Online ESL Teaching Activity: Amazing Race

Duration: 15-20 Minutes

Type: Small Groups Online

I'm new to this whole online teaching thing too, so I'm sure this activity will need some adjustments. If you try it out, let me know what I need to change!

What you will need:

  • Zoom App or Google Hangouts
  • List of Challenges to Accomplish each written on a separate google doc. Copy the links for each challenge into a reference page for yourself. (You can also record a quick video for each challenge if your students struggle to read. You can explain and show them what you want them to do in a video.)
  • Fun Reward for the Winning Team


Students work together in small groups online to accomplish tasks. When they think they have achieved a goal, they show you by either sending a picture, filming a video, or calling you. If you confirm they have achieved the goal, you provide them with the next challenge. If you feel they have not achieved the goal, you can send them back to try again (with some guidance if necessary). The first team to accomplish all of the challenges wins. 

How to Organize:

  1. Record a video of yourself telling your students what they need for this activity and what to do for the first challenge. 
  2. Get together with everyone in a Zoom or Google Hangouts meeting to see if there are any questions about the activity.
  3. Put students in small groups of 3-4 students. 
  4. Students meet up with each other in their groups to complete the first challenge. 
  5. Once they submit the first challenge, they wait for your response. If they pass, give them the link to the next challenge. If they don't pass, tell them what they need to do to pass. 
  6. Mix in goofy, quick challenges like each student takes a picture making a silly face, or records a quick video to see who can do the most jumping jacks in one minute, or each student takes an extreme close-up picture of something in their house. 
  7. The first team to get through all of the challenges wins.
  8. You can have an all-student meet up mid-way to give updates to all of the teams about how the other teams are doing and to answer any questions. 
  9. You'll probably also need to set a finish time when all teams need to be back in a all-student meeting whether they have finished all of the challenges or not.
  10. You can give the winning team a reward as simple as having everyone clap for them, or you can give them a free-homework pass, or you can make everyone else who didn't win do 5 jumping jacks, or whatever other creative reward you'd like to give. (I'd love to hear what ideas you have, so leave them in the comments below.)

Challenge Ideas: 

  1. Vocabulary: Each student in a group must find at least one object they feel best represents a vocabulary word they need to learn.
  2. Vocabulary: Students label a picture together using the PWIM model. In order to pass, there needs to be a completed picture from each student in a group. (You can use a drawing app to write on top of a picture if students don't have access to a printer.)
  3. Grammar: Students come up with 5 sentences in the past tense and each student records themselves saying the 5 sentences. Extra points: students sing the sentences.
  4. Discussion: Students discuss their opinions to a question together and each student shares what another student in the group said. (You can record meetings in Zoom.)
  5. Reading/Writing: Students read a paragraph and draw a picture or find pictures online that they feel represent the meaning of the paragraph.
  6. Reading/Writing: Students read a story or informational text and fill in a partially-filled graphic organizer together. Each student in a group needs to submit a completed graphic organizer in order to get the next challenge.
  7. Reading/Writing: Students use sentence starters to type a paragraph outlining 3 key points in a text.
  8. Fun Speaking: Each student in a group takes a picture of their favorite thing in their house and put the pictures together in a collage. Then each student records themselves sharing about what it is their favorite thing.
  9. Fun Speaking/Reading: Students use a clean joke site like this one to learn a joke. Students each record themselves telling their joke. 
  10. Fun Listening: Find and share a Youtube video of your favorite TV show.
  11. Fun Listening: Student look for the best Youtube video explanation for a particular science, history, or current news topic and then discuss which one they want to submit.
  12. Research: Students use a list of sites to research 3 interesting facts with pictures about a topic. They then share by recording, or writing and taking a picture, or typing them into a word document and submitting it.
  13. What challenge ideas do you have? Leave a note in the comments.


  • This activity is much more student-directed. They need to discuss with other members in their groups in order to pass challenges giving them valuable communication and problem-solving practice.
  • Students can use their native language in their small groups if they speak the same language and then pass their challenges in English.

Used this activity before or have a variation? Share about it in the comments below!

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