By Kevin Fabris

January 27, 2016

10 - 15 Minutes, Adult, Big Class, Big Room, Easy ESL Games,, EFL, ESL, Fun, fun introduction, Game, High School, Ice Breaker, Learn It, Materials Required, random timer, Speaking, timer, Timer Game, Warm Up, warm up activity, Young Learner

Times Up is an ESL Introduction Game that’s amazing simple and effective.  It’s called Times Up!  It’s basically a spin on the classic game Hot Potato.  The only difference is Times Up! uses a random timer and has lots of practical English speaking practice added.

The Details:

  • This ESL Game requires a random timer that sounds an alarm when the time expires.  I like to use the Hot Potato Electronic because it’s soft and plays a funny song.  If you don’t happen to have a singing potato you can also use a toy bomb or just an egg timer inside of a box.
  • This  game can be played with larger or small classes.  For larger classes consider added multiple random timers.
  • This game can be used with elementary school aged children all the way up to adults.
  • A game should last between 5 & 15 minutes depending on class size and the amount of language targets you use.

How to Play this ESL Introduction Game:

  1. Have your class sit in a circle.  Make sure you have a stronger student sitting next to you.
  2. Show the class the timer and demonstrate the alarm.  Make sure your ESL students understand that the alarm is bad…I pretend to cry :-(.
  3. Make sure your timer is set to go off after between 20 & 90 seconds.
  4. Start the random timer.
  5. Use whatever target language you feel is appropriate.  Ex.  “Hello, my Name is Kevin.”
  6. Pass it to the student next to you.
  7. Most likely they will look very confused.  Take the timer back and then repeat the target language. Ex.  “Hello, my Name is Kevin.”  Usually they will figure out that they are supposed to copy the language target and pass the timer to the student sitting next to them at this point.  If they don’t repeat step 5 until someone figures it out.
  8. Continue passing the timer from student to student while using the language target.
  9. When the timer goes off, the game ends.  I find this game works best if you keep the whole class involved so I don’t like making students that are caught holding the timer sit out rounds.  I simply start the game again from the next student in rotation.
  10. At this point the teacher should reset the timer and start the game again.    Once your sure most people can use the first language target make the game harder by using different sentence structures.
  11. Finally, when the game is coming to an end start to combine some of the sentences you’ve practiced.  If you execute this right students will have practiced their personal introductions many times and not even realized they were studying.
  12. Now it’s time for the elimination round.  Set the random timer and start passing it from student to student.  In the elimination round any student left holding the timer when the alarm goes off is “out”.  They can not participate in future rounds.  The last student remaining wins.


Watch more here:

July 21, 2016

This ESL game is a guaranteed good time

May 31, 2020

This is an activity given to us by

May 31, 2020

Like many ESL schools, I had to go

May 31, 2020

This is a game submission from Andrew Innes,

September 11, 2015

ESL Games don’t always have to be complicated.

May 31, 2020

Bingo can be very quiet in class. It's