How to Use This Fun Card Game to Get Your ESL/ELL Students Talking

“Do you have a frog?”

“No, I don’t. Go fish!”

Go Fish is a wonderful card game for young English Language Learners between the ages of 4-10.

  • It requires speaking to play, and the speaking required is simple and repetitive. 
  • Simple, repetitive speaking practice builds confidence and fluency.

This game is obviously great for practicing the present simple tense, but it can also be used as a simple reward game for having completed an in-class task. 

Tips on how to use this game:

  • Have a pack of Go Fish cards for every 4-6 students. That way no one is waiting around for too long, getting bored, and looking for naughty alternates to entertain themselves.
  • Teach the students how to play the game—walk them through a few mock rounds of the game, getting them to repeat the English phrases needed to play—but don’t let them play it yet. After the students know how to play the game, assign them an in-class task to complete. Once a student completes the task, that student can play with any other students who have also finished. This has two benefits: 1. Faster students have something to do while they are waiting around for others to finish (which keeps them out of trouble). 2. The chance to play a fun game is great motivation for students to complete tasks quickly.
  • You can use the cards like flash cards to review animal names or numbers. The students should be able to easily identify the animals or numbers. That way they don’t get stuck later when they are playing the game and then have to ask you every 5 seconds what animal this is. 
  • Train the students to play the game on their own without your help. You shouldn’t have to sit with them and tell each student what to do each turn. This frees you up to help slower or weaker students while the others play. In order to accomplish this, you will probably have to teach your students other important phrases like: 
    • “Whose turn is it?” 
    • “It’s your turn.”
    • “Take a card.”
    • “Who is first?”

I put some links to a couple of my favorite options on Amazon, but you can also pick them up at any Target or Walmart fairly inexpensively.

Now it’s your turn to have some great speaking fun in your classes.

Go fish!

If you have any questions about how to set this up, leave them in the comments section below.

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