TEFL Guessing Games

Guessing games are intrinsically motivating across the board: show someone a postcard and say, where is this place? Give a few facts about a famous person and ask, who is this person? Share some clues about a crime and say, who did this?

People like figuring things out and most also usually enjoy competing and strategizing – whether it against others or just against themselves. How can you capitalize on this in class?

Twenty questions – do it as a class or team, then let people work in small groups or pairs to maximize speaking time.

Lateral thinking puzzles – like those on gdimension or at ELT Notebook (and there is a good suggestion here on how to help your students come up with better questions).

Unscramble the words – a simple revision tool. For an active or young group, write them on the whiteboard, give them a short time limit to figure out as many as they can in pairs, then give each team a different color pen; one team member at a time can come to the front and write the correct work, then race back and hand off the pen to the next.

Crossword puzzles – students are explaining and guessing words, as described here.

– find a scary or mysterious or funny or otherwise notable story. Figure out opportune times to pause during which students must ask you a minimum of three questions to figure out or get more information about what is going on or what will happen next.

How can you make them better?

  • Make sure your instructions (and rules if it’s a competition!) are clear and fair.
  • Think about how you can give clues or help if your students just aren’t getting it.
  • Divide teams well so they are more or less balanced.

It depends on your students of course, but competitions are often rather natural and fun. Adults need to know that twenty questions is a game and be able to get motivated to compete but also to get over it if they don’t win. It is a game and doesn’t reflect directly on their English ability or overall worth as a person (clearly); having games and joking with the “losers” is a good way to show you don’t take it so seriously either; it is a way to incorporate something different into the routine and use English.