ESL Limited Resource Activities

So, you find you have little time to prepare a quick warmer, short activity or English club game?

I have found myself in this situation more times than I’d care to recall.

5 minutes before class, you find your schedule has been re-shuffled and you have to attend a lesson at 5 minutes notice.  Or, you are simply on the search for something short and high pace to get your students in the mood for English.

I have collected a few ideas which have helped me out of certain situations, which I’d like to share with you.

Here are a few to get started.  I will add to them regularly, so please keep checking back if you need something new.

First on the list is a fun TPR team work game;

Team Spelling

You can spend from ten to fifteen minutes on this game.


  1. A pile of  scrap paper, which you can easily find in the recycling box in any print room.
  2. 5 black markers or thick felt pens for each group (the students always have some).

Now let’s play!


  1. Divide the class into teams of 5~6 studetns
  2. Give each team a pile of scrap paper and some pens
  3. Call out 1 word from the vocabulary list they are learning
  4. In their teams they have to spell that word writing 1 letter on 1 piece of paper.
  5. when they think they have the word written correctly, they must run to a space at the front of the class, stand in the correct order facing the other students, spelling out the word you gave them.
  6. The first team to shout “STOP” and who has the correct spelling wins points for their team.

After the first couple of rounds, the students really get into this game.

I have only played it with my English club students, who often ask to play this game if we haven’t played it for a while.

I find it’s a great team building activity,  giving the students the responsibility to order themselves, making each round faster and more efficient.

Next up is another spelling team game.


  • students
  • a black/white board
  • chalk
  • A list of words you can use


  1. split your class into 2 teams
  2. Have them stand in two lines towards the back of the class.
  3. divide your board into 2 sections, for team one and for team two.
  4. give each team one piece of chalk/board pen.
  5. Call out a word from the vocabulary list they are learning from.
  6. One student at a time has to write one letter of the word in the correct order.
  7. When that student has finished his/her letter, he/she must run back to his/her team, hit the next student in lines hand then go to the back of the line, for the game to continue.
  8. Continue this process with various words quickly, giving points to the fastest team who spells the word correctly.

Below is another fast pace spelling game:

Letter by Letter


  • A list of vocabulary your students are studying
  • A classroom board
  • 10~26 students works best


  1. split the students into 2~4 teams
  2. divide the board into 2~4 sections
  3. line the students in their teams
  4. Call out a word then shout, “GO!”
  5. One by one the students race to write letter by letter on the board
  6. issue points to the quickest team, who finish the word correctly
  7. Any team who spells the word incorrectly, must change the mistake.
  8. Keep the words on the board then move to the next word
  9. When the board is full, reverse the process.
  10. Call out a word on the board, then shout, “GO!”
  11. Students, one by one race to ERASE letter by letter OFF the board.
  12. Again giving points to the winning team.
  13. If you have a large class, use your JTE to take care of one side of the board and their points and you do the same on the opposite side.


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