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

My students enjoyed the experience so much that they have already asked to do more skits next year

First of all thank you for writing such inspiring books full of brilliant ideas, games and activities. I have been teaching for years, but I was stuck in a drill with my usual games and activities and I needed new ideas to boost my lessons.

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

teaching tenses concept
22 June 2020

Teaching Present TensesFrom Andrew Rossiter, author of A Descriptive Grammar of English: Using the present tense in any language ought to be easy. After all, it’s the first tense we learn about, and it’s the tense we most often use because we use it to talk and write about things that are happening, things that we are doing, our habits, our likes and dislikes, and a whole lot more. But in English, there’s a problem. In Spanish you can say Bebemos zumo de naranja, in French you can say Nous buvons du jus d’orange, in German, you can say Wir trinken Orangensaft, and these expressions mean different things in different situations. But in English…… it’s not quite so simple. But it’s not too difficult either! In English we have something that lots of other languages do not have, and it’s called “aspect”, and verbs in English have two aspects. Most verbs (though not all of them) can be used in either of these aspects: there is the simple aspect, and there is the progressive aspect. So those Spanish, French and German examples given above can either be, in English, We drink orange juice, or else We are drinking orange juice. And it’s important to distinguish between them. What’s the difference? Present Tense It shouldn’t be too hard to remember. We use the present simple, as in I drink orange juice, to express permanent truths, repeated actions and sometimes instant actions: so if you said to someone I drink orange juice, you would be implying something like: I like orange juice, (so I’ll be happy to have a glass).I regularly drink orange juice (for example, I have some at breakfast every day).I’m the one who drinks orange juice. Present Continous or Present ProgressiveBy contrast, we use the present continuous, also called the present progressive, to express actions or conditions that are developing, ones that are in the process of taking place, or actions that are going to take place. So if you said I’m drinking orange juice, you would be implying something like: I’m drinking orange juice right now (because I’m driving home after the party).I’m drinking orange juice at this moment (but usually I prefer coffee).I’m drinking orange juice today, but I’m drinking beer tomorrow. In the last example, we are using the continuous aspect of the present tense as if it were a future tense. Sometimes we use the simple present tense to refer to future actions, but not nearly as often as we use the present continuous. Four sentencesHere are four sentences to remember, as they each use one verb in the present simple, and one verb in the present continuous, and therefore clearly illustrate the differences between them. My brother normally works in London, but right now he’s working in Paris.I often walk to work, but it’s raining and I’m not walking to work today.I go to New York every month, and I’m going there again tomorrow.I usually take sugar in my coffee, but I’m not taking it now as I want to lose a few kilos.Note how an adverb or adverb phrase of present time, such as right now, at this moment, today is often present in sentences where the verb needs to be in the present progressive. This is not essential, the adverb phrase of present time may just be implied, not stated. Tip from Shelley:Every student should personalize their four sentences to be things that are true for them. The sentences will be so easy to remember then. Are there exceptions? You bet !There are however a small number of English verbs that are rarely used in continuous or progressive forms. The most common of these are verbs that by their nature express something constant or permanent, verbs like know, like, understand, mean, own, etc. We can’t say I’m knowing him… or we could, but it would be pointless. I know implies a permanent condition – either you know or you don’t know, but you can’t really be knowing someone. Examples: I understand what you mean.I like strawberries, but I don’t like pineapples.He owns three Rolls-Royces and a Lamborghini. Using the progressive aspect of the verb in any of these examples would be wrong; these verbs by definition express a permanent and ongoing situation. Modal verbsFinally, we never use the progressive aspect with modal verbs! We say I can, I must, I would… but there is no such thing as a progressive aspect for modal verbs. Nobody ever heard “I am musting” ! Forget it! It doesn’t exist. Discover more about this, and clear explanations of all the main points of English grammar, illustrated with lots of clear examples, in the new Descriptive Grammar of English, also available in French as Nouvelle Grammaire descriptive de l’anglais contemporain. For more details and to buy as an ebook or paperback, visit Linguapress for A Descriptive Grammar of English by Andrew Rossiter. And here are some blogs from Shelley with lesson plans on teaching present tenses:https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/teaching-the-present-continuous-to-teenshttps://www.teachingenglishgames.com/present-simple-passive-voicehttps://www.teachingenglishgames.com/teaching-the-present-perfect-to-kids 

beach written in seashells
15 June 2020

A teacher is starting with a little group (5 years old) on the beach. She has my preschool games book, stories, songs and story videos. What to takeIf you are teaching on a sandy beach, I would think about leaving your computer / iPad at home. Kids might not be able to see the screen easily in bright light, you'll be worrying about someone stealing it when you are off with the kids at the sea, and sand and electronics don't go well together. So that wipes out using the videos or song videos.Take big, colourful objects that will be easily visible in the sand and that can't get damaged. Different coloured buckets, spades and larger plastic toys. Small animals will be lost in the sand in no time unless you take great care. Use plastified A4 colour flashcards.Take something to create shade if it's hot and a beach rug.Take plenty of water, suncream, bathing suits and an easy snack to keep kids going.Take props for any games, such as scarves for the scarf game.Take my stories, laminated and A4 size, or whatever storybooks you want.Use everything the beach has to offer as props in the games. Pebbles are great for drawing on to make vocabulary items, instead of flashcards. Shells, driftwood, buckets and spades, sand and the waves may all be used as part of the lesson. Structuring the lesson1. Teach new vocabulary first. Start quietly with kids in a tight circle and use the first ten minutes to show them new vocabulary with some quiet listening games. (Get my preschool games book for these.)2. Integrate the beach into the lesson, whatever the theme. Since the beach holds an endless fascination, include the beach in the lesson, so that children feel that they are playing on the beach. Take the big colourful buckets and have kids place flashcards in them, "Coco, please put the flower in the red bucket."Play the 3 cups game with the sand buckets, where kids guess which upturned bucket has an animal under it. Use a pebble or shell to be the animal. Have kids dig a hole and then bury the object or flashcard that you name. Then let kids find a different item, dig it up, and name it.Bury an item and have kids play hide and seek, dig up your item, and name it.You may have buckets and wet sand that you can build castles with. Have kids make mounds of sand and put vocabulary items on each mound, then hop over the mounds, naming the items as they go.You may have shells and driftwood. Use these to make camps, put toys in the camps. Count the shells, the toys, etc.Have your story characters live in the camps and enact the story there.Here is a specific example of how to integrate any teaching material with the beach: with my first preschool story, I'm Hungry, make a meeting place in the sand. Make a circle surrounded by a wall of sand, with an opening at each side that can be the gate the animals come in through. Or use shells or driftwood to make the arena. If your beach is just dry sand and you can't make an arena with the sand, use a scarf, a rope, or a mat. Tell the story using this beach setting. It will seem more real for kids. Then, tell it again, with the kids miming the animals as you go. Then, if kids are ready, make a bigger area for them and instead of the flashcards, have the kids be the animals in the story.With story 2, where you learn counting and more animals, have kids collect pebbles and shells and count them. Draw animals on the pebbles. Make mounds of sand and count those. Put animal flashcards into the sand buckets, space them out between you and the sea and have kids run off and bring back the right animal and bucket.3. MovementAs the lesson goes on let children move a little more, miming, fetching things, making things that are part of the game or story.Bring them back into the circle for a calm game such as "Freeze". For this, sit them down in the circle, tell them to freeze every time you say an animal. Leave them freezing for a while, this will cool them and calm them.Have them mime objects in the circleMake a picture in the sand of one of the vocabulary items.4. SpellingIf you are teaching reading and writing, have kids write their names in the sand with their fingers, shells, sticks or pebbles.5. Keep more boisterous games for the end.Towards the end of the lesson, you may use running games. For example, put out buckets along the water, kids run to the buckets and pick out the vocabulary item you name (pebbles with things drawn on them, plastified A4 flashcard, larger toy items). Or, if you don't have items they run to the bucket and walk back while miming the item or verb.Stand in the water and throw a big ball, the bigger the better, so it is easy to catch. Ask a question, throw the ball, the child answers and throws the ball back to you. Have kids pass the ball around the circle. When you clap, the one with the ball has to answer a question in English or do a silly forfeit like pretend to be a seagull.6. Calming downTo calm kids down before the end of the lesson, take ten minutes to make an origami boat. Let kids try and sail their boats on the sea, or in the moat of your sandcastle. There are videos on YouTube on how to make an origami boat that floats.Another trick to calm kids down quickly is to get everyone back in the circle for a drink or biscuit.7. Ending the lesson and parentsPlay a round of a game and then everyone runs and splashes in the sea as a reward. You might spend a long time in the sea and play games there, but it depends how long your lesson is, and whether parents are collecting the kids at the end, or whether you are taking them home.If parents are showing up to collect their kids, think about having something to show them. This could be all the castles or shell pictures. Have kids tell their parents some of the words you have been learning and e-mail them a list of what you have covered. Parents find it reassuring to think that their kids are learning something and not just playing on the beach.Kind regardsShelley Ann VernonFor resources mentioned in this blog please see:Download version from Shelley Paperback from Amazon. (Also availabe by order from your local bookstore: ISBN-13: 978-1541133396)       Download version from Shelley Or Paperbacks: This download pack of ten stories is covered Story Books One and Two from Amazon. (Also availabe by order from your local bookstore: ISBN-13 Book 1: 978-1482012088 & Book 2: 978-1484052495

advertising concept
6 June 2020

A teacher asked me for help with a workshop for fifth graders, to stimulate their critical thinking skills and work on their English around the theme of advertisements and commercials.Warm-UpTo start the lesson ask students if they can think of any ads they have seen, online, on TV, in town, or wherever. Ask students to describe ads they know to the class. Ask them if they like them, and whether they feel like buying the product.Critical thinking and advertising - ExampleShow an ad to the class. If you can show a video ad, so much the better. Otherwise, show a printed ad. Present a list of questions to the class such as those below. Discuss the questions with students and elicit possible answers. Here is an example below, with the ad picture, questions, and possible answers.- Who created the message?Answer: Bougues Telecom. (A french communications operator)- What techniques did they use to attract attention?An attractive young woman, smiling and relaxed. Nice soft colours. A short, catchy phrase "Stay connected to your loved ones".- What values or information are included or omitted?The idea communicated is that if you are on  your phone with your friends and loved ones, you will be happy, relaxed, laughing and having fun, and sharing the pleasure with a friend or sibling, who is also on their phone.What is omitted is that too much screen time causes depression and other problems*. Screen time isolates you from those around you, as shown in the photo. The two people are together on the bed but not talking to each other. Mobile phone radiation may be dangerous.- How truthful is the ad (exaggerations?)This answer will be subjective, depending on how a student interacts with his or her phone.- Who is the ad aimed at, (age, male or female, interests)This is aimed at all teens and young adults. The ad is probably aimed more at females because there is a girl in the pic, the soft orange wall is quite feminine, and lying around on your bed with a friend is quite a girly activity, though these days, what with neutral genders, transgenders, and non-identified genders, frankly, who knows?- Why was this message sent? Information and salesBouygues Telecom sent this message to advertise its brand.Now let's make this lesson interactive and dynamic - make a live photo!Now students know the method and what is expected of them, make small groups and give each one an ad and get them to think about it and answer the critical thinking questions. Then, instead of just sharing the answers, try this fun idea, that is creative for the students. Each group prepares a "live photo" of the ad. They do this by creating a freeze-frame to communicate the content and meaning of the ad.  Students hold the position while a narrator from the group presents the product, telling the class who made the ad, what the ad is communicating, etc. as per the questions above, and then, finally, asking the class if they can guess the product. The group keeps the position and expressions throughout.The teacher should demo this first. Show an ad, like this lego ad pic. Get a group to quickly make a freeze-frame, and use appropriate expressions. Narrate the ad to the class: This ad is made by Lego. They used a cool motorbike to attract attention. The red bike is bright on the grey background. They also used a famous star wars stormtrooper. People love star wars, so they'll love a star wars Lego. They used good looking people and both dads have trendy beards so they look hip and cool, because no child wants a dad who looks like a dork. (Although, and I appreciate that I'm in a minority group here, the copy-cat, let's clone a beard and look like everyone else movement, is utterly dorkish). The idea is that with lego you will be really absorbed and have a fun, privileged moment, with your dad all to yourself while he lovingly watches you create a cool lego model, and the ad reminds you that you love your dad "J'aime mon papa".  What they leave out is that painstaking hours have to go by before you get to place the final piece, (which, in all likelihood will be lost under a sofa by now!) The ad is relatively truthful in that the models are to scale in relation to the humans, but there's no way Dad will just sit and watch. Annoyingly he will probably butt in and make most of the model himself!Fun, creative ideaNext, have each group invent its own ad. Do a quick brainstorm for ideas of products students could choose. They invent the ad, and then the class comment on it and whether it makes them want to buy the product. Have the class vote on the best ad and chose one of the products. See which group sold the most.Be sure to put a strong leader in each group. Don't put all the talented ones together. Spread the talent around so there is someone to lead the group, linguistically and otherwise.Let students work with others who also like their chosen product. If someone hates lego, they may choose to be unhelpful on the ad-creation team and the task may just annoy them.Using video adsVideo commercials are great because the advertiser has time to tell a story. Human psychology is driven by avoiding pain and going towards pleasure. Advertisers play on this. You might have a desperate "homemaker", with stained, or grey laundry. And then yippee, after having polluted the environment with some powerful detergent, they are ecstatically happy again. The kids will come home from rugby and they'll be glowing inside, knowing they can get all the mud off thanks to the marvellous product. Life is wonderful thanks to laundry detergent.That said, laundry ads won't be of much interest to kids or teens. Find ads for products they know and that are relevant to your students. There are of course, always the classics, like the Andrex loo roll ad and the labrador - that one has been going for decades...soft, long and very strong. (Type Andrex toilet paper advert on YouTube and you'll find a choice.)Repeat the critical thinking work using the videos. Have students vote on the best ad. Have students find an ad they like for homework and prepare to act it out to the class. Have students work together to act out an ad, with a script. Vote on best sketches. Have students make up their own ad and perform it as a short skit.Other ideas for adsHow about vintage ads from the 1950s? Or ads from different cultures? Share your ideas below, we'd all love to hear them.All the best, Shelley Ann Vernon.Check out my books here and in paperback here.* Twenge and Campbell http://www.jeantwenge.com/research/  

student reading and thinking of something funny
25 May 2020

Hello there, Here is an email I received today about making reading and listening more fun: "Dear Shelley, I really appreciate the help you've offered me and I bet you I'm going to work on that, Oh! by the way one more thing can you give me some suggestions to make my reading and listening classes more interesting, because sometimes the students get bored easily specially because the readings are not so funny." I had this fun idea which just popped up from somewhere in that brain of mine. I think this would be great fun to do as it challenges the readers to read convincingly and naturally and it engages the listeners fully rather than having them listening passively. The scenario:You have a reading passage.Ask a class member to read out a part of it and so on around the class until a few students have had a turn at reading while others listen. Yawn…pretty dull way of doing things. Take the same scenario and liven it up! 1. Cut up a piece of paper so that you have one strip per student in your class. 2. Write out five sentences that have nothing to do with the reading passage, or are related but don’t fit exactly. Then write out scribbles on all the other pieces. Why scribbles? Because other students will not know from a distance if those scribbles are sentences, whereas someone could more easily see if a paper is blank. 3. Shuffle the papers and hand them out one per student. Students insert these into their reading book and/or position them so that no one else can see them. 4. Randomly pick a student to read. The student reads the paragraph and somewhere in there he/she must insert the rogue sentence WITHOUT the class noticing. The job of the other students is to listen carefully and spot the rogue sentence, if there is one. They won’t know at any time if there really is such a sentence so they will have to listen all the more carefully. 5. After reading the paragraph see if there are any votes for a rogue sentence. And also ASK A QUESTION about the passage. Listening out for rogue sentences helps on several levels: 1. Firstly it is quite a skill to read a passage out and naturally slip in a sentence that does not fit or sounds silly. It will be fun for the students to try to do this without giving the game away through hesitation or laughing. 2. The other students have a really good reason to listen, because they are not just listening passively to some content, but are actively engaged in trying to spot something that sounds out of context or unlikely content. Now don’t use this idea every time or it will get boring and get one of my books so you have more ideas like it! Links below to the download version and the paperback.Bye for now,Shelley Ann Vernon 

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: