Teaching english games
Learning is fun!

Are you new to ESL, switching age groups or looking to motivate your pupils? Make your ESL teaching easier and more fun here.

Hello. I'm Shelley Ann Vernon and I specialize in teaching English as a second or foreign language through English games, short stories, songs, plays and more. I have already helped over 15,000 teachers take the stress out of teaching and put the fun back in. Now I'd like to help you too. I am here for you. I offer you personal support to get the best out of my resources. Every email is answered. (My website uses cookies and 3rd party analytics to track the use of my website. This way I know how many visits a particular page gets and so on. I never use this data for marketing purposes. Check out my privacy policy here.)

Stories Games and Songs, the acknowledged and documented BEST resources to:

- develop children’s attention span and listening skills*

- stimulate children’s imagination and understanding of the world*  

- develop language ability and appreciation of literature

**(Dragan 2001, Rippel 2006)

Here’s how to motivate your pupils, help them learn effectively and ensure you and your pupils enjoy your lessons more.

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What teachers are saying

USA, All my best and with so much gratitude

Thank you, so very tremendously, for your stories, activities and ideas for keeping this very active age of 2-5 year olds engaged. I see the looks on the parents faces and the children are opening up more and more each class. You make me look Soo good!

Milan, Italy, Dec 2015

I’m very excited about using all the activities and transforming my lessons into less teacher-centered ones. Congratulations on the book! It is really well organized and easy to use.

Han sur Lesse, Belgium, Jan 2016

I keep being a bit afraid to 'abandon' my school book, but from time to time I use the games in your book for a change. My pupils really appreciate it and I see them change. When I use a game, they are happy and all participate.

Turkey, March 2016

I keep using the games from primary esl games book and so many things have changed for me for the better. My classes are more fun, I am gaining more confidence as a teacher. My pupils love the games and are learning very fast!!! It's all been really great!

Qatar, March 2016

The Adult games book has really reduced my preparation time. Activities such as 'Guess the Question' have really gone down well with my classes.

International School, Prague

You have no idea how much your resources have changed my work, professional business AND personal life! My job is a source of pleasure and I look forward to it every day. Once again, thank you for all your help and inspiration! You are a great contributor to our world!

France, Nov 2015

I love this book. It has saved me many times. I love getting the kids to work together, it's such an important skill to learn. It is just such refreshing relief for these French kids who have no idea about learning through games.

Dec 2015, China

After I bought your "games for kids" book and started using it my lesson planning became so much simpler and quicker. The lessons a lot more fun and rewarding for my students. I am totally happy with it.

Kiev, Ukraine, Nov 2015

The stories and songs are brilliant, my 4 1/2 year old student loves them and his mother is rapt with his improvement.

Chengdu, China (Wuhou District), Nov 2015

First of all... I love you!!!!! I teach English to 3-7 year olds in China. You speak my children's language! F-U-N !!!

Poland, May 2016

You make the best teaching materials on the planet.

New Zealand, May 2016

I am still enjoying my English teaching. After the 20 stories I am finding the children are able to respond and answer questions. Your course is fantastic. Last week I used the teddy story, it went so well. Thank you for making ESL such simple fun.

Great work, Love from Portugal, Luzia, May 2016

My little students love your stories and I love the fact that I can teach the language always doing what they like best - playing and listening to stories.

Teaching English Games Blog

Useful ESL tips to solve teaching problems

students working in a group at table
9 October 2019

Getting students speaking can be tricky, usually one or two dominant pupils do all the talking and the shy ones just sit there. Young teens might be apathetic, say very little and if they do, give short answers. The usual method of taking in an article to read and discuss can make for a pretty dull class with the brightest students doing all the talking while the others sit there - and if you don't have any bright students, it's a flop!Motivation to speak1. Firstly, structure the activities in a way that students do the work, they make the lesson, not you. i.e. their ideas ARE the lesson, not the article.2. Turn the debate into a game. Make teams and brainstorm a topic, having them work to earn points for every comment they make, however silly. 3. Students have a 30-second talking challenge to earn points for their team - another team picks the topic. To play, teams write topics on pieces of paper. Students pass these around. When you say stop, everyone has one minute to prepare for the topic on the paper they just received. Students take it in turns to do their 30-second speech to earn a point for the team.A variant is to have teams of 3 or 4 and to have two-minute speech slots but all the team members can join in - the vital thing is for their never to be silence.Other tipsHaving silly points keeps the atmosphere light. You want light conversation rather than passionate divisive debate. You want students to feel that participating in English discussions is a light-hearted learning tool, not a soul-baring activity reserved for the courageous.Try different things, the students will get used to being creative and get better at it.They should debate things that they know about.The key thing is to have the students chose the topics themselves. Whatever you pick, it won't be cool!Keep it light-hearted. I wouldn't debate anything heavy. Structured activities for speaking skills​1. TopicsAlso at 11-12 kids may not be very skilled at arguing a point, so give them more structure. For example:What is the best pet you could have? Cats, dogs, horses, otherMake four teams - those that think cats are the best are in the same team, and so on.Each cat-team pupil gives one reason why cats are the best. For each different reason, that team gets a point.Then the dog fans have a go and you note the points on the board.Then the horse fans.And the "other" team. In that team, each pupil gives one reason why their choice of pet is the best. ​2. Debate cardsYou can create debate cards and put kids in pairs or small groups. This way you give them ideas or roles to play. Working in groups saves the ones who have no ideas from being stuck! Prepare an example for demonstration. For example: Mum: I don't want you to go to boarding school. I'll miss you. I won't be able to keep an eye on you. It's expensive. You'll be tired all the time, you might not like the food...I like cooking for you and looking after you. Child: I want to go to boarding school. I won't have to travel each day to and from school, I will be with my friends, study periods are supervised, there are team sports at the weekends, there are trips, it's fun, I'll be home in the holidays...you won't have to cook for me in the week, you can do some sport instead of looking after me, I won't mess up the house all the time because I won't be there... Have some kids come up front and demonstrate your example of the "debate" using the cards. Then have the kids write their own arguments for topics they have chosen. Kids perform their debates in class. Collect in their arguments and in a different lesson, let pupils "debate" again with the cards or arguments made by other classmates, adding their own ideas. OptionalTo win their point pupils have to use the debating terms that you are wanting to teach (if there are any!)You could do two points for a sentence that is correct and one point for an incorrect sentence but the team still get a point for their idea.You might want to do debates on social media, which is the best social media platform - because they are teens though they might all agree with each other. Check out this blog post below too - it's not directly on debating but the ideas are good for speaking skills: https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/new-ideas-plays-skits-or-theatre-teens We totally welcome any ideas you have in the comments box!All the best, Shelley Ann Vernon.PS Try my skits for kids or teen skits to get your students speaking.   

2 October 2019

A teacher asked me how he could teach a cute rhyme about mice, that teaches like and hate. I did not ascertain if he made this rhyme up himself, or where it came from. I am not claiming authorship of the rhyme, only the lesson plan to teach it with games! OK first introduce the main nouns, which are: mice, ears, feet, teeth, cheese, rice. Some of these may be revision, especially if you have already taught body parts. 1. Introduce mice and ears and start to play Jump the Line. (Full explanation in my preschool games book.) Jump the Line is where kids jump from side to side according to which side of the line, or board, the vocabulary is. You try and catch them out by going faster and faster. After a minute, add ears, jump a couple more times, add in feet and teeth. Play with these four words until you see the kids know them. Add cheese and rice and play with all six words. (Six new words will be too much in one go for 3-year-old beginners, so stop at four). That whole process should take about five minutes.2. Change to a different listening game, still sticking with the six new words. Show the kids a mime for mice, like holding up two little paws and munching like a rabbit with teeth bared. Show a mime for eating rice and one for eating cheese. Now bring up three kids to the front. Show each of them a picture that they mime when you say "go". Each of the three kids up front is miming something different. For the body parts, they just touch that body part. For teeth, they could do a Cheshire cat grin.Ask the pupils, "Who is miming mice?" They call out the name of the pupil being a mouse. If they don’t answer, ask "Is it Juan?" That might prompt them. Help them as much as you need to. "Who is touching her feet?"Swap over the three at the front and repeat with different words. Keep going for as long as you have interest, but never flog a game to death. You can always use it again in a subsequent lesson. If you need a method to teach with games please check out my preschool games book and the stories with lesson plans made of games. 3. Play Simon Says with the six new words. Simon Says, "Touch your feet be a mouse, eat some rice, eat some cheese". For full instructions on how to play see the games book. Add in "Simon says be little!" and the kids have to crouch down small. Sometimes pre-schoolers cannot grasp Simon Says and they don’t like the idea of being out! So just use Simon Says as a commands game if you have 3-year-olds. 5-year-olds should be able to play the full version. 4. For hate and like, sit the kids in a circle and show them some food pictures, ask the pupils, "Do you like this? Do you hate it?" Encourage all the kids to answer you at once with their different replies. 'I like it.' 'I hate it.' They have to pull a face if they hate it and do thumbs up if they like it. 5. Have a competition on who can do the best acting for 'I hate it'. Let the kids practise in pairs for thirty seconds then each one takes a turn to say, "I hate it" while pulling a face and acting. Let the kids pick a winner and the winner gets to do it again! Play again and pick a different winner. You can have joint winners and groups of winners. Just don’t have any losers! (Normally I avoid competition with 5s to 6s but with a silly game like that I think it's OK). 6. Now you are ready to introduce the rhyme. So first go through the rhyme, as if you were telling a story, miming the actions as you go, and showing pictures of the vocabulary to help kids understand. 7. Tell the story again but this time have the kids doing the actions with you as you go along.8. If you want to put the rhyme to a tune, now is the time to sing it. The kids are still just listening and doing the actions - because they'll need a few goes through the song to get the actions in place, plus this gives them a chance to hear the melody too. 9. Now start to teach the rhyme line by line - you say it, they say it back and do the actions at the same time. 10. Do this block first:Mice, mice, miceMice, mice, mice,I like their little ears.Mice, mice, mice,I like their little feet.Mice, mice, mice,I like their little teeth.Yes, little mice are really nice. Do that four times over at least all through top to bottom. That might be enough for one lesson. Move on to a different activity and revise verse one in the next lesson, plus add verse two below.11. Now do the second block four times over - always with actions:My mum hates mice,my dad hates mice,but I think mice are really nice.I give them cheese,I give them rice.Yes, little mice are really nice! 12. And once through the whole thing. 13. Get this rhyme out at every lesson for five minutes, until the kids know it well. Performing the rhyme with actions and even mice masks made by the kids could be part of a show to parents at the end of the term. 14. Then you can consider doing a little skit where one child is the mum, one is the dad, one is the "I" person (narrator) and all the other kids are mice. For the opening the mice present themselves.Then mum and dad chase the mice here on "my mum hates mice, my dad hates mice".And the mice run to the narrator who pets and feeds them. Do let me know how it goes! Comments are most welcome in the box below.Kind regardsShelley Ann Vernon

20 September 2019

Teachers often ask me for help with choosing a textbook. There are a lot out there, and often, they come with a workbook, a teacher's book, audio materials and supplements. The whole pack can be pretty expensive.  A textbook is like a road map. It tells you what to teach, in a logical order. It means you don't forget to teach something, like possessive pronouns, or something else you may overlook. There are so many aspects to a language, it's easy enough to forget to teach something!Also, some students, especially adults, like to have a book. It gives them something concrete to hold on to and serves as a record of what they are supposed to know. It gives them an idea of progress, even if it's just turning pages in the book! Oxford Press's Headway is a good staple and it's updated all the time, to stay current in terms of pictures and themes. They have an American version and a UK version.That said, to help your students learn, you really want them thinking for themselves, working in groups, playing a language game in teams, doing a class quizz or grammar auction, rather than sitting there in front of a book. Therefore, since you won't be relying on the textbook for how you conduct your lessons, the choice of book is less important. Why not go along to your local library and see if you can borrow a textbook. If you are using the textbook to plan your lessons and follow a logical path then it doesn't matter if the topics and pictures are out of date. But if you are planning on giving copies to your students, then you need to have the latest. A book that is two years out of date is archaic as far as the average teen is concerned! (Just tell them it's a history lesson.)Here are a few more tips before you choose your textbook: Do check that your students have not already worked through your chosen textbook before you buy it.Never buy a book for a student until you have had the first lesson. There's no way of knowing a student's level until then, and usually, students have a lower level than they are supposed to.A textbook with classic themes will never be out of date - though the pictures might be. For example, Big Ben and Westminster are historical London sights, they were and they always will be. That said, if you are bored out of your mind teaching classes on Big Ben yet again, your boredom might well be felt by the class, so maybe it's time to work on a different theme. Are you a teacher or someone who tells students what page to turn to?Personally, I don't rely on a textbook to run my lessons. My first job as a TEFL teacher was a nightmare, but I guess it was a golden learning opportunity for me. We didn't have a textbook. We were given a grammar book, with no pictures, no texts, simply the grammar that was to be taught that day. The teacher had to build a lesson out of that from scratch. As a new teacher, it was hard work. Back then, oh boy, I spent so much time preparing it made my hourly salary ridiculous. I'd have earned more stacking shelves at the supermarket. Since then I discovered teaching with games, student-centered activities and skits, and that first job would be a walk in the park today! So, once you have your textbook, please don't spend the lessons slavishly reading every bit of it and filling in all the blanks. A student can do that on their own. Instead, take the theme of the textbook unit and do interactive activities and games. I have plenty so feel free to drop me a line and tell me who you are teaching and what you need, and I'll recommend the best resource for you from my games books, stories or skits. Please feel free to comment on how you use textbooks below - lots of teachers read this blog and they would LOVE to hear from you. You have to put in your email, but it's safe, it's 100% private, it's just there in case I need to reply to you directly.   

learning difficulties in the classroom
6 September 2019

*Teachers often have to include children with learning difficulties in their classrooms. While I have no solution for this, I do have some tips that may help. Most important tipDo not discourage the child. Do not give them test results that they can compare with others. Do not, ever, imply that they cannot succeed. The child knows he is drowning and doesn't need it pointing out. If you are positive the child will also be hopeful and have more confidence that he or she will learn, despite his or her difficulties. Even if you teach the child nothing in your particular class, at least you will have given him or her emotional and moral support. This child may have the courage to continue trying. Set attainable goalsRegardless of what you are doing with the rest of the class, set separate goals for the child, such as learning two new words in a lesson...share these goals with parents. Make them attainable. The child will succeed with his or her specific goals and this is encouraging. If you work with the same text with the whole class, give them easier questions relating to that text. You cannot give kids with difficulty the same tasks as the rest of the class. How would you like to sit there in class totally lost and not able to do the assignment when everyone around you can do it? With encouragement and hope, this child may go on to succeed in an area of life, despite travelling a relatively short distance along the academic path. Those people who are happy are the successful ones. The first time I had a student with learning difficulties I didn't know it. The parents dropped her off and said nothing. I soon observed that she couldn't retain information. I just went on as if nothing had happened and I hadn't noticed. Then I started asking her questions right after we had just heard the answer, and she could answer me correctly, so I could then praise her. I was astonished when her parents told me, at the end of the second term, that she had improved in all her subjects at school since she had been coming to my classes. I think I was the only teacher who was able to say "well done" and "Yes! That's right!" It might not be as simple as that, but honestly giving them tasks they can do, and encouraging them is going to go a long way. Leaving them lost is only going to make them feel hopeless, and potentially give up, get depressed and have all sorts of additional problems. Discover the hidden talentsIf there is something that the child is good at, include that in the lesson. This is good for the child's self-esteem. At last! Something he is good at! For example, I knew a Downes Syndrome boy who was an absolutely brilliant dancer. So, in a game he could do a funky dance as a forfeit, while someone else might prefer to name 3 vocabulary flashcards. Appeal to different learning stylesMake sure you include lots of movement, and other stimuli, (not just pen, paper and books) such as mystery box, flowing scarf games, feeling, smelling, charades, word games, acting, dance and song. (See 176 English Language Games for Children.) If you can work out how the child in question learns best, that will help. Parents or the school might be able to help you with this. The child may respond best to visual stimuli, rather than kinaesthetic - knowing this can help you a lot. Find out more from the expertsYou may want to delve deeper and read about learning difficulties. You will find a plethora of books on ADHD, dyslexia, autism, etc. and it could be interesting bedtime reading! No kidding, if you have an understanding of what someone is going through it can make you naturally feel compassion for them, which will help you a lot when you are standing there feeling frustrated in class. You'll also learn tips on how to handle those difficulties. It's well worth asking for support from your school and other teachers. If there are experienced teachers you can observe, or who have relevant knowledge, this can be a huge help to you. English Teaching Resources I do know of teachers who are already using my games and resources for children with learning difficulties. And they have had success with them. I believe that children with learning difficulties often need to go at a slower pace, have lots of repetition, and be stimulated with visuals, audio, kinaesthetic methods - not just textbooks and worksheets, which, often for various reasons, they can't handle. So I would say that if you use my games book for primary school children, and just teach three to four new words at a time, with lots of different games and repetition...you should get somewhere. And I'd also use the plays and skits with them. If you are not teaching English as a second language, but English as a native language, then the games book will be great to drill spelling and grammar with them gently. 

If you prefer paperbacks and Kindle books by Shelley Ann Vernon, you will find them here:

shelley ann vernon photoSuccessful author and ESL teacher Shelley Ann Vernon has a passion for helping teachers make their job easier and more fun. Having been a dedicated teacher herself, Shelley knows exactly what it's like to spend hours preparing for a lesson, trying to make it fun and interesting for the students. She has shared her extensive experience as a fun, effective ESL teacher. She has two highly rated books on Amazon, plus other outstanding resources for teaching children. She always responds to fan mail and questions. Shelley speaks at conferences such as IATEFL Cardiff 2009, YALS Belgrade 2011, UCN, Hjorring, Denmark 2014 and Barcelona in 2015. See her upcoming events on author-central for the next opportunity to meet her.

Shelley Ann Vernon, BA, BAMus

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