Inspire Creativity and Impromptu Speaking with ESL Games

Inspire Creativity and Impromptu Speaking with ESL Games

Getting original responses from students can be difficult when you’re teaching ESL, but speaking unscripted English is one of the most important things for students to practice on a regular basis. The act of putting together words in logical order with correct structure and grammar is a combination of art and skill that can only be learned through experience. Creativity is a significant part of speaking and many students feel lost when they’re expected to give pre-scripted responses to questions in the classroom.

To get around mundane “computer printout” speaking from your students, try some of the following games that encourage students to indulge their creativity in speaking activities.

Superlative Q&A Toss

This game will require students to use a short pre-scripted phrase in their responses, but creativity will still be encouraged. It’s a great way to get students used to the idea of coming up with their own sentences without overwhelming them. To prepare, make a set of index cards with superlative questions written on them and secure the stack with a rubber band. For example, one card might say “What is the most exotic place you have been in your life?” and another might say “Who do you think is the best movie star?” For these examples, students’ answers would include the phrases “The most exotic place I have ever been is…” and “I think the best movie star is…” with original responses to fill in the gaps.

To play this game, have everyone sit in a circle and pull an index card out of the stack. Toss the stack to one of your students and read the question aloud, asking the student to provide a response. Once the student answers your question, have him or her pull out a new card and toss the stack to another student. The first student then reads the new question and the student holding the stack answers. Keep going around the circle until you run out of cards.

Vocabulary Chain Story

In this game, students will be required to use a little more originality. Pass around index cards with one vocabulary word on each card, have students form a circle, and explain that you’re going to tell a story. Keeping one card for yourself, start the story with one sentence that contains your vocabulary word. You can either go around the circle or toss a bean bag to determine who goes next, but have each student add a sentence to the story that contains his or her vocabulary word. When all the cards have been used, you can have students try to identify all of the vocabulary words in the story (no peeking at the index cards). This is a great way to review vocabulary words and encourage creative speaking.

Eavesdropping Identity Crisis

For this game, divide your students into pairs and a group of three if necessary. Write up some index cards for your paired students that describe relationships (use examples of two-person relationships for most cards, but try to come up with a few that include three communicators). For example, you might write “Doctor and Patient,” “Teacher and Student,” or “Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter.” Bring in two fake cell phones and have students take turns having a conversation while the class “eavesdrops” and tries to guess the identity of each speaker. This game requires “expert” creativity, so make sure that your students are comfortable with impromptu speaking before you try this one. To make it less intimidating, allow students to remain seated at their desks while they have their “conversations.” It’s a fun game if you can get maximum participation from your students, so you might try to prepare them for “Eavesdropping Identity Crisis” by playing the other games first.


This is a guest post by Maria Rainier. Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online schools. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
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