Published 29th April 2019

adult learners

Teaching adult learners of English can be both a blessing and a curse. Adults are able to engage with the language on an intellectual level and are happy to focus on the theory in order to put it into practice later. In other words, they don’t mind doing the boring stuff because they understand the benefits of delayed gratification. On the other hand, adults are difficult to entertain and you may have to work hard to maintain their interest in your lesson.

With Young Learners and teens, it’s easy to bring out a game and get everyone interested in the lesson. With adult learners, though, it can be tricky to decide which activities they would not only find interesting but also which would engage and stimulate them.

But fear not! We’ve compiled a list of five fabulous games which will have your adult learners sitting on the edge of their seats.

Five fabulous games for adult learners

Heads Up

Made famous by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, this game is easily adapted for the EFL classroom. Make a set of cards with a word, phrase or sentence written on one side. You can create a set of cards for whatever language concept you are teaching.

Put the students into pairs or groups. One student takes a card and, without looking at it, presses it to their forehead so the other students can see it. The other students must then explain whatever is written on the card to the student in question until they can guess what it says,

Famous Names

This game is similar to Heads Up. The words on the cards, though, are not words or phrases but famous people. The student with the card against their forehead must ask the other students questions in order to find out who they are. The trick is that the questions can only be Yes/No questions.

20 Questions

A student in each group decides on an occupation, animal, sport or person (you can choose whichever categories you want). The other students in the group only have twenty questions to guess what the chosen word is.

TED Talks

Not the usual TED talks! For this activity give one student in a group a topic. They will need to speak on this topic for a certain amount of time, say 2 or 5 minutes. Give that student a few minutes to think of ideas. At the same time the other students in the group must fill in Bingo cards with words they expect to hear in the talk. While the student is giving their TED talk the other students must listen to cross off words in their Bingo grids.


Another adaptation of a popular speaking activity. The teacher must create a number of PowerPoint presentations. Each presentation should consist of five slides with pictures. A student must give a presentation to the class using the slides provided by the teacher, but they only have 30 seconds per slide. With higher level classes, no preparation needs to be given as the students can think on their feet.

Just because you are teaching adult learners does not mean your lessons need to be dull and boring. Use games to lighten up the mood in your classroom, increase motivation and improve learning.