Outdoor ESL Games

The outdoors offers many learning opportunities for ESL students.

Playing games with your English as a Second Language (ESL) students is a fun way for them to review concepts taught in class. Outdoor activities add another dimension of adventure. When you explain the rules of the game, it is an opportunity for students to practice their listening and comprehension skills. Organize games that also will help students review vocabulary and become more confident with conversation.

1 Scavenger Hunt

Provide a list of items that you would like your ESL students to find. Try to relate the list to vocabulary words you have been teaching in class. For example, if you have been teaching them about items found in the forest, add pine cones, leaves and acorns to the list.

Another activity is an alphabet scavenger hunt, where you challenge teams to find 26 items outside that start with each letter of the alphabet. When organizing a scavenger hunt, establish boundaries and a signal, such as a whistle blow, to indicate the end of the game.

2 Spot Nature

You can lead this game in any outdoor environment, from a forest to an urban park. Make a statement about a natural item you see, such as “I see three yellow flowers.” Tell the students to put their thumbs up when they have spotted the same thing. After a few minutes, ask a volunteer to tell the group where they think the items are. This is a great activity for ESL students to practice listening skills and review vocabulary.

3 Ship to Shore

This game is best played in a field. Designate the playing area by placing orange cones at each corner of a rectangular zone. Tell students that they are now on a ship. Indicate that one side of the boundaries is bow, and the others are stern, starboard and port. (If you prefer to teach cardinal directions you can call each boundary north, south, east and west.)

Start the game by telling students to run to the bow (or north); they should run to that boundary line. Spend a few minutes having them run to each side of the "ship." Add other commands such as "swim to shore," where they making a swimming motion, or, "row your boat," where students grab a partner, sit on the ground, face each other and make a rowing motion.

Invent your own commands related to English concepts you have been teaching. When students are comfortable with all the commands, you can add a competitive element where the last student to complete a task is out.

Michelle Brunet has published articles in newspapers and magazines such as "The Coast," "Our Children," "Arts East," "Halifax Magazine" and "Atlantic Books Today." She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies from Saint Mary's University and a Bachelor of Education from Lakehead University.