Sometimes you need a break from traditional studying. But have you ever considered using games to learn English? Whether you’re preparing for the TOEFL or simply want to improve your English abilities, there are many English-learning games out there that are high quality and effective—not to mention fun!
Read on to see our picks for the best games for learning English for both groups and solo learners. But first, what makes an English-learning game good?
What Qualities Does a Good English-Learning Game Have?
Before we go over the best English-learning games, let’s look at the specific qualities that make for a top-notch language-learning game.
First things first, an English-learning game must be accurate to be effective. All grammar structures it uses should be grammatically correct, and all vocabulary words should be spelled and defined correctly.
If there are any problems or inaccuracies in the game, it’s better to avoid it. Using a game with problems like these means you’ll end up learning incorrect information! So always look for a game that’s highly reviewed and has impeccable English.
If you or someone you know is creating a game, make sure you have multiple people check and double-check that the English in it is correct. I suggest getting a native English speaker to look over any games or learning materials you make.
To be fair, it's possible to get a good TOEFL score studying alone. But PrepScholar is the world's most effective TOEFL course if you are worried about the TOEFL and are struggling to improve your score.
Games need to be more than just accurate—they must also be effective at teaching you English. Quality games will help you remember meanings of difficult words and perfect your mastery of grammar patterns through a combination of features such as word associations, images, and repetition.
An ineffective English game, on the other hand, won’t help you recall what you’ve learned or test your English skills enough.
The whole point of games is that they’re supposed to be fun! A good English game will not only teach you English but also entertain you as you play it. Some of the best English games are those that make you forget you’re actually learning!
Of course, what I think is fun might not be the same as what you think is fun, so it’s important to always look for a game that aligns with your interests while also targeting the English you want to practice.
It’s Easy to Play
Finally, a good English game is one that has clear rules and is easy to learn how to play. You shouldn’t need to spend a lot of time learning the rules of the game; ideally, you’ll be able to read a description or play through the game once or twice in order to understand what you must do to win.
4 English-Learning Games for Groups and Classes
If you’re taking an English class or have a few friends who are also studying the language, here are some exciting group-based games for learning English together.
Hangman is a classic spelling game known throughout many English-speaking countries. This game is a “one vs. group” game in which one person faces off against a group of people.
Materials: Blackboard, whiteboard, or piece of paper; chalk, marker, or pen
Summary: One person, whom we’ll call the “chooser,” selects a mystery word and writes down a blank for each letter in it. People in the group then take turns guessing a letter. For each incorrect guess, the chooser draws part of a hangman. For each correct guess, the chooser fills in the missing letters wherever they appear in the word. Play ends when either the mystery word is guessed (in which case the group wins) or when the hangman is complete (in which case the chooser wins).
How Does Hangman Teach You English?
Hangman is a great game for cementing spelling and vocabulary knowledge. You must be able to recognize how letters fit together to form English words as well as know how to spell words so that you can guess the correct letters. Finally, you must know a wide range of vocabulary in order to correctly guess the mystery word.
How to Play Hangman
1. One player selects a mystery word (the other players will guess the word). For example, Helga picks the word “rabbit.” “Rabbit” has six letters in it, so she draws six blanks. She also draws a pole for the hangman and a box for keeping track of any incorrect letters guessed. Here’s an example:
2. One by one, the other plays guess letters. If the letter is in the mystery word, the chooser must write that letter wherever it appears in the word (it might appear more than once). If the letter is not in the word, the chooser writes it in the box and then draws one part of the hangman (most people start with the head). Let’s say Phoebe guesses the letter “H,” Nadine guesses “L,” Harold guesses “E,” and Arnold guesses “B.” Helga writes the incorrect letters in the box and the correct letters in the word; she also draws three parts of the hangman:
3. Play continues until the mystery word is guessed OR the hangman is complete. If someone in the group guesses the correct word, they win! If the group doesn’t guess the word, however, the chooser (in the example above, Helga) wins. A complete hangman usually has a head, a body, two arms, two legs, and a face.
Tips for Playing Hangman
- Guess common letters first! Most native English speakers start by guessing some of the most common letters in words, which include all vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and the consonants “r,” “s,” and “t.”
- For a slightly easier game, use categories. For example, let’s say before Helga chose the word “rabbit,” she told the group she’d be choosing a word from the category “Animals.” This makes it easier to figure out which letters and words you should guess.
- For a more difficult hangman game, use phrases instead of single words. Be sure to clearly indicate where spaces between words are (I find it’s helpful to insert long vertical lines between words).
- If you’re the chooser, write down the word you’ve picked on a (hidden) piece of paper. You can use this to ensure you’ve written down the correct number of blanks and are spelling the word right.
- Consider ahead of time what a complete hangman looks like. You might want to talk it over with your group to determine how much you can draw until a hangman is complete. Most people draw the following body parts:
- A head
- A body
- Two legs
- Two arms
- Two eyes
- A nose
- A mouth
However, you may also draw the following:
- Two ears
- Two hands
- Two feet
- Two eyebrows
Fruits Basket is a fun and interactive game similar to musical chairs. This game focuses on speaking and listening to English words and phrases. It’s a group game, so there are no winners or losers!
Materials: Chairs (one less than the total number of people playing), arranged in a circle and facing in; cards with pictures or English words on them (optional)
Summary: Everyone except one person sits down in a chair (the person standing in the middle of the chair circle is the “stander”). The stander then says an English phrase or vocabulary word. Anyone sitting who meets the requirement of the phrase or word must get up and sit down in a different chair. At this time, the stander, too, tries to sit down in an empty chair. Whoever is left without a chair is the new stander and must now say a new phrase or word to make people stand up again.
How Does Fruits Basket Teach You English?
Fruits Basket can either focus on grammar or vocabulary. It teaches you not only to think quickly but also to communicate with others through a combination of speaking and listening. As a result, you can hone your pronunciation to further increase your confidence in your speaking skills.
This game is also easily adaptable, so if you’ve learned a certain grammar structure you want to practice more, you can tweak the game to work with that particular pattern.
Want to improve your TOEFL score? We have the world's leading TOEFL course.Built by world-class instructors from Harvard and MIT, the course offers individual review, interactive lessons, and realistic online praactice, at an affordable price! It's the fastest way to get your target TOEFL score.
How to Play Fruits Basket
1. Decide whether you’ll be practicing grammar or vocabulary. Once you’ve decided, follow the instructions below to prepare your game.
- For Grammar: You don’t need to prepare anything special ahead of time. Simply decide on the grammar pattern you want to practice. The easiest pattern to use is “People who have/like/want ~.” Anyone who fits the sentence must then stand up and move. You