Unlocking science for English language learners, part four

Sally Burbeary

Downloadable primary science activities for your class 

In a recent survey with our teacher panel, 63% of teachers we spoke to felt language was a barrier to their English as a second language (ESL) students’ science learning. In a series of short, practical articles, ESL expert, Sally Burbeary shares her ideas and activities to help you break down this barrier.

In previous articles we’ve looked at CLIL, integrating all four English skills, a simple activity to help with pronunciation and top tips to help your learners improve their scientific vocabulary. In the fourth and final part in our series, Sally shares some fun and engaging science games. 

Playing games with science words

There are so many ways to play games with science words. All of the games suggested can be used as an introduction to a new curriculum topic or as a method of revision. You can use them before a class, as exposure to vocabulary, in preparation for the next class (flipped learning), or as homework.

The word games can all be extended to include activities, such as writing sentences or having discussions about the topic.

1. Quizzes

You can search for pre-made quizzes on the internet or write your own. There are several online applications you can use, as well as paper-based ones.

Download our quiz on the human body (adapted from Cambridge Primary Science, Learner’s Book 6).

2. Crosswords

Again, you can find ready-made science crosswords online or you can create your own digital crosswords using online programmes. Below is an example of a crossword that’s been created using

On many of these free online generator tools you can search for ready-made quizzes and games in a wide variety of categories.

Science crossword

Download this crossword on solids, liquids and gases (adapted from Cambridge Primary Science, Learner’s Book 4).

3. Word searches 

Word searches are useful for recapping on vocabulary and spellings. Here is an example of a word search that’s been created using

Materials in my world word search

Download this word search on materials (adapted from Cambridge Primary Science, Learner’s Book 1).

4. Taboo

Taboo science game

For this game, separate the class into two teams and put the cards in a pile face-down.

A person from team A takes a card from the pile. The card has a word at the top that they have the challenge of describing to their teammates, without saying the word itself. There is also a list of words that they cannot use when describing the word.

You could ask one person from the opposite team to check that the person describing the word is not using any of the words listed as ‘taboo’ words.

For each turn use a one-minute timer and allow each team to try and get as many words as possible in the time allowed. The teams must keep the cards for the words they guess correctly. At the end of the game, the team with the most cards is the winner.

Download this set of taboo cards about outer space (adapted from Cambridge Primary Science, Learner’s Book 5).

5. Bingo

Bingo science game

(example bingo card)

How to play bingo:

  • The pictures on each card need to be in a different order and one or two pictures need to be different on each card
  • Give each team or player a card
  • Read out one word at a time, when a player has that word/picture on their card, they cover it up/mark it
  • The winner is the first team or player to get 3 in a line.

Download this set of bingo sheets about outer space to play with 5 players or teams (adapted from Cambridge Primary Science, Learner’s Book 5).

6. Jeopardy

Jeopardy science game

How to play jeopardy:

  • Play individually or in groups
  • Pick a category and a point value (see the example above)
  • Write questions for each category (for example: Humans and animals)
  • The 100 point question is the easiest, the 500 point question is the most difficult
  • You can set a time limit for answering the questions if you want to
    If the student or team is correct, they are awarded the point value of the question
  • Continue until all questions have been answered
  • The team with the most points wins

 this game of jeopardy (adapted from Cambridge Primary Science, Learner’s Book 4).

In this article, we’ve shared some fun word games that you can use to help your learners develop their scientific vocabulary and understanding. Get in touch and let us know if you and your learners had fun using them!