ESL Games are the most effective in kids classes when they are easy to play and don’t rely on a lot of teacher-talking-time. Go Fish is an excellent game that lets your ESL students start using English almost immediately.
- The only materials needed are a deck of cards. In the version pictured I’m using a deck of “Go Fish” cards (available on Amazon or wherever you buy toys) but a regular deck of playing cards works just as well.
- Go fish is ideal for between 3 and 6 players. If you have a larger class you can use multiple decks and have a few games going at the same time.
- Go Fish is perfectly suited for student’s between the ages of 6 and 10 but works great with any beginner level adult class as well.
The target language being used is “Do you have number, color fish?” E.g. “Do you have 6, pink fish?” The answer depending on whether or not the student has the specified card is is either “Yes, I do.” or “No, I don’t.“
In a game of Go Fish players are supposed to try and make pairs. When the game is finished every card should have found it’s match. The student that has the most pairs of cards is the winner.
- Go through your deck of cards and make sure each card has a matching card. In the picture to the right there are two matching cards each having 2 yellow fish on them. If you are using a regular deck of cards make sure there are two red 2s and two black 2s, two red 3s and two black 3s, etc.
- Shuffle and deal the deck of cards evenly between all players.
- Players go through the cards they’ve been dealt and remove any pairs they have. These pairs will count as points later so make sure your ESL students are putting the pairs down directly in-front of themselves and not into a group pile the middle of the game.
- As your students are putting their cards down they have to say “I have number, color fish.” E.g. “I have two, yellow fish.”
- Next, you start playing the ESL game. Each player is looking for the match to each of their cards. The first player in rotation will pick another player and ask for cards by using the other student’s name e.g. “John. Do you have 5, green fish?”
- If John has the 5, green fish card he passes it to the questioner and says “Yes, I do.” If John doesn’t have the 5, green fish card he says “No, I don’t.”
- Rotate around the circle of players repeating steps 5 – 6 until every card has found it’s match.
- At the end of the game the player in possession of the most pairs of cards is the winner.
This version of the game makes sure students learned and practiced “I have _____?” and “Do you have _________?” as well as the appropriate answers “Yes, I do.” and “No, I don’t.“
You can adapt this game to varying levels of difficulty. The simplest version I use is strictly for counting and the target language is “Number fish, please.“
Some of the more difficult language targets you can use are “(persons name), may I have number, color fish please?” or “(persons name), could you please pass me number, color fish?”