Remember when we were kids and learning was fun?
When lessons were colorful and interactive. When black and white concepts were taught using games, activity sheets and role-playing exercises.
Remember friendly competition, point systems, levels and gold stars?
Who decided that learning has to take on a more serious tone after age 12? Who decided that games are only for children, especially in the classroom?
When you are teaching ESL to adults, introducing games into your classroom will lead to some serious benefits.
It is often the case that adult language learners have far more responsibilities than just attending your English class. Many adult learners also work and have families.
The livelier and more fun you can make your class, the more likely you are to have engaged and receptive students. This is especially true if they are coming to your class at the end of the day or on their day off from work.
Learning a new language should be enjoyable, and grammar games can make that possible!
3 Reasons Why Grammar Games Are an Effective English-learning Tool for Adults
Games create authentic situations for practicing conversational skills
Learning the rules of grammar is essential, but most language learners are more interested in learning how to apply those rules in everyday conversations.
Most English learners have the goal of being able to communicate verbally. For this reason, it is vital that you create situations in the classroom that force students to use their oral language skills.
Games create these opportunities. They also put your students on the spot and require them to use their oral skills in a manner that is similar to real-life situations.
They promote a more relaxed environment for using newly acquired grammar skills
Using games to reinforce a particular grammar topic in a classroom of adult learners will loosen your students up and encourage them to practice. Games automatically inspire a sense of playfulness and space to make mistakes and laugh about them.
Adult learners are often more hesitant and insecure than young students when it comes to learning and practicing a new language. So, the more you can do to make the learning environment feel inviting, accepting, safe and relaxed, the more likely your students will be to practice in a group setting.
They add color to otherwise black and white grammar concepts
Let’s face it… grammar isn’t the most exciting component of the English language. Not to mention, it is not the easiest area of the English language to master. For many adult learners, acquiring the skills necessary to speak the English language properly can be very daunting and tedious.
By using games, you can transform grammar lessons from stale to stimulating!
Games are not the only tools that can make learning grammar fun.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Let the (Language) Games Begin! 8 Fun Grammar Games for Adults
4 Oral Grammar Games for Adults
Heads Up! is a game and an app that was created by the charismatic television host Ellen DeGeneres. This hilarious game is an excellent interactive tool to use when teaching an adult ESL course. The game encourages students to use a variety of verb tenses and descriptive vocabulary. And they have to do so quickly!
There are more than 40 themed decks that come with the app. There is also an option to create a customized deck. This feature allows you to create a deck that goes hand-and-hand with the unit and vocabulary that you are currently focusing on with your students.
The app for iOS and Android only costs $0.99, but you can also replicate this concept for free by using index cards instead.
The game can be played with as many teams of two as you have in your class. To play, one team member holds the smart device or index card to their forehead. This student does not know what is written on the card. It is the job of the other teammate to describe the card without saying any of the words that are printed on it.
Once the first teammate guesses the word, he tilts the device down to change the card or draws another card from the deck. This continues until the timer runs out. The team with the most correct guesses wins.
Alibi is a role-playing game that is perfect for intermediate language learners. The game is ideal for practicing the past simple and past continuous verb tenses. This game does not require any materials. As a teacher, all you have to do is create a crime and an alibi.
Divide your class into groups and assign one of those groups to be the suspects. The suspect group talks amongst themselves first to get their alibi story straight before the interrogation begins. Each of the other groups interview every suspect individually.
Once all of the suspects have been interviewed by all of the groups, the alibi stories are compared. If the stories match up, the suspect group is found not guilty. If the stories do not match up, the suspects are found guilty.
Fortune Teller is a role-playing game that focuses on the future tense. To play this game with your adult ESL students, you need to split the classroom into two groups. One group will play the role of the fortune tellers and the other group will play the role of the fortune seekers.
If you have enough time, you can have both groups play both parts by switching positions halfway through the class period.
The group that is seeking their fortune will write down as many questions as there are fortune tellers. Instruct your students to write open-ended questions versus just yes and no ones. Questions that begin with who, what, where, when or which will elicit a response that is beyond yes or no.
For example, “Where will I meet my soulmate?” versus “Will I meet my soulmate?”
Each fortune seeker will visit each fortune teller and ask them one of their questions.
20 Questions is a yes and no game that is fun to play with beginner English language learners. As the title suggests, 20 Questions encourages your students to practice asking questions. The only materials that are necessary for this game are paper and writing utensils.
To play, one student is the question master. They pick a word based on an assigned category, such as jobs, places, hobbies or historic figures and writes it down. The rest of the class has the opportunity to collectively ask 20 questions in an attempt to guess what the question master has written down.
Each student is responsible for keeping track of their own points. Students receive points for asking grammatically correct questions that receive a yes answer. You can play as many rounds as there are students so that each student has the opportunity to be the question master.
At the end of the game, the student with the most points wins.
4 Online Grammar Game Resources for Adults
Duolingo is one of the best language learning apps for beginner level language learners. The app for is free to use on iOS and Android devices.
This widely used language learning app uses gamification in all of the lessons, and each lesson only takes about five minutes to complete. It is essential for students to continue to study and practice English outside the classroom. This app makes it easy to do just that!
Duolingo focuses on reading, listening and speaking skills.
Practice English Grammar
Practice English Grammar is a free app for iOS and Android that includes flashcards, questions and games to help users progress in their study of the English language. The app also provides feedback to help your students continue to improve. There are more than 100 games built into this app that cover the entire span of grammar topics.
As a teacher, you can assign certain games to go along with the specific grammar unit that you are teaching. Topics include adjectives, adverbs, articles, conjunctions, pronouns, modal verbs, auxiliaries and all of the verb tenses.
Johnny Grammar Word Challenge
Johnny Grammar Word Challenge is a free app for iOS and Android that quizzes English learners of all levels on spelling, vocabulary and grammar. The games are time-based and test students on grammar and vocabulary topics that appear in everyday English.
There are three levels, three categories and 10 topics. Topics include food, restaurants, travel and hobbies, just to name a few. As a teacher, you can assign specific topics to coincide with the lesson that you are teaching.
Free Rice is a free online game adult English learners can use to practice grammar and vocabulary. My favorite part of this game is that for every correct answer, Free Rice will donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme, which is working to end world hunger.
If you get a question correct, the next question will be harder. If you get a question incorrect, the next question will be easier.
Your students can set up individual accounts or you can set up a group account for your class. This is a feel-good game that will help your students improve their English grammar and vocabulary skills.
If technology or resources are limited in your English class, all hope is not lost! You can also use the games on this list as inspiration to create games and interactive activities using what is available to you and your students.
Incorporating games into your adult English grammar class can help your students ultimately obtain a flowy fluency.
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She earned her master’s degree in education in 2012. She taught for four years before switching paths to pursue a full-time career as a writer. You can find samples of her work on Upwork.