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Best ESL Board Games

English is not an easy language to learn.

With confusing sentences like “Since there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present,” it’s difficult to understand why it became the world’s lingua franca. Today it’s used throughout the world for travel, business, education, and science.

But for many, learning English as a second language (ESL) is not only important but compulsory. Remembering all the grammar rules, exceptions, and irregular phonetics can be daunting and outright boring. Snooze alert! Board games are an excellent way to liven up the language learning process.

To add a little excitement to your next ESL lesson, check out our list of the best ESL board games. They can be enjoyed in the classroom or at home to take a bit of the burden off of the challenging learning curve.

🏆 Our Top Picks for Best ESL Board Games

In a hurry? Take a quick peek before you go.

Best Elementary

Zingo
  • Trusted by Families Worldwide - With over 50 million sold,...
  • Develops critical skills – Perfect for pre-readers and early...
  • What you get - This is the Amazon exclusive version of the world...

Best Advanced

Balderdash
  • Time to grab the “bull” by the horns and hope other players...
  • Balderdash game features compelling, unbelievably true content...
  • Make up phony definitions to read alongside the real answers

Best Overall

Blank Slate
  • The game where _______ minds think alike!
  • Prepare yourself for Blank Slate, a game of addicting...
  • Pick a Word Cue card, write the word you think best completes the...

Best ESL Board Games Featured

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: GAMES TO LEARN ENGLISH | GAMES TO LEARN SPANISH | GAMES FOR LEARNING TO READ | HOW TO TEACH WITH BOARD GAMES | WORD BOARD GAMES

#1. Blank Slate

Blank Slate Board Game Box and Board

Players: 3-8
Playing time: 20-35mins

Party games are a great way to loosen up a class and encourage learning in a more relaxed, natural, and enjoyable setting.

Blank Slate is a party game that can be used for educational purposes. Begin the game by drawing a clue card. Perhaps it says “Cold ____.” Players each need to choose a word that they feel best completes the phrase. But they’ll also need to think about what other players will be writing if they want to earn points. Reveal your answers and reward points to any matching sets. The first player to 25 points is the winner!

With 250 double-sided clue cards, Blank Slate is a great way to reinforce vocabulary and even teach vernacular and colloquialisms. Bring it to your ESL classroom and have students play in groups to foster teamwork in learning. This game is easy to learn, quick to play, and tons of fun for both kids and adults!

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Blank Slate
  • The game where _______ minds think alike!
  • Prepare yourself for Blank Slate, a game of addicting...
  • Pick a Word Cue card, write the word you think best completes the...

#2. Once Upon a Time

Once Upon A Time Family Board Game

Players: 2-6
Playing time: 30mins

This is your chance to give students the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Once Upon a Time is a storytelling game where players use the cards they are dealt to take turns creating a whimsical fable.

Using their wildest imaginations, players will integrate different characters, events, and places into their story to play through all their story cards and direct the fairytale towards their happily ever after. But everyone wants to prove they’re the best storyteller and take the reins on sharing their happy ending.

This is a great improv activity that gets students thinking on their feet. It would be a great warm-up activity to get those creative juices flowing before assigning a writing prompt.

Add a magical touch to your next ESL lesson by playing Once Upon a Time.

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Once Upon A Time Storytelling Card Game
  • Tell a tale based on random topics in your hand and try to steer...
  • Appeals to players of all ages.
  • Once Upon a Time is a game in which the players work together to...

#3. Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples Board Game Featured Image

Players: 4-10
Playing time: 30mins

Apples to Apples is a great game for any party — or classroom.

The word association game consists of two types of cards: nouns (red) and adjectives (green). Players will all start with 7 red cards. The judge for the first round will place one green card in the center for everyone to see. Each player then chooses one of the red cards that they think best fits with the center green card. The judge decides who wins and gameplay continues in this way.

If instructors are looking for a fun way to reinforce parts of speech and practice vocabulary, look no further. The best part about Apples to Apples is that it can be enjoyed by any age group.

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Apples to Apples: Party in a Box
  • This infamous wild card and party game provides instant fun for 4...
  • It's As Easy As Comparing Apples To Apples, Just Open The Box,...
  • Select The Card From Your Hand That You Think Is Best Described...

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: Apples to Apples Review | Apples to Apples vs. Cards Against Humanity

#4. Upwords

Players: 4-10
Playing time: 30mins

“The game of quick stacking and word hacking.”

In this word-building game, players begin by drawing 7 letter tiles. Words can be built not only vertically and horizontally, but also — you guessed it— upwards.

Every tile has the same value, so the longer the word, the more points you can score. Additionally, you can stack tiles upwards to earn points for tiles you’ve built on. Bonus points are awarded for those who use the “Qu” tile or all seven of their tiles in one turn.

When you’ve played Scrabble for the umpteenth time and just need a little variety, give Upwords a try. It’s great for increasing vocabulary, understanding phonetics, and creating rhymes.

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Upwords
  • High-Stacking, Word-Building Game: The Higher You Stack, The...
  • Intense, Stategic Word Play: Stack And Hack To Get The Highest...
  • Rotating Game Board: With A Lazy Susan Design, Players Can Easily...

#5. Balderdash

Balderdash Board Game Box and Components

Players: 2-6
Playing time: 60mins

Language is all just a bunch of gibberish, isn’t it?

Especially when you’re playing Balderdash. Believe it or not, the flabbergasting words are real, but their meanings are a bunch of baloney made up by the creative minds of the other players. This activity is best suited for more advanced students because you’ll need to be pretty good at bluffing— in a foreign language— if you want to win this game.

If you need a filler activity for your advanced ESL lesson, this one is sure to be a hoot!

GET BALDERDASH: BUY ON AMAZON | BUY AT WALMART | BUY AT NOBLE KNIGHT

Balderdash
  • Time to grab the “bull” by the horns and hope other players...
  • Balderdash game features compelling, unbelievably true content...
  • Make up phony definitions to read alongside the real answers

#6. Zingo

Players: 2-6
Playing time: 5 mins

Bingo has often been used in foreign language classrooms to reinforce vocabulary. But have you tried using Zingo for young English learners?

Zingo follows the same rules as classic Bingo, but instead of using numbers and letters to get three in a row, a dispenser releases tiles with words and pictures which you match to your card. As picture tiles are dispensed, scan your card for any matches and call out the word to claim it. Having a picture to associate with a written word can be extremely helpful, especially for young learners just beginning their English journey.

Players will be able to practice reading and spelling simple words while building language skills and creating an awareness of spelling patterns.

GET ZINGO: BUY ON AMAZON | BUY AT WALMART | BUY AT NOBLE KNIGHT

Zingo
  • Trusted by Families Worldwide - With over 50 million sold,...
  • Develops critical skills – Perfect for pre-readers and early...
  • What you get - This is the Amazon exclusive version of the world...

#7. Bananagrams

Bananagrams Travel Game Tiles and Banana Bag

Players: 1-8
Playing time: 15 mins

A game ESL learners will go absolutely bananas for!

It’s a race to see who can use all their letters to create a crossword grid first.

At the sound of the shout “split!” everyone can flip their tiles over and begin to construct their crossword. When you’re out of letters, yell “peel!” and everyone can take another tile from the bunch. Got stuck with two “X’, “Z”, and “Q”? Yell “dump!” and exchange one letter for 3 new ones. When there are fewer tiles than players, the game ends, or if you finish your grid yell “bananas!”

Players can explore letter combinations while showing off their impressive new English vocabulary. Everyone will have a bunch of fun playing Bananagrams.

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Bananagrams
  • FUN FOR 2x PLAYERS – Gather your family and friends and race...
  • ENTERTAINING AND EDUCATIONAL – While this game is easy to play,...
  • GREAT FOR TRAVEL – Bananagrams comes in a fun banana-shaped...

#8. Hedbanz

Players: 3-10
Playing time: 60mins

In this rendition of 20 questions, everyone will know what you are except you! Are you a pizza? A fork? A ladybug? You’ll need to ask for hints to figure out what’s on your card before time is up!

Use all 69 cards to keep the game broad or only use selective cards to focus on specific categories like animals, food, or household items. Players will gain confidence in asking questions as well as boost their vocabulary.

Hedbanz is an absolute blast to play and recalling words in such a silly fashion is sure to make them memorable.

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Hedbanz
  • EXCITING NEW HEADBAND CHOICES: 6 fun, new headbands for players...
  • NEW CARDS AND ART ILLUSTRATIONS: Cards feature a brand-new art...
  • EXCITING FAST-PACED FAMILY GAME: On your turn, flip over the...

#9. Scrabble

Scrabble Tiles

Players: 2-4
Playing time: 60mins

Scrabble is the classic word game. It’s what similar successors have been modeled after for a reason. It has been long played by countless ESL students before as a way to practice and expand their vocabulary.

To begin, players start with 7 letter tiles which they will use to spell out words on the gameboard. Each subsequent word will build off that and so forth. Words earn points depending on which letters you use and where you place them. Not all letters and spaces are created equally like in Upwords. By strategically placing your tiles of premium squares you can double or triple your points.

Allow students to use a dictionary and give them the opportunity to create words they wouldn’t likely come across using other activities. Adding Scrabble to your ESL lessons is easy, effective, and of course — fun!

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Scrabble
  • Classic work game features sleek folding carrying case with...
  • Colorful gameboard features recessed game spaces
  • Gameboard rotates with ease on six soft rubber wheels

#10. Scattergories

Players: 2-6
Playing time: 30mins

Be different, get rewarded. In Scattergories, players’ out-of-the-box thinking will earn them points as they compete against others in a game of, well — categories.

Teams will be given a card with 10 random categories on it. Then, roll the 26-sided die to determine what letter every answer must begin with. Say “F” is rolled and some of your categories are: beverage, city, and boy’s name. You may come up with Flat White, Fargo, and Felix. You’ll earn points for answers that are different from the other teams. The more creative the answer, the better chance you have at earning points.

This game cultivates teamwork and creative thinking while allowing students to practice using their vocabulary in the correct context. The categories could be easily tailored to complement the current lesson plan or used as a fun review before a test.

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Scattergories
  • Scattergories game challenges you to come up with items fast
  • You score points when you come up with items that nobody else...
  • Play in teams for tons of fun

Wrap-Up

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best ESL board games (English as a Second Language)! Playing these games for fun with your friends or using them in the classroom as teaching tools are great options for ESL learners.

Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss any that you like better? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.

SHARING IS CARING

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