Sometimes ESL teachers come to their lesson on teaching pronouns, only to find that their students do not know what a pronoun is! If your students have not learned the basic grammatical concepts of their own language, you’ll have to integrate teaching parts of speech in your class.
Students can learn to use pronouns in speech without knowing what they are. For example, as kids, we learned our native tongue before we studied grammar in school. Therefore, teaching pronouns in context, in sentences is the way forward, and pupils will learn to use them. However, your school may require you to teach grammar as a topic. If so, you’ll find the following fun games for teaching pronouns helpful.
Finding cool ways to teach pronouns
Start by listing these pronouns on the board: I, you, he, she. Then, bring up a boy and a girl to the front. (Should you happen to have a gender-confused child, please don’t pick them for this task!) Use a picture if you are missing either one. Next, have pupils stand in pairs and give an action for each pronoun, such as:
I – point to oneself.
You – point to the student you are pairing with. Use a hand, an arrow, or a suitable gesture if pointing is unacceptable.
He – point to the boy at the front on the left.
She – point to the girl at the front on the right. Place them far apart, so there is no doubt or confusion as to where students are pointing.
Say these over and over while students point. Of course, those at the front are doing it too.
In this lesson, only teach I, you, he, and she. Drill these thoroughly through games until they are automatic.
It’s better to teach less and have students remember more than teach everything so they retain nothing or confuse the pronouns.
Here’s a miming game for drilling pronouns. Ask, “Who is playing football?” Have a class member mime playing football; let’s say it’s a girl. You say, “She is.” Write this on the board. Repeat with a different question such as, “Who is writing?” Choose a student to mime writing. “He is.” Repeat the idea with “I am” and “You are.” Then mix all four up and practise. Using miming, pointing, and speaking make the meaning of these pronouns real. It’s much easier to understand and retain a concept by acting, being, and living it. In the next lesson, revise first, and add we, and they.
We – indicate oneself and the student one is pairing with
They – point to the group of boys and girls at the front.
Play a game where students race to demonstrate the pronoun you name in groups. For I all students point to themselves. For you, all students point to their pair, looking at each other. For we students jump together, interlocking elbows and using both hands to indicate both of them. For ‘they,’ students jump into a group of three and point to a different group of three.
Play the memory game, “Which one has gone?” At the front of class place a boy (he), a girl (she), a group of three (they), a person pointing at himself (I), a pair of students pointing at themselves (we), and the teacher (that’s you). Check understanding by indicating each configuration while the class name the appropriate pronoun. Ask students to close their eyes and hide their faces in their arms. Quickly shuffle the groups at the front. Then hide one of the individuals or groups. Either have them hide behind your desk or put a sheet over them while they crouch down. Ask the class to open their eyes and tell you which one is missing.
It might be a bit chaotic, and you might feel this is time-consuming, but wouldn’t you prefer your pupils to grasp these pronouns once and for all rather than be making mistakes for a long time until they sink in via the textbook?
Teaching parts of speech with more games
At this point, I would play more games from the book to drill short sentences with pronouns – for example, Abracadanagram from 176 English Language Games for Children. Or use any of the drill games from my teen and adult games book or online games book.
Reinforce all the listening and speaking games with writing games – see the games books for ideas.
Let me know how it goes!
All the best, Shelley Ann Vernon
Games and Activities for Teens and AdultsProduct on sale
ESL Online Games€19.97
ESL Games book for primary & middle school childrenProduct on sale
For further games to teach pronouns, here is a post on teaching the possessive pronouns mine and yours.