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Top 5 Games to Play in the Online ESL Classroom

By VIPKid  |  February 16, 2021

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Keeping a child’s attention can be tricky-even during playtime, and it can be even more difficult while teaching a student English online. Educational games can help retain a child’s attention, maximize your time and student engagement and result in further reinforcement of the lesson concepts. Games are also exciting for children and can help motivate them to learn. In fact, studies show that while students are playing learning games, they use both the left and right sides of the brain. We’ve gathered our top educational language learning games that can easily be played in the online classroom and are sure to  make your lessons even more fun. 


This game is a classroom-friendly version of the classic game Hangman. For this game, the students will be attempting to guess a secret word picked by the teacher by naming the letters in the secret word. As the student guesses, the teacher will progress through drawing a snowman, starting with drawing the largest snowball, followed by the two smaller ones, a top hat, two arms, two eyes, and a sad face for each incorrect answer guessed. 

Snowman is a fantastic educational game for younger students or English learners that are just starting their educational journey because it gives them a chance to focus on one possible word without a lot of distractions. 


A classic educational game, Charades is a great tool for ESL learning because it can beadjusted depending on the students’ age. Depending on the lesson and the students’ educational level, the teacher will pick words and phrases they are learning currently. The goal of the game is for the other person to guess the word or phase the other person is acting out. Keep in mind, the goal is to learn a language so it’s best to stick to words and phrases instead of movies and books. Most versions of the game have the teacher acting out the word with the student guessing, but depending on the students’ level it can be fun to have the student act out the word as well. 


You don’t have to be a great artist to play Pictionary! Like Charades, you can reference your student’s current English lessons for inspiration and adjust depending on the student’s age and level. The goal of Pictionary is for the student to guess what the teacher is drawing before time runs out. The concept is simple, but guessing is a fun challenge! 

Name, Place, Animal, Thing

Quick and easy, this is an excellent educational game for students learning English online. To play, you’ll first pick a letter. Then have your student say a person (e.g. mom for the letter M), a place (museum), an animal (monkey), and a thing (money) that begins with that letter. The benefit of this game is that it requires students to draw from different concepts, while challenging them to draw from the list of English words they know. 

Clap If True 

This is another straightforward and quick educational game that can be played even if you don’t have much time left in a lesson. To start, you’ll want to find a picture that is relevant to a concept the student has been learning. For example, if your student is learning about animals you’ll show them a picture of a red dog. Then you’ll ask the student to clap if this statement is true: 

“This is a dog” — *clap*

“This is a purple dog” — *no clap* 

“This is a red dog” — *clap*

This game reinforces multiple educational concepts at once while requiring students to process true and false statements.  

Some things to keep in mind

Some of these games will work better for certain ages of students, so make sure to consider that when choosing games to play. For example, Snowman might be better for older  students, while Clap If True might be better suited for younger  students, and Charades can be great for all ages. It can also be a good idea to give your students a small hint so the game doesn’t take too long, preventing them from getting bored or discouraged. Examples of hints that can help guide would be: “You learned this word today” or “the word I want you to guess is an object.”

One of the great things about educational games is that there are so many to choose from. These are just our favorites, but there are many more out there. You can even make up an entirely new game! If you have any educational games you like to use in the online ESL classroom, but don’t see them listed, please share with us by reaching out to VIPKid on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

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