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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ESL Stories
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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

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 

26 April 2020

Here is a typical teaching problem, and solutions. A bright 11-year-old girl is studying English at school and having one private lesson per week. She picks everything up really quickly and gets good marks in the tests at school, but the next week, she has forgotten it all. Each week the private English teacher has to start again, every time and he thinks that this is because they only have one lesson a week. The student loves music, singing, drawing and painting. The teacher wants to make lessons fun and motivate the student to do some English outside of lesson time. In response, the first thing I will say is that children can remember English learned from one week to the next, even if they only have a lesson for an hour. To achieve this one needs to apply four principles:1. Do not teach too much new language at a time. A maximum of six new vocabulary words per lesson or one grammar point is enough.2. Play revision games in every lesson that cover everything learned so far. Revision games are any games that cover a wide range of vocabulary or language quickly. These could be card games that use flashcards, quiz games, brainstorming games, association games, memory games, or story games. All these types of games and plenty more are in 176 English Language Games for Children.3. Make the language real by using it in context. The idea way of learning for this student is to prepare and perform skits. The vocabulary and grammar points come alive in real dialogues, with props and actions, and finally, with performance to a video or parents at the end. The situation, setting, actions, and frequent repetition through rehearsals, mean that the language sticks and children remember it easily from one week to the next. In fact, they remember it for years!4. Exploit the student's talents. The more a student enjoys a lesson, the more motivated he or she will be. Using games and skits are ways to achieve this. In addition, play around with topics that are dear to the heart of your student. In the case of this particular 11-year-old, capitalize on the fact that she is musical. If you teach her English using her favourite songs, she will be singing along to them all week in between lessons. See the resources box below for a blog post all about using songs with pointers on how to go about it.This student also enjoys drawing and painting. Give her projects such as creating flashcards or cards for Happy Families and use them in lesson time. Get her to make a board game that you can play together in the next lesson.  Board games can be tailored to whatever vocabulary or grammar you require.  The picture shows one from my series of "About Me" stories. Great board games can be made on the back of a cereal packet, or by sticking white paper onto a cardboard box.Resources176 English Language Games for Children.  Instant download - PaperbackFun ESL Role-Plays and Skits for Children.  Instant download - PaperbackAbout Me stories, including illustrated stories, lesson plans with games, flashcards, worksheets and board games.  Instant download. Also PowerPoint and movie version by native speakers.Blog post on teaching English with songs: Getting teens learning English through songs   

photo of words for online vocabulary game
8 April 2020

Hello Teachers,Here is an easy vocabulary game to play in your online classrooms (or real classrooms). This is perfect for beginners, or for any level where you want to enforce, or revise vocabulary.  How to Play Students draw a grid with eight squares. From a list of vocabulary that you provide, students write 8 different vocabulary words into those squares. Now randomly call the vocabulary words from your list. As the words are mentioned, students cross off the relevant word on their grid. The first student to cross off all the words wins a prize.TopicsUse this for any topic, including business English. Topics might be common vocabulary words for beginners, to specific business English topics such as aviation, customer service, social media, marketing, medicine, and so on. Easy ideas for prizes- The student wins a point for his or her team.- The student wins something tangible for the next physical class. It should be inexpensive and ecological. It's just a symbolic, easy gift, like a tangerine when in season.- The student earns the chance to do an extra homework task that the teacher will mark. Don't laugh, motivated students will be pleased to have this.- The student receives a surprise online gift that changes each time, ideas: 1 sudoku to do in own time, a recipe to try at home, instructions for 1 origami, an invitation to find and show a photo to the class, a quiz question, etc.- Ask the class to submit five ideas each for simple prizes. Give examples as above. Students can find the prize too - to save the teacher time. Collect these in and use them in the game. GrammarTo use some grammar or sentences with this game, when the teacher calls the vocabulary words, he or she can place them in a sentence. Say you are working on the present tense, use the vocabulary word in a sentence in the present tense each time. This gives students the chance to hear the word in context, in the tense you are working on. Activities Book for Teens and AdultsLots of the games in my teen/adult activities book may be adapted for online use like this Bingo game. You can get it in paperback or instant PDF download from me, as you prefer.If you already have it - here's a list of games from the book that I think may be used in an online teaching situation. All the best,Shelley Ann VernonTeaching English Games

student in online lesson
3 April 2020

*Hello there and thanks for visiting this page on teaching English online via a platform, or Skype. These activities suit any creative online class, but also confinement, such as during the time of the Coronavirus. Firstly, if you already own my fun book of activities for teaching teens and adults in the classroom, here is a link to a list of games from that book that you may use online. If you don't have the book, there is a link to it lower down in the blog.  List of games from Teen/Adult Activities book for use online If you are teaching from home, teaching online via Skype, Zoom or any other online platform, try these ideas to liven up your classes. And, if you like this blog, and you have an idea, please, pretty please, do share it with us in the comments! How about a creative writing diary project? Students recount something nice or something funny every day, maybe with a picture. Students compare notes on what they did in the online class.Have a competition to see who can do the most original or nice thing in their day and get the others to vote on it. See who can do something that no one else has done! It might be making some biscuits...with a special flavour...it might be skateboarding in the basement... Students have to prove it - by showing a biscuit in the online class, or showing a photo...otherwise they could say anything. Get students away from technology for some of the time. It's well-known now that lack of exercise and too much screen time is a key cause of depression amongst the young. Let's get students to be creative away from their phones and social media. How about running an art project in English. For example, give students tips and know-how on how to take creative photos. Students learn about this, in English, and each one submits a photo or two to the pool, anonymously. All students vote on their favourites. At the end, the winners can be identified, if you like.​* It's important that students submit their photos anonymously to avoid the social media 'we like sheep' phenomena, where you like the pic taken by your mate even if it's a load of rubbish because if you don't he will never speak to you again!  * Creative pics don't have to be exotic. They can be taken with everyday objects. Who can take the most creative pic of a book? Taking real close-ups can be fun, because if you take a close up of part of an object, it can be hard to tell what it is. Have a competition like that, a guessing game, using pics taken by the students. Can you tell what this pic is? The first two pics are pretty easy to guess. The answers are at the bottom of the blog. How about giving students instructions in English to do some origami? Students can each make a different model and show it to the others in the next online class. They could have the task then of creating a story, collectively, that involves each of the items made. Or, each student makes up a story with his or her origami object as the hero/heroine. Ongoing projects that students share with the class could be to plant lettuce seeds in a pot at home. Even if there isn't much space at home, you can still grow lettuce by a window, in a salad bowl...It's also therapeutic to grow things. Some students may not be able to do this, in which case let them choose another project to create and share.How about a dressing up project? Each student creates an outfit, from their regular clothes, with some makeup and a prop or two. They attend class in their outfit (if you have visuals), or send in a picture. Everyone guesses who the others are. Students can then present their character and say a few lines about him or her, who they are, why they like them, what they have done that is significant...or not. It can be anything - give students free rein. If someone wants to disguise themselves as their cat, why not? They can still tell you why they chose their cat, and what they like about their cat. Personally, I would be useless at this disguise task, and I would not even enjoy doing it. Doing something like the Armenian artist Edgar Artis, would appeal more to me - like this 'dress' he made from used matches. So...it's really important to give your students a choice of activity.  Plays and skits. Read scripts in small groups or one on one. It might be too much of a drag with a large class unless you can do group work online. That said, some fun could be had with pronunciation practise, and putting expression into speech. This is brilliant for speaking fluency and confidence too. So, take a couple of lines from a play and have students put as much energy and expression into the lines as they can. Explore different ways that the lines can be said...with disdain, questioning, with joy, with laughter, hesitantly, with sadness. Try emphasizing different words in the sentence and see what that does to the meaning. Meaning is often transformed by a single comma. Let's eat Grandpa. Let's eat, Grandpa.  Check out my book of skits for teens here. Science experiments students can do at home. There are plenty of sites online for ideas, this one looks good. https://sciencebob.com/category/experiments/ Demonstrate in class and have students try the experiment at home for homework...share any photos, or film and results in the next class.Sketching. Give a list of vocabulary words for students to choose from and have them sketch one of them, then share results. If you do this for five minutes in each lesson, students will get better at sketching. Have the most talented sketcher show the others how to sketch a specific object. You can find lots of great 'how to draw' methods free online. In the same vein, try Bob McKim's 30 Circles Test (McKim was a Standford University Researcher.) Students draw 30 circles and then take five minutes to turn those circles into anything their imagination can think of. Do it with any shapes. Students compare items drawn and ideas. Make it a cooperative or team game, with students working together to come up with the most ideas. You can cover a lot of vocabulary like this, and if you want to get more English into it, have students do a flash-fiction activity, by making up a very short story with ten items drawn in their 30 circles. Again, the more you do it, the better you get.Of course you can do worksheets and readings, and these are super useful. But in this blog post, I tried to think of some more creative ideas, to get students involved in learning English in a more personal way. As you use more creative ideas, your students WILL become better at it. So do persevere, even if at first, everyone seems pretty shy. You will find lots of concrete ideas that you can adapt to online use in my book of activities for teens and adults. The activities are written up for a physical classroom, but there are plenty of teachers using it for online ideas. Use them for vocabulary, grammar, writing tasks, speaking drills, and speaking fluency. Answer to the close-ups: Tyre, Tangerine, Rose, Bread

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: