The Best ESL Board Games For Classrooms

It's important to keep students engaged and interested in class when teaching English as a Second Language. Interactive whiteboards and varied learning resources, such as films, podcasts and other digital media can help to capture students attention and are a great use of modern technology. However, a good old-fashioned board game has proven to be a hit in classrooms! Board games are not only fun but can also be a brilliant linguistic tool, offering a chance to learn new vocabulary and spelling skills.

All of these classic English board games are the perfect addition to your ESL classroom.

The Best ESL Board Games


Simple and straightforward, Scrabble is a teaching favourite. This board game presents players with a selection of random letters, which they must use to create words on a crossword-style board. As the game progresses, students will be challenged to find new words that will fit with the available letters, and thus provide new vocabulary learning. This board game practices spelling skills whilst also encouraging inter-personal relationships and communication between students. With very easy outcomes, students will find it interesting to create words with the letters in front of them. We encourage players to practice using an English dictionary to help them with this game.


Upwords is similar to Scrabble and uses the same letter tile and cross-word grid set-up. However, in Upwords, students are encouraged to create new words by placing new letters on existing words on the board. For example, tone could be transformed into bone. A simple game that can introduce concepts of rhyming words and highlight phonetic changes to letters based on what precedes and succeeds them.


Scattergories is a board game centred around thinking of words beginning with a particular letter and fitting them into specific categories. This game uses vocabulary and spelling skills. Using a 26-sided die that contains each letter of the alphabet, or choosing an app that selects a letter at random, give players a time limit to think of, and write down a word beginning with that letter into categories such as colour, boys name, city and food. For example, if the letter F was chosen, students could put the following answers: blue, Ben, Berlin and burger. This game enables students to practice thinking under pressure and connecting words to contexts.


Charades can be easily adapted to a board game in a classroom environment and is a great way to encourage students to work on their vocabulary. Unlike the traditional format of Charades, where players would mime actions to act out the answers, Charades for ESL classrooms should encourage students to verbally describe the answer, practising their speaking and communication skills. Players must describe what is on the card, without using that word. This challenges students to use their word association skills and reinforces the understanding and meaning of new vocabulary. Good topics include popular films, activities and sports.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is technically a card game, but we still think it is a really useful game for your ESL classroom! This game takes its inspiration from word association, and players must decide which adjective or adverb best describes the chosen noun or verb presented. To make this game even more beneficial for students, we encourage you to write the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs themselves. This will also give students the chance to practice their spelling and vocabulary.