Whisper Challenge

The Whisper Challenge ESL game is a guessing game in which students silently mouth words or phrases to their partner.

Students for Whisper Challenge ESL Game:4+Time for Whisper Challenge ESL Game:10-20 mins
Resources for Whisper Challenge ESL Game:
Timer; Internet and Projector (Optional); Music (Optional)

If you have a projector and Internet connection available, the best way to play is using our online Whisper Challenge game. This generator allows you to use pre-made vocabulary categories, idioms, random sentences, or to load your own custom words and phrases.

Otherwise, give the students a vocabulary category at the beginning of each round. The whisperers will choose five words in that category to try and make their partner guess.

Some instrumental background music is also really useful to cover up any sounds the whisperers make. Our online game provides this feature, or you could play some from a phone/computer.

Divide the class into pairs. The partners sit opposite each other (with a few metres in between), the whisperer facing the board and the guesser facing away from it. When playing, the guesser should put their hands over their ears.

The Whisper Challenge ESL game is adapted from a game on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, so you could show a clip to model the game if you wish.

  1. Select a suitable vocabulary category for the round. If playing without the online game, the whisperer writes down five words from that category in a notebook.
  2. The pairs will take turns playing. The whisperer mouths the target words/phrases to their partner, who in turn tries to guess them.
  3. They win a point for each word/phrase guessed correctly in thirty seconds. Make sure you check the words in the notebook if you’re not using the online game!
  4. After each pair has played, switch the roles of the partners and repeat with a different vocabulary category.
  5. Repeat this process for as long as desired. The pair with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Target Language

The Whisper Challenge ESL game is a really fun warmer, but it also practises a very useful skill. Deciphering words from mouth movements alone is important for students because it can be vital when listening in noisy environments. This video on the “McGurk Effect” shows how difficult it can sometimes be, and you could show it your students before or after the game. The student mouthing the word also practises enunciating clearly and correctly.

For beginner and low intermediate students (and first-time players), it is advisable to use a set vocabulary category in each round. Why not use it to review the vocabulary you have been studying recently? Make things harder for more advanced students by using random vocabulary, and even phrases such as idioms.

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

Got a picture or video of this activity in action? How about snapping one next time you use it? We'd love to showcase your submissions- find out more here.