ESL Games: Clueless

The Game: Clueless is a game that uses many clues to describe a common word. Research supports the use of games to “…motivate learners, promote communicative competence, and to generate fluency” (Forum Vol. 35, No. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1997, M. Martha Lengeling and Casey Malarcher). Clueless does all three.


  1. Index cards (50–100)
  2. Pen or marker
  3. Tablet or whiteboard for keeping score/markers
  4. Timer/clock

How to PlayScreen Shot 2014-08-31 at 5.37

  1. The index cards with words are shuffled and placed face down on a table.
  2. Students take turns trying to guess what the word is.
  3. One person shows all of the other students what the word is (the person guessing does not see the index card). To prevent the person from looking, the person guessing could step out of the room for a few seconds.
  4. One person is designated as the timer. He/she starts the clock.
  5. Everyone takes a turn giving a one sentence clue about the word.
  6. There are no repeat sentence clues allowed. (This rule helps to increase listening skills.)
  7. The person makes a one-word guess after each clue until he/she guesses the word.
  8. The time it takes to guess is listed on the tablet or whiteboard.
  9. If warranted, there can be a limit of so many clues or rounds, or a set time for the person to guess the word. If he/she still does not guess the word, a maximum time could be recorded.
  10. Then it is the next person’s turn.
  11. The game continues until everyone has had a turn guessing the words or so many rounds have been played.
  12. The winner is the person who guesses the word(s) in the shortest amount of time or within the shortest number of clues.

How to Make It

  1. The teacher writes single words (usually vocabulary from the current unit) on the index cards.
  2. The words can be any part of speech but should be words that the students can describe. See examples on this page.
  3. A tablet or whiteboard and a timer/clock is made available for scoring.

How might you vary this game for your teaching context?

About Marc Anderson

Marc Anderson
Marc Anderson is the CEO of online English training company that teaches English online to students around the world. During his free time he likes to read, travel and enjoy life.
This entry was posted in TESOL Blog and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to ESL Games: Clueless

  1. Amal Aljasser says:

    It is really nice to use games for educational purposes. In an ESL learning environment, it is important to engage the learners as much as we can. I guess this is a great way to attract the students especially the ones who are a little quite and are not much participating like others. This game is also interesting since it could be implemented for different ages and levels. Great post! Thanks.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the article Juan.

  3. Juan Carlos says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.