By Kevin Fabris

December 11, 2015

10 - 20 Minutes, Adult, Answer, Big Class, Easy ESL Games,, EFL, ESL, Fun, Game, Games, Guessing Game, High School, Learn It, Small Class, Some Materials Required, Teams, Vocabulary, Warm Up, Word Game

One technique I love to use when using games in my ESL classes is combining two or more of the class’s favorite games to come up with an entirely new game.  This game is a combination of Tic Tac Toe and Hangman.  Tic Tac Toe/Hangman is a great game!  It combines reading, spelling and strategy.  In this example we use the game to teach American English versus British English and highlight not only the differences in vocabulary but the differences in spelling as well.

The Details about Tic Tac Toe / Hangman:

  • This game works for students of all ages (as long as they can read) and is very easily adapted to any level of difficulty.
  • There is about 5 minutes of preparation required prior to playing.
  • A game can last between 10 and 25 minutes.
  • The only materials required are a whiteboard and a marker.

How to teach American English versus British English:


  1. Prepare the list of words you are going to use before playing and write them on a small grid so that they are easy to reference when you are playing with your class.
  2. Draw a large 3 by 3 grid on the whiteboard.  Each of the 9 squares must be large enough to play a game of Hangman inside of it.
  3. In each square write a series of slashes.  Each slash will denote where a letter will go.  In this example I’ve added slashes for the American version of a word, followed by an equal sign and then more slashes for the British version of each word.

Game Play:

  1. Divide your class into 2 teams.
  2. Flip a coin to decide which team will be X and which team will be O.  The team that loses the coin toss will get to decide where to start the game.  In this example we’ve started in the bottom center square.
  3. Play a game of Hangman (full description here).  Make sure to alternate between teams after every guess.
  4. The team that solves the puzzle puts their mark (X or O) in the square.
  5. The losing team then gets to decide which square in the grid to play next.  They also get the first guess in the new puzzle.
  6. Repeat step 3 – 5 until one team has won the game of Tic Tac Toe by connecting a row of three.


If the game of Tic Tac Toe is finished fairly quickly you can continue to fill in the unfinished puzzles as a way of illuminating more of the differences regarding American English versus British English.  It’s much more enjoyable than flash cards.


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