Here are my favorite games. I like them because they are fun and they get people chatting.They are listed below in no particular order and will take about 10- 15 minutes to complete.  At the end of the list of shorter games  are games that will take 20- 30 minutes.  But don’t let the length put you off.  The longer  games are always played enthusiastically.


Gestures at the Conversation Cafe

If you have a favorite successful game, let me know. I am always looking for new ideas.  Thanks.

1. Charade Race– for large groups

Object- to see which team can guess the series of words given the fastest.

The game facilitator will have cards of categories such as sports, kitchen, school, business, and routines. On each category card, there will be words that fall under that category.  For example, “school” would have words like desk, computer, pencil, paper.
Divide the group into groups of 5 or 6.  At the starting signal, each team sends one person to the facilitator to receive a word.  They then race to their team and act out the word. The person who guesses, or the next person in line, races out to get the next word.  Use  7 words for each team. The first team to finish wins. It may be helpful to have different lists for each team to avoid getting hints from other teams.

2. Line up– for large groups

Object- to see which team can organize themselves the fastest.

Divide the group into teams of 10-15.  Have everyone stand in a line.  The facilitator will call out a subject, such as birthdays.  The line of students will organize themselves according to the month they were born, from January to December.  When they are arranged, the team sits down.  Other subjects can be; shoe size, number of siblings, shortest to tallest, short and long hair, number of years in school, numbers of letters in name, etc.

3. Two Truths and a Lie- for groups of 3 or 4 people

Object- to learn something new about other people

Each person takes a turn telling two things that are true about themselves and one thing that is not true.  The others in the group will guess the lie.

4. Matching- for large groups

Object- to help people meet other people

Each person receives a paper with phrases.  People must then circulate to find people who can sign their name by the phrases.  For example, the paper might have; lives on the 10th floor, has a dog for a pet, speaks more than three languages, has been to South America, etc.

5. Never Have I Ever,or  I Have Never– for groups of 10-20.

Object- to help students identify experiences they have done or not.

Make a large circle.  One person in the middle begins with “Never have I ever…” or “I have never…”, and then they name an experience. For example, one might say, “Never have I ever been to Mexico,” or “I have never been to Mexico.”  After the words are spoken, people around the circle who have been to Mexico must run out and exchange places with others who have been to Mexico. Most likely, there will be a new person in the middle who must then announce something they have never done.  This continues until everyone has had a turn in the middle or at the end of a certain set time.

6. The Winds Are Blowing– for groups of 10-20

Object- to help students recognize each others differences and similarities.

This game is like “Never Have I Ever,” but the concept is a little easier to understand, especially if English is the second language of the group. In a circle, each person marks his spot with a piece of tape on the floor. The person in the middle says, “The winds are blowing for anyone…..” Then they say something about what is worn, eaten, or anything else that comes to mind. For example, the person in the center may say, “The winds are blowing for anyone wearing glasses.” Those wearing glasses have to run into the circle and find another spot to stand. The person last is in the center and says, “The winds are blowing for….” And thus the game continues. The alternative to the saying something about the group is to say, “tornado,” at which everyone changes places.

7. Sorts and Mingle– for a large group of 10-30 people.

Object- to help people identify words, preferences, and to help people meet and talk to new people.

The game facilitator will announce two contrasting things or preferences like Wal-Mart and Target, pointing at a side of the room for each word.  Students race to the side of their preference.  Other contrasts could be; apples and oranges, sweet and salty, cold and hot.  The second part of the game is “mingle.” Now the facilitator announces a topic and people have to talk to each other to find people who like the same thing.  These categories are things like dessert, sports, movies, shoes, and so on.

8.  M & M Sharing– for small groups of 3 or 4.

Object- to help people share their experiences.

Each group receives M&M’s of different colors.  Each person in the group takes a few.  Then, questions are handed out to each group. The questions have to do with the colors of M&M’s.  For example, red M&M’s mean you share the name of a close childhood friend. Green means you share your favorite vegetable. Brown, a most disliked subject or class.  You can make up the questions to fit your group.



9. Guess What?- for large groups of 15 or more.

Object- to help people mingle and ask questions of each other.

Put a post -it note on each person’s back.  The note will have a word of a category chosen.  For example, if you choose world famous cities, then a note will have the name of a city such as Sao Paulo, Rome, Beijing, Tokyo, or Toronto.  People must then ask others yes or no questions to help them identify the word on their back.

10. Jigsaw Autographs– for large groups.

Object- to help people meet others and learn something about them.

Each person is given a piece of graph paper.  They write their name in the middle.  Then they collect other names that will intersect with the letters in their own name.  In addition, on the back, they write the name of their favorite musician, or some other topic of interest.

11.  Interview– for groups of 4.

Object- to encourage conversation and to learn about someone new.

Each person chooses another person they do not know.  They must identify two areas they have in common and two areas that are different.  They then introduce their friend to the group small group of four.

12. Fish, Mosquito, Bear, which is a variation for Rock, Paper, Scissors– for large groups of people.

Object- for fun and meeting new people.

People find a partner and try to win in a series of three contests.  The fish eats the mosquito, the mosquito bites the bear, and the bear eats the fish.  Before you start, identify the action for these three animals.  Whoever wins the best of three is allowed to ask their partner any question they like and the partner is obliged to answer. Then the contest continues either with that partner or you may find a new partner.


Backpack Scavenger Hunt

13. Backpack Scavenger Hunt– for small groups of 5 or 6

Object- for fun, and conversation

Each team receives the same list of items that may be common or uncommon in a backpack.  Then the teams pool the items on hand to find all the items first.  Some items might include, a credit card, highlighter, penny, eraser, organizer, photo.

14.  Gestures– for a large group of 15 or more.

Object- for fun, to notice people in the circle.

Form a large circle.  One designated person leaves the room and one person standing with  the circle is chosen.  When the designated person returns, he stands in the center.  The person chosen begins an action when the person in the middle is not facing her.  The rest of the people in the circle begin to repeat the action as quickly as possible.  The person in the center tries to guess who started the action.  The person chosen to do actions can and should change actions at any time to keep the person in the middle guessing.  This continues until person in the middle guesses the originator of the actions.  Actions include  scratching head, waving, clicking fingers, putting thumbs up, and so on.

15.  Connections– for no more than 15, unless you have a lot of time.

Object- to find ways similarities of likes, dislikes, and experiences.

One person stands in front of a group of 10-15 people and begins to say short phrases about themselves.  For example, they may say they like to cook or read science fiction or ride a bike or take photos.  When someone else hears something they have in common, they get up, stand by the first speaker and begin to name things about themselves.  This process continues until everyone is standing in a circle.  Each person on the right and left of the individual will have a connection.

16. Say Your Name- for groups of at least 6.

Object- to help people become acquainted with everyone’s name.

Everyone sits in a circle. One person begins by saying their name to the person on their right or left. That person then says their own name to the person on their right or left. Whoever is spoken to may then either turn to the right or left to say their name. Sometimes the name will go all the way around the circle if everyone speaks to the person on their left, for example.

Things to remember:
You only say your own name, no one else’s.
You can choose to repeat your name to the person on your left or right.

17. Remember the Names- for groups of 10 or more.

Object- to remember the names of other people.

Everyone finds a partner and makes a circle. One partner sits down in front of their partner and faces the center. Now you have a circle with the inner circle sitting and the outer circle standing. One person is in the center with a rolled up paper. When the game starts, the person in the center attempts to swat one of the people sitting with the paper. The partner of that person shouts out a name of someone else sitting, before his partner is hit. The person in the center then tries to swat the newly named person before that partner shouts out the name of someone else in the group.

The person in the center leaves the center when they successfully swat a person sitting before that partner calls out their name. The center person will take the place of the person he successfully swatted.

18. Fire on the Mountain- for groups of 12 or more.

Object- to get out of the center of the circle

Everyone finds a partner and makes a circle. Then one partner steps in front of the other person and faces the center. Now you have a circle within a circle and one person is in the center. The person in the center begins to make a rhythm with their hands and feet by clapping an stomping. The inner circle joins in with the rhythm while the outer circle walks around the inner circle. When the center person shouts, “fire on the mountain,” the inner circle raises their hands while the outer circle steps inside the circle faces the person raising their hands, and raises their hands to touch theirs. The center person also finds a person to join hands with. There will be one person unable to find a partner. That person will be in the center, the first outer circle is now inside. The center person begins a rhythm and the game begins again.

This game is fun but rowdy. Make sure that the circles are large enough for people to walk between each other.

19. Tongue Twister

Divide the group up into two or three lines, depending on the size of the group. The first person at the head of each line is given a paper with a tongue twister on it. They turn to the person behind them and whisper the tongue twister to them. This continues down each line. When the last person hears the tongue twister, they come to the front of the line and announce what they heard to the whole group. The team whose saying is closest to the original receives a point.

Here are some tongue twisters to try.
A tidy tiger tied a tie tighter to tidy her tiny tail.

Nine nice night nurses nursing nicely.

Betty bought butter but the butter was bitter.

A big black bear bit a big
Black bug and the big
Black bug bled black blood.

20.  Don’t Do What I Do

Sometimes when we tell our children to do something, they are likely to do the opposite.  Everyone likes to be a little bit defiant. Here is your chance.

One person begins by making a motion such at swinging an arm, leg, turning a certain way, or some such action. The entire group does the opposite motion. If the person begins by swinging their right arm, then the groups swing their left arm.

Then the person to the right of the person who began begins to do another motion and again, the entire group does the opposite. The game continues around the circle. At some point, things will become confusing and funny. That is the fun of this game.

21. Draw a Portrait

Have everyone stand in a circle. Give everyone a piece of paper and a pencil. Then have each person begin drawing the portrait of someone in the circle without letting that person know. Give a few minutes to let people complete their drawing. Then collect the pictures. One by one, show the pictures and let the group guess who the drawn portrait is. The artist whose portrait is correctly identified gets a point. Really, the points don’t matter a whole lot. The laughs come from the portraits.

22. Math Equations

Is it possible to have fun doing math equations? With this game, the answer is yes. Divide into groups of 6. Project an equation on the screen. Each group must find the answer and act it out the number. The first group to correctly answer and act out the number wins a point. Here are some equations to get you going. Make sure you know the answers ahead of time. Each person stands in the shape of a number.

3,451- 1, 902=
600 X 51=

What day does school begin? This would be six letters, like 07 22 17. Each person stands in the shape of the letter.

23.  Guess What?

Each person is given a small paper with a word written on it. They do not look at the word but hold the paper on their forehead so others can read it. Then everyone mingles asking people to act out the word written on their paper. The object is to guess your word but also to meet others in the group.

The words can be in categories like sports, superheroes, animals, school subjects or anything else. They don’t all have to be in one category.

24.  Animal Pat a Cake

Everyone stands in a circle. Each person chooses and animal and an action that accompanies that animal and announces it to the group, one by one. The game starts with a clapping rhythm like ///  // /, or whatever feels comfortable. Then the designated person makes their animal action and someone else’s animal action. They also say that animal’s name. The clapping then begins again and the person whose animal was called out starts by doing their own animal action and then another person’s animal action while calling out the name of the animal. The person who gets mixed up steps out. Gradually, the game will get down to a few people.  This game always produces surprises and laughs.

25. Shark Attack

The game leader opens up a few newspapers and lays them about the room. Then the participants group themselves standing on the papers, fairly comfortably. The leader calls, “Shark Attack,” and everyone must leave their paper and go to another one. People who cannot fit on the next paper, steps to the side. Next, the leader makes the paper smaller for a few locations and then calls out “Shark Attack!” Again, everyone must find a new paper. Everyone must fit with both feet on the paper. Gradually papers are eliminated and only a few participants compete for the small paper on the floor. Usually, there is one winner.

26. Three-Legged Dodge Ball

Direct each person to find a partner. Give them a string and have them tie one of their legs together, making three legs. Next, divide the group into two teams which face each other in two lines. With a soft rubber ball between the group, the partners grab the ball and throw it at a couple from the other team without crossing the line between the teams. If they hit the couple then that couple is out. Continue playing until one team wins by having the most players remaining. If the ball is caught, those players are not out but can continue the ball in play.


Games that take 20- 30 minutes.

1. Jeopardy– for large groups divided into smaller groups of 5-8.

Object- to develop teamwork to answer the questions and win.

The game facilitator prepares categories and questions that range from difficult to easy, with accompanying points.  We usually use a wipe board for this with someone designated to keep points for each team and erase the level chosen.  Each team takes turn choosing a category and the level of difficulty.  The team can collaborate to come up with the right answer.  The team also rotates people who choose questions so everyone has a chance to choose.  Among the questions, put in a daily double occasionally.   If a team cannot answer, or answers incorrectly, another team may raise their hand to answer.  If that team answers correctly, they get the points assigned to the question.  If they answer incorrectly, the points will be subtracted from their total.

2. The Name Game– for groups of 8-12

Object- to test memory and to get to know other people.

Each person writes the name of a famous person on a piece of paper.  The person can be real or fictional, alive or dead.  It is helpful if everyone knows the name.  The papers are collected and read aloud two times by someone who is not familiar with everyone’s handwriting or who is not playing the game. One designated person asks another person if they are one of the names read.  For example, Tiffany might ask Liming if she is Hillary Clinton.  If Liming says “yes,” then she sits by Tiffany and together they ask another person.  If Liming says, “no,” then Liming stays where she is at and asks another person about a name.  This game continues until all have been guessed.  The teams get larger when individuals and whole teams are guessed.

People do not get tired of this game.  It seems new each time it is played and more strategies are recognized.

3.  The Movie Game– for large groups of 20 or so divided into groups of about 5.

Object- to help people use words in a selective way.  It also is a good memory game.  Overall, it is plain fun!

Each person writes down four movie titles, all on separate pieces of paper.  The papers are folded in half and put in a large bowl.  Now the fun begins.  The designated person on the first team picks a paper from the bowl.  He then will give verbal or action clues to his team to help them guess the movie title.  The verbal clues cannot have words from the title.  When his team guesses the correct title, he draws another paper from the bowl and continues for one minute.  When the minute is up, the unguessed clue is put back and the next team begins.  The guessed movies are kept by each team.  Each person on a team will have a turn to give clues. When all the movies are guessed, the totals for each team are tallied and the movie titles are put back in the bowl.  This is the end of round one.

Round two continues in the same fashion with one-minute time allotments per team.  The difference in round two is that each person giving clues may only use 3 words, and words like “umm,” count, depending on the English level of your crowd.  Round three is actions only, no words.  The team with the most point wins the tournament.

4. Telephone Pictionary– for groups of 10-14

Object- to enjoy the funny outcomes of statements and drawings.

Each person is given a stack of papers according to how many people are in the group.  They then number the papers.  On the top paper, number one, each person writes down a short phrase. such as, “the bear went over the mountain, I love you, once upon a time,” or some such thing.  Then they pass the whole stack to the person on their left.  That person reads the statement and then puts the statement at the bottom of the stack and draws a picture of the statement.  Then the whole stack is again passed.  The drawing at the top is considered and put on the bottom of the stack.  On the paper on top, they write a statement that describes the drawing.  Again it is passed.  This pattern of statement, drawing, statement, drawing is continued until one receives their original stack. Then each person shares with the entire group the progression of the stack.

5. Surprising Facts- for groups of 10-14

Object- to learn more about each person in the group

Each person writes down two facts about themselves they think others might not know about them.  The papers are put into a bowl.  One person begins by taking the  paper out and reading it to the group.  Then, going around the circle, each person guesses who wrote the surprising fact.  Players gain points for each correct guess.  If no one in the group has a correct guess, the person who wrote the fact gets the point.

6. Table Baseball- for groups of 6-12

Object- to have your team win by having more runs in than the other team

Each team sits opposite of each other. Make a baseball diamond with paper on the table or floor. Also, have something like pennies to mark people on the bases.

Each person will receive four or five slips of paper, numbered one through four. Each person will write one fact about themselves which others are unlikely to know. Then the team will take the papers and put them in stacks according to the number.

One team comes up to bat with one team member choosing a number from the other team. The numbers represent the run to first, second, third, or home (4). The fact is read and the person who chose that number must guess who wrote the statement. If they are right, the penny is moved to that base. If they guess wrong, it is one out. Each team receives three outs and then the next team comes to bat. The game continues until there are no papers left to read.

It is important not to reveal the author of the statements until after the game is completed. This is a great game to get to know people better, even people you think you know well.

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