The big list of classroom language for playing games

Summary: Useful words and phrases for using games in the ESL classroom

Useful vocabulary

Roll a/ the dice

Board (game)



Winner (= First place)

Second place (= Runner up)

The wooden spoon (= Last place)

(Flip/ Toss a) coin/ Heads or tails?

Paper scissors stone/ Rock paper scissors

(Move) clockwise/ anticlockwise (= counter clockwise)

Bonus question


Pass (to the next player)


Minus one point/ Take away a point

Clue/ Hint

Shuffle/ Mix (up)

Deal (out)

(My/ Your/ His/ Her/ This team's) turn


Add up (the points)/ The total (score)

Round one/ The first round


Playing board games

Throw/ roll the dice (and move around the board)

You need one counter each (for example, an eraser or a coin)

Whose turn is it? / Who's next?

Is it my turn? / Am I next?

It's your turn. / You're next

Place your counter on start/ the first square/ Choose a different counter each and place it on "START".

The player with the highest number goes first

Play rock, paper, scissors to see who goes first

If you land on this square go back three squares/ take a card/ do the thing that is written there/ do the challenge that your partners set you

Take it in turns to throw the dice.

Move forward three squares.

If you throw a 6, have another go/ throw again

You need a board, a dice and a counter each. (Ask me nicely for those things)

What colour counter do you want/ would you like?


Playing card games

Face down (on the table)/ So you can't see them

Face up/ So that you can see them

In a pack/ Two packs

Spread across the table/ floor

Deal out all the cards

Give (three/ four/ five/ an equal number of) cards to each player (and put the rest in a pack in the middle)

Shuffle (thoroughly)

Take a card from the pack (when it is your turn/ if you can't go)

The person with the most/ least cards is the winner

Pick a card (from this pack)/ Take a card from the top of the pack

Take five cards, but don't look at them (yet)

You can look at the cards, but don't show your partner



You can only have one guess

If you guess wrongly play passes to the next team/ you lose one point

Do you need a hint/ a clue/ more time?

Twenty seconds to answer

(Is that your) final answer?

Choose one question

You have to agree on an answer in your team/ group


Starting and setting up games

It's time for a game! / Let's play a game!

Tell me/ decide on your team names/ What are your team names?/ Write your team names here/ Choose a team name from this list


Clearing space and getting into position

Clear your desks/ Put your books and pencils away/ Make some room on your desk

Get into pairs/ groups (of two/ three/ four)/ Find a partner/ Find two/ three/ four partners

This is group/ team A (and this is group/ team B)

You (two), work together

Make/ get into two/ three/ four groups/ teams

(Make/ get into) a boys' team and a girls' team

Make/ stand in a circle

Make two lines/ Stand in two lines (from here to here/ facing the board/ between here and here)

Turn (all the way) round (and face each other/ face the other way)

Face this way/ Face the board/ window/ teacher/ back of the room

Come to the front please/ Come up here


Getting the right bits and pieces

Take one (worksheet/ dice/ counter) and pass them back/ pass them along

One (photocopy/ piece of paper/ counter) each

One (dice/ playing board/ pack of cards) for each group

Choose something that you can use as a counter (for this game, for example a coin, eraser or pen lid)

Pass (me/ your partner/ the next person) the ball

Ask me (nicely/ politely/ in English) for the pack of cards/ dice/ ball

Here you are! / Here you go!

Make sure there is/ are... in your set


Giving instructions

What do (you think) we do with a/ this dice/ coin/ ball/ spinner/ sticky ball/ box of Lego bricks?

Who would like to demonstrate the game (with me)?

Does anyone already know this game?

Play moves clockwise/ anticlockwise (= counter clockwise)


Instruction checking questions

How long do you have to play the game?

Who is the winner?

How do you win the game?

Can you/ Should you...?

What are the rules?

What is this for?

What does this mean?

(Are there/ Does anyone have) any (more) questions?


Getting started

Who'd like to start? / (Are there) any volunteers (to go first)?

Are you ready?

Ready, steady, go! / On your marks, get set, go! / Wait for it, wait for it, go!

Any (more) questions about how to play? No? Okay, start/ play the game!


Making sure the game moves along

It's your turn/ You're next/ You're up

Whose turn is it? / Who's next?

Try (it) again

Are you (100%) sure? / (Is that your) final answer?


Finishing games

(Go) back to your seats

That was fun, wasn't it? / Did you have fun?

Time's running out! / Only 10 seconds left. Ten, nine...

Hurry up!

Time's up/ Three, two, one, zero! / Game over! / The game is over

(There will be) (just) one more question/ round

How many points did you get? / Add up your scores/ Count up your points/ cards

Stop there


The winner

The person who has most/ least points/ cards is the winner

This team is the winner!

It's a draw/ Everyone wins! / Everyone's a winner!

.. and the prize is...


Copyright © 2010

Written by Alex Case for

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