Monday, 23 April 2018

ESL Describing Games

Describe it

Age/Level: Elementary and above     Time: 15 minutes     Players: Pairs     Preparation: None

Aim: To describe and define groups of words

You can use this describing game to help students practice or revise categories of words such as adjectives, jobs, animals, sports, etc. You can also use it to revise any vocabulary you have been teaching your students.


Divide the students into pairs (A and B).

Each student will need a pen and a piece of paper.

Have all the A students move their chairs so they can’t see the board.

All B students should sit so they can see the board.

Write five to ten words on the board that you want the students to practice or revise. For example, if you wanted to revise sports you might write tennis, football, cycling, badminton, volleyball, etc.

Student B describes the first word on the board to Student A without saying the word, and speaking only in English, e.g. People play this sport on a court. They use a racket and ball to play. This sport is usually played between two people, etc.

Student A listens and then writes down the word he/she thinks it is and shows it to Student B.

Student A is not allowed to speak during the game. He/she can only write down the words on the paper.

If the word is correct, Student B moves onto describe the second word on the board and so on.

If it’s wrong, Student B must try to give a clearer definition or clue to help their partner guess the word.

When they have finished, the students swap roles and a new set of words is written on the board.

Describe it.PDF



Age/Level: Elementary and above     Time: 25 minutes     Players: Small teams     Preparation: 5-10 minute video clip

Aim: To write descriptions of what you see in a video

This describing game is a wonderful way to incorporate media into your lesson. You will need access to a VCD/DVD player or the Internet for this game. Choose a 5 to 10 minute clip from a movie, TV programme or music video. The clip should contain numerous things and have a diverse backdrop.


Divide the students into small teams.

Give each team a piece of paper and a pen.

Tell the students that they are going to watch a video. Explain that they have to write down as many descriptions as they can from what they see in the video.

Tell the students they will receive one point for every adjective + noun combination.

However, if the students write down a complete sentence describing part of the video, they will get five points.


Red car = 1 point

The bright red sports car is travelling at highspeed. = 5 points

At the end of the video, go through each team's answers and total up the points.

The team with the highest number of points wins.

This game also can be used to practice verbs, nouns, etc.



Describing Dodgeball

Age/Level: Any     Time: 20 minutes      Players: Individual      Preparation: A soft ball

Aim: To listen and match descriptions of people

Here is a fun ball game that can be used to help students practice describing physical appearance, clothing or personality. This describing game is a variation of dodgeball. It works particularly well in large classrooms where there is room to run around.

Before you begin the game, you will need a soft ball.


Clear a space so there is room to run from one side of the classroom to the other.

Have all the students stand at one end of the room.

Choose one student to be the ball thrower and have that student stand to the side with the ball.

You start describing one student, e.g. This student is wearing white trainers. This student has short brown hair and blue eyes. This student is hard-working, etc. Alternatively, you could choose a student to do the describing.

Depending on the language focus, the teacher/student describes physical appearance, clothing, personality, etc.

The students at the end of the classroom listen to the description. When they figure out who is being described, that student runs to the other side of the room.

The ball thrower then tries to hit the student as he/she runs.

If the student is hit, he/she becomes the new ball thrower.

You could also use this game to describe other things, such as furniture, food, famous people, etc, by giving each student a picture to hold up.

Describing Dodgeball.PDF

Felix the Cat

Age/Level: Young learners     Time: 20 minutes     Players: Individual     Preparation: None

Aim: To think of adjectives beginning with a certain letter

Here is a very simple game for adjectives of appearance and personality.


Draw or copy a picture of a cat on the board. 

Above the picture, write 'Felix the Cat'.

Then write on the board: Felix the cat is an awesome cat.

Next, write the letters of the alphabet (b, c, d, e, f, etc.) down the board.

Tell the students that they will take it in turns to think of a new adjective to describe Felix using the letters on the board.

Students then take it in turns to come up with a new sentence to describe Felix.


Student A: Felix the cat is a bad cat.

Student B: Felix the cat is a crazy cat.

As each student says a new adjective, you write it on the board. You could also have the students write the sentences.

Felix the Cat.PDF


Hot Seats

Age/Level: Elementary and above     Time: 20 minutes     Players: 2 teams     Preparation: A list of revision words

Aim: To describe words to a classmate

This is one of the most popular describing games for teachers to play with their students. It is an excellent game for teaching or revising any vocabulary.


Begin by separating the class into two teams (A and B).

Place two chairs facing away from the board at the front of the class.

Get one player from each team to come and sit on one of the chairs, facing their team and having their back to the board.

These chairs are the 'Hot Seats'.

Write a revision word from your list clearly on the board.

The team members describe the word to their player in the hot seat, using definitions, synonyms, adjectives, etc.

The two players listen to their teammates and try to guess the word.

The first player to say the word wins a point for their team and gets to change places with someone else from their team. Then, the game begins again.

The other team has to keep the same player in the hot seat until he/she is first to answer correctly.

Hot Seats.PDF



Age/Level: Any     Time: 20 minutes     Players: 2 teams     Preparation: 2 fly swatters and a list of revision words

Aim: To listen to a description and match it with a word

This is an active describing game for ESL students.

Before you begin, you will need two fly swatters (or similar objects) and a list of words you wish to review.


Write all the words from your list randomly on the board.

Then, move any chairs or desks away from the board, so the students can run up to the board easily.

Separate the class into two teams (A and B) and give each team member a number.

Call out a number. The two students with that number come up to play first.

Give the two students a fly swatter each.

Then, give a description of one of the words on the board, e.g. It's something you sit on, what is it?

The two students run to the board to find the word 'chair'.

The first student to swat the correct word wins a point for their team.

Then, another number is called out and so on.




Age/Level: Elementary and above     Time: 25 minutes     Players: Teams of 4 to 5     Preparation: None

Aim: To write a description of a classmate's appearance and personality

In this ESL describing game, students use adjectives to describe their teammates to the class.

Give each team a piece of paper and pen.

Tell the students to secretly choose a student from their team to describe. Ask them to describe their chosen teammate by writing down adjectives on their paper.

Explain that they should start by describing the student's physical appearance and then they write about the student's personality.

When everyone has finished, ask the teams to come to the front of the class one by one.

The teams read out their descriptions and the other teams try to guess who they are describing.

Teams win points for correct guesses.

When all the teams have described their teammate, put the students into new teams and play another round.

You can also ask them to write about other information, e.g. likes and dislikes, favourite colours, etc.



Ten Words

Age/Level: Elementary and above     Time: 30 minutes     Players: 2 teams     Preparation: Small slips of paper

Aim: To describe recently studied words

This ESL describing game motivates students to use vocabulary they have learnt in class.


Give each student ten small slips of paper.

Ask the students to write down one word on each slip of paper. Tell the students that the words must be vocabulary they have learnt recently in class.

When they have finished writing, collect the word slips and put all the slips into a bag or box.

Divide the students into two teams.

One student from each team comes up to the front.

You pick a word and show it to the two students.

The two students then race to describe the word to their teammates.

They can use any means to explain the word, e.g. synonyms, adjectives, actions, drawings, etc.

The first team to correctly guess the word wins a point.

Then, the next two students come up and so on.

Ten Words.PDF

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