Barrier Games in the ESL Classroom

Barrier games are  very popular among elementary school students. They are used in many subjects including math and art. They also have great potential in a language classroom. With my classes, I regularly review prepositions of location. In the past, I used barrier games that I created myself. Recently, I found a great resource that was designed by Super Duper Publications and it is called Magnet Talk Match-Up Adventures.

IMG_0695“Magnet Talk Match-Up Adventures” is a set of magnetic boards with a variety of picture images/themes that you can attach to the board. Each image is accompanied by a set of magnetic objects that can be placed on the board. The images represent settings like supermarket, space, jungle, ocean.

What I like about the game is that English language learners practice using prepositions of location, listening skills and giving directions in English. In addition, they acquire new vocabulary from different settings. To reinforce the learning of new vocabulary I recommend creating a vocabulary list with each image that helps English language learners become familiar with the specific words of each theme. It is useful to pre-teach the vocabulary and practice matching the words with magnetic objects of the theme.


Each image is accompanied with a vocabulary list (orange)


For this activity, I used folders as a barrier in addition to the magnetic boards to create more stations (4 pairs). One set includes magentic boards only for 2 pairs.


When ELLs start playing the game, I usually walk around and model the kind of directions they should be giving to their partner on the other side of the board. It takes practice to become proficient in proper usage of prepositions. I encourage students to try out different stations and to work with different partners.

In addition, I try to schedule this activity in a number of ESL classes so that students get more practice over a period of time.

I highly recommend Magnet Talk Match-Up Adventures to all English as a Second/Foreign Language Teachers. However, I believe that you can only fully utilize its potential in the ESL/EFL classroom with the supplementation of additional vocabulary cards or activities that scaffold the language requirements for this activity.


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