Heads Up

Named after the popular app, in the Heads Up ESL game students have to guess words/phrases from the descriptions of their team (Reverse Articulate).

Students for Heads Up ESL Game:4+Time for Heads Up ESL Game:10-20 mins
Resources for Heads Up ESL Game:
Projector; Internet or Prepared Words/Phrases and Countdown Timer

You will need a set of appropriate words for the students to describe. While the Heads Up app is fine for more advanced students and smaller classes, the vocabulary is often difficult for ESL/EFL students. Also, because it’s a mobile app, it can be complicated to display it to a large class.

Luckily if you have an Internet connection, you can simply project our online Articulate game. This game comes with a variety of pre-loaded vocabulary sets (especially designed for English students), or you can specify your own words in the Vocabulary Input section.

If you don’t have an Internet connection, you will need to prepare your own list of words/phrases in a computer slideshow. Each word/phrase must be on a separate slide so you can reveal them one at a time.

In class, divide the students into two, three, or four teams of at least two players.

  1. The teams take turns playing.
  2. One student from the team stands at the front of the class, facing their team.
  3. Project the words to describe behind that student (so they can’t see). The rest of the students in their team describe the words, and the student at the front guesses.
  4. The student at the front has thirty seconds to correctly guess as many words as possible. Each correct guess scores one point for their team. Depending on the level of your students, and how many words you have available, you may want to allow zero, one or infinite passes per turn.
  5. After each team has had one turn, repeat with new students guessing for future rounds. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Target Language

You can use the Heads Up ESL game as a warmer or to practise almost any type of vocabulary. Our online game offers a variety of vocabulary categories, and there is also the option to load custom vocabulary you have been learning recently. As such the game can be adapted for all levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced.

The Heads Up ESL game is a variation on a very similar game called Articulate. Here the setup is reversed, with one student describing and the rest of the team guessing. This is a good option if you don’t have a projector available.

Heads Up is featured in our article on the 15 Best ESL Games for Adults, which explores lots more great ideas for classroom games.

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