6 Hoppin’ ESL Games for Kinesthetic Learners That Love to Move

I’m excited to show you some awesome games for kinesth—wait a minute, what’s that tapping noise?

Sam! Sam, please stop tapping your pencil on Susan’s desk.

All right, now where were we? Oh right, kinesthetic lear—Laura!

Laura, dear, could you please sit still? When you bounce like that it’s hard for other students to focus.

I bet you’ve all had students like Sam and Laura.

Some students just need to touch things and move around!

And that’s all right—it doesn’t need to be seen as a negative trait.

But rather than trying to change these students, it’s best to tap into their learning style and incorporate some activities into your ESL class that are friendly to kinesthetic learners!

So let’s just briefly make sure we’re on the same page regarding this learning style before we jump right into some games.

What Is a Kinesthetic Learner?

Kinesthetic learning is a learning style of students that learn best by discovering and experiencing. These students prefer physical activities that involve getting out of their seat, moving around and touching things.

Unlike auditory and visual learning (learning best by hearing or seeing), the kinesthetic learning style can be difficult to accommodate in a classroom because of its lack of practicality. Kinesthetic learners are important too, so it’s vital that we teachers do what we can to try and enhance their learning as well.

One fun way to embrace this learning style is by playing ESL games in the classroom! This way, not only will the kinesthetic learners get to use their primary learning method, but everyone gets to have great fun while practicing English!

The best time to play a game in the classroom is after teaching a new topic. Whether it’s a vocabulary lesson or a lecture on sentence structure, playing a game is a great way to get students practicing the new English skill and is also a great way for you to check for understanding.

6 Hoppin’ ESL Games for Kinesthetic Learners That Love to Move

ESL Games for Large Groups

These types of games are always class favorites and along with reviewing material, it encourages team building and critical thinking.

1. Jeopardy

6 hoppin' ESL games for kinesthetic learners that love to move

This game is great for reviewing a lot of different subject matter before a comprehensive test. It also encourages teamwork and critical thinking, while giving the students a chance to build confidence and practice their speaking skills.

What You Need:

  • An internet connection or PowerPoint
  • A projector

Set Up:

  • Prepare a jeopardy board filled with questions on the subject matter being reviewed. You can do this on PowerPoint (use a pre-made template), or go to Jeopardy Labs for easy set up.
  • Assign a point value that aligns with the difficulty of the question to ensure a fair distribution of points. Don’t forget to include a “Daily Double” for extra fun!
  • Split the students into even groups of four, five or six. (This number can be adjusted according to the number of students in the classroom. For the ideal playing situation, there should be 4-6 groups.)

How to Play:

  • After class has been split into groups, the first group chooses a subject matter and point value.
  • Read the corresponding question aloud, and then everyone has the opportunity to raise their hand to answer the question.
  • The first hands up get to answer and if they are right, their group receives the designated amount of points and also gets to pick the next question.
  • If they get the question wrong, then their team loses the points and another group gets a chance to answer.
  • The group with the most points at the end of the game wins! 

Note: Make sure that the students rotate the spokesperson in the group so that everyone gets English speaking practice!

2. Fly Swat

6 hoppin' ESL games for kinesthetic learners that love to move

The Fly Swat game works best for vocabulary review, and is great to play at the end of a lesson introducing new subject matter. You can also use this game to help students with understanding synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms.

What You Need:  

  • Two fly swatters
  • PowerPoint or a whiteboard
  • A projector (if using PowerPoint)

Set Up:

  • Using PowerPoint  (or simply write on the board), prepare a slide filled with vocabulary words sprawled all over the page. Have a series of definitions and questions about those vocabulary words prepared to read to the students.
  • To make it extra fun, write the words on pictures of flies!
  • Split the class in half and get ready for a great time.

 How to Play:

  • Each team sends up one person to the front of the classroom and they are each given a fly swatter.
  • Read the question aloud, and then the first student to swat the answer on the board wins the round!

Note: Feel free to ask the same question more than once, as repetition is a part of the learning process! You can also declare the rule that you may only hit one word per turn, to prevent students from mindlessly hitting as many words as they can.

3. Telephone

6 hoppin' ESL games for kinesthetic learners that love to move

Telephone is a game that will help develop your students’ English listening skills. It also helps students practice word pronunciation and enunciation of sounds that they’re not used to making. So Telephone encourages listening and comprehension skills, while still allowing students to get a little bit of speaking practice in there, too!

What You Need:

  • A class full of ears!

Set Up:

  • Have all of the students sit or stand in a straight line or a circle.

How to Play:

  • Make up a phrase or sentence and whisper it in the first student’s ear.
  • That student then whispers the phrase to the next person, and so on and so forth.
  • If anyone would like the phrase repeated to them, students can say “Operator!,” but this can only be done once per person.
  • At the end of the game it’s always really funny to see how different the phrase turns out!

Note: A more competitive alternative to play this game is to split the class into two teams and see who gets closest to the original phrase!

Kinesthetic ESL Games for Small Groups

These games are great to use to promote dialogue in between two or three students.

4. Hangman

6 hoppin' ESL games for kinesthetic learners that love to move

Hangman is an oldie but goodie. All the students need are a pen and paper and a good idea! So rather than choosing the word for the group, let the students take turns picking the word each round and drawing the blanks. Encourage students to use their new vocabulary words so that they can practice spelling.

At the end of each game, have students either talk about the definition of the uncovered word or try to use it in a sentence.

Hangman can work well after any type of ESL lesson. It can be used to practice vocabulary or various parts of speech! For extra fun, have the students play Hangman after watching a video clip and only let them use words from the clip that they watched!

Not sure where to find video clips? Then head on over to FluentU!

There’s no need to spend countless hours browsing YouTube, as all of FluentU’s video clips are hand-selected and sorted by level and topic!

5. Song Puzzle

6 hoppin' ESL games for kinesthetic learners that love to move

For this game, you’ll need to select a song and print out the lyrics with enough space between lines such that you can easily cut the lyrics into strips. Separate students into small groups of two or three and give each group a complete set of the lyric strips.

Then play the song over and over, while the groups try to organize the lyrics into the correct order. The first group to organize the lyrics correctly wins the game. After the students have all figured out the correct order of the lyrics, sing them aloud as a class together!

Doing song puzzles reinforces sentence order and helps students with their fluency of speech.

6. Story Telling Memory Game

6 hoppin' ESL games for kinesthetic learners that love to move

In this fun game, students should begin by sitting in a circle. The first person (this can be you, but it does not have to be) starts the story with a fragment like “It was a dark and stormy night,” and then the next person has to repeat what the first person said and add a phrase of their own.

For example, “It was a dark and stormy night and no one was around.” Keep going around the circle until someone messes up! Students love this game because they get to work together to be creative with their imagination.

You could have someone write down the story, and then hang it up in your classroom for students to remember and get a good laugh!

Telling stories as a class benefits students in countless ways. Fostering creativity encourages English learners to use words that they don’t use on a daily basis, and formulating a story allows students to practice sentence structure in an informal and non-intimidating way!

So whether you’re looking for small group or whole class activities, these games will cater to your kinesthetic learners’ needs. And while not everyone learns best this way, everyone is sure to have a good time playing the games! Enjoy!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.

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