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20+ BEST Outside Games to Help ESL Students Learn English!

Outside the classroom is the perfect opportunity to help students learn English without them really knowing they're learning.

Children playing together in the playground

Game 1: What's the Time Mr. Wolf?

A classic game for any outside playtime and one that is perfect for new, younger ESL students who are learning the very basics of English numbers.


It's a very simple game for students to understand.

  1. All of the students stand in a line. They will be asking the question "What's the time Mr Wolf?".

  2. One student is on the opposite side of the playground, with the back facing the rest of the students. They will be giving the other students the time.

  3. The students start by asking, "What's the time Mr Wolf?".

  4. The Wolf will say a low number at the start and get progressively higher.

  5. After each number, the students will take that many steps towards the 'Wolf', getting closer and closer.

  6. Once the Wolf reaches the number 12, the can chase the other students back to the starting line.

  7. Whoever they catch first will be the wolf next.

Game 2: Eye Spy

One of the easiest and best games to test a student's vocabulary. You can set any topic that you want the students to focus on. For example, if you are outside in the playground, you could choose nature or playground toys.


This game is also very easy to understand.

  1. Tell all the students what the topic will be about.

  2. Choose one student to start the game off. Once they have picked an item., they can tell the rest of the class, "I spy with my little eyes, something beginning with...".

  3. The rest of the class can take turns guessing what the other student picked.

  4. Whoever guesses correctly first is the winner and gets to pick the next item.

  5. For any students who guess at the same time, a friendly game of Rock, Paper, Scissors always works the best.

Game 3: Red Light, Green Light

This game is always fun to play and is perfect for a warm-up game. All you need for this is space in the playground, a red cone, and a green cone.

  1. Students stand on the starting line. You can choose a student to lead the game or lead it yourself.

  2. The leader will go to the opposite side of the playground and face the other way, holding both coloured cones.

  3. The student can show the green light and the other students can make their way towards the leader.

  4. Once they show the red cone, all of the students have to stop. Any student caught moving by the leader has to go back to the start.

  5. The last person to make it to the leader is the loser bandits their turn to be the leader.

Game 4: Four Square

This game requires minimal equipment and is always fun to get kids active and ready to have fun learning.

  1. Make a square and section it into 4 parts, labeling them 1-4 or A-D.

  2. Choose one player to be the server who will start the game off.

  3. The aim of the game is to keep the ball in play.

  4. Each player needs to hit the ball with any part of his/her hand into an opposing player's square after it has bounced only once in his/her square.

  5. If the ball lands on a line or goes out of bounds before it bounces, the player who hit the ball needs to return to the waiting/cheering line for another try.

Game 5: Parachute

Parachute is a classic playground game, but as per the name, does require a large playground parachute.

  1. Have students each hold a corner of the parachute and make a big circle, stretching it the whole way.

  2. You can play many different games with this. For this game, there should be one leader, normally the teacher. This game is all about name recognition.

  3. Everyone holds the parachute around waist height, enough for students to crawl underneath.

  4. One student goes under the parachute while the other students rustle it up and down.

  5. The leader shouts out a name, and the other student has to try and identify the other student without seeing their face. You can give them clues such as what colour shoes they are wearing or what type of clothes they have on.

  6. Once the other student has been found it is then their turn to go underneath.

Game 6: Mother, May I

Mother, May I is similar in concept to Red Light, Green Light mentioned earlier, but with a slight twist. This game is all about using different action verbs such as run, jump, hop, etc.

  1. Students stand on the starting line. You can choose a student to lead the game or lead it yourself.

  2. The leader will go to the opposite side of the playground and face the other way.

  3. One student takes turns saying "Mother, may I..." with a different verb added. For example, "Mother, may I hop".

  4. The mother then responds either “Yes”, and the child can do the action forward, or “No” and the child must comply.

  5. If a child makes a move and forgets to ask, “Mother, may I?” then must go back to the starting line.

  6. Whoever makes it to the finishing line last is the next person to be selected as the mother.

Game 7: Freeze

Freeze is a great outside game that allows students to practice any English song they choose. It requires no equipment, only you and your students.

  1. You as the teacher are the leader. Everyone has to follow you as you walk around the playground.

  2. Students all stand behind you and follow you. You face away from them and ask them to start singing an English song and dancing if they wish.

  3. The aim of the game for the students is not to get caught signing or dancing.

  4. You can turn around and shout freeze at any time while they sing and dance. Once you turn around, they have to freeze and stop singing and dancing in whatever pose they are currently in.

  5. Any students you catch not frozen in place can be sent to the back of the line

Game 8: Grouping

Another very simple and fun game that requires little to no equipment. You can add things to the game at any time you wish.

  1. You can set a course for the students to complete as they jog around the playground.

  2. This game is great for their counting skills. At any point, you can call out a number.

  3. Once they hear you say a number, for example, 3, they have to huddle in groups of that number.

  4. Any students who don't have a group or are too slow to form their groups can do a funny forfeit of your choice. For example, 5 jumping jacks.

Game 9: Bulldogs

This game has many different names across the world but is always good fun and gets students up and being active, letting them release some much needed energy.

  1. All this game requires is a playground. You can use cones to mark out the playing area and the safe bases if its easier for the students to understand.

  2. Most of the students aim is to get from one base to another without getting caught by the person who is the 'bulldog'.

  3. The bulldogs aim is to catch a person before they make it from one base to the other.

  4. At the start you can choose one or two students to be the bulldogs. Once you get caught, you then join the ulldogs team in the hunt for the other students.

  5. The last student to get caught by the bulldogs is the winner of the game.

Game 10: Tag

Possibly the easiest game out of the 20+ on this list. This, like bulldogs, is a perfect way to let students dispel some of their energy outside.

  1. Set out an area in the playgroud that they should play in. This will keep the game more fast paced and more fun.

  2. Designate one student to be 'on'. They will start the game and their aim is to tag another person.

  3. You can make it more competitive and give them a time limit to tag someone before they are out of the game or have to do a forfeit.

Game 11: Freeze Tag

Identical to the last game but with a fun twist! Is another perfect way to let students dispel some of their energy outside.

  1. You can most of the rules from tag but there are one or two differecnes.

  2. This time one stusdent will always be 'on' and it wont change to another student when they are tagged.

  3. Instead, they have to freeze in a start position. They only eway they can unfreeze is by someone crawlling through their legs.

  4. You can change this for a more ESL feeling by getting them to hold themn and say a sentence or answer a question.

Game 12: Hide and Seek

A classic in any playgroud, Hide and Seek is the king of games in the playground. Also requiring no extra equptment. The students are open to hide anywhere.

  1. You can pick one seeker, whos job is to find the other stduents. The restof the students job is to go and hide.

  2. While the students are hiding, you can have the seeker practice their counting skills or sing an English song.

  3. Once they have finsihed counting or singing they can go and find the other students. They should shout something, such as "Come out Come out wherever you are!" to tell the students they are coming.

  4. After they find a student, the seeker can say "I found you..." andsay their name.

  5. Once they are found they can join the seekers team and go and find some other students.

  6. The last student to be found and called out is the winner.

Game 13: Duck Duck Goose

One of the easiest games to introduce to new ESL learners. This game works very well with younger students.

  1. Ask the class to sit in a big circle. The more students you have, the better it is to space them out and make a bigger circle.

  2. For new students is best for you to demonstarte first and be the firstone to pick.

  3. Go around the cirlce, lightly patting students on the head saying "Duck, duck..."

  4. When you get to the student you want to choose, shout "Goose".

  5. After this they should chase you around the circle until you get back to their position and sit down.

  6. Then its their turn to repeat and choose a new student.

Game 14: Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a fun and simple gamefor students to play together with. If you have a big class, it's better to place them in groups and have them play the game together.

  1. For this game is better to have some chalk to mark out the hopscoth grid. Normally this is marked from 1-10.

  2. Each player will throw a small object, such a rock inside one of the squares on the hopscotch grid.

  3. The student will then hop from square to square, hopping over the square with their object in it.

  4. The goal of the player is to hop all the way down to the end and back without the other foot touching the ground.

Game 15: Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag isalways a thrilling and exciting game for thge whole class to play together.

  1. Split the class into two teams. You can mark out the playing area with cones if you have them.

  2. Seperate the playground into two zones, where ach team will be able to hide their flag.

  3. You will also need ajailarea for any student who breaks the rules.

  4. Each team is given aminute or two to hide their flag.

  5. The goal is to find the other team's flag and bring it back to your own flag. Whichever team does it first is the winner.

Game 16: Tug of War

You can add some fun and healthy competition into your students with tug of war.

  1. Seperate the class into two teams. This could be boys vs girls or any way that seems fair.

  2. When the refferee gives the signal to go, students start tugging the rope.

  3. Each student is meato pull backwards as hard as they can.

  4. The two teams continue pulling until the center of the rope, which is usually makred red, crosses where the referee is standing.

  5. The game ends when you declares one team has successfully pulled the past the center.

Game 17: Dodgeball

Another way to introduce healthy competition into the class is by playing dodgeball.

  1. Just like the last game, seperate the class into two teams.

  2. Lay out the playnig area with cones and put a line of soft ball in the middle of the area. Players are not allowed to cross this line into the other teams area.

  3. When you give the signal, players can run to the centre to collect a ball.

  4. The aim of the game is to hit the other team with a ball without them catching it.

  5. Students must dodge or catch balls thrown by the opposition whilst attempting to strike their opponents in the same way.

  6. Whichever team gets out all of the opposing team first is the winner.

Game 18: Marco, Polo

A really funny and exciting game to play with students to test their hearing.

  1. One student is chosen as "it".

  2. That player, with closed eyes or a blindfold to stop cheating, tries to find and tag any one of the other students, relying on their hearing to find someone to tag.

  3. The student who is "it" shouts "Marco" and the other students must all respond by shouting "Polo", which the "it" player uses to try to find them.

  4. When they manage to tag another student, they switch roles and they are now "it".

Game 19: Jump Rope

A simple but always fun and exciting game that can be used to test their couting skills.

  1. You and another helper will be the ones to turn the rope.

  2. The students, who arethe jumpers, must try to run under the rope without jumping or touching the rope.

  3. After each srtudents attempt or completion, the other students must keep a rolling counter by shouting what number they are.

  4. When they make it through, the student should return to the back of the line.

  5. They should keep counting unitl someone doesnt make it through.

  6. You can set them a challange to get to a certain number before the game ends.

Game 20: Leap Frog

Leap frog is great and hilarious game that will keep students laughing and active while learning.

  1. This game works best if you place students in pairs.

  2. Have students line up in tbeir pairs on the starting line.

  3. The aim of the game is to leap over eachother continuously going until they reach the finishing line.

  4. When the games start the front person should crouch down, allowing the other to leap over. Continue leaping over until they make it the whole way.

Game 21: Slalom

Our final game is the classic slalom race! You can create as many obstacles for thekm to take on during this race.

  1. The class can go one by one continuously. When you say go, they can start making thier eway through the slalom.

  2. On your call, you can say a different verb such as run, walk, hop, etc.

  3. When you say this, they must do whichever action you say.

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