10 Quick and Easy ESL Listening Games to Fill Extra Time

An excellent ESL teacher always has a few surprise tricks up their sleeve.

Do you find yourself with extra time at the end of class?

Ever underestimate how long a lesson will take?

It happens to the best of us.

ESL listening games are a great way to handle this extra time.

Teachers in all areas of study can end up with these empty stretches of time.

The classic trick is to fill them up with simple activities that’ll advance your students despite the time restriction.

Games are the natural choice of activity, since they help students work out pent up energy, release stress, have fun and spend every last second learning.

When Your Lesson Doesn’t Fill the Time Slot

Oops, you’ve finished up your lesson 15 minutes early and the students are restless! Now what?

ESL Listening Games Make Extra Time Productive

While you can always break students up to do conversation practice, you’ll find that it’s far more productive to play some listening games with them. The important things is that you’ve gotta choose the right game.

You want something that’s:

Short and sweet: you might only have 5 minutes, so a short game is good. However, you can repeat it as many times as necessary if you have more time to kill.

No special materials: these games should be simple enough to play any time, anywhere. If you have to gather materials, you’ll lose the productivity.

Correct language level: most ESL listening games can be adjusted to vocabulary levels, but it’s a good idea to find games that will be easy enough for your students.

10 Quick and Easy ESL Listening Games to Fill Extra Time

Looking for some great ideas to keep your students busy in those last few minutes of class? Here are 10 games they’ll love. You’ll probably even be able to get your shyest students up and talking for a while!

As a tip, be sure to check out the FluentU platform for fun listening and native English activities.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

With quizzes and inbuilt flashcards, you’ll be able to turn native materials into enjoyable and engaging listening activities with ease.

Letter Sounds Scavenger Hunt

This game is best for beginners who need work on their vocabulary. It involves running around, so pull this one out when your students are restless.

To play, call out a letter. Students must run to find an object that begins with that letter sound. The first person to find it must hold the object up and call out the name. If they’re correct, you’ll call out another letter. If they’re wrong, the round continues.

To mix this one up a bit, try calling out words. In this case, students must find an object beginning with the first, last or middle letter sound. They’ll need to break the word down in order to figure it out and this works well with slightly more advanced students.

Birth Order Lineup

This is a nice, quick game and while it starts out using birth order, you can really choose anything you like, from favorite colors and foods to family size or living area. Basically, students have to speak to each other to find out when each person was born so they can line up in the correct order, oldest to youngest. Have them call out their birth dates once they’re lined up to see if they got it right.

Liar, Liar

Who doesn’t enjoy making up tall tales. In this fast-paced game, students are divided into pairs and they’re responsible for introducing their partner. They should present the other person with their name, likes and dislikes, pets and family information. However, this information can be completely made up, or it can be partially true. The other student must listen carefully and say, “Liar!” when they detect a lie. That student can then correct the other person.

For example, “This is Ted. Ted likes bananas.”
“Liar! I do not like bananas, I like papaya.”

Students switch roles once the introduction is complete.

Five Things I Did Today

A simple yet funny game, this one requires students to go around the room listing five things they have done today. The catch is that they can’t repeat anything that someone has already said. Start this game with your weakest students, since it does get tough toward the end.

Pass the Message

Take one student out of the room and give them a phrase to repeat. That student then enters the room and whispers the message to the next person. This continues until everyone has heard the message. The last person should write what they heard on the board.

For even more fun, divide the groups into teams and see which team can get the closest to the original message. You can even give them two different messages.

Write It Down

Have students pair up and have one student read a passage from a book. This can be any book they have handy. The other student must write everything down. How long you want the piece to be will depend on the language level of the students.

At the end of the reading, have the students switch roles. They can also check each other’s work. The group with the fastest dictation wins.

Swat the Word

You can use a flyswatter for this game, or just have students hit the word with their hand. Write down 20-30 words on the white board. Alternatively, you can use flashcards and hang them on the wall.

Divide the students into two teams and have them line up. Say a word nicely and clearly. The first two students run up to the board and swat the correct word. The first one to hit it earns a point for his team. Each person only gets one swat, then they have to go to the back of the line. If they get the word wrong, the next person in line can move up to swat the correct one.

Fruit Salad

Assign each student one of three or four fruits that you write on the board. These can be anything from apples and oranges to pineapple, papaya or watermelon. Have everyone set up their chairs in a circle or a line and call out a fruit. If you say “grapes,” then all the grapes stand up and change seats. Keep calling out fruit and having the students switch spots.

When you call “fruit salad,” everyone must get up and change places. This is when you sit down in a chair. Everyone else will sit and one student is left standing. That student then has to call out the fruit names to mix everyone up. To make it a little more challenging, you can have the “loser” do something silly like dance, recite a poem, etc.

Crowdsource the Monster

Have a student come up to the board. You can divide the class into two groups, if desired, and have two students at the board.

Start out by asking the seated students questions like:

– How many eyes does it have?

– How big is the head?

– How many teeth does it have?

As students call out answers, the one at the board must draw the monster being described, to the best of their ability. This can get pretty rowdy, so you may want people to take turns calling out features. At the end, you’ll have a unique monster for everyone to laugh about.

Alternatively, have the students draw on paper and they can keep their creations or hang them in the classroom. Repeat with other students as many times as is necessary to fill the time.

Clap for Words

This very simple game can be played absolutely anywhere. Give your students a theme, like cities, food, or jobs. Then begin to call out words. Whenever you say a word that fits the category, the students clap. If it doesn’t fit the category, no one should clap.

It’s quite fun when people accidentally clap for the wrong word! They need to listen very carefully in order to clap correctly.

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