EF Teacher Zone
Ideas, tips, and tools for language teachers around the world.
MenuVisit EF Teacher Zone

Got stationery? Play these quick games

Got stationery? Play these quick games

You know the deal. There are five minutes before class ends and you’re losing your young learners. Maybe there’s a missing link in your vocabulary lesson or you’d love a spare warm up activity for the first day back. These quick activities are great for scratching an classroom itch—plus, you’ve already got the materials you need: Pencils, paper, and erasers.

Back tracings

This is a cousin of “telephone”, where a word is whispered down the line, only to (possibly) come out very differently at the end. Ask your class to line up facing the whiteboard, and show the student farthest from the board a vocabulary word. Using their pen or pencil, the student will “write” the word on the back of the student in front of them. Play continues until the last student writes what they have understood on the whiteboard.

Drawing instructions

Sitting back-to-back in chairs, Student A listens and follows their partner’s instructions to draw a picture, sketching their interpretation on a piece of scrap paper (raid the scrap photocopy bin!). This strengthens skills in giving and following directions, as well as vocabulary for positioning objects (“Draw a circle in the top-right corner of the paper,” “Add a horizontal line under the first triangle you drew”).

Topic review

Ask small groups of students to draw a board game on a large piece of scrap paper. Hand out dice and review questions (or use those from the back of your student book), and give groups time to complete their games.

Tip: To make things more interesting, brainstorm class-standard symbols and rules (e.g., go forward two spaces if you answer correctly on a star square; go back one space for each question incorrectly answered; skip a question on a smiley face square, etc). PS: Here are other ways to use board games in class.

Balled up basketball

Split your class into two teams and explain that representatives from each will compete to answer review questions. The student who answers correctly gets the chance to “shoot a hoop” (using a balled up paper ball/an eraser and the recycling bin as the hoop). Assign points for hoops scored. The winning team is the team with the greatest number of points.

Eraser throw

In a circle, students throw an eraser to each other. The rule? They must say another student’s name correctly before throwing it. Students who cannot remember a classmate’s name within two seconds are out.

Tip: This version works best as an ice-breaker, however, the game can be altered to practice any number of question and answer scenarios, vocabulary review, etc.

Celebrity heads

A classic game! Use sticky notes to attach celebrity names to your students’ foreheads. Everyone somehow loves the absurdity of wearing a post it.
Tip: Lesson learned. Stick these on with the non-sticky side of the note facing up so as not to cover your students’ eyes!

Memory table

Ask you students to put items of stationery in a bag, then jumble up and distribute them across the table. Give the class a minute to memorize what’s on the table. Then them to close their eyes and remove 1 – 2. Students must remember whose belongings are no longer there, and put them in a sentence, e.g., “Angela’s highlighter has gone,” “Ben’s green ruler is not here.” This practices vocabulary for classroom objects and adjective/noun order.


Hand out two sticky notes or small squares of paper per student and ask them to write a short “why/because” converstation (“Why didn’t you eat dinner?” “Because I burned the rice”), one part on each piece of paper. Then, collect the papers and shuffle them into a “why” pile and a “because” pile. As an open class have students randomly pick a paper from each pile—and laugh at the strange combinations that occur!

Want more resources?Explore here—for free

Want to study a language abroad? Order a free EF brochure

Learn more