Apples to Apples for the ESL Classroom

I was introduced to Apples to Apples a couple of years ago at my good friends the Mahar’s house. They had a regular version of the game and we played it with some college students who were staying at their home. It was a fun game and I knew at that time it would be great for an English class activity/game.

The next year we went back to the States to visit my folks as is the usual and I was hoping to get a copy of the game. Luckily my parents had a Jr. Version of the game. The box said 6+ which is great because, if you aren’t aware already, games over 8+ are often too difficult for even adult Japanese English learners to play. The variety of nouns (items or people/characters) is just too great or complicated. The other trouble is many pop-culture references just don’t work here.


If you want to use Apples to Apples in the ESL classroom here are some tips:

  1. Get the youngest version possible (you might be able to find a used version on Amazon)
  2. Weed out adjectives (the green cards) and especially noun/verbs (the red cards) that will be unknown to the group of students you will play the game with.
  3. If you are teaching to a big group give sets of cards to a table of students or pairs to create groups who will give the cards or judge the winners.
  4. Make sure to take time explaining the rules-and explain and write the adjectives on the white board so students understand exactly what they are doing (which should be what you would do for any game as a teacher!)


Apples to Apples also has a version that uses picture. This is a good alternative for smaller groups, you can even mix them in the decks to give your students a variety of answer choices. Either way the game is a great one for making students laugh and helping them learn new words. I’ve been in tears playing this game with Jr. High School students here in my school. Why not get yourself a set and try it today?!

Keep writing.


2 thoughts on “Apples to Apples for the ESL Classroom

  1. I love this game!!! It’s great for teaching nouns and adjectives, and definitely suited for intermediate to advanced learners. I have seen some user-created versions for basic learners, though. Anyways, I’d like to share this on my own blog!


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