Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
Vocabulary and ESL Students
Keeping students engaged is a challenge teachers face just about every day. For teachers of non-native speakers, this task can be even more daunting as students face a language and cultural barrier. Playing games is a natural way to up the engagement level and create trust, build relationships, and increase student efficacy. Take a look.
Vocabulary Games for Emerging Students
Whether a young student or a new arrival in your classroom, all ESL students have to start somewhere. Use these vocabulary games to help cover the basics in your classroom.
- Look and Say - Collect items from around the classroom and/or bring in some from home. Place on a table or desktop. Gather students and allow them to view the items for two minutes, then cover. Take turns naming objects from memory. Record vocabulary words on a white board. Allow another look when students no longer recall words. After all items have been identified, take turns crossing off words while identifying the object.
- Collage - Create a topic, such as food or body parts. Look for pictures in magazines to fit the topic. Cut and create a collage. Label the words.
- Word Bingo - This simple game can be adapted for any level, but starts well with emerging students. Custom create a bingo card by making a 3x3 grid. Write simple vocabulary words in each square, or have students copy words themselves. As you call words, students cover with a counter. For an added bonus, use candy or cereal as covers. This game can be extended using pictures, synonyms, antonyms, etc.
- Find It - Write simple vocabulary words on a card. Hide the corresponding item in the classroom. Hand out cards and have students find the object.
- Charades or Pictionary - Use simple vocabulary words to play charades or Pictionary. Divide students into small groups to play so they can work with one another.
Vocabulary Games for Transitional Students
For students who have some working knowledge but still need extra attention and practice, these games will help reinforce skills and build fluency. Check it out.
- Relatives - Prepare pairs of related cards, such as 'ice cream' and 'melting'. Pass out randomly and have students find the person with the related card. Ask students to explain how their cards are related.
- Headbands - Prepare vocabulary cards. Use yarn or string to create a band around students' heads. Partner or put students into small groups. Have one student place a vocabulary card (without looking) on their forehead, secured with the string, facing their partner. The partner gives clues that help the other guess the word.
- Slide It - Make a two-, three-, or four-column chart. Label with categories, such as food, furniture, animals, In the House, etc. Make a word bank with 10-15 words and ask students to put the words in the correct category. For example, the word 'cat' would go under 'animals'; 'taco' under 'food'.
- Chain Link - Have students sit in a circle. Begin the game by asking one student to say a word and spell it. The next student has to say a word that begins with the last letter in the word the first student said. For example, if the first student says 'taco', the next student has to say and spell a word that begins with an 'o', and so on, creating a chain. Record words on paper or white board.
- Friend Feud - Create a 'Family Feud'-like game with students. Choose a category, such as 'Items in a classroom' or 'Things bought at the mall.' Write related words on a white board and cover them with index cards or other paper. For example, items in a classroom include desk, pencil, paper, etc. As students guess correctly, uncover the word. Create teams and award points.
Subject Specific Vocabulary Games
ESL students often struggle with more than day-to-day vocabulary. Here are some ideas for games to play that will help them with subjects that pose a particular problem.
- Fill in the Blank - Students often have to fill in the blank on vocabulary tests and quizzes. Help them prepare by practicing with students. Use simple, known vocabulary words and write on index cards. Distribute cards to students; each can have a few. Create fill-in-the-blank sentences and read them aloud. The student with the correct word stands up and says the word. Allow the students to see the correct full sentence.
- Idioms Charades - Idioms are common phrases native speakers have adapted to, but ESL students may not understand. Write some common idioms on paper, such as 'knock it off' or 'he's the bomb'. Fold paper and have students take turns pulling from a hat or bowl and acting the idiom out. Discuss and define the idiom.
- Vocabulary Dash - Words in subject areas that native speakers just seem to know, like 'minus' or 'beaker,' can be a struggle for ESL students. Practice with a vocabulary grab. Write words on index cards and tape to the white board or a wall. When you say a definition, students dash to grab the word off the wall.
- Emotions Match - Students easily learn words for feelings like sad or happy, but can struggle with nuanced terms such as anxious or ecstatic. Create a matching game by writing the words on cards. Either draw pictures of the emotions or write more simple versions of the word. Play like a matching game, go fish, or any other match up variety.
- Build a Book - Teach students to identify and record words they don't recognize or know in their classes. Create a grid (size depends on student needs) and have them fill it in during class. Teach methods of defining, or give students definitions to write or draw pictures. Make into a book.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack