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

25 March 2021

Hello there, thanks for visiting this blog on teaching phonemes to kindergarten children.If you are being asked to teach reading and writing to preschool kids then it's useful to start with sounds, or phonemes. Teaching phonemic script to preschoolers would be a bit of an overkill, but the sounds of phonemes, with words they occur in could help, especially for pupils who don't know our alphabet. Start by having children clap syllables of their own names in their native language. Children say their name and clap each syllable as they say it. Then teach a phoneme, such as 'f' for fish. Teach the sound ffffff and combine it with fish, finger, four and five. Play vocabulary games from my preschool games book with those four words so kids learn the vocabulary (understanding it through listening games, saying it through speaking games). Now have kids say f-f-f-f-f-f-f-fish and mime being a fish, f-f-f-f-f-f-ive and hold up five fingers, and so on.The teache says 'fish' broken down into three sounds - f - i - sha.  The kids say 'fish'. Then swap. If kids can break words down into sounds it'll help them learn to read, eventually!Chant a rhythm like 'fish in the sea, fish in the sea, fish in the sea, fish in the sea, great white wha-le, great white wha-le.Have kids make an 'f' with their body. One person can do this using both arms, or check the picture for an F made by two people Next show them how to write the 'f' sound. Have kids trace the letter f - You can find some fonts here: http://www.fontspace.com/category/kindergartenDownload to your computer and make worksheets with the letters using this font so kids can easily trace over them.For example:Or this one:Then in the next lesson teach a new letter, in the same way. This way you will gradually teach how to write most of the letters of the alphabet through sounds. I would do a little of this in every lesson, and then use stories and songs, and role-play for the rest of the lesson.Draw and decorate the letters of the alphabet (you are teaching the sounds, not the letters) as you learn them and put them up around the classroom. Then you can play games with kids running to the sound you say, or taking down the letters to make words with them. Just type 'F for fish colouring' and hey presto, you'll find free ones, like this one below:You might want to get a book to guide you in more detail, these look useful: https://www.amazon.com/Phonemic-Awareness-Young-Children-Curriculum/dp/1557663211/https://www.amazon.com/Phonemic-Awareness-Playing-Strengthen-Beginning/dp/1574712314/All the bestShelley Ann VernonTeaching English Games - Preschool games book for the classroom   

16 March 2021

Present Tense To Be + Professions ‘I’m a…teacher’Use this lesson plan with individuals or groups, online or in class.Preparation: Choose six professions that appeal to your pupils. You might prefer to teach realistic, down-to-earth jobs our pupils may do one day, like a plumber, hairdresser, secretary, lawyer, real estate agent or nurse. Or you might be happy to let kids dream, choosing amazing or glamorous jobs, like astronaut, singer, actor, footballer, artist, or vet. As teacher, you decide, or ask your class to vote on six favourites.Pictures: Now you have your six professions, let’s learn them by heart in English. First you need a picture of each one. Your pupils can draw these and send them to you in advance of the lesson or you can easily find pics online that fit the bill.Introduce six new words with mimes Show a picture of one of the professions, say the word ‘plumber,’ ‘he’s a plumber’; ‘ plumber’ Ask kids for ideas for a mime that would fit the job of a plumber and get everyone to do that mime. Show the second profession and repeat the process. Show the plumber and elicit the mime, then move to the third profession, establish the mime for that. Do pic one, two and three with the three mimes. Now do picture four, establish the mime, and show jobs 1,2,3, and 4. Move on to jobs five and six in the same way. Build gradually, repeat and reinforce. There is no point showing all six pictures and assuming that kids will remember them all just like that. Using the mime to enhance the meaning helps kids recognize, understand, and integrate the new word. Now the new words have been introduced, step up the pace with a second listening game – Jump the Line. Show the pictures on screen left and right of a line. Call them randomly using the short phrase ‘he’s an actor’ she’s a vet, he’s a gardener, and so on. This way you are continuing to reinforce the new vocab while introducing the verb to be in the present tense. Kids put out an arm indicating which side of the line the picture is on. Jump about in the list, get faster and faster, go job A, job B, job A, job B, job A, job B, job C! You’ll catch loads of kids out all the while repeating the new vocabulary over and over.Play Picture Flashcards where you flash pictures fast in front of the camera, sometimes hiding part of the picture. Play around with the speed you flash the cards. You don’t want it to be too easy or there’s no game element. Pupils call out the professions. When students hesitate, show that profession more often, mixed in with the others, until you have drilled all six well.Play Blow your house down in teams. The question each time is; What is he? Or What is she? Show a picture of a profession. The team reply with ‘he’s a …..’ They have to get all six right in a row or their house is blown down and they go back to zero. This game works fine with individuals too.Every other game in this plan works for private ESL tutoring except for this one, which is for groups of six pupils and upwards: Play One Lemon but use professions instead. This game can take some practise the first time you use it. Do a demonstration with six students and then split the class into groups. Use breakout rooms if you are online. Each player has a profession. To allocate these, read each student’s name and say a profession. The student concerned repeats their profession back to you and makes a note of it. This way, you are sure everyone has got their profession and that they are participating. Start with:‘One plumber, half a plumber, calls three painters.’ Immediately, the painter student says: ‘Three painters, half a painter, calls five astronauts .’ And so on. A rule is that all the professions must be called before the plumber can be called again.Play Boggle: make a boggle with the professions inside and have pupils race in teams to find as many English words as they can. Every profession word found can earn double points. Boggles are usually 4 x 4 but bigger ones are easier. This boggle has these professions hidden in it, along with a multitude of other English words, plumber, painter, astronaut, nurse, vet, and artist. P L U MB E R AI N T SV O A T Play a chanting game with rhythms. This is for the whole class, on or off line. Since you are teaching ‘to be’ and professions, make a rhyme such as this: I’m a plumber, you’re a painter, he’s a singer, she’s a waiter.Have everyone say this and clap together on the pronoun. I’m a plumber, you’re a painter, he’s a singer, she’s a waiter. Do this a few times, it should be quite easy. Now try this rhythm where you clap on every third syllable. Display the sentence with the bold so kids can see where they are to clap. Expect to take a few attempts before they get this rhythm going.I’m a plum-ber you’re a – paint-er he’s – a singer – she’s a wait-erFinally, use this rhythm, where the “I’m a plumber you’re a” takes the same time as “paint-er”.I’m a plumber you’re a| paint -er | he’s a singer she’s a | wait -erThis exercize is fun to do, involves repetition and is a huge aid to fluency. Once you have worked through those rhythms it will be super easy for your class to say “I’m a painter” without hesitating. In addition they will have drilled “I’m a, you’re a, he’s a and she’s a.” Next I'd put kids in groups and have each group mime one of the professions while the other teams race to guess what job they are doing - calling out "you are painters!" If you are doing writing and spelling then play spell and act. You spell one of the professions and the class mime the job. You can make that a team game and give forfeits for the losing team if you like. Forfeits are silly things like singing a song, miming a cat, naming a picture flashcard, or drawing something. Finally play Mastermind with pupils in pairs. If you are online then put kids in breakout rooms with use of the annotation tools. If you don't want to give your group use of the annotation tools then you can't use this. If you are teaching online one on one then you can manage the tools, but I prefer to let my pupils use the tools because it involves them in the lesson more.How to playOne player is the code maker, the other the codebreaker. The code maker chooses a pattern of four words. Duplicates are allowed, so the player could even choose the same four words, but this tends to be easy to guess. Blanks are allowed in the classic mastermind game, but not in my spelling version. The code maker writes down the four words in a specific order.The codebreaker tries to guess the pattern, of both the word and the order, within thirteen turns. Each guess is made by writing the words on the decoding board. Once a row is done, the code maker provides feedback by copying and pasting coloured circles over the white ones. A red circle indicates a correct word in the right place, but it does not reveal which word or position is right. A yellow circle indicates a correct word in the wrong place.Once feedback is provided, another guess is made; guesses and feedback continue to alternate until the codebreaker guesses correctly or all rows are full. Use Mastermind for any grammar, so here you can use it for to be and jobs.You get a template with my book of ESL Online Games.

13 September 2020

Here is a fun game to get your teen EFL students speaking in class and enjoying themselves. Freya Dougan-Whaite, teaching middle school in South Korea, reports back and tells us how she used the game, and the success she and her students all had. I just wanted to write and say thank you for your Detective and Thief Speaking Drill Game from your book, ESL Classroom Activities for Teens & Adults. My middle school students in South Korea absolutely love this game! Their English is quite low level, but this game gets them speaking and they all have a great time! I just have to drill the target questions and answers beforehand, and they do a great job. It's wonderful to see my students so engaged. To choose the thief, I have the students close their eyes, then I walk around the room and lightly touch a student's elbow. They find it so exciting and all desperately want to be the thief! While the 'detective' does the rounds, they all try to get involved by analyzing my footsteps, like real detectives! It's extremely fun as a teacher to watch this! Then, to add a twist to the game, I let one student be 'detective's assistant'. They are allowed to select the 'thief' while the other students' eyes are closed... they love to shuffle around and try to throw other students off track! I just wanted to share with you have much this game has added to my classroom. Today, our school opened its doors to parents and supervisors. I used this game for my lesson, and students were able to absolutely excel. This is just one game from my great book of activities for teens and adults. If you don’t have it yet, check out all the reviews on Amazon.com (and other Amazons, but the most are on the .com site). You can get it as an instant download from me directly, or as a paperback or Kindle from Amazon, see the bottom of this blog for links. Detective GameCategory Step 2 speaking drillGroup size Small group to a class of up to about 30Level Beginner to intermediateMaterials NonePreparation None How to playOne student is chosen to be the detective and one the thief. The detective has three chances to find the thief, which he or she does by asking a question to three students of his or her choosing. The question can take any question form you like, such as ‘What is your name?’ ‘Where do you live?’ ‘What were you doing last night?’ Etc. The three students answer the questions accordingly, and if one of them is the thief he or she must give himself up for arrest after answering the questions. If the detective has not found the thief after asking three questions, he or she got away, so now choose a new thief and a new detective for the next round. The above set-up works well for a small group of students. If you have a larger group, then pick more thieves and detectives to ask and answer questions simultaneously so that more people are involved in speaking. A way to spice the game up is to allow the detective to ask as many students as many questions as possible in a given time frame. If you have some kind of timer that ticks audibly, this adds an element of excitement. Allow the detective one-minute only to find the thief and then play another round with a different detective. If you divide the whole class into two teams, you can record which team finds the most thieves during the course of the game. Variation Another way in which to use this same idea but within a different scenario is to reverse the procedure. Instead of the detective trying to find the thief, you could have a situation where the student asking the question does not want to find the culprit. For example, you could have a thief who robs your house if you speak to him or her. The questioner asks three students a question. If one of those three is the thief, the detective has his or her house robbed, so that team can lose a point. Thanks for reading the blog and I hope you have fun with the game. Here are links to ESL Activities for Teens and Adults: Instant Download, Paperback or Kindle.I'm here to help if you need me, just comment on this blog, or use the contact page on this site. Looking forward to hearing from you soon,All the best,Shelley Ann Vernon

esl students discussing ideas in conversation group
8 September 2020

Hello there teachers and welcome. ESL teacher Heike Knapp, living in Prague, wrote this article for me on getting ESL discussions to work. She is a great fan of my materials and uses games and fun activities in all her classes. I hope you enjoy these tips for good conversation lessons and try out the ideas. Discussions and conversations should play a mayor role in the ESL classroom, to help students gain confidence and fluency speaking English. The question is: How to get ESL students engaged in the conversation? Often topics do not appeal, and even if they do, students are often reluctant to participate. I decided to use the topic National Holidays in Europe to stimulate discussion in my ESL classroom. The situation was tricky because four of my ESL students had suddenly been integrated into the conversation class from a different school and I knew that these teenagers experienced a deep feeling of insecurity. Moreover, there was one girl with severe learning disorders who had become completely demoralised. When planning the lesson, I kept them in mind, with a view to helping them to strengthen their self-confidence, find the courage to open up to their new classmates and enhance their ability to discuss. Having decided on the National Day topic and the objectives of the lesson, to stimulate ESL students to discuss, I turned to this book: Fun ESL Activities for Teens and Adults - (also published as a paperback) which always has helped me to find good activities to get my ideas across to my students. After a short introduction to the topic, I said that I wanted the students to feel their national identity and play a game together by way of warm up. I chose a version of Simple Simon says from the source above: On my command the students, who were walking around in the classroom, joined their hands, legs, fingers, shoulders in groups of threes, fours or fives. To make it a little harder and amusing I also tried the variation of calling out sentences describing actions: e.g. Go to the wall, sit on the desks, etc. All the students joined in readily and had fun. They became relaxed and self-confident. At this point the atmosphere was already very friendly. Next I hinted at the fact that different countries had different national days and e.g. Germany had Reunification Day. The students agreed that the Germans coming from two different political systems were likely to think about and draw comparisons with each other. The next task involved using comparisons. I put one model sentence with a comparison on the board. I divided students into two groups, each with a group leader and referee. Then the students were ready for Shelley Ann Vernon's so-called 'Speed Drill'. The Referee said a sentence using the comparative to the first student (e.g. Cologne is bigger than Munich, but the biggest city is Berlin). When the first student had pronounced the sentence properly, the second could have a try, than the third until the last finished. The team scored a point when the last student had pronounced the sentence correctly.The next activity was meant to make the students discuss and talk more about themselves. The activity is called: 'Comparatives get in order'. For this activity it is recommended that the students stand up in a line. I explained that the aim of the game was to stand in order of certain features each student had. For example I asked them to discuss among themselves who lived nearest to school. In order to get the permission to swap places, they had to say a sentence like: I live farther from school than Eva. At this moment that student and Eva could swap places. The game ended when each student had said a sentence and the class had lined up in the right order from nearest to furthest from school. The students were very engaged and there was a certain tension created by the fact that everybody wanted to find out about the other, how far he lived from school, when he usually gets up, etc.  The next activity to provoke more discussion was: 'Getting to know you'. I told my ESL students that it was essential for different people in Europe to get to know each other and to eliminate their prejudices. For this I divided the class into two groups and asked them to discuss and put down facts they thought they knew about members of the other group. I gave them some time to think and discuss this in small groups. At this point the class atmosphere was already really relaxed and it was obvious that the students did not feel inhibited to talk about their suppositions and they were not shy to ask me for words. When they were ready the groups started to tell the other group the things they presumed to be true about other their colleagues: e.g. Jana does not like to study German. If the sentence was true and the person agreed, the group scored a point. The last game was 'Bucket Game'. The group was divided into four teams and got an envelope with a quiz about a European cities. They were asked to solve the quiz as quickly as they could, put it back into the envelope and than pass it to another group after putting the group name on the envelope. In the end I read out the solutions and the each group checked the results of a different team. Then each group gave feedback on what the other group: e.g. you knew 8 out of 10, that's great. And so on. In this lesson I tried to make the topic national holiday meaningful to my students. Playing games made them feel relaxed and comfortable. Even though the students did not know each other well, by playing games they opened up and at the end of the lesson they were ready and self-confident to discuss and even the shy and insecure ones began to use the language. Get all these activities, games and tips, and many more in this great book, tried and tested by 10,000s of teachers. Instant download version Fun ESL Activities for Teens and Adults and paperback.

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: