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Seven games to play with your teens (that they’ll actually love)

Seven games to play with your teens (that they’ll actually love)

While teenagers have a talent for looking at the adults in their lives with keen suspicion, it’s a sure bet that suggesting a game in class will turn those frowns upside down. After all, when teaching teens, laughter goes a long way to generating a relaxed energy, as well as getting them out of their heads. Here are six of our favorite teen-safe games to add to your toolkit.

1. A-Z board race

This is a speed and vocabulary game. To play, divide the class into two teams and give them a large lexical set to work with (food, clothing items, countries). Each team lines up in front of the whiteboard. The first student in each line runs to the board and writes a word belonging to the chosen lexical set that starts with “A”. Returning to their team, the second student adds a word starting with “B”, and so on, until a winning team has completed the entire alphabet or achieved the most words after a given time limit.

Tip: If you wish, you can allow teams to leave a limited number of blank letters, or include a limited number of repetitions from the other team.

2. Running dictation

This game manages to practice the four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) at once. Prepare by printing out a few lines of a story or text and sticking them around the classroom. In pairs, students take turns to run to the papers, memorize as much as they are able to, then run back and dictate it to their partner. (This is far harder than it sounds, as students must articulate clearly despite their rush to win!)

Once student A has written down B’s sentence, they run to the next and dictate it to student B, and so forth, until the pair has it the entire text correctly copied. Their next job is to put the sentences in the correct order.

3. Taboo

This is a great way to get students speaking while practicing your current unit of vocabulary. To play, one student communicates a concept or word to their partner without using a specific list of related words. For example, they must make their partner say “cake”, yet they are not allowed to use the words “bake,” “flour,” “oven,” “cupcake,” “sugar,” or “dessert”. Once their partner says the word, the students switch roles. To prepare, put together a set of cards with the target vocabulary on the top and the list of “taboo” words below. (Google will quickly help you come up with these taboo words, if you need a hand!)

4. Direct me

This game is perfect for practicing giving directions, and prepositions of place and movement—as well as being a completely unexpected lesson addition. To play, come to class a little earlier (we know, but trust us, it will be worth it!) to rearrange the furniture into a maze of sorts. In pairs, students lead their blindfolded partner through the maze. Instructors must give clear instructions (“Take three steps forward, then crouch down and crawl…”, “Go under,” “Walk past,” “Step over,”).

Tip: To limit chaos, admit just one pair at a time.

5. Triple memory

Make the classic version a little more complicated by adding a third word. To prepare, create cards that show three words that “match”. (You could use large lexical sets, verb forms, or comparative/superlative adjective forms.)











Step mother



Shuffle the cards and distrubte them face down on the floor. In pairs or small groups, students take turns to turn over three cards. Points are awarded for choosing three “matching” words.

6. Adverb mime

A light-hearted game and excellent way to practice and review adverbs of manner. Prepare cards with different adverbs on each (be sure to grade them for your class’s level).


  • Quickly, happily, silently, carefully, loudly

  • Suddenly, gently, politely, rudely, beautifully

  • Deliciously, seriously, impatiently, greedily

Playing as a whole class with competing small groups, or within small groups themselves, students take turns to choose a card and mime an action according to the adverb they select. Set a time limit and award points for guessing correctly.

Tip: If you wish, you can create verb cards as well. The resulting combinations can be hilarious! (Think “climb a mountain rudely,” or “play the piano deliciously…”)

Teenagers, while they may take a moment to get into the swing of an activity, can just as easily surprise you with their willingness to join in. Having a number of go-to games is a huge help when planning lessons for teens. For more, check out these classic ELT games, and these circle games.

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