Board games can be great social learning tools for developing language. I can personally attest to their power considering I first began learning to read by playing Monopoly and reading the names of different properties. And while each of these games comes with their own set of rules, feel free to explore to play these games in your language learning circles in a way that will best help you achieve your language learning goals.
A classic game that is great for language learners practicing with vocabulary building and spelling. Players are each given a set of letters, with which they form different words. The words are formed on a crossword style grid. Different letter combinations will win you different numbers of points.
2. Mad Libs
Mad Libs is particularly good for teaching parts of speech. Each Mad Lib is a story with missing fill-in-the-blank spaces. Players then come up with their own nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. to fill-in the blanks. The end product is a disturbingly hilarious story.
Each person takes turns being the judge of which matching set of cards is the funniest. Each round there is one green apple card in the middle that will have an adjective on it. Players then take the red card they think best fits that adjective and then places it in the middle. The judge then selects the funniest or best match and then awards that person with the green apple card. At the end of the game, the person with the most matches wins.
Apples to Apples is not only a funny way, but it gets English language learners thinking about the nuances of different words and how different nouns can be described. Apple to Apples is great for vocabulary building and learning about relevant cultural vocabulary.
Cards Against Humanity is essentially the adult version of Apples-to-Apples because of its crass humor. However, if you can get past the profanity and you're a fan of darker humor, Cards Against Humanity can be an excellent way for an English language learner to get a grasp of popular idioms, cultural references, and relevant language.
Similar to Apples-to-Apples, each person takes turns being the judge of which matching set of cards is the funniest. Each round there is one black card in the middle that will have a question or fill-in-the-blank phrase. Players then take one or more of their white cards containing a noun or phrase to respond to the black cards. The judge then selects the funniest match and then awards that person with the black card. At the end of the game, the person with the most matches wins.
Players must describe a word to their teammates given to them on a playing card. However, on each playing card is the word being described along with a set of other words that are considered "taboo" and are off-limits for describing.
This is a great game for getting language learners practicing different ways of describing familiar vocabulary by using circumlocution.
6. Catch Phrase
Catchphrase just recently released their "Uncensored" edition. However, if you're playing with younger learners, make sure to get a different edition.
Somewhat similar to Taboo, in Catchphrase, the player holding the device need to describe the word on the screen to their teammates. If their teammates guess the word successfully, they pass the device on to the other team. When the buzzer goes off, the team not holding the device gets a point. At the end, the first team to reach 7 points wins.
Catchphrase is another excellent vocabulary building game that gets learners focused on describing words in a number of different ways.
In Scattergories, teams come up with answers that fit the categories listed on their card. However, the answers need to start with the letter rolled on the die. Come up with as many answers as you can before time runs out, but be creative – your team only gets points if no other team has the same answer.
Scattergories is great for getting language learners to learn new vocabulary and to practice categorizing words.
8. Heads Up
There have been similar games to Heads Up before, however Heads Up was especially popularized by Ellen from the Ellen Show via the original Heads Up app.
Well now Heads Up comes in a board game version. In the game, one player will wear a headband with a card that has the words facing outwards so that the other players on their team can read it. The team then continues to describe the word until the player wearing the headband can say the correct word. The team that guesses the most words correctly wins.