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

best ever preschool story books images
10 January 2020

Preschool children are spell-bound by stories. A Quick plug for my stories:That's why I created 40 stories, with lesson plans, flashcards, songs and workbooks, and these are brilliant teaching tools for busy teachers who want to give fun lessons and engage their preschool pupils. My stories are brought alive by the lesson plans made of games, that make it possible for 3-6-year-olds to learn English as a foreign language.Fantastic story books:Here are some of my other favourite preschool storybooks. Some of these have withstood the test of time and still beat most of the new story books that are written hands down!Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.Wow, I remember this captivating book from when I was a child. It's over 50 years old but is still one of the best preschool children's books ever. It won the Caldecott medal in 1964 but the illustrations are totally appealing today and the emotional journey Max goes on just as relevant! Max starts being naughty, chasing the family dog with a fork and getting up to mischief. He talks back to his mother who calls him a wild thing and sends him to his bedroom without any supper. Furious in his room, Max's imagination turns his bedroom into a land of wild things, where he becomes king and is worshipped. He gets up to lots of mischief as king of the wild things but then he feels a desire to go to the place where he is most loved. He ends up back in his bedroom where supper is waiting! Buy it with the author's original illustrations from Amazon.com here.Peter Rabbit by Beatrix PotterHow cute are the illustrations? Any children age 3 and up still adore Peter Rabbit. Like the wild thing Max, Peter gets up to no good running about in the forbidden garden where tempting lettuces abound. He gets chased and narrowly escapes being caught. Breathless and frightened he makes it home where he goes to bed with a camomile tea to calm him while his well-behaved sisters eat a scrummy dessert! As well as enjoying the story you can talk about boundaries and safety, and what can happen if you go out of bounds to places that parents say are not safe. Peter Rabbit probably won't go into the garden again and learned his lesson! Tip: Watch out which edition you buy. There have been modern illustrations put to the original story and they are sooooooooooooooo lacking in charm compared to Beatrix Potter's own drawings. She was, after all, a natural scientist and conservationist as well as an illustrator and writer. Buy Peter Rabbit original version here. Winnie the Poo by A A MilneLovable Winnie the Pooh and his Tigger, Eyeore and Rabbit. Full of wit and wisdom from 1926. If you don't know Winnie the Pooh, it's time you did! Please share these cute tales and beautiful philosophy with your preschoolers (not for complete beginners). E.H.Shephard did all Milne's illustrations, so if you want the originals, look out for his name in the book details. Get the complete tales of Winnie the Pooh, original text and illustrations here.“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Winnie the PoohAnything by Norman ThelwellFor hilarious cartoons and uncanny insight into children, dogs, cats and above all...ponies. Timeless humour. Try Brat Race for a humourous look at children. There is very little text if any, but the pictures say a thousand words and are good talking points. Get the hardcover here for $6.The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleAnother classic. According to Wikipedia, it has sold the equivalent of a book a minute since it was published...way back in 1969!I know there are a lot of great new books out there, but sometimes I find they are a bit bland, striving to please all peoples and all views, or too moralising, or the pics are boring because too much personality might displease someone, somewhere. But PLEASE please add your favs to the comments box below for all of us.  The best of the best must-haves...we would love to hear what your favourite and most successful story books are. Here is the link on amazon.com.Teaching PointsEven though the above story books are not designed for young English language learners, but native speakers, the pictures are explicit and it's easy for children to understand what is happening from them alone.  That said I recommend that you pre-teach the key vocabulary for each story beforehand, and use my games for this. Then you can read the story and do post-story activities just as with my ready-made resources. If you have my story resources you'll find post-story activities suggested with every story, and these are adaptable to any story. Some ideas are:role-playing,putting story pics in order,making a puzzle out of a story picture,playing hide and seek with story props or flashcards,drawing objects or people from the story,making a story poster,making puppets of the story characters,making up actions for key moments in the story,making masks of story characters,using props during story-telling,playing games relevant to the story thememaking up a rhyme with actions around the story theme,and plenty more!I hope you like these classic books and if you need me for anything, please just ask!All the bestShelley Ann VernonTeaching English Games

english language day banner
7 January 2020

Sometimes schools organize an English day, as a celebration of all things related to learning English. The United Nations celebrates English Language Day every 23rd April, (William Shakespeare's died on that day). To quote the UN website, "language Days at the UN aim to entertain as well as inform, with the goal of increasing awareness and respect for the history, culture and achievements of each of the six working languages among the UN community". That said, for greater variety and flexibility, English day doesn't have to be about English, England, the States or wherever. English day could be about anything, just presented in English. One of my teacher friends did this:Our theme was TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD. In the morning we started by raising the flags of several countries and we then presented a lot different wonderful things around the world. Next, the students ran a quiz in teams, asking and answering questions about all the different countries and facts they had researched for the day. After that, we organized presentations in different classrooms, one for each continent and a specific country for each stand. Each group of students prepared a stand. Each one had displays on the country they were to talk about, including geography, culture, gastronomy, famous people, and touristic places. These topics were shared out among the students for that country.In the afternoon we had a Talent Show. Here any students who wished to could show their skills in dancing, singing, reading a poem, performing a short skit, juggling, doing some gym moves, or any other talent they wished to feature. It was great to see our students present it." To make the juggler or dancer relevant to the English day theme, have the student introduce him or herself in English, explaining what he or she will do. If he or she is too shy or reluctant then another student may introduce the participant instead.Most people like finding out about the world around them. But for all students to be motivated, allow flexibility. You might outline the overall theme for the day, but if you can let students choose their own aspect, something that appeals to them, you'll be more likely to have greater student participation and motivation. So let students cast a wide net around your theme. If your theme is the USA and a student is really into music, he or she could present, in English, on a favourite band. Another student might like to present on American fashion designers or the Ford motor company. Some students might be into preparing a stand on the greatest sportsmen and women of English-speaking countries. Others might prefer to present their top ten movies where English is the original language of the film. You don't want to force students to look up famous monuments and towns if that is a dry topic for them. The important thing is that your students enjoy and relate to what they prepare and present on the day.English day themes that can include a vast array of topics are things like running a film festival day, where each group of students selects their top film (it has to be an English language film). Students can find the poster for it, show the trailer, act certain key scenes in groups, say why they like it. Then run a film quiz where students identify famous lines or name characters from the movies.Or how about a day where you go back in time and live in the 70s, with wigs, flares and 70s music. Kids could learn words to different classic songs from the time and perform them with basic choreography. Tracks from the movie Grease are classic and appeal just as much now as then but there is plenty to choose from!Throw a themed party in the style of a specific country and time. Divide students into groups to research the party theme and content. This might include dress code and fashions, typical food and drink for the occasion, music, a guest list suitable for the time, i.e. Winston Churchill, film stars from the period, singers, artists, writers... Students can dress up as a key figure from the time and come to the party as them.If these ideas are too much work or would make too much mess, have a day with presentations, a quiz, an hour for table games, and a show with songs and skits.Table games for small groups can be Boggle, Battleships, board games in English like Cluedo or English monopoly, or grammar games like snakes and ladders. There are printable board games included with my stories for kids here.Presentation idea: To help students feel more at ease talking in public, have them play a role or pretend to be someone else. Say the student loves Soprano, let him or her prepare a short speech as Soprano, talking about who he is and his music or ideas. Students can present on a job they would like to do and act a scene where they do that job. Students often feel more confident when they are not exposing themselves, but hide behind the identity of a character.  This can be even better if students dress up as the character, or failing that, have at least one prop to represent him or her. If students can get online they can search for podcasts by or on their chosen personality, and use those to help construct their presentation. Performances can be karaoke songs, songs with a simple dance routine or actions, a flashmob, and these easy plays and skits. Each class or group performs something in English for the other classes. The whole school watches. Parents can be invited too. Here are ideas for an end of term show, and these can be used on English day.https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/tips-for-end-of-term-show

it's raining cats and dogs
12 December 2019

The English Language is delightfully quirky. Here are some fun facts about it to use as a base for classroom activities with intermediate and advanced learners. Fact One: English changes all the timeLanguages evolve and English is no exception. One-quarter of the words in the full Oxford dictionary are classed as obsolete. Strewth! That only leaves about 175,000 for everyday conversation. Fact Two: Foreigners can find English hard to understandGood luck trying to translate this without a good slang dictionary. English is enriched by slang, and I say enriched deliberately since it's colourful and fun, although not perhaps everyone's cup of tea, and certainly one would endeavour not to use it in the presence of the Queen. I was down the pub having some nosh when I noticed this nutter going in and out the loo. I said to my mate: "Bet you a tenner there's something well dodgy going on there." "I should mind your beeswax" he replied, "I'm off to Bedfordshire." Just as the nutter was going back into the loo, Bob's your uncle, the Fuzz arrived. Gobsmacked, my mate fell off his stool (actually I think he was plastered). "Keep your hair on," I said. "The coppers are here for him, not you." A classroom activity could be to work on different paragraphs like the above in small groups and provide a translation in proper English!Classroom activitiesFor a classroom activity, let students guess and rewrite this passage, then read out their version to the class. The class vote for the funniest rendition, or the best, or the most imaginative. Next, let students use dictionaries to work out the true meaning of the passage and share with others.Less radical than slang for the English language classroom are metaphors and similes. The English are champions for quirky metaphors. While the French say it's raining ropes, the Spanish say it's raining jugs, the Italians say it's raining like a shower, all of which give a good visual on very heavy rain, the English say it's raining cats and dogs. Where did they come from? Call my bluff definitions is a fun language game to work with metaphors and help expand a student's knowledge of English. Check the resource box for a link to language learning activities. Fact Three: It gets worse...even native speakers can find English hard to understandIf slang wasn't enough the English language has further ways to confuse the intrepid learner. While French has 'Verlan', where words are said backwards, so femme becomes meuf, English has rhyming slang, a language understood by some East Londoners and a few other people in the know! If you don't want to die stupid use your loaf and take a butcher's at Wikipedia, where rhyming slang is explained in full. Words that rhyme are used instead of the original word, so wife became trouble and strife. The longer phrase is then shortened to just the first word, so wife became trouble. The phone became the dog and bone, and that in turn became the dog. So if you plan to spend longer than planned down the pub, for Pete's sake get your trouble on the dog and let her know! Fact Four: Much of English is foreign anyway.The English Language is an eclectic mix of Indo-European, old Norse, Greek, Latin, German, French...(and other sources). Many every day words come from afar, such as jodhpurs after the Indian city, chocolate from Aztec, anorak from Eskimo, aficionado from French, embargo from Spanish and so on. To this day new words are being added from diverse sources and goodness only kwz if txt language will be added, OMG I hope not, TIME, CU Wordsworth. To think that the rest of the world are also using these acronyms, I mean can't they think up their own? Fact Five: English spelling and pronunciation can be maddeningWith as many exceptions as there are rules good luck to the teacher trying to explain why the same letters 'ough' have three different pronunciations. 'Go through the pigsty and put the feed in the trough under the bough.' Fact Six: English is only spoken as a native language by 5% of the world.Should we all be learning Chinese and Spanish before English? Not according to the UN, at least for the moment, where English and French are the working languages, even though only 1% of the world speaks French! LOL! To help your students have more fun lessons, try my best-selling classroom activities book. There is plenty there for every teacher wanting to get students more involved. You can get my book in paperback (see Amazon for book reviews) or directly from me in an instant PDF download.

grammar games for teenagers
2 December 2019

This blog is contributed by Heike Knapp, a teacher in Prague. After a introduction on the difficulty of teaching teenagers, she recounts her experience using four games to teach her secondary students English grammar.Teens can be difficult to teach, especially when they find the topic useless and boring, and English grammar often falls into this category in their teenage minds! Authors like Puchta, H. and Schratz, M. (1999) were both confronted in their professional careers with the problem of poorly motivated teenagers. They ascribed this to the fact that teenagers see their learning objectives as far off, and their lack of social skills to interact prevents them from learning efficiently (page 1). Before talking about enhancing language competences, the authors ask how one could enhance teenagers´ ability to communicate (page 3). The authors feel that the ability to share feelings, empathize with others, and be tolerant are useful long term goals in language education. Harmer (2007) hints at the fact that teenagers have a great need for peer-approval, therefore the teacher´s task is, apart from providing interesting and provoking learning material, to strengthen students´ self-esteem.As well as these wider issues, teaching grammar is important, not only in the national syllabus of each country but also as a tool to build correct and meaningful sentences, so that students learn to express themselves and discuss their own opinions. But mastering the grammar of a foreign language usually takes time and effort. Here are some grammar games which provide a framework that students need to become familiar with a structure and make them make use of it in a meaningful context.All games described are from this source:https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/esl-for-adults - (also available here in paperback from online and other bookstores).   Grammar Game 1 - Get in OrderA great game to work on comparisons is: 'Comparatives get in order'. It can be played as a warm-up e.g. at the beginning of a new term with a pre-intermediate group or as a follow-up activity after having introduced comparatives. The students should stand in a line. A larger group of 20-26 students should be divided into two groups. The aim of the game is to stand in the order of certain features students have. For example, the teacher asks students to discuss among themselves who lives nearest to school, who has the most hobbies, speaks the most languages... This gets them talking, asking each other about themselves. To get permission to swap places within the line, they have to say a sentence like: I live further from school than Eva. At this moment the students can swap places. The first round ends when each student has said a sentence with comparison and the class has queued up in the right order from nearest to furthest living to school.Observation: Students are usually very attentive and focused while playing this game because they like to find out information about their mates and to compare with each other.Avoid asking questions about the socio-economical situation of students or things they would not like to publicize (age, weight).This activity can also be introduced by a speed drill game from the above source which gives students more confidence using the phrases containing the comparative)..  Grammar Game 2 - Guess the QuestionAnother game more for the revision of grammar than as a follow-up activity is: Guess the question. Students are particularly keen on learning whole phrases as this has a practical meaning for them. Write a gapped sentence with the first letter of each word on the board e.g. W_____ I__ Y__ N_____. (What is your name?) The class is divided into two groups. Team A guesses the first word, if they are right, they can go on, of wrong, B takes over and so forth. The team which guessed the last word gets a point. I use this game to revise and drill difficult grammar (e.g. third conditional) and I often give students the preparation of the sentences to guess for homework. This game is a favourite among students, as preparation for the oral part of the final leaving exam.  Grammar Game 3 - Time BombA fun game to revise any kind of grammar is Time Bomb. You need either a wind-up toy, a stop-watch, an old toy with a music box could serve, but preferably something that ticks. Ask a student a question which he has to answer immediately. If he hesitates and the bomb stops ticking the student loses a life. This game can be adapted to different language levels. For beginners simply ask: Do you like bananas? Yes, I do. No, I don´t. For more advanced students you can use questions in the past present continuous and so on.  Grammar Game 4 - AlibiThe aim of Alibi is to practise asking questions, to gain fluency in asking questions in the past tense.Teacher´s role: to monitor, to gently correct questions and help with vocabulary.Procedure: I pretended that one of the students is accused of having committed a crime. I described his outer appearance so every student recognized who I meant. The student who was described followed my instruction to go out of the classroom with a friend who was to help him create an alibi. Outside the classroom, I explained to them that they were accused of having looted a shop last night and that each of them was going to be cross-examined by two different groups of policemen and that they should be very careful not to contradict each other in their statements otherwise they would be found guilty by the committee. So their task now was to think about a very plausible and detailed alibi. When I came back into the classroom, I divided the other students into two groups so that each group would question either the accused or his friend and alibi. I explained to both groups that they should cross-examine each of the suspects and find out by asking if there were any differences in their accounts. If there was a difference between the first and second accounts, the second examined was likely to have committed the crime. I gave the students approximately 10 minutes to work out questions and I helped them with vocabulary and made some grammar corrections.When the two suspects came back into the classroom they were cross-examined by each group until the committee found a contradiction in the statements.Reflection: I guided this activity in a situation when the students obviously were totally disgusted by having to come to school at 7.00 am in the morning. When they saw that we weren't going to open our textbooks in our lesson, they started to become very active and involved. They were also motivated by the thrill to convict the criminal. Yet, I had to help a lot with the language and some of the questions I had to write on the board again. The students could not remember the question words (when, why, how often, with who…) and found it difficult to use did + infinitive in the questions, although we had done past simple questions in the workbook before. The activity provided good language practise, because the students of the committee team kept repeating the same questions about how many beers the suspect had in the pub and which girls they met. I had to intervene here sometimes and ask them to ask about different information. But even so, the activity was excellent to motivate students to get involved in the lesson (at last), to make them use the language as much as possible, and to practise and repeat past tense questions as often as possible even though it was sometimes done with great difficulty. Play some drill games using past tense questions first just before this game, to refresh students' memories. This will make the actual game go more smoothly.Give students a worksheet or some jumbled questions to put in order just after the game to consolidate the work.When you use this game a second time it will be easier for students. Get the complete book of activites here.      

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: