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EPIK South Korea: Fun ESL Games To Supplement the ESL Textbook in Low Level K-8 Curriculum English Classes

Curriculum classes in South Korea consist of approximately 20 to 30 students, and generally have the homeroom teacher as the NET’s co-teacher. These classes are all large in size, limited in space for movement, include a mix of students with varying proficiency and interest in English, and are relatively short (40 minutes).

EPIK teachers in South Korea have a textbook that largely follows the PPP lesson planning format, but it does not fully use communicative activities in context. The extent to which  NETs must follow the book will be determined by the school.

About the Author: Tania Sanclemente spent two years in South Korea, where she started as a teacher in rural public elementary schools and continued as a provincial coordinator for the TaLK program. Tania completed the 120-hour Advanced TESOL Certificate course with OnTESOL.

Lesson Plan Format:

For our planning duties, we followed the PPP format from the textbook because my students were too low level for either TTT or TBL. ESA could work for the higher grades, but given the short 40 minute periods, this is essentially PPP without the switching between the study and engage phases.

The advantage of PPP is that you can incorporate the engage phase (attention grabber) into the presentation stage. Although the remaining PPs are practiced slightly less in context, this is effective for the learners given their young age and proficiency level.

Supplementing the Textbook with Communicative Games

The textbook I used did a thorough job during the Presentation Stage of the lesson, although it did not include much elicitation. I prefer to have students “guessing” the topic beforehand so that they are more actively involved, but this is something that a new ESL teacher would have to prepare well for, as the Teacher-Talk-Time (TTT) is either too much or too unscripted.

For the Practice and Production stages, games are largely used where I worked because they are easy to implement with large classes. ESL games help young students develop communicative competence and are especially useful for teaching vocabulary because you can address meaning with pronunciation. The textbook games are not always “bad”, but they all carried a similar pace and had a similar style so students would get tired of them quickly.

In many cases, having these novel games at the end of the lesson were often viewed as a reward; that is, the games were also implemented as an indirect classroom management tool because students would have to work efficiently in order to play the game.

Recommended: Accredited TESOL certification courses for South Korea

Intonation Reading Game

Materials: whiteboard.
Usage: any vocabulary.
Purpose: to have students learn the target vocabulary through creative repetition.
The teacher writes the target vocabulary on the board in the following format:
[word1]                                    [word2]                                    [word3]                                    [word4]

After having introduced the words, the teacher will underline one of the targets – this will be the word that students should stress. For example, in the series [dog – cat – monkey], the word “cat” should be emphasized.

The teacher should do a demonstration and ask concept check questions before beginning (e.g. stressing a non-underlined word, and asking students if what they did was correct).

The teacher may choose different actions to be performed for the underlined word: the first round is yelling, the second round is whispering, the third round is doing an associated action, etc.


        • Students are engaged in mechanical repetition that is disguised as a “game”.
        • Low-prep activity that can be altered for any level and class size.


        • Requires students to be able to read the target words.
        • Students are not associating the words within a context unless an associated action is used to accompany each word.

The Coin-flick Game

Materials: mini-whiteboards (alternative: paper), a coin per group.
Usage: reinforce a target question and answer.
Purpose: to have students engage in conversation using the target question/answer in self-regulated groups. In small groups, have students write their target questions/answers on a single mini-whiteboard.

EPIK and TaLK lesson plan: ESL games for EPIK teachersThe purpose of this game is to land one’s coin into a square. Through a demonstration, show that the first player “begins” at any corner.

Their teammates must ask them the target question (e.g. “how’s the weather”?) and they must answer with the target answer of the square that they will try to flick their coin into (e.g. I would like to land in the top left box, so I would answer “it’s foggy”).

Students are awarded a point if the answer they gave matches the box they landed in.


      • Students are engaged and active using the target language
      • Game is applicable to any target question/answer and is suitable for large size classes
      • The game is self-regulated, so the teacher can make rounds and check up on all groups


      • Students may take time to write the target words, especially if it is their first time playing the game (the teacher may alternatively prepare all the boards beforehand, but this increases the class prep time)
      • Students are not associating the words within a context unless an associated action is used to accompany each word
      • Requires students to be able to read the target word

Recommended for teaching English young learners in South Korea: 168-hour Hybrid TEFL Certificate 

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