Exciting ESL Vocab Activity That Engages All Your ELLs – Charades Race

Duration: 10 minutes

Type: Small Groups

Once students have become familiar with a set of target words, you can play this fun variation on charades.

What You Will Need for Charades Race

  • Flash Cards – 1 Set for Each Team
  • Chairs
  • Open Space to Move Around
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Overview of Charades Race

In this fast-paced, ESL vocabulary activity, each team of students lines up behind a chair. When the teacher says go, the first student from each team runs around to the other side of the chair, turns over the first flashcard, and acts it out using motions and/or words. The player cannot say the word (a little like Taboo if you’ve played that game). His or her team guesses what the word is. When the team guesses correctly, the player runs to the back of the line and the next player steps up. The first team to get through all of their vocabulary flashcards wins.

How to Play Charades Race

  1. Put students in groups of 3-4 students. The fewer the students in each group, the more each students gets to participate and the less time they spend waiting around.
  2. Print off enough flash card sets for the unit you are teaching to give every team a set of flash cards.
  3. Mix up the flash cards and put them face down on a chair. Each group lines up behind the chair so that the back of the chair is facing them and they are unable to see the flash cards.
  4. Have each group take a couple of steps backwards so that they are even less likely to catch a glimpse of the flash cards on the chair.
  5. One student from each team goes around to the other side of the chair.
  6. When the teacher says go, the student turns over the top first flash card and acts it out and/or describes it while the other students guess. 
  7. Optional: Students can describe the word as long as they do not say the word itself. This is a little like the game Taboo.
  8. When one of their teammates says the vocabulary word, the student goes to the back of the line and the next student in line goes around to the other side of the chair and turns over the next flash card.
  9. Whichever team gets through the most words in the allotted time wins. I usually give them 1 minute.

Benefits of Charades Race

  • Groups of 3-4 keep everyone very involved. No one is waiting around for long. This means everyone gets more practice and stays more engaged.
  • Students become more fluent with the words. Having recalled them from memory so many times, they are less likely to forget them. 
  • There is a lot of movement involved which gets students out of their seats and gets their blood moving a bit.

What to Do After?

After students can remember the vocabulary words easily, then you can start practicing spelling the vocabulary words. After students are able to spell the words, you can focus on getting them using the words in sentences.

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