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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 03/04/2023

6 ESL/EFL Games that Require a Deck of Cards

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

Playing games in ESL/EFL classes is an engaging way to get the students talking, practicing language goals, and even just practicing how to follow oral instructions!  Check out these games that use a regular deck of cards!

10 Activities with Dice to Use in your ESL/EFL Classroom

Go Fish

Go Fish with vocabulary flashcards is a great activity, but you can also play this game with a regular deck of cards.  This would be a great warm up activity or filler for any English level!  Students are asking and answering questions and reviewing basic numbers.

The idea of the game is to make pairs, matching the number and the color.  For instance, a 7 of hearts and the 7 of diamonds would be a pair, and the 3 of spades and the 3 of clubs would be another pair.  In groups of 5 or 6 students deal 7 cards to each student and put the rest of the deck in middle.  Students should not show each other the cards they have been dealt, but can look for pairs they may have received.  Remove all pairs and lay them on the table. 

Students then take turns asking whomever they'd like for certain cards.  For instance, if I already have a red jack, I would ask someone else, "Do you have a red jack?"  If that person has the other red jack, they must give it to me.  I'd then lay down my pair.  If that person does not have it, he says, "No, go fish!"  I then take a card from the draw pile in the middle of the table.  The game ends when one person runs out of cards.  At that point, all players count their pairs, and the person with the most pairs wins! 

Prepositions of Location

This is a great idea for this specific topic!  It would be a great production for beginning English students, or a good warm up to review this concept for students at higher levels. 

To prepare for the game, write prepositions of location on a number of strips of paper:  to the left, to the right, above, below, next to etc.  Set 25 cards face up in a five-by-five grid and lay another card on top of those 25 cards.  To play the game, students will draw one preposition and must use it correctly to describe the location of two of the cards.  For instance, the queen of diamonds is to the left of the two of spades.  If the sentence is grammatically correct, the student can keep those two cards and put the preposition back in the stack.  The game is over when all of the cards have been picked up.  Whoever has the most cards wins!

20 Different Practice Activities to Include in Your Lesson Plans

Assign Topics (or Letters) to Specific Numbers

This activity can be adapted in a number of ways and used in all class levels!  It would work well for a warm up or a speaking activity. 

Put students in pairs or groups of three, and give each student 7 or 8 cards, face down.  Write the chart on the board (or elicit ideas from your students!) and explain that each card number represents a specific topic.  Students will take turns flipping over a card and must speak about the indicated topic for 1 full minute (or 30 seconds, depending on their abilities). 

    Card = Topic
2= Dating
9= Religion
J=Biographical Facts

For lower-level students, the teacher can assign letters for each card number.  In pairs, students will take turns flipping over a card and must say X number of words that start with the indicated letters.  If they can successfully complete the task, they keep their card.  If they are not able to, they must give their card to their partner.  Whoever has the most cards at the end, wins.  Change up the letters to meet your students' needs and abilities! 

    Card = Letter

Grammar Concepts

In the same vein, teachers can use this idea to practice grammar concepts.  This will work well for all English levels!

Complete the chart with verbs representing each number, like the following example.  When it is a player's turn, they must create a sentence with the indicated verb in whichever tense you, as the teacher, assign.  For instance, if my class is working on a Present Continuous tense, their answers would like "Bob is visiting his grandpa."  "My mom is watching TV."  "The boys are drinking coffee."  Or if we have been studying Present Perfect, my class would create sentences like "I have eaten sushi."  "I have studied French."  "I haven't listened to punk rock."  Change the verbs in the table and the indicated tense to review the content your students have been working with in class.

    Card = Verb

10 Production Activities to Incorporate into your Lesson Plans

Never Have I Ever

We've all played this (drinking!) game, but it can be adapted nicely for an ESL class.  It works best with the Present Perfect tense but could also work well with the Present Simple or Past Simple.

Complete your table with verbs like in the previous game, and evenly distribute the cards to each player.  Students take turns creating sentences in the Present Perfect, telling things they have never done using the verbs indicated by the cards they have in their hands.  For example, "I have never studied French."  If another player has done this specific activity, they must give one of their cards to that person.  The next student would create a sentence in the Present Perfect, using one of the verbs in the table according to a card in her hands.  "I have never lived abroad."  Any student that has lived abroad needs to give the creator of the sentence one of their cards.  The student, at the end of the game, with the most card wins (and is also the least "experienced" person!). 

If playing this game with Present Simple, students would say things like, "I don't go to the gym."  "I don't watch Netflix."  "I don't listen to salsa music."  For the Past Simple, they could create sentences like, "I didn't study English in high school."  "I didn't see the Star Wars movies."  "I didn't do my homework last week." 

Grammar Review with Suits

Use this game to review four tenses or grammatical forms at the same time!  Depending on your students' level and what you intend on reviewing, create a table like the following examples.  Shuffle the cards and put the deck face down in the middle of the students.  Students take turns drawing one card at a time and need to create examples depending on the card they draw.  The other players must make sure the example given is correct!  If it is, the student gets to keep that card.  If it is incorrect, the student has to put the card on the bottom of the draw pile.  The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins!

♥ = Present Simple
♦ =Present Continuous
♠ =Past Simple
♣ =Past Continuous

♥=Zero Conditional
♦=1st Conditional
♠=2nd Conditional
♣=3rd Conditional

Be creative and adapt these games to meet your students' needs and levels!  During our 4-week TEFL course in Costa Rica, we demonstrate and share hundreds of hours of activities and games like these!  When are you joining us for the TEFL training? 

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