Integrating Games in ESL Curriculum

classsroomGames to focus on all skills

The skills are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Games can be designed to incorporate all of these parts, and for each level of proficiency.

Games are activities with rules, a result, and some elements of fun. Repeat games until the skill are well understood; this practice does not have to be boring or repetitive. Learning can be fun and engaging; games and activities should be co-operative rather than competitive. Students who lack skill should not feel stupid because they are continually losing.

Divide ESL lessons into sections:

  • Warm-up
  • Development or input
  • Review or output

Taking into account the age range, warm-up activities for kids could include songs. Songs are a great way to get kids engaged. ESL lessons for elementary students should be shorter than the intermediate level. Younger kids (3-7) learn to introduce themselves and follow simple instructions such as identifying colors. Kids 8-12 years can delve into activities like grammar, for example, modal verbs and tenses. Learning activities can include groups, and the teacher should not be talking all of the time.

Level-based curriculum

Beginning level (for children)

The children have no to very little knowledge of English. Games and activities at this level can include flashcards and songs.

Elementary Communication GamesElementary (A1) level

Games used for elementary students are to help them communicate in Engish using basic vocabulary, grammatical structures, and sentences. Jill Hadfield has a series of games books for the elementary level as follows:

Teachers can choose the games in these books to engage students in English class activities according to the objectives of the lessons (vocabulary, grammar, or communication). Besides these books, there are other games books and some useful websites for teachers to choose games from for the elementary level, such as,

  • ESL Teach This
  • Busy Teacher
  • ISL Collective
  • British Council

In these websites, teachers choose the elementary level indicated to select the games they want to use for their students.

Pre-Intermediate (A2/A2+) level

Learners master simple sentences, written and spoken, and can participate in simple conversations with the basic vocabulary. More vocab can be added at this level. Similar books and websites as for the elementary level suggested above can be applied for this level. Examples are books by Jill Hadfield:

  • Vocabulary games
  • Communication games
  • Grammar games

and books by other writers such as:

  • Reward: Resource pack (Pre-Intermediate) by Susan Kay
  • Activity Box: A resource book for teachers of young students by Jean Greenwood
  • Fun class activities Book 1 by Peter Watcyn-Jones
  • Grammar games and activities 1 and 2. 

Intermediate Communication GamesIntermediate (B1-B2) level

Learners can understand spoken English, simple reading, and writing. Students should be able to participate in the conversation on simple topics. Understand the critical ideas of complex text. Spontaneous conversation. The focus should be on grammar and vocabulary. Games at the intermediate level should have an emphasis on communication. Similarly, we can find books and websites for teaching this level:

  • Vocabulary games
  • Intermediate Communication games
  • Grammar Games by Jill Hadfield.
  • Other books and websites can also be found for teaching Intermediate-level students of English, as suggested above.

Upper-Intermediate (B2)

Advanced Communication GamesThey understand everyday language, understanding and speaking fluently and interacting with native speakers. B2 are typically adults. It can focus on professional business topics. Similar books, websites, and suggestions mentioned above can also be found useful for teaching students of this level.

Advanced level (C1)

Students can understand idioms. They can write and understand complex text. Grammar and vocabulary should be at the advanced level. The focus should be on advanced speaking and listening. The book Advanced communication games by Jill Hadfield can be used to teach advanced-level English learners.

Advanced Communication Games by Jill Hadfield is suitable for upper-intermediate to advanced students.  They have been written to cover what the student might encounter in Certification, and prepare them for the oral part of the examination.

Writing games

writing gamesGames for writing skills include practice for:

  • Advertisements
  • Letters
  • Descriptions
  • Articles
  • Poems

The activity types include matching, guessing, exchange, and reply.

The book Writing Games by Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield includes these games and teacher notes.


Games focus on skills, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening.  Incorporate each of these skills into learning games for each level of proficiency.  Games can make learning fun.

Aaron Skudder


  1. Been an aspiring home schooling mom, this information has come very handy to me and thank you so much for sharing, Aaron.  Focusing on games in designing ESL curriculum is good and getting it right would really make learning much more fun as an activity to get the kids engaged in. Developing all the skills of language is essential and you have given some nice approaches to doing just that. Thanks for sharing this

  2. Oh this is very good. I really needed this post as I teach communication  skills to seniors and I never really thought of using games to help impact the knowledge at a greater height. It’s good that you can divide the games into different part and also into stages. I guess I won’t be focusing so much on the beginner level of teaching. I can also make use of the writing games suggestions you have out how here. Thank you for the help.

  3. This is a really interesting and educating review… Games can truly impact changes and improve learning in children it has been a great pattern in improving the input of knowledge into children over the years which has been very effective and helpful. This review is a should be a must read for teachers and guardians to help encourage and enlighten them on the integrating games in the ESL curriculum. All kind of games with proper breakdown of the age grades have been properly done to ease. This breakdown will also ensure that the task assigned to a particular age group is not too much to handle mentally. Thanks for this great review.

    • Thanks for your feedback Willy.  I have other articles regarding games in teaching.  We have more articles on this subject that have not yet been published.  Please check in later.

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