ESL Card Games

A deck of cards is a key resource in any ESL class. You can use it for so many different games and activities. 

Apart from teacher-planned activities, the classic card games work well too. These card games work best in the ESL class. 

Go Fish

I was playing cards with the students the other day, and I remembered the old game, Go Fish. It turned out to be a great game for my beginners and gave them lots of chances to practice basic questions with "do".

For those of you that don't know the game:

Each player is dealt 5-9 cards depending on the number of players. The rest of the cards are spread out face down in the middle of the table. This pile acts as the fish pond.

When players have two of the same card, they throw the pair away. As they continue to throw pairs away, the first person to get rid of all their cards wins.

The first player may ask any other player for a card. As an example,

"Do you have any 10s?"
"Yes I do." (passes the 10 to the first player)

"No, I don't. Go fish" (The first player chooses a card from the fish pond)

The game continues to the left with all the players asking for cards.

Again, this is a great review of questions with do. Make sure the students are actually asking the questions.


War is a simple game, but it gives students a nice chance to work on comparative or superlative adjectives. All you need to do is add in a little speaking component. 

Here are the instructions.

Deal all the cards. They can't look at the cards they have. Without looking, each person places a card face up in the middle. The person with the highest card takes the pile of cards. The winner is the person with the most cards.

To add in the comparative work, make students give statement before they can take the cards.
  • "7 is higher than 4"
  • "10 is the highest."

Teach Me a Card Game

There are many traditional card games in different countries. Students really enjoy teaching those games to their classmates. You can make a whole activity from it, or just have one student teach a card game at the end of class. 

It is great to share different cultures, and something different than food and festivals is always welcome. In a mono-lingual class, you could do some research on card games form other places.

These are some fun card games for an ESL class. Do you like to play any other card games?

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