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

18 November 2019

This useful easy game is great fun one to one. (If you are teaching groups not 1:1, click here for the group version.) In the photo above, Anna and I are holding a scarf - you may use a rope, a piece of string, an old rag or even an item of clothing (not your best jumper!) if you do not have a scarf. I start by prancing around the garden, pulling on the scarf quite hard and spinning Anna, so she has to run to keep up and hold on. (You can see this on the video link lower down.) She loves it and shrieks with delight. Meanwhile, I call out different animal names, which we have already practised with Jump the Line and other easy listening games. Anna has to hold on to the scarf and cannot let go until she hears the key phrase "I'm hungry!" Only when Anna hears this can she let go of the scarf and run to safety, touching the tree before I catch her.  Use any words or phrases for this game. Choose any sentence or word as your key phrase. This can be played indoors too but it's best with some space. When I call out "I'm hungry", I chase Anna and just fail to catch Anna, (when of course I could easily have caught her) - but I JUST miss - that makes it exciting for her and she screams in delight. Enjoy this game, but check out these tips first, to make sure everything goes smoothly: Start gently saying the words calmly. Once your pupil has the hang of the game you may start to speed up your movements and the words that you say.To keep the child on edge and in suspense and make the game more exciting, try to trick the pupil into letting go of the scarf by pretending you are going to catch him or her, but you say a normal work and not "I'm hungry".  Don't use that technique with 3-year-olds or shy kids, go gently. Adapt how you play to the age and the temperament of your child.In this step two listening game, the pupil needs to be able to recognize the words before you play. It's not a game you would use to introduce new words. It's excellent for revision and also as part of the learning process once you have played a couple of step one listening games.I strongly recommend that you never catch your pupil - at least not until he or she is at least eight years old. Younger children cannot handle losing and they usually see it as a terrible sign of failure. It can cause floods of tears and put them off English! Remember they are sensitive little beings who have not been on earth for long so be gentle. SiblingsIf you have siblings this can be played with two children holding the end of the scarf. Take care though if one child is particularly small and frail that the older one does not knock them over in the excitement of the game. If this could be a risk for you then let the children take it in turns holding the scarf. VideoOn this link you can watch the game in action, right at the start of the video:www.teachingenglishgames.com/how-to-teach-a-child-to-speak-english Help: If you like this game, here are more!Gain the knowledge to put your child on a bilingual journey with my *140* fun games for one to one.Included! 3 videos over 2 hours of demonstration lessons. In instant download from me on this link. Or in paperback from most Amazon websites and other online book retailers, or order it from your local bookstore. ISBN-13: 978-1479354795.I'm here to help if you need me. Just ask in the comments box below and I'll reply to you. I'll be delighted to help.Shelley Ann Vernon,Teaching English Games 

teacher playing listening game with children using scarves drawing
17 November 2019

This fun game may be used to consolidate vocabulary and grammar. Use it with young children in small groups and one to one. There is a variant for larger classes. ListenCategory: Step 2 listeningGroup: Variants for small and big groupsSpace: Yes for small group variation, no for big groupPace: ExcitableMaterials: None, but props enhance the fun How to Play - small group variationStand in a space with learners around you. Children should be close enough to touch you with an outstretched hand. It is fun to play with props. Tie scarves around you, with each child holding on to the end of a scarf. Although this kind of prop is optional, the children love it. You may have two or perhaps three children holding on to the same scarf. Another option is to stand on a square of coloured paper, with children touching that square with one foot. Pupils must stay touching you, holding the scarf, or with one foot in the coloured square, until you say a magic word. When you say that word, try and ‘catch’ one of the children before they escape, releasing the scarf and running away to one of the classroom walls. When children reach a wall, they are safe. As an example, start by telling learners the magic word ‘mother’. Say ‘father, brother, sister, grandmother ... mother!’ When you say ‘mother,’ children run off, and you try and touch one of them. You could just try and touch a child before he or she has let go of you, or the scarf, without you moving from the spot. Alternatively, chase after a child, who must reach a wall before you touch him or her. • It is generally best never to catch the children, as it can make them feel as though they have failed, so be sensitive to this, but do make convincing attempts to catch them and just miss!• If you have a strong group member let him or her take your role in the game.• Be careful that the children are not too close to each other so that they do not bump one another during the game.• Add variety by changing the way you say the words. Use a flat monotone for several words and then, suddenly, say a word with great enthusiasm. This alone can make some children let go of you even though you did not say the magic word.• Vary the game by changing the setup. For example, you may have pupils seated around you on the floor. When they hear the magic word, they get up and move away to safety. Another idea is to have children balance on one leg while listening for the magic word, and then clap and run away when they hear it. If a child cannot balance, or forgets to clap before running away, he or she does a forfeit.• If children become too noisy, play a couple of rounds in total silence (aside from the teacher). Being silent becomes part of the game. How to play - Larger group variationTo use this idea in a classroom situation, where you have desks and chairs, use the magic word idea as described above, but this time the children sit down when they hear the magic word. The last one to sit down, if it’s obvious, does a forfeit. Language ideas to use with this gameThis game lends itself to any vocabulary. You may use short sentences, not just single words. For example, ‘train’ could be the magic word. Say ‘I like buses, I like cars, I like planes, I like … trains!’ To teach the past continuous, the magic word could be ‘reading’. Say sentences such as ‘I was driving; I was walking; I was reading!’ If you like this game, here are more!For fun listening and speaking games get my book of preschool games. Click this link to get it in instant PDF download. If you prefer paperback, you'll find iti on most Amazon sites, and other online retailers, or order it from your local bookstore. ISBN-13 978-1541133396. For reviews and recommendations on this book see my reviews page, or Amazon."I totally recommend this book and I have been so happy and stress-free since I bought it. It gave me a clear understanding of how to teach pre-school kids. I am a new ESL teacher who was "freaking out" before reading it. Now I am a happy teacher looking forward to my lessons with my pupils. I will keep this book forever with me and it is my number 1 resource. I am just a little bit sad that I didn’t discover it earlier, it would have made my first months so more enjoyable and relaxed. I like the structure and the extra advice inside, contrary to other books, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking over the activities as it presents them so clearly. It improved my planning time and the quality of my lessons. I am now a happy customer, I also bought other resources from the author and they are really great. I love the stories and the fact that they come with clear lesson plans and resources already made, just have to press print. I prefer to laminate mine. Thank you so much for creating such fantastic resources." Jessica Duguet Souber-Broglio, France,

kids perform funny sketch with umbrellas in the wind
6 November 2019

* I often receive these questions, so here's a blog on the topic: " In the summer I bought your Fun ESL Roleplays and Skits for children. I'm experimenting with incorporating more drama into my primary groups this year and I really like how simple your funny sketches are. I was wondering how you introduce the idea of working towards a play with your learners. Do you explain in their mother tongue? Again, along these lines, I was wondering if you have a bank of videos of your plays, or would that inhibit creativity?" Answering the easy part first, yes, thanks to generous gifts from teachers using my sketches, there is a bank of videos included free with the book of role-plays. You can see a couple here. I included these for teachers, to give them confidence to use fun sketches to teach English. But why not show them to the kids? That would make for a useful listening activity. Though I do agree with the teacher above, that the video may inhibit creativity and spoil the gradual discovery of the sketch, so perhaps show it towards the end of preparations.  Next, to incorporate drama, students make gestures and sounds, concentrating on being expressive. Speaking is often not a part of these warm-ups. Students might practise acting surprised, or making a freeze-frame group image of a situation. Theatre games include a lot of movement, such as pretending to be a leaf blown about in the wind or fighting with a vacuum cleaner that is sucking up the curtains! Check the intro of my skits book and the Viola Spoilin warm-up theatre games. With these, the focus is on acting rather than learning English.  And now, there is the question on working towards a role play with young learners. The important thing to ask is, are you being paid to teach English, drama, or both? If the main goal is to teach English, do not lose sight of that. When I use plays, I use them mainly to teach English rather than drama, so acting is a side issue, and I don't focus on it particularly. If you have kids for a summer camp and drama is part of your objective, then go for it. Theatre games can help students gain confidence in general, a great asset for life. However, if time is short and you want maximum results with English, then here is how I proceed... First prepare the kids as usual, doing listening and speaking games to introduce and learn the key vocab and phrases by heart. This should take a full lesson, though it may take more depending on the age and ability of your class. (Click here for my book of games ideal for this preparation phase.) After that main lesson, do fifteen minutes of each lesson on the sketch, using the rest of the lesson for a different topic. This keeps your lessons varied and saves you flogging the skit to death. Take a part of each lesson to review and have kids perform short role-plays using two to four lines from the skit. Gradually piece more of the play together, and eventually do a couple of run-throughs. Towards the end, sometimes after six lessons, introduce props but only at the end, because they are so distracting. Kids get so absorbed in the props that they can forget their lines and kill the flow of the play. By spreading out the skit preparation over several lessons you achieve a lasting result as far as students' acquisition of English. The constant review and gradual increase in confidence and fluency help students remember the skit vocabulary and grammar for life. Personally, I always do this work without the script. Kids learn everything by heart through language games and rehearsal. If you give out the script, kids will never have to make the mental effort to memorize their lines, and as for acting, forget it, they need to be liberated from the page to be free. Do I explain things to students in their mother tongue? Yes, I tell students that we were going to prepare a funny sketch as part of a show because it is always a motivator. Then we perform the sketch, either at the school assembly or in front of parents or other classes. It doesn't matter how or where, as long as you perform it for others. On the other hand if you don't speak the native language, that's OK. Actions speak louder than words, so just do it! When I taught in Nepal there was no explanation, we just did it - learned the vocab, put the skit together. The kids absolutely loved it and applauded the lesson at the end. They don't really need any explanations! LOL! Don't be a perfectionist, just get stuck in and see how it goes. Unless your mandate is to teach drama, focus on teaching English and leave drama as a perk. If you are being paid to be an English teacher, you must make that your priority. Don't spend half the lesson on drama techniques, you won't get as far with the English. Take maybe 5 minutes for drama warm ups - saying a sentence angrily, then sadly, then happily, then reluctantly, etc. That's a valid drama activity because it works on language fluency at the same time. Even without acting, kids love my funny sketches, and even the shy ones get involved. If you need any help, please ask me in the comments box below (your email is kept 100% private). I'll be happy to help. All the best, Shelley Ann Vernon.  

present passive voice example se ri pak female golfer
5 November 2019

*All games, along with full game explanations and variants for different group sizes are from Fun ESL Activities for Teens and Adults by Shelley Ann Vernon, available in instant PDF download, and in paperback on Amazon or order it from your local bookstore ISBN-13: 978-1478213796 PASSIVE SPEECH LESSON PLAN OUTLINE Active and passive voice examples: When do we use the present simple passive voice? Compare sentences using active and passive speech.Fly Swatter Game: listeningGrammar Auction, calm listening exercise: Decide whether the following sentences are correct.Cryptic Clues, calm listening exercise: Read out five cryptic clues: a recipe, a famous person, something abstract, a sport and a country, and students try to guess who or what it is.Speaking fluency drill Relay RaceJigsaw Listening using a songWriting drill: Students race to convert active sentences to the passive playing Ten Important Sentences with Watermelon.Homework:* Quiz Race: Students come up with five questions about a famous person which will be part of a class quiz in the next lesson* Students make anagrams of present passive voice sentences for others to unravel at the next lesson. PASSIVE SPEECH LESSON PLAN CONTENT1. Active and passive voice examplesWhen do we use passive speech?- We often choose passive structures if we want to talk about an action, but not about who or what does or did it.- Passive speech is rarely used in spoken language (day to day conversations).- The passive voice present is often used when talking about:Processes: First the orders are selected, then they are checked, and then they are packed, weighed and sent to the customers.Opinions, beliefs and generalisations: Chinese is thought to be a difficult language. London is considered to be expensive. It is believed by some that we never landed on the moon!  FORMATION: BE (is) + past participleCompare active and passive sentencesSally is reading this book. Thing or person doing action + verb + thing receiving actionCompared to:This book is being read by Sally. Thing receiving action + verb + past participle of verb + by + thing or person doing actionWrite more active sentences on the board and ask students to convert them for you, to show they understand. Have students write these examples down for the next game.Traffic wakes me every day. / I am woken by traffic every day.Most of South American is Spanish-speaking. / Spanish is spoken in most of South America.Most South Americans speak Spanish. / Spanish is spoken by most South Americans.Many Germans drink beer. / Beer is drunk by many Germans. Present progressive or present continuous passive voice:The doctor is examining the baby at the clinic. / The baby is being examined at the clinic by the doctor. Stick to the simple present tense declination of the passive voice at first so as not to be too confusing! Later in the lesson, you may introduce the simple past passive voice.  2. Flyswatter Game with passive tense sentences for subject, verb, objectDemonstrate on the board with a couple of students, then have students play in small groups or pairs. A student reads out one of the sentences on the board. The teacher calls out “subject” The students race to swat the subject of the sentence. Repeat, calling out “object” and “verb”. Now call out “subject” and roll a dice. If it’s an even number, students race to swat the subject of an active sentence. If it’s an odd number, they race to swat the subject of a passive sentence. Repeat the demonstration, using “object”. Now have students play in threes, or small groups, with one student rolling the dice and calling out subject, verb or object.Students can slap their hands down on the words rather than use fly swatters. The fly swatters are good for the board demonstration. 3. Grammar Auction (listening)  Decide whether the following sentences are grammatically correct. Students play in teams. A student reads out sentence one. Those who think it’s correct, stand up on the count of three. All those students who remained seated are out and go to the side of the classroom. Move on to sentence two and repeat, all those students who sit down are out, since the sentence is correct. Sentence three is incorrect, so all those students who sit down stay in, and those who remain standing are out and go to the side. Continue to the end. The team with the most players still in the game win. Is your hair brushed every morning?The film is being released at the end of the year.Nobody is expect to arrive before the party. (incorrect)He is being followed by a detective.Her shoes are polish every day by the maid. (incorrect)They are being educated in the United States.The play is cancel due to technical problems. (incorrect)My leg is being bandaged by the doctor.Why isn’t the bag checked in yet?Vodka is drank by many Russians. (incorrect) 4. Cryptic Clues (listening)Use these examples as a base but edit them to contain people or places relevant to your students. For example, instead of the Canadian basketball question, you might prefer Miley Cyrus, a top teen idol, or for South Korea, why not Se Ri Pak, the female golfer who became a national heroine. Make selections that are as obvious as possible or the game will drag. Put students in teams and give points as follows:- Ask students to count every occurrence of passive tense usage in the five clues. Give 5 points to each team for the correct number, and 4 points if one is missed, 3 if two are missed, etc.- Then give 5 points to each team that guesses one of the clues. For homework, students write several clues to ask other teams which you can use to play again in the next lesson. Banana cake: I am made out of flour, eggs, sugar, butter and bananas. What am I?Famous people - Beyoncé Knowles: According to Forbes magazine, I am considered to be one of the richest people in the music industry. I inadvertently promote killing animals for their fur since I am often photographed in fur. Who am I?Abstract: The Earth I am the third planet from the Sun and the fifth largest in the solar system. I am the only planet whose name is not taken from Greek or Roman mythology. What am I?Sports: Basketball I am bounced, passed around and thrown into a net. I can be played indoors. I was invented by a Canadian called James Naismith because he wanted to create a game that could be played indoors during the long winters but would also be active enough to keep people fit. What am I?Sports: I am kicked around but you can't touch me with your hands. Maradona, Ronaldinho, Beckham and Rooney are considered, amongst others, to be my greatest players. What am I? A football.Countries: New Zealand In my country sheep are raised for their wool and meat. I have more sheep than people. My wines are world renowned, as is my rugby team, which is feared and revered. My original people are the Maori. Which country am I? 5. Relay Race fluency drillPlay Relay Race as a speaking fluency drill. Teams pass down a simple present passive sentence,such as, “First the clothes are washed and ironed, and then they are given to the poor.” Play several times, with a different passive sentence each time.Full description of the game is here:https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/games/relayrace.htm 6. Jigsaw ListeningCut up the lyrics of a song, one set for each small group of students. With a long song, give each group a section of the song, not the whole thing. Students put the song in order while it plays two or three times. The website lyrics.com is brilliant for finding specific lyrics. In the search bar for lyrics (not artists or albums), using quotes to narrow the search, type ‘are loved’ and you’ll find all the songs with that lyric. Then go to YouTube (or your equivalent), to find the song. I chose Kim Wilde, Loved, which repeats the phrase ‘you are loved’ several times. Or for the present progressive passive voice try Steven Curtis Chapman, 'You are being loved'.You might want to show students how to do this and get them to select a song for jigsaw listening for the next lesson. It’s great to involve students in the creation of their lesson, using songs and topics of their choice. It involves them and helps them realize that they are responsible for their learning. 7. Writing drillTen Important Sentences with Watermelon: Divide students into teams and have a list of jumbled passive sentences on the board, a different list for each team. The first student from each team comes to the board and starts to decrypt the first sentence in his or her team list, but he or she can only work on the sentence while repeating “Watermelon” without taking a breath. When the student runs out of breath, the next student in the team comes up and takes over. Try to have small teams so students don’t wait long in between turns. Aim to have several students working simultaneously at the board. If there isn't enough room, use large sheets of paper on the walls. HomeworkGive these quiz question examples to students and ask them to make up five questions each for homework, on any topic they like, using the passive tense for a class quiz, Jeopardy, or Blow Your House Down game, in teams in the next lesson.Which city in ___________ (your country) is thought to be the most cultured?Which university is seen as the most prestigious in __________ (your country)?What is made out of flour, eggs, sugar and lemon? (Lemon cake)What products are sold in ____________ (a famous store in your town)?Name three footballers who are considered to be the best in the world. If you have my book Fun ESL Activities for Teens and Adults, use the Day in the Life blank template and have students fill it in with passive tense examples for homework, then play with their games in the next lesson.     

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

Books by Shelley Ann Vernon: