ESL Basketball

ESL Basketball is a game that is easy to adapt for different levels, and can be played at almost any time. This is a game that I would often play on the days when I taught many different levels of classes. It was just as easy to play with a class of 4 year olds as it was with 12 year olds. That means less work (and clean up) for you!


Target English: any
Things You Need:flashcards (optional depending on your target English), a ball (or small stuffed toy), a basket (or 4 chairs arranged so that their backs form a square basket), and a scoreboard (also optional)
Age: 2 or older
English Level: low-high

Game Outline:
1. Divide the kids into teams and form two lines.
2. Set up the basket. This actually works well if you are using the four chairs to set up the basket because it creates an air of mystery. Set the basket fairly close to the students so that it’s likely that most of them can make a basket.
3. Have the first students in each line play rock, paper, scissors to see who can go first. The first student in the winning team asks the first student in the other team a question using the target English. The student responds. Then the winning team’s student gets to shoot the ball and try to make it in the basket. 4. Reverse roles and let the second team shoot the ball and try to make it in the basket.
5. Proceed through the line so that all students can have a turn.
6. After all students have had a turn or two, make a face like something just isn’t right…then realize that the basket is much too close to them and move it back very very far. This will get the students, particularly older ones, excited about having another turn to try the “hard” basket.


  • Make it easier by only requiring the students to say what’s on the card. Make it harder by requiring them to use the word in a sentence.
  • Younger kids cannot throw very well, so make sure you start the basket very close to them. Kids like it when you make it harder for them, not when you make it easier.
  • You can count points or not depending on the dynamic of your class.
  • You also can play “every student for him/herself” and not make teams (if your class is small).

Hope you and your kids have fun with this game.

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