, they have to describe it to their partner, in English but the one who is drawing can’t see the picture.
They may have to say things like:
- The alien has a very big, square head.
- It has 7 arms, coming out from all around the body.
- There are 4, small eyes at the top of the head.
In the end, you can compare pictures with the class and the results are usually hilarious.
A quick tip: Choose something silly, and not a real person in the class. If you do this, someone will almost always end up feeling insulted!
More details about this warm-up activity for teenagers here: Drawing a Picture, ESL Speaking Style.
#14: ESL Whiteboard Games
I don’t know what it is, but most students seem to love writing on the whiteboard. Teens of course are no exception! The good news is that there are a ton of fun whiteboard activities you can try out with your students. Think relay races, error correction, flyswatter games, and more.
Here are some of our top picks:
#15: A-Z Alphabet Game
Try out this quick warmer activity if your students have studied the topic of the day before. It’s ideal for helping to activate prior knowledge before jumping into the heart of your lesson. For example, even before teaching the unit, most teenage students will know lots of vocabulary for things like jobs, weather, animals, etc.
The way this game works is that in pairs, students write the alphabet down on a piece of paper. Then, they have to think of a word that starts with each letter according to a certain topic. For example, jobs.
A = astronaut
C = chef
F = firefighter
The key is to just allow one job for each letter and also that not all letters need to be filled in. The winner is the team with the most words done at the end of 2-3 minutes. You can find out more information right here:
#16: Postcard English Writing Activity
If you can get your hands on a bunch of blank postcards for cheap, then consider this simple but fun writing activity that works well for beginners, intermediates, or more advanced learners. Check out all the details about it right here:
#17: 3 Things
If you want to have some fun with English writing with teens, then consider 3 Things. The way it works is that students choose three things for their partner. They can be totally random and unrelated. Then, their partner has to write a story that connects them all together, but it can be silly.
Learn more here: 3 Things English Writing Activity.
#18: ESL Games for Teenagers
Even more fun ideas here:
#19: Me Too!
This is a simple TEFL speaking and listening activity that requires nothing in the way of preparation or materials. Sounds like some ESL teaching gold, right? It is. It’s also a nice choice to use as a day of the week activity.
The way it works is that each person says a fact about themselves to see which of their classmates has it in common with them. Learn more about how it all works right here:
Group presentations in English can be a fun task-based learning project for teenage students and it’s a nice break for you! They’re ideal for language learning because they offer some serious speaking and listening practice.
Okay, so they’re not really in the category of “fun activities.” However, they can be quite a useful exercise and it’s for this reason that I like to include at least once per semester for most of my classes. Although you might get some initial groans when first telling your students about this, they usually don’t mind in the end so push through the initial resistance!
You’ll get the best results if you give students plenty of support and instruction on how to give an effective presentation. The key to this one is allowing lots of preparation time in class, as well as giving detailed feedback throughout the process.
Also, be sure to make your expectations clear so that you get the best results. For example, are students…
- Allowed to read from a paper?
- Able to have a wall of text on the PowerPoint?
- Allowed to have one person in the group do all the talking?
As you can see, it’s worth it to think through your instructions clearly before getting started with this.
Oh yeah, you can turn this into more of an interactive activity if you require the people listening to do something. Perhaps you can put the students into groups of 4 and each group has to ask 1 follow-up question. Or, you may want to consider peer grading. It’s not exactly a presentation game for class…but it’s kind of fun!
If you teach ESL online, you may want to consider this activity. It’s a nice way for students to work on their speaking skills in a huge way.
#21: Sentence Building Activities
Time spent on making better English sentences is never wasted time! It’s key to English writing and speaking and the good news is that it doesn’t have to be super boring. Check out some of the recommendations here:
#22: Word Squares
#23: TV ESL Lesson Plan
If you want to get your teens talking, then choose a topic that is relevant to them! Chances are that most of them watch at least a few different TV shows which makes this a perfect topic.
The even better news is that you can use this complete lesson plan that includes a warm-up, conversation questions, vocabulary, and writing prompts. It’s ideal for intermediate-advanced teenage learners and takes 1-2 hours.,
If you’re looking for something to just print off and take to class with you, then don’t pass up this resource. Have a look here:
#24: Word Challenge
A fun relay race type of game that’s heavy on the spelling and listening skills is word challenge. The way it works is that you can say a vocabulary word and students race to spell it correctly on the whiteboard. Simple but fun! Learn more about how to play it here:
#25: Word Association
This is a nice warmer activity that helps students activate prior knowledge that they have about a topic. It’s basically a mind map of vocabulary words about a certain topic that students can make with a partner or small group, or you can do it together as an entire class as well. Find out all the details:
#26: Man/Woman on the Street Interviews
Check out this interview-style activity that’s heavy on the questions forms, as well as listening and speaking. It’s the perfect way to elicit some opinions from your teenagers about current events or controversial topics. It can be easily adapted for big or small classes and works for a short, or long amount of time.
You’ll certainly want to try out this extremely versatile ESL activity for teenagers (it works for kids or adults too!). Find out more here:
#27: ESL Conversation Questions
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 146 Pages - 07/02/2020 (Publication Date)
If you teach conversation, free-talking, or speaking classes, then I’m sure you’re always looking for good sources of questions. Sure, you can make your own or find them on the Internet but that takes time. The better solution is to just copy some, take them to class, and let your students get to talking. Here is my favourite source:
#28: Current Events Lesson Plan
A nice activity for intermediate or advanced students is to talk about current events. Here’s a complete lesson plan for current events that contains the following:
- Warm-up question
- Vocabulary challenge
- Idioms and phrases
- Conversation questions
- Writing prompts
Have a look here:
Try out this challenging listening and speaking or writing ESL activity with your teens today. The way it works is that you find a passage to read out (or write your own). Put students into pairs and then read it at a faster than normal pace. Students take notes to try to recreate what they heard with their partners.
Then, read it out again and students add more to it. Finally, they compare what they have with the original version. Want to give it a try?
#30: ESL Daily Schedule Activities
A nice topic for teenagers is about daily schedules. Depending on sleep schedules and how strict parents are, I find that they can vary widely even in a small class. Here are some of the best activities for talking about this:
More Ideas for Games and Activities for Teenagers
101 ESL Activities for Teenagers and Adults is a new book from Jackie Bolen and Jennifer Booker Smith that’s now available on Amazon. It’s designed to make life easy for teachers!
The key to a better English class is a variety of engaging, interesting, and fun activities and games. But, it can be difficult to come up with fresh ones for each class, especially if you see the same group of students a couple of times a week over the course of a semester. However, with more than 100, you certainly won’t be at a loss for some new things to try out in your classes.
Here’s how 101 ESL Activities for Teenagers will help you:
On the fence about whether or not this book is right for you? Here are just a few of the reasons why you might consider picking it up:
Save time lesson planning
Maybe you’re tired of wading around the junk on the Internet to find some ESL games or activities that you can actually use in your classes. We were too! That’s why we wrote this book. Just open it up, go to the section you’re looking for (4-skills, listening + speaking, writing, reading, or warm-ups/icebreakers) and find quality ESL activities that are easy on the prep.
You’ll find a brief description of the activity so that you can get the big picture. Then you’ll find the step by step instructions for how to set up and do the activity in your class. Finally, there are some helpful teaching tips so that you can make the activity even better and also avoid some of the common things that can go wrong.
Your students will love them too and will definitely appreciate the variety in your classes. And, you can have more time to do the stuff you really like to do! No more wasting time lesson planning ever again. There are enough ESL games and activities to last you an entire year or more!
If you teach private classes, these activities will keep your students coming back for more! Fresh and interesting? That’s some ESL gold right there, isn’t it?
Stuck in a rut?
Do you do the same things over and over again in your classes? You’re probably so bored with them and I’m sure your students are too. Make things interesting and fresh with some new ESL games and activities. The students will love your classes (and you too!). No more sleeping at the back of your class for your students!
Make your lessons student-centred
The activities and games in 101 ESL Activities are all student-centred so you can put the focus back on your students. The only way to get good at a language is to practice it! Help your students learn English effectively by using an ESL activity in this book. We guarantee that they’ll be speaking, listening, writing, or reading English like stars!
Want to Check it Out?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 147 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
Saving time lesson planning, getting unstuck out of your rut, making your lessons student-centred sound good to you? It sounds really good to us! Seriously, it is and if this book doesn’t make your ESL classes better, then get in touch and we’ll happily refund your money.
That’s why we wrote the book. It’s the one that we wish we had years ago when we first started our teaching careers. I wasted so much time searching around the Internet for a fun activity I could use in my class. Avoid this same mistake and get your copy today.
It’s really easy to get 101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults on Amazon by downloading the free Kindle reading app. This book belongs on every single ESL teacher’s personal bookshelf.
Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office as a handy reference guide for when you plan your lessons. Or, you can take the book with you on your phone or tablet for easy lesson planning at your favourite coffee shop.
Click the link below to get the book on Amazon today. But, only if you want to get yourself some ESL lesson planning awesome in your life.
Tips for Teaching Teens
When you teach English to middle school or high school students, it can be quite challenging. However, here are a few tips to make sure your classes go as smoothly as possible.
Use General Feedback
Teens usually don’t like it when you point out their behaviour, either good or bad in front of the whole class. Praise, or scold a group or the entire class rather than an individual.
Don’t Put Students on the Spot
This can often end in disaster! Instead, you can:
- Ask for volunteers to give an answer (it works best if you give some incentive for doing so)
- Require that each group give an answer instead of an individual
- Tell a student during the practice time that you’re going to call on them during them to answer the question in front of the class so they have a bit of time to prepare something
Be sensitive about partners and small groups and who ends up working with who. It’s best not to make random partners, but it’s fine to do with groups of 4 or 5 for example.
Also, be on the lookout for mean spirited behaviour and clamp down on it hard so that everyone can have an enjoyable class experience.
Most people like it when they know what they can expect so have some routines. For example:
- Check or hand in homework
- Warm-up activity
- Work on 2-3 pages from the book in partners
- Small group activity or class game
- Assigning of homework
You can also make routines for things like handing out worksheets, collecting papers, making groups, marking homework, etc. so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time.
Start your class off on the right foot by setting up routines so that students know exactly what they can expect.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 88 Pages - 01/19/2016 (Publication Date)
Get Feedback from Students
I’ll sometimes put these questions (as a bonus point) on a quiz or test a few weeks into the semester:
“What do you like best about the class so far?”
“Is there an activity in this class that you don’t like doing?”
You’ll often get some illuminating answers. Take the feedback seriously, especially if you see the same thing over and over again. Maybe the students hate doing dictation, or they LOVE your board games. You won’t really know until you ask them.
Be Sensitive About Groups and Pairs
With university students or adults, you can put students into pairs without really thinking too much about it. Usually, they’re reasonably happy to work with just about anyone.
However, with kids, it’s usually more complicated, especially in middle school. Usually, the boys won’t want to work with the girls and vice-versa.
Although I generally like to mix things up with partners or groups to keep things fresh, with teens? I’ll usually let them sit with who they want. Or, I’ll assign groups of 3-4 students at the beginning of the course and they’ll stay with that group until the end.
Only 1 Person Talking During Group Activities for Teenagers
If there’s one rule that I’m very serious about in my classroom, it’s this one. There is only ONE person talking at a time. That applies to me, or if a student is giving a presentation or answering a question. Or, if we’re doing a game or activity that requires listening.
I often find that I have to come down very hard on this at the beginning of the semester, but that it gets much easier as the course goes on when the students know I’m very serious about this.
ESL Activities for Teenagers: Use a Variety of Them
I’m sure you know this already, but the key to interesting, engaging classes for middle or high school students is a variety of things to do. Use different games and activities for each class.
As a general rule, I try not to repeat them more than once a month to keep things fresh.
Where Can I Find ESL Lesson Plans for Teenagers?
Are you looking for some lesson plans for your teenage students? Then you’ll want to check out some of our favorite recommendations right here that will work with teens around the world:
ESL Games for Teens FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching English to teens. Here are the answers to some of the most common ones.
How Can I Make English Lessons for Teens Interesting?
There are a number of ways that you can make English lessons for teens more interesting:
- Use a variety of games and activities
- Don’t repeat topics
- Allow students some choice for things like groups, topics, etc.
- Use technology
- Focus on interactive lessons
- Have some fun
- Take English outside the classroom whenever possible
- Use interesting textbooks
- Find some authentic materials
What are Language Games in English?
Language games are useful for helping motivate students to make and sustain efforts in learning a new language. They are motivating, encourage communication and interaction, and finally, bring some fun into the English classroom.
How Can I Give Teens Choices in my Classroom?
If you’re giving homework like a written essay, for example, let them choose from a list of topics. Or, if they’re doing a speech, allow them to choose just about anything as long as they check with you first before starting.
For a group project, give them guidelines and recommendations but don’t micromanage how they get it done. As long as the final result is what you’re looking for, it doesn’t matter how your students get there. Their process may be different from yours, but that’s okay.
Do you Like these Fun ESL Activities for Teenagers?
Then you’ll need to join my email list. You’ll get plenty more ideas for ESL teachers delivered straight to your inbox every few days. It’s lesson planning made easy.
Enter your email address below. I promise to respect your privacy and will never share your email address with anyone, for any reason.
Have your say about the best ESL Games for Teens!
Do you have any go-to activities for teenagers who are English learners? Do you have any ideas for making your lessons for teenagers more interesting? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about teaching English.
Also be sure to share this on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. This will help other teachers, like yourself find this useful teaching resource guide.
Last update on 2020-10-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API