The ESL Winter Olympics!


Credit: Wikipedia

2018 Winter Olympic Games Will Be Held in South Korea!

I am excited to say that in just a few weeks, the Winter Olympics will begin and they’re being held here in Korea! If you’re a winter sports fan, this time of year is very thrilling – seeing your country’s national teams compete in various events such as downhill skiing, bobsled, ice hockey, and curling (among many other sports).



I am excited to be in the host country this year, and will try to see one of the events with my family when they come to visit next month (which is also exciting)!

But that’s beside the point…

With the Olympics happening, it’s a great way to get your ESL students interested in talking about sports, what they like and dislike, and what they can or can’t do. I’d like to share some fun and engaging activities to help teach the Olympics.

Host your own ESL Winter Olympics with these activities!

I’ve been searching the ‘net for ideas about this topic, and found some great suggestions on BusyTeacher‘s website. I’d love to share them with you here. I’ll link to the original post at the end of the list.

  • The Marathon

    The key to success in a marathon is having the strength and capabilities to last for the long haul. Participants in a Spelling B need a similar long-range outlook. In honor of the marathon, host a Spelling B in your class, using vocabulary words you have studied throughout the year, and see who can last the longest. The three participants who last longest are your medal winners.

  • Fencing

    Fencing is a delicate and careful sport that necessitates elegance. Likewise, diagramming sentences according to syntactic rules is a delicate and particular process. Give your students some experience with the linguistic challenge and help them understand the underlying rules of English grammar as they practice identifying noun phrases, verb phrases, prepositional phrases and sentences. Give a timed exercise for the official score and award medals accordingly.

  • Swimming

    The key to success as a swimmer is being able to cut through the thick context of the water as you swim across the pool. Give your students their own cut to the quick exercise with a reading comprehension activity. Make it a race and see how quickly your students can cut through the entirety of a reading text to the essential information. Try hosting a newspaper scavenger hunt (have students scan the paper for answers to specific questions) and see who is most fleet of mind. The speediest players who also get the answers right will bring home the gold (or silver or bronze).

  • Archery

    Archery zeros in on one essential element. Athletes are trying to hit the specific mark. Give your students a cloze exercise where they need to find an exact word that completes a text both grammatically and contextually. To create a cloze activity, take any text and replace every fifth word with a blank. See how close your students can come to the original answer, but take any other answers that complete the text logically. Everyone with 100% earns a gold.

  • The Relay

    As runners race in a relay, they depend on one another for the team’s overall success. You can challenge teams of your students to relay on each other in a similar way with a spelling relay race. Using vocabulary words you have already studied in class, the longer the words the better, put students into teams of five or six, and line them up facing the board. To start the race, call out one of the vocabulary words. Each team should race to put the word on the board, but each player can only put up one letter. If someone made a mistake, the current player can erase any or all of the word, but they can only add one letter. For example, if you called the word home, the first student would run up and write h on the board. Then run back. The second student would then run up, write o, and run back. The teams continue one person and one letter at a time until one team spells the word correctly. Everyone on the winning team gets the gold.

  • Soccer/Football

    Soccer players must work as a team, relying on their teammates’ skills and abilities to score as many points possible each game. Challenge your students to make letters work together as a team with this simple word generation game. Put a long word on the board, one that has at least ten letters. Review the definition and then show your students how you can use the letters within that word to make other, smaller word. For example, from the word example your students would be able to make mapleapax, etc. Give your students one or two minutes to form as many words as they can from the letters that make up the word on the board. Whoever comes up with the highest number of words wins the gold medal.

  • Synchronized Swimming

    Can your students word together seamlessly, matching their meaning as synchronized swimmers match the movement of their bodies? Test them to find out. Assign your students to pairs, and give each pair a blindfold, which one player will wear during the activity. Line your pairs across a gym wall, the blindfolded person in front, the other behind, and put an object somewhere in the room. The person without the blindfold will have to shout directions to his partner as that person slowly races to the object. The first person to capture the goal object is the winner. Note, if you have a large class or a small room, consider playing in rounds and having winners advance to the finals.

  • Wrestling

    Your students will have to wrestle with their minds and vocabulary in this challenging game. Have your students write the letters a through z on a piece of paper. In this activity, you will write a category on the board and they will have a limited amount of time to think of one member of the category that begins with each letter of the alphabet. If you were to put sports up as the category, your students would be looking for answers like archery, basketball, canoeing, dodge ball, etc. The person with the most correct answers takes home the winning medal.

  • Medals

    Everyone who watches the Olympics wants to follow the winners from their country. Start your linguistic Olympics by setting up a scoreboard with a section for each country represented in your room or each student in your class. This is where you will keep track of how many medals each person wins. You can use a bulletin board, a large white board, or a large piece of paper. When each person or country wins a gold, silver or bronze medal, put one in the right spot on the scoreboard. Use photocopies or printouts of medals and staple or tape them to the scoreboard.

  • The Awards Ceremony

    During the Olympic presentation of medals after each event, pride swells in the citizens of the winning nation as they hear the familiar melody of their national anthem. Your students may have similar feelings about their own national anthem, even if it does not come with a gold medal. As you and your class close your linguistic Olympic games, give each of your students a chance to share his or her national anthem with the class. You should let the class listen, and then ask each person to share what he knows about the anthem and how it came to be. If you want presentations that are more formal and contain more information, give your students some time to research their national anthems before the presentation.

(original article:

If you have time, have your students design their own Olympic medals – make sure to use cardstock or some other thick paper, and then cut them out and attach them to ribbons.

You can adjust the games and activities for your students’ levels appropriately. You can make fun activities for both low level, and high level students! BusyTeacher also has a great article for addressing that issue here.

If you have any other ideas to share, or if you try these ideas out, please write them in the comments section. I’d love to read them!

Leave a comment

Filed under EFL, ELL, English, ESL, Korea, Olympics, Sports, Teaching, Winter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s