For more ESL games and activities, click here.

Racing Pairs

This running game can be fun to play with young learners if you have enough space in your classroom, or an outdoor space you can use (e.g. on a summer camp).

In this game, students must listen for their cue to stand up, run around the chairs (or other students) and get back to their seat (or original position). It is therefore a stirrer that not only burns off excess energy but also promotes careful listening.

running game


1: Set the classroom up so that there are two lines of chairs facing each other about two metres apart. There should be room for students to comfortably pass behind the chairs on both sides as well.

If you have different ages in your class, try to ensure that similarly aged children are paired together. This is not such a problem if you intend to change the pairings (see variations).

2: Give each pair a number (or some other word). Make sure students know their word or number. A simple way to do this is just to have students put their hands up when you call their number or word.

3: Call out the number of one pair. Both students should stand up, run to the end of the chairs, go around the last student and run to the other end of the chairs before running back to their own seat. You may wish to demonstrate this first.

4: The first student back to their seat is the winner.

5: The game continues by calling out the next pair.


1: After the first round, the losing student could take over from the teacher, while the teacher takes their place. In subsequent rounds the losing student becomes the teacher, and the loser of the previous round rejoins in their place. If you are racing against the students, you should give them a sporting chance.

2: Using one student as the teacher is also one way of dealing with an odd number of students in the class (as opposed to a number of odd students!). Alternatively, the remaining student could sit as one half of a pair, with the losing student each time joining the unmatched student.

3: Instead of numbering the pairs, they can be given a name to practise any lexical set.

4: You can make this running game more challenging by telling a story which references the numbers or words assigned to the pairs. E.g. “Yesterday, I went to the shop. I bought two sausages.” A pause before the number can add suspense as well as indicating to students that the number is coming.

5: Students could sit on the floor in two lines with their feet touching in the middle. Students then have to step over other students legs as they run round to get back to their seat. Students may need reminding to step carefully over each others’ legs, and not to deliberately try to trip each other.

6: If you do have one older student who regularly wins, you could introduce a handicap system by having all students count to two before s/he is allowed to start running.

Example Language:

Letters or numbers

Items from the same lexical set e.g. fruits – strawberries, apples, watermelons and bananas

Items from a sequential lexical set e.g. days of the week

Random words

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