Reading Relay- ESL/EFL Activity

My co-teacher introduced me to this game for the Winter English Camp, and I have used that for multiple classes ever since. It is mentioned in teacher websites like waygook as well. It’s a great review game that gets all the students from every grade level get excited and focused. I’ve only done this with elementary school students, but I think middle and high school students will love it too, because I enjoy participating as well.

How the Reading Relay works: One representative from two teams start from opposite ends of a line. There is a card on each desk, and the representative must read the card correctly to move on to the next desk. Each time they bump into the opposing team, they must play rock-paper-scissors. The winner gets to continue down the line, and the loser has to send out a new representative from their starting point. If the representative reaches the opposing team’s starting point, they win one point.


  • Word/Phrase/Sentence cards(half an A4 page so it is easy to read). We need at least one card for each student.
  • Options for the Cards:1. Read and say the English sentence, 2. Read the Korean and say the English translation, 3. Add hand movements to the sentence. (clap, the wave, pat your head, etc.)

    IMG_0066_fotor*Students have to see this Korean card and say the English translation. 나는 슬퍼. -> I’m sad.

Classroom Layout:

  • Arrange the desks so that there is a single path with two ends. It could be an M/W shape or a horseshoe.
  • Students sit at their desk, and make sure that the representatives read their card.
  • The cards must face the pathway, so it is easier to read.

Example layout

How to give instructions:

Step 1: Practice reading through all of the cards.

Step 2: Divide the class into two teams from the middle of the line.

Step 3: Number off the students in line, so they would know when it would be their turn.

Step 4: Show an example with two teachers. They get excited when they see that the teachers are taking this battle seriously.

Step 5: Explain that the winner can continue down the line, and the loser’s team has to have another person start reading from their starting point. The next person in line can wait in front of the first desk.


  • Teachers must monitor them to make sure that they are following the rules. If any rules are broken, the teachers should stop the class and fix it, so that the game is played fairly.
  • Give more difficult phrases to higher level students. They can teach the lower level students.
  • To be fair, make sure that each team has the same number of cards to read to get to the midpoint. It doesn’t matter if the one team has one more student, as long as the number of cards is the same.
  • Make sure that the next representative stands next to the starting point, so he/she would be ready when his/her teammate loses.
  • End the game five minutes before the end of class, and review all the word cards. All the students should be more confident by the end of the game.


  • The level of difficulty can be changed with what is written on the card.
  • The activity time can be easily extended or shortened.
  • Teachers can evaluate the students’ pronunciation, speed, accuracy, and confidence level.
  • The students who are seated at the desk can teach their card to the representatives.
  • Each student will be masters of that card by the end of the game because they will teach others, and listen to others over and over again.
  • Everyone gets a chance to participate.
  • Students are focused, because they all have to pay attention to win the game.
  • The rules are clear. It’s easy to see who is the winner.
  • This game can work in a class with a mixture of both high and low level students.
  • It’ll catch the interest of students who are usually reluctant about playing games that seem childish and boring. The game is fun because it depends on ability, luck, and teamwork.
  • This gives low level students a chance to win, because they could be slow at reading, but they have a chance of winning at rock-paper-scissors. Even though this is just a matter of luck, it will help them gain confidence for participating in English games.
  • The students will want to learn how to say the phrases because that will help them win. I heard a student saying, “Tell me!!” and the other students made sure that he said it right before he moved on.

Cons & Solutions:

  • For each student to get a chance to become a representative, the whole activity (including the instructions) would take at least 25 minutes. (My classes have 24 students per class.)
    • Allow plenty of the time when you first introduce the game. After that, the game will be easy to manage because the students know the rules.
  • Lower level students will feel pressured about the speed.
    • Teachers can assist students by just letting them listen and repeat, and build their confidence.
    • Later they will realize that speed is not that important, as long as they can win with rock-paper scissors.
  • It could get loud from excitement.
    • Remind them that only the representatives can speak out. Others should whisper.
    • Make a point system for attitude. Make each goal +5 points, and bad attitude -1 point.


reading relay 1
One of the boys were almost at the goal, which is the bottom right desk in the picture. He won rock-paper-scissors against the first girl, but lost against the second girl, who started reading from the first desk when her teammate lost. The girls successfully defended their goal by paying attention for their turn.

reading relay 2
The boy in the white shirt was super fast at reading the cards, but he lost with rock-paper-scissors so he had to go back to his seat, and let his teammate go next.

reading relay 3
This boy was really fast too, and he won rock-paper-scissors against one girl, but lost to the second girl.

This is one of my most favorite games to play in my English class because it is fun, easy, and educational. What is your favorite activity in your ESL/EFL classroom?


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