ESL Brain Teasers

Activities Discussion Game
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My students loved to have fun and they often inspired me to create my own activities to suit their personal tastes. I learned about shows I had never seen before. I discovered things I never would have on my own. Today’s activity is one such activity. I had one book that had some very interesting brain teasers for students to discuss. Once I did that exercise I realized that there was a thirst there for this kind of activity.

Therefore, I collected and made up my own brain-teaser quiz for class. I have also used some of Gollum’s riddles from Lord of the Rings. Those are quite hard even for native speakers. Try the following quizzes by first putting students in small groups and have them discuss what they think the answers are. I don’t give them the answers until the end of the class. (They will peek if they have them ahead of time.)


ESL Brain Teasers

ESL Brain Teasers ESL Riddles

    1. There is a plane that is flying close to the border between Canada and the U.S.A. The plane crashes right on the border of Canada and the U.S.A. Where do they bury the survivors?
    2. In a year there are 12 months. 7 months have 31 days. How many months have 28 days?
    3. You are a cyclist in a cross-country race. Just before the crossing finish line, you overtake the person in second place! What place did you finish in?
    4. Jimmy’s mother had 4 children. She named the first Monday. Named the second Tuesday. The third is named Wednesday. What is the name of the fourth child?
    5. You are driving a bus. At the first stop, 2 women get on. The second stop, 3 men get on and 1 woman gets off. Third stop, 3 kids and their mom get on, and a man gets off. The bus is gray, and it is raining outside. What color is the bus driver’s hair?
    6. Which is heavier? A pound of feathers, or a pound of rocks?
    7. A man lives on the fifteenth floor of an apartment building. Every morning he takes the elevator down to the lobby and leaves the building. In the evening, he gets into the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the elevator, or if it was raining that day, he goes back to his floor directly. Otherwise, he goes to the tenth floor and walks up five flights of stairs to his apartment. Can you explain why he does this?
    8. Alex wants to go home but can’t, because the man in the mask is waiting for him. What is going on?
    9. An Arab sheik is old and must will his fortune to one of his two sons. He makes a proposition. His two sons will ride their camels in a race, and whichever camel crosses the finish line LAST will win the fortune for its owner. During the race, the two brothers wander aimlessly for days, neither willing to cross the finish line. In desperation, they ask a wise man for advice. He tells them something; then, the brothers leap onto the camels and charge toward the finish line. What did the wise man say?
    10. What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never speaks, has a head but never weeps, and has a bed but never sleeps?
    11. What is full of holes but can still hold water?
    12. What are the next 3 letters in the following sequence?J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, __, __, __


Answers to ESL RIddles ESL Brain Teasers

The Answers

  1. You don’t bury survivors!
  2. All months have 28 days.
  3. Second place
  4. Jimmy!
  5. Whatever color your hair is. You are the bus driver!
  6. They both weigh the same.
  7. The man is a dwarf (very short) and he can’t reach the buttons to the 15th floor. If someone is on the elevator, he asks them to push the button. If it is raining, he uses his umbrella. On other days he can only reach the button for the 10th floor.
  8. He is playing baseball and the man in the mask is the catcher.
  9. He told them to switch camels. That way, they are riding their brother’s camel.
  10. A river
  11. A sponge
  12. S,O,N They are the first letters of the months September, October, November.

Short Exercise or Long Exercise

The length of this class really depends on your students and how sharp they are. Some will get these right away and others will take longer. Keeping them in small groups and making it a discussion activity will make it more interesting. I have found that if students do finish quickly, it is good to have a back-up plan to hit them with.

If you have some students who are really into these you can have them question the class as a whole with some of their favorite riddles or brain teasers. I also try to have a few extra questions myself to hit the class with.

Have a Great Class!

Try to keep this exercise exciting by telling them that this is a genius exercise or something similar. I have found that this added touch of declaring the group who answers all the questions first “Geniuses,” can help add an air of competition and excitement.

Good luck and as always, have fun!


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