ESL Activity of the month: Who wants to be a millionaire?

This is the first of a series of blogs about ESL activities that I use in the classroom. My aim is to provide an activity a month, whether it be related to any of the 5 skills, grammar, vocabulary, or phonetics. This one is more speaking and writing. It’s an excellent activity that requires no prep, but it gets the students really involved.

ESL Activity millionaire

Who wants to be a millionaire esl activity. Photo by Enkhtuv

How to set up ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?

Level: Anything above elementary

Time: Up to an hour

Prep: Zero

When to use it? It’s great in summer school, during semesters or at the end of a course.

Lesson Plan

I start off by asking whether they know of the programme, if they watch it, and how difficult they find it. Then choose your favourite general knowlegde question, or any question you think might throw a few students. I normally go for the capital of Australia and write the following on the board (making sure they don’t shout the answer, but only think of it):

  • What is the capital of Australia?
    1. Sydney
    2. Melbourne
    3. Canberra
    4. Alice Springs

Then ask around, maybe do a tally of the answers. You normally get most of a class going for Sydney, even though it’s Canberra.

Then explain that you are going to play the game, but you don’t have any questions. They have to prepare them. So first you make groups of 3 or 4, then elicit what categories they want to make their answers from, e.g. sport, music, history, deadly animals. Give them about 20 minutes to prepare their questions with four possible answers. I make a rule that they have to know the answer. I normally let them use their mobiles if they want, just to make the questions more complex. Monitor and help with the answers, grammar and vocabulary.

Once each team has finished their questions you can get them to invent a name for their team, which you write on the board. Explain that each group has 2 50:50’s as well. Then each group takes it in turns to ask another group their questions and stating the possible answers. If it’s a really tricky one sometimes I let them write it on the moard. Make sure the team confer before giving their answers (especially to increase conversation and English spoken). If they get it right, they get a point, if wrong then that’s it.

Go round all the teams, asking all the questions until they are finished and there is a winner. Sometimes if there’s a draw I have an extra question as a decider.

To add a bit of fun I normally play the theme tune on in the background, which you can find on

The class can take up to an hour, depending on the level.

So, hope that comes in useful.

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