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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Books of ESL games
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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

businessman relaxing in a deckchair with a cocktail
20 July 2019

Tiffany is teaching English in China and she has this problem:I am teaching a one on one ESL two hour lesson for a 35-year-old Chinese man, and I am struggling to effectively improve his English. He has been studying English for 10 years and has lived in Australia for two, but he still struggles a lot with advancing his English. If you have any insight or advice I would be very grateful. Let's face it, most people who live for two years in a country where English is the native language, and who are motivated to learn, will be fluent by the end of their stay. I suspect that the problem lies with the student and not the English teacher. Some people put all the onus on the teacher who has to teach them, rather than them making the effort to learn.If you have a student like this, ask yourself these questions:We know your student is motivated, because he is taking private English lessons, but is he making any mental effort to learn?Is he doing homework?Is he learning vocabulary on his own?Is he memorising (UK spelling) grammatical structures on his own?Or does he just show up for class and think that he is going to improve because you are teaching him? He may think that it's your job to teach him, rather than his job to learn. He's done his bit by taking the lessons.Try these strategies to help your student make progress.Set homework each week. Give vocabulary lists to learn, by heart, from English to Chinese and from Chinese to English. If your student needs to learn how to write English then he should memorize the spelling too. At the start of each lesson give him a test on the vocab and keep a record of his scores, that way he can see his progress. If he hasn't learned the words...well...there you go! How does he expect to improve his English if he doesn't make the effort? I would also give him a grammar topic to study and master each week. And give him a test so he can measure his progress. Putting him on the spot like this in every lesson is reminding him each time that he is responsible for his own learning. You can facilitate it, but you can't learn for him. If your student says that he does not have any time to learn vocabulary outside of class time, tell him that his progress will be limited. Perhaps you can record the vocabulary and he can play the words while travelling to work. Everyone can always find ten minutes a day for something - it's a question of motivation, organisation and priorities. The good news is that once you have learned a language, you know it, the job is done! So it is worth making the effort initially required. Sure, you can get a bit rusty if you don't use the language for a while, but as soon as you start using it again, it all comes back very quickly. Give your student this method to learn vocabulary. This involves writing words and reviewing them daily. The physical act of writing vocabulary helps learning.https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/how-can-you-improve-your-english-and-become-bilingual Helpful Teaching ResourceIf you have my book of activities for teens and adults, take the step one and step two games to drill vocabulary and grammar. This content then goes on the list for homework. Split the lesson into drill activities for new words and grammar and fluency activities. Join in with your ideasYour comments are absolutely welcome in the box below. (Your email will not be published or used in any way, it's only if I need to write to you, and if you want to follow the post.)

school kids doing a flashmob in the school yard
17 July 2019

In a bit of a panic a teacher asked me how to handle the request of her school director to produce a show with 60 kids. The director wanted all the kids to be involved together in a big finale. The solution could be to do a flashmob. To make it relevant to English class, choose a song with easy lyrics and have all kids singing it along with their dance or flashmob actions. As for the choice of song, make it relevant to your student's age. That said, anything by ABBA always goes down well and has the advantage of never being too vulgar. Waterloo and Mamma Mia are great choices. Mamma Mia is good because it goes on forever and the chorus repeats often. Even your weakest students will be able to learn the chorus to that!Or how about Greased Lightning from Grease? Or check out West Side Story, wow, the dance scene in the gym would be really good. One advantage of using "vintage" music is that it's "classic" - it's survived the test of time, and it's pretty good stuff that appeals to pretty much everyone. Whereas the latest teen star might be loved by half your class and hated by the other half. Or worse, you might pick a band your students see as really uncool, unless you are 6-years-old that is. The easiest thing is to learn one routine and repeat it over and over until the end of the song. If poss include actions that demonstrate the meaning of the song. A group of ten students come on and perform the routine, and gradually are joined by all the rest until all 60 are performing. Those watching, pending joining in the routine, can be singing the words all the way through. Start by rehearsing the moves in slow motion, without music. Kids must be silent for this phase. You do the moves, describing them in English as you go. They copy. For example, arms out, arms up, twist, twist, right leg forward...etc. At least in this learning phase your students are getting some vocabulary practise with moves and body parts. As you speed up, leave out some of the commands. Rehearse in short chunks. Do ten minutes at a time each lesson. That way your students won't get bored. You can't do a play, excuse me while I die of boredom just waiting for 60 students to take a turn at saying something! On the other hand, you might be able to have groups of students performing skits in groups. Start and finish the show with a flashmob involving everyone. 1. For those who hate dancing, give them a percussion instrument to play instead. It can be a tin of almonds to shake, it doesn't have to be a drum kit. If someone says they hate the music, get them involved in stage decorations, props or making programmes in English instead.2. Any students who have special talents, like dancing, gymnastics, juggling, whatever, could add their speciality to the show while the others carry on with the routine. Watch a few flashmob vids for ideas, but watch out, they are addictive. Have a few ideas of your own and then ask your class for ideas. If your students participate in the construction of your flashmob, they will be more motivated, it will be their creative project, not yours.

demanding parent with teacher and child
4 July 2019

A demanding and controlling mother asked her daughter's English teacher to design a creative, interesting, motivating course for her child. She refused to pay for any more lessons until the course was exactly as she wanted it. Quick frankly the teacher does not have the time to do this. The teacher wants to do exercises to bring up the child's level and fill in some of the gaps. But the mother wants creative courses, not textbooks, but she does want the teacher to cover the curriculum. Firstly, don't reinvent the wheel. Follow a standard curriculum. This work has been done for you, over and over again, in many textbooks, but I recommend the curriculum in my plays and skits for kids, or in one of my sets of stories. Since the mum is asking to see the course but doesn't want to see a textbook, copy the course content as follows... Lesson 1: Greetings, to be... etc. (whatever is in the unit of the textbook)Lesson 2: Revision and talking about where you live, talking about yourself.And so on.The mum should be reassured that you know your stuff and have produced a relevant and coherent curriculum. As for the creative methods, tell her you will use games, drama, stories and maybe songs.Now the mum is reassured that you have a road map. Tell the mum to let you start and see how her child likes the lessons and to trust you. It's your job to be the teacher. If she can't trust you to get on with your job she'll have to find someone else - but don't get to that part yet! Just see if you can get your foot in the door, get started, using games and skits. And follow the routine below... 1. Teach content - i.e. grammar and vocabularySpend part of your lessons teaching the content from the curriculum unit, story or skit using drill games, grammar games, memory games, etc. Use listening, speaking, reading and writing games to teach all the target vocabulary and grammar.2. Be creative with a skitThen start to put the skit together. You'll manage one skit every 2-6 lessons, depending entirely on how fast the child learns, and his or her level. In the case of this particular pupil, the teacher tells me that she doesn't like acting. No probs, I BET she won't mind having her dolls playing the skit parts. You take one doll and do her lines, the pupil takes another doll and does the lines for the second part. (All my skits are written for one to one as well as small groups.)3. If using stories, have dolls and toys act them out. Use other toys as props to create the scenery and to stage the action. Progress and keeping the parent in the loopThe mum will need progress reports, so as soon as you have a skit presentable, with the dolls, prepare a 5-minute show. Firstly show -off the vocabulary that you have taught by holding up flashcards and having the pupil name them. Secondly show your skit with the dolls (or with the pupil if he or she likes acting - and MOST children do, the dolls are only for the super shy ones. Thirdly, interview your student with basic questions, with fake microphones, as if he or she is a personality, such as a favourite singer of the pupil. if that is too difficult, just interview the pupil as herself. What's your name? Where do you live? Do you like icecreram? etc. HomeworkIf the mum wants the child to do homework, have them learn 3 new words a day following the method outlined in the blog post on the link just below. 3 words a day might not sound like much, but it's 21 words a week, and 84 words a month!https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/how-can-you-improve-your-english-and-become-bilingual ResourcesFor skits try this free one as a test. FREE SKIT FOR KIDSIf you want more resources because you are teaching the same child several hours per week, I suggest getting one of my curriculum of stories. There you have everything you need, stories, creative lesson plans with games, the possibility to role-play the stories, flashcards for the games and even songs for some of the stories. For kids age 6-10, try these About Me or Daily Life series. These are creative courses designed to teach beginners to reach A1 CERFA or ACTFL Novice Levels. Wherever you are in the world, these stories teach all the standard basics that beginners learn, whatever their textbook. Feel free to ask for help anytime! Ask me your question in the blog comments below, or by email if you prefer. I'm here to help.

four cool teenagers
20 June 2019

Teenagers can sometimes be rather hard work, and not just at home! It's not easy being a teacher in front of a group of slouching, disinterested, de-motivated teens, who would rather be twiddling with their apps than learning English, which they see no point in doing anyway! But as a teen teacher, you have to find a way. Using short skits is definitely worth a try. If you have not thought about using skits in your teenage TESOL classroom, please read this blog. If it inspires you, there is a link to a free short skit for teens at the end. Why do skits work so well with teens?Plenty of others vouch for using drama to learn vocabulary, increase confidence, motivate students and, a key attribute, shift the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the student. (*Alan Maley and Alan Duff 1982.) Using short skits with teens really works because students start using language in context, in situations, with humour. The dry textbook grammar comes to life in the skit. There is nothing better to improve speaking skills. Students interact and bond, the vocabulary and phrases become real, interactive and visual. Students remember their lines for a long time, instead of witnessing English during class time, like a train that passes in the night. Student-centered classroomImportantly, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator than a drill-master. (That said, some drilling (via games) is excellent and truly productive, but one mustn't spend the whole of class time like that.) Give out skits to small groups and have students work on them independently of the teacher. In this way, you support their learning rather than spoon-feed them. Spoon-feeding doesn't work anyway. Students have to make a mental effort to learn, on their own. Just using and rehearsing the skits in small groups will help students become more confident in their abilities to learn and become autonomous. Since teens are always being told what to do by everyone, they will relish this opportunity to show you what they can do on their own. Now you can pat yourself on the back for having achieved a student-centered classroom, all the rage, and rightly so.Teen-centered skitsThat said, your skits will be a flop if they are not teen-centered. My own teen skits book covers topics such as careers, music, parties, tattoos, dating and social media, jealousy, studying, learning things, drugs and drink, (which are given the thumbs down by other teens in the skit), travel, TV series and others.Multi-level classes and mixed abilitiesMore advanced students have the opportunity to take leading roles and guide others. Shyer or weaker students participate in the group skit, with fewer lines. Just through participating these shy students will gain confidence over time. In general, students will learn from and support each other. Be more than an English language teacher, develop imaginations!Moving on to other aspects, what we need in the world are more teachers who teach students to think and develop their imaginations. The more you try to think of ideas, the more ideas you have. I suppose it is the brain creating new or bigger neural pathways, or "practise makes perfect". (UK spelling for practise by the way.) Using drama to teach English will help your students be more creative, develop their imaginations and think for themselves. You'll help them develop as people too, learning to cooperate in the group, make decisions, distribute roles, compromise, work out props or movements, communicate and bond as a group. Prepare teenagers for lifeTeachers are also supposed to prepare students for life, for the job market. Using skits and drama in your classroom will help your students with that far more than reading paragraphs out of a textbook. Through rehearsing skits and putting them together, students will improve in many areas, all of which make them more confident for job interviews. For example, increased confidence, greater ability at public speaking, increased self-esteem, team-work skills and the capacity to organize themselves and work independently of the teacher. Learning to become responsible for your own English language acquisition is the same as accepting that you are responsible for your own life. You make your choices, and you reap the consequences. The sooner teens learn that, the better for them. It helps them make better choices. "Wine women and song" (Whitesnake), yes, but not every day of the week! Or, "I'll pay more attention in class and make more effort with my homework." One step further - improvisation for higher levelsThere is, of course, the whole area of improvisation and thinking on your feet. That is to be encouraged in classes of teens where there is sufficient language ability. It's not such a good idea where students are struggling with the basics, though tell students that they are free to add or modify the script as they choose if they like. Improvisation can also be pretty terrifying, so take it step-by-step. There's a heck of a lot you can do just by working on a given script. Resources If you have got through this dearth of benefits to using skits to teach your teens, you'll be more than ready for these links. One to a free skit, and others to my books of skits. Both my skit books have intros with guidance on teaching the topics and vocab in the skits.  There are discussion ideas for each of the teen skits. In both books, every skit (bar one) may be used for one to one teaching as well as in groups. You've also got me to help you with anything, just ask in the comments box below. Your email is kept private, it's just so I can respond to you. Free skit for teensBook of skits for teensSpolin, Viola (1986). Theatre Games For the Classroom. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IllinoisBook of Skits for Children Ref: * Maley, Alan, and Alan Duff. Drama techniques in Language Learning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1982

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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

Books by Shelley Ann Vernon: