ESL School Vocabulary: Word List & Games

Instructor: Allison Camps

Allison has taught in elementary school inclusion classrooms and has her master's degree in Special Education.

This lesson will provide you with school related vocabulary words for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. It will also give you examples of activities you can use to teach the terms.

English as a Second Language

You have just landed in Japan. You are so excited to begin your dream vacation. First stop, the bathroom. You look around, there seems to be no bathroom in sight. With your suitcase in tow, you run through the airport. You stop to ask someone where the closest restroom is location, but they do not understand what you are saying and you do not know how to say bathroom in Japanese. Not a great way to start the trip, right?

Imagine being a child and feeling this same frustration in a new school and new country (maybe even continent.) A child's feeling of belonging is so important, especially for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. As a teacher, one of your first goals is to provide ESL students with the vocabulary to function in your classroom community.

School Related Vocabulary List

Here is a list of some common words that can help ESL students in the classroom:

Subjects Supplies & Tools Places Actions
Reading backpack classroom think
Writing book hall write
Math notebook cafeteria read
Science folder gymnasium question
Social Studies pen bus answer
Art pencil locker sit
Physical Education (P.E.) marker library solve
Music crayons bathroom walk
Media glue stand
Lunch scissors
Recess paper

Games to Reinforce Vocabulary

In addition to teaching students these vocabulary terms, you can use games to help them practice and reinforce their understanding of the words. Some games include:


Create game cards with pictures (along with labeled word) of school related vocabulary words and follow the rules of Pictionary. This is always a big hit with students!

10 Objects

Gather ten school related objects such a pencil, pen, ruler, glue, book, etc. Have all the objects laid out on the table, for the students to see. Put all the items back in the bag. Without the students seeing, take one object out of the bag and hide it. Re-lay out all the items to see if the students can figure out which item is missing. This game not only reinforces vocabulary, but challenges your short term memory, as well.

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