Brain Teasers‏‎ in the TEFL Classroom

Lesson Plans & Activities

A man with his brain wired Brain Teasers are ideal classroom activities and can be used in loads of different ways. They’re easy to adapt and you can tweak them to be just right for your TEFL class.

Basically a brain teaser is a puzzle where your students have to think to find the solution. There’s often an element of thinking laterally (or in an unconventional way) so it isn’t always the case that the best language student in the class solves the problem first.

Also, it’s often necessary to read the question very carefully to find the answer, looking over the words and trying to find less obvious meanings. This, of course, is really useful for a class learning English!

Classroom Usage

There are different ways to use brain teasers in class.

  • As a 5 minute activity either as a warm up for a full lesson or perhaps to fill in a few minutes at the end of class.
  • To get the class talking. Ideally get the class into small groups so they can discuss and share ideas to come up with the solution. If you do it like this you can either give the whole class a brain teaser on the board or perhaps hand out a sheet of brain teasers for each group to work through.
  • To look at grammatical points. Brain teasers are ideal for speculation and especially giving your students practice with modal verbs‏‎:
It could be…
I think it might be…
He may have…

And of course the brain teaser itself is important. It should be short and simple to write up on the board in a single sentence or less. Ideally it will also contain a useful grammatical point! But the best brain teasers are those which seem very simple, but contain a hidden trick to them.

When you use brain teasers with your class for the first time, write one up on the board and go through it together. They will soon see that the obvious is not always the correct. Then allow the class to play with brain teasers in small groups.

Good TEFL Brain Teasers

  • Mary’s father had 5 daughters: Nana, Nene, Nini, Nono and… what was the name of the fifth daughter?


  • Some months have 30 days, some have 31 days, how many have 28 days?

{slider=answer}12 – all of them!{/slider}

  • Divide 100 by a half and add 10. What is the answer?


  • Which is correct, “The yolk of the egg is white.” or “The yolk of the egg are white.”

{slider=answer}Neither is correct; the yolk of an egg is YELLOW{/slider}

  • There is one word in the English language that is always pronounced incorrectly. What is it?


  • What do these words have in common: age, blame, curb, dance, evidence, fence, gleam, harm, interest, jam, kiss, latch, motion, nest, order, part, quiz, rest, signal, trust, use, view, win, x-ray, yield, zone (write this slowly on the word giving one word at a time and inviting speculation till someone spots the pattern).

{slider=answer}They begin with a sequential letter of the alphabet.{/slider}

  • What occurs once in June, once in July and twice in August?

{slider=answer}The letter, U.{/slider}

Image © krischall

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  1. maureen

    cute and doable for ESL!

    • Pete West