Card Race

Card Race

I love using card games in my ESL classroom. Recently, I’ve been using a lot of UNO in my lessons. I find it’s a really easy game to bring into any lesson because all of my students (in Japan) already know how to play.

In high school classes, I’ll often start a lesson with just a regular game of UNO (2 – 5 minutes). No extra language added. Just as an icebreaker. Obviously, the class is required to speak English during the game, but past that there aren’t any other rules. This laid back start to a lesson usually gets students relaxed and ready to communicate.

After one game of regular UNO I like to add more English into the game by playing a game of ESL UNO (5 – 10 minutes). In ESL UNO anytime a card is played it must be accompanied by a question. The next player in rotation must then answer that question and ask one of their own before playing their next card.

As a third UNO based activity, I like to have a Card Race.

A card race is ideal for 2 – 5 players.

The only material required is a deck of UNO.

A game should take between 5 and 10 minutes to play.

Set up:

Divide the entire deck evenly between all of your ESL students.


1.The only special cards that have any value are the change colour cards and the pickup 4 cards. Both cards let players change the suit of the cards being played. Everything else in the deck is just a coloured card.

2.Players have to follow the colour in play unless they use a change colour card or a card with a matching number.

3. When cards are played the should be placed number up into the spent pile in the centre of the table.

How to:

Play the first card and ask an easy question, E.g. “Where are you from?”

The first student to answer the question correctly, E.g. “I’m from Toronto.” and get a card of the same colour on top of the spent pile wins that question. They must then ask a question of their own.

The first student to answer that question correctly and throw an appropriate card wins the next question. This continues until the entire deck has been played.

Questions can not be repeated!

There is no order to this game. If you answer the question and get your card on the playing pile first, you win the question.

Players can answer their own questions. As long as they get their cards on the pile before the other players.

The first player with no cards left is the winner.

The game continues until every player has played each of their cards. This makes sure that all of your students end up participating equally. Plus, it’s lots of fun to watch the student that didn’t participate ask and answer their own questions multiple times in succession.

I like to use this game to work on fluency. I try not to correct grammar too often. The only goal in this ESL game is to get students asking and answering questions as quickly as possible.

This game is great if you have students that like to fly under the radar and not participate. This ESL game always provides multiple situations in which the students that aren’t as talkative are the only player in possession of an useable card. At times, peer pressure can be an EFL teachers best friend!

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