Hangman ESL Vocabulary Game


Playing Hangman in class is an effective method for helping students recall vocabulary, improve pronunciation and practice using new words from the curriculum. It is usually used with younger ages but can also be fun for adult learners too if adapted appropriately.

Student Level: Beginner, Intermediate

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Age Group: Kids, Adults

Hangman ESL Game

Hangman Game Preparation:

Not much is required to prepare for the game, but you may want to prepare a variation of words from your textbook or curriculum before you start the class. The game can be adapted to use sentences as well as individual words based on the student level.

Hangman Game Guidelines:

Most students are familiar with Hangman since it is something they have played in their early years of education. If they are very young learners, some explanation and modeling of the activity may be necessary.

First, draw the hanging device on the board and draw the number of blanks for each letter of the word that you have selected for the class to spell out.

Model a simple example and ask them to guess the letters that are in the word. If they guess incorrectly, draw the man’s face – a circle – on the hanging device. Remember to put the incorrect letters at the side so they know that the letters have already been said. When they guess a correct letter, fill in the blank space with the letter.

Continue this way until they have spelled out the full word. If they run out of guesses, draw the full figure of the stickman on the hanging device and shout out, “Hangman!”

As an option, you may want to divide the class into teams and award one point for every letter that they guess correctly. It adds extra incentive if you include a prize for the winner.

Alternatively, you could do the game in reverse. Instead of drawing the figure, you can draw a funny cartoon character on the board and erase parts of the body if they guess an incorrect letter. This method is a bit less sadistic and kids usually react with full enthusiasm as you erase parts of the character’s body.

Note, you could also vary the character appearances which is more entertaining for the students as well.

After doing a few words, have the students come up to the board and have them play the role of the teacher. This way, they can have a chance to select their own words, draw the Hangman character, and write out the letters.

Remember to award the winning team with their prize at the end of the game.

Follow-Up ESL Activities:

If there is time left in class, you could try a follow-up activity to enhance their descriptive writing skills with the vocabulary from the Hangman game like the Five Senses Writing Activity. Blank fill worksheets with the words that you have used in the game can work well to reinforce the vocabulary as well.

View more vocabulary games.

View more ESL activities.


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