In the ESL Classroom: Playing Charades

Today was a day for charades. The end of  Holy week (spring break) has marked the school year is near over and you know what this means; tired, uninterested students counting down the days for summer vacation. One of my funny students asked, “Can’t we just sleep in class.” He knows the answer but I love how he tries. Hey, he’s practicing his English and that’s what my class is all about, Speaking da English!

I always start off class with a Question of the Day and everyone has to speak. No, if’s  ands or but’s about it. Sometimes I think, my teaching style, was my worst nightmare as a student; “You want me to speak in class, sometimes in the front of class, and you want me to do silly things, like be the teacher or play charades? Say what!?” But now as the teacher, I know why teachers made me do these things and I’m thankful for them, even if I despised the activities then. There are things about students that have no borders and are age-less; I think most teens feel this way: “Ah, I’m in high school, I can’t look odd or different among my peers, no I don’t want to try something new. I may make a fool of myself or… I don’t know.”

Examples of Question of the Day:

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

 If you had the power to change or make up a law, what would it be and why?

Tell me your about your favorite holiday and Why?

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and what would you do? 

What activity or sport do you enjoy doing? Tell me 3 reasons why. 

Describe a movie you watched/liked. If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

London eye

London eye

See a trend? I love to ask them WHY. Why you ask? To get them speaking more in English, of course!  Sometimes they try to get away with saying a few words and sometimes I encourage more talking by asking a few more questions but sometimes, I’m just happy they’re speaking. Often they surprise me with their answers!

After question of the day, we played Charades, which may seem contradictory in a conversation class but they do have to explain what’s happening in English. Of the 5 students (usually 8), no one wanted to volunteer. Nevermind, everyone has to participate. And they did. I went first.  I suggested we could play outside but only one was interested.


You have the opportunity to have class outside and you’re not running out the door? What’s up? Without many words, I realized they were more concerned with other students potentially seeing them. Ha. I guess, I’ve certainly moved past this stage. I make a fool of myself all the time, and kinda enjoy it. But at 16, I was just like them.

But we went outside where there were no other students watching them and they got into the game of charades. Maybe the actions were easy: Riding a bike, At the airport, Cooking dinner, cleaning your room, Kite surfing,  at the beach, taking the metro, shopping at the supermarket, watching a movie at the cinema etc but I was impressed at how, after one round, they got into acting out the activity and they were quick to guess the answer. I suggest using vocabulary they are studying or expand on what they already know. 

I always love to build on an activity and with 15 minutes left in class I tell them; using the actions you just acted out, now create a story” I was thinking, let’s head back inside, get paper and pen and write but a student blurted out a sentence and I thought, “perfect.” No paper needed. We stayed outside, each student adding a sentence to create a story, I was impressed. I love these teaching moments of being flexible and able to improvise in the moment. These are the moments that I love about teaching!

Their improvised story went something like this: “I was at the beach and then suddenly rode my bike to take the metro. I missed the metro and ran up the stairs where I met an orange duck. The duck said to me, ” you crazy, you’re a crazy, man.” I got on the metro. We went to a party and there were a group of duck’s who tried to kill us. And then we were in the hospital and my mom said, “you need to clean your room” and the duck said, “You’re crazy, crazy man” and then we went to the movies to see a film at the cinema. We saw SAW. And then we killed the duck. Strangled the duck.

Now there was bit more to the story but sadly I don’t remember every line that was said, nor may this make much sense but that wasn’t the point. I was impressed at how quick they each had a sentence, bam bam bam without hesitation. They were thinking in English and in my class, this is all that really matters.

Check out other fun ESL activities: Scattergories, Role Reversal, and Music and Lyrics

Have you played Charades in your ESL class? If you have or if you do, let me know it goes?

Leave a comment below.

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12 thoughts on “In the ESL Classroom: Playing Charades

  1. Pingback: In the ESL classroom: Music and lyrics | Roamingtheworld

  2. Pingback: In the Classroom: Name it, write it, read it « Roamingtheworld

  3. Depending on the age, I used to do a game where we would all start with our own paper, and have to start a story. They would have roughly 1-2 minutes to write about whatever they want. When the time is up, they have to pass their paper to the left. The new paper they have is what the have to continue writing from, so that the story makes sense. You keep going until they end up with their own papers… lots of fun and silly stories! 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting “My friendMissM,
      That’s a great idea. I’ve played the story game amongst friends and it’s always a laugh. I hadn’t thought to play it with my students. Thanks for the idea!

  4. I LOVE playing charades with my kids! But strangely, I forget sometimes that ELL’s don’t always know the ‘rules’ or how to play games appropriately, so I often spend a lot of time teaching HOW to play… but once they catch on they have a lot of fun 🙂

  5. Those kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher! You are so creative and fun. They will probably always remember this class. I bet you are having fun too!

  6. I love story games!! Especially with my teens – a few of them in particular will have me howling with laughter, with their bluntness and creativity. They’re really trying to be badasses (especially the boys), so their answers never fail to crack me up.

    Today they had a writing exercise where they had to write to an English cousin who had just gotten married, asking about the wedding and explaining why they hadn’t been able to attend. Of course, one of the little farts wrote something along the lines of: “Dear Cousin, Was your wedding boring? I’m sorry I wasn’t able to go. I don’t want to get boring. I went to the street with my friends and the next day I played in a football match. I won because I am the best. Maybe I go to England to eat fish and chips with your husband, so I can meet him. See you later, FartHead Teenage Kid.”

    • Ah yes, I love how the boys are always trying their hardest to be “badasses.” It definitely makes me appreciate this job and working with kids. You never know how the day is going to go and what they will come up with!
      Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Awesome! I’ve just started a TEFL course, as teaching English is something I might like to do someday. I can imagine that age group would be quite a challenge! I’d hate to have someone in my class that was like me at 16, but I guess it would be karma!! Great post, keep up the good work, you are probably making more of an impact on them that you realize 🙂

    • Hi Sarah,
      Yes, I do love the freedom I have in my class and try to do things different than their used to. It seems they really like to stay in their desk so I’m happy I have the chance to get them doing other activities, even using their bodies to express themselves! Good luck with the TEFL course!

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