Over the course of the summer, I’ve met several newly qualified teachers, many of whom have just completed their CELTA here at IH London.

As you do in the staff room, we began to chat about different types of activities for learners, particularly paperless warmers and coolers.

Having a wide array of these on hand as a teacher can often be an invaluable way of breaking up classroom routines and introducing your students to a variety of learning techniques.

With this is mind, I decided to compose blog posts collecting a range of (nearly) resource-free games to share with both new and experienced teachers alike.

Please note that I take no credit for the creation of these games themselves – these are a collection of games I’ve picked up from workshops, insets, senior teachers, the internet, peers and various other places over the years, the idea being only to compile them in one easy to reach place.


Ask your students to stand and divide them in to two groups. This works best with a class of even numbers and make sure you have enough space in the centre of your classroom!

Ask one of half of the students to stand in the middle of the room, forming a circle shape while facing outwards towards the other students.

The second group of students then stand in a second, wider circle around them. This should mean you have two circles with students from each circle facing each other.

From here, it’s entirely up to the teacher – you could use this as a get to know you activity where students generate questions themselves on the spot (best with higher level classes), or supply them with questions yourself for a find someone who activity.

The inner circle students ask the outer circle students a question and talk for two minutes, then the outer circle students rotate clockwise to their next partner.

Now, both inner and outer circle students tell their new partner what their previous partner told them, then continue with a new question and conversation between themselves.

The inner circle students do not move!

This can be a little difficult to set up for the first time as some students may not understand, so be certain to use lots of concept checking questions.

Continue and repeat until the students have completed a full rotation.

The sun always shines on

A great activity for getting students up and moving and practising their listening skills. This is a little like musical chairs combined with “I have never…”.

Have students sit in a circle with their chairs in the centre of the room. Make sure there are enough chairs for all the students, but the teacher should be standing.

Tell students you are going to say a sentence beginning with “The sun always shines on…” and finish it with a statement.

If the statement applies to a student, they must stand up and change chairs quickly. If the statement does not apply, the students remain sitting.

The teacher must also take part in the game to ensure all the chairs are used and there is always someone standing.

Whoever is the last person standing after having changed chair is the next person to make a sentence with “The sun always shines on…”.

This can work in a variety of ways and is very adaptable to different levels and grammar.

Verbal boxing

Full instructions and a longer lesson plan with this activity can be found on onestopenglish.com, but the basic gist is to have students interacting in a debate.

Write a statement over an issue such as “It is never acceptable to take another person’s life, whatever crime they have committed.”

Obviously this is sensitive material, as all topics under discussion should be, so be certain that your class are able and willing to discuss topics like this in a controlled, sensitive and sensible manner.

It’s advisable to give students some language chunks for debating like agreeing, disagreeing, giving their own opinion.

Divide the class into three groups; two groups will be debating, the third group will be the judges. In groups, students make arguments for and against a topic.

Among their groups, they then select who they think is the best person to speak on a particular topic.

When they are ready, the speaker of each group talks for two minutes (use a timer) to express their side of the debate, which is then countered/agreed with/discussed by the other group. It is a good idea to have the “boxer” from each time sit in the centre of the room facing their opponent.

After three “rounds” (of two minutes), judges determine who “wins” the debate.

Noughts and crosses

This works best with levels at intermediate or above. Draw a typical noughts and crosses grid then write in “grammar” “vocabulary” “listening” “memory test” “idiom” “spelling” “challenge us” and “pronunciation”.

This leaves one square spare to do whatever you wish with. In two teams, students select which square they want to claim and you ask them a question around one of the items.

  • For grammar: Ask students for the form of a tense, or read a sentence and ask what the tense is.
  • For vocabulary: Ask the team to play taboo with one student explaining the word and the others guessing the word (under a time limit).
  • For listening: have students listen to a recording then ask a question after (not before).
  • For memory test: Ask a question around one of the details from their textbook such as “What was the name of the woman in the article about living abroad from last week?”
  • For idiom: Ask them explain the definition of an idiom or use it naturally in a sentence.
  • For challenge us: Find a very difficult question, perhaps around grammar. It’s usually best to save this one for the centre square, as students will doubtless be very competitive over it.
  • For pronunciation: You could simply ask students to produce a word correctly, or write the phonemic script, or identify the schwas in a sentence, or connected speech, the list goes on.

It’s important to give strict time limits in which students can give their answer to keep it competitive and fun.

More lesson ideas and activities for the EFL classroom

From free listening to expanding lexis, there’s an array of ideas and discussions on EFL teaching on our blog.

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