ESL Writing Game

ESL writing game boy running with pencil

Easy, fun ESL writing game for grammar or vocabulary

Here’s an easy ESL writing game for all ages; it’s great for grammar and spelling. And, it’s ideal for beginner to intermediate students learning English.

Class size: This game is suitable for any number of pupils from only one to about thirty. You need some room between desks in class, or you could play in some space. Either way, students need to move around the classroom. You can adapt this to your circumstances unless you are in a lecture theatre-type environment with no room to move; if that’s the case, then sorry, you can’t use this game. Instead, you can use the games for very large classes in 176 English Language Games for Children.

Play this ESL writing game once your students are familiar with the target vocabulary and sentences and you are ready to practise or revise. This game is perfect for working on specific grammatical points or spelling.  It also adds an entertaining twist to worksheets!

How to play

I suggest dividing the class into pairs, threes or fours, but no more than four per group. 

Each group has two pencils, one worksheet, and one blank paper (see materials section for examples). 

On the word Go! The first child of each pair or group runs to the worksheet and fills in the first item. The pencil stays with the worksheet, so the children are not running with them. They then run back to the blank piece of paper and write the word or phrase there. If you have long sentences, ask the class to write out the relevant part so the game is not long and laborious.

As soon as the first child reaches the blank piece of paper, the second child can run to the worksheet, fill in the second item, leave the pencil on the desk, and run to the blank piece of paper. The first child should have finished writing out the item by now, so they either run back to the worksheet to do the third item or wait in line until their turn comes round again.

ESL writing game example

Here is a concrete example of how that works. Using this worksheet for a/an, the first child runs to the worksheet and fills in item 1, in this case, ‘an’ before ‘elephant.’ The child then runs back to the blank piece of paper and writes out ‘an elephant,’ while the second child runs to the worksheet and fills out item 2, and so on. 

A variant is to have two worksheets – identical for reinforcing newly learned things or different ones for revising more items. 

When the worksheets are all filled up, the game is over. 

ESL writing game boy with pen and paper


For marking, I suggest that everyone marks their own, or the group marks the sheet. Each person or group can have three lives, which means that as you go through the answers, they can rub out three incorrect answers and replace them with the correct ones. This means that it is highly likely that the whole class will get 100% which is great for the feel-good factor. In addition, erasing wrong answers and rewriting the corrections helps students learn far better than a big red cross from the teacher. Now, if any children rub out more than three incorrect answers, then I say so what? Let them and pretend you haven’t noticed. 

If a child squeals on another, you could say thank you for helping, but it’s better if you concentrate on your own worksheet. That has got to be better than putting the spotlight on the child who has got so many wrong answers that they have to keep rubbing them all out! 

Language ideas to use with this game 

This game lends itself to any English as long as sentences are short – being a writing race, it isn’t practical to have great long texts to write out. However, if you use worksheets with gap-fills, then sentences can be as long as you like. 

If you wanted to reinforce some spelling, you could have one worksheet which the children run to, memorize the first word, run back to the blank piece of paper and write that word down from memory. Meanwhile, the second child runs to the worksheet, and so on. You could use that idea for short sentences or vocabulary. For example, one worksheet could have pictures; the child looks at the first picture and then runs back to the blank paper and writes down the word. 

This ESL writing game allows students to practise anything, from question forms, verb endings, parts of verbs, vocab, pronouns, etc. 

Materials to use with this game 

Here are two example worksheets for this game. One covers a/an, and the other does the present tense, including question forms. 

Younger children might appreciate pictures for visual interest, but time is short, so don’t feel obliged.  These example worksheets are pretty dense, so if there is too much for your class, use one section and leave the rest for another lesson. 

You can access an example worksheet for a and an on the link below.


I hope you enjoy using this game with your pupils soon.  Do let me know how you get on!

Kind regards 
Shelley Ann Vernon 

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