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

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.www.ajeeojee.com/esl-for-adults - (also available 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.      

boy playing development game at kindergarten
29 November 2019

Children aged 4-6 are: new to school, cannot analyze language yet, have limited motor skills, have limited reading and writing skills in L1, don't see any reason to learn English, and learn holistically. Brave New World It is quite a challenge for a small child to go out into the world alone aged 4-6!  Use plenty of classroom routines, like opening and closing rituals, circle time, storytime, friendly toys and puppets, familiar chants and songs, since these are reassuring, all-inclusive group activities. Group kids together at tables rather than using individual desks. Teaching language in chunks4-6-year olds cannot analyze language yet, so there is no point in attempting to explain grammar or parts of speech. Instead, teach vocabulary and chunks of language. Whole phrases like How are you? and the reply, I’m fine thanks, are perfect.  Rhymes, songs and chants are reassuring to kids because they can join in without feeling vulnerable, they can pick them up gradually through many repetitions, join in with meaningful actions, and create a bond with the group through this communal experience.Chants are fun and easy to make up. For a sure-fire success, invent chants with your pupils as characters. Here is Juan, he likes football, kick a ball, kick a ball, kick, kick, kick. Here is Mercedes, she likes music, sing-a-long, sing-a-long, sing, sing, sing. All kids join in with the actions for each person. Just see how chuffed they are when it is their turn!Songs are brilliant teaching tools. Kids can pick up chunks of language, participate through actions and play games to music. Old Macdonald Had a Farm has been a hit since it was composed, back in 1917. Wow, over 100 years later this folk song isn’t even out of date! I guess farms, cows, sheep, pigs, and horses are common around the world. It’s handy for long-vowel sounds, like moo and baa, and of course the ee-i-ee-i-o. It’s a classic and my own version of this song is musically pleasing, (because there are some pretty plinkety-plonk versions online) and I always laugh in the final chorus with all the animals joining in enthusiastically!   Listen to extract. While working on farms and this song, kids can do simple crafts and make farm animals typical for their country. Avoid getting bogged down in technical craftsTheir motor skills are limited so avoid scissors and keep any crafts simple, otherwise you will be flat out doing the crafts for 26 kids yourself, while everyone gets frustrated! Colouring, gluing, tracing around letters, help children develop eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills, and they can get on with these on their own, leaving you free to supervise. Go gently with reading and writing in EnglishTheir reading and writing skills are limited in their native language so rather than flogging them to read and write in English, it's better to focus on listening and speaking activities. However, if teaching reading and writing is an obligatory part of the curriculum, then make it fun. Use reading & word recognition games, where kids match written words to objects, play musical word flashcards, run and touch written words, find another pupil with the same word, draw words out of a box and sort them into piles, spot the difference between two similar words…act words. For writing, tracing over letters and words is an excellent way to gently introduce writing in English.Motivation to learn EnglishAt this age, children don’t understand that they are learning English to gain the capacity to communicate with a greater chunk of the world population, and perhaps even have better employment prospects. In fact, they will see little reason to communicate in English. Playing games in English is a way of making this new language have meaning. Since 4-6-year-olds absolutely love playing games, this is a dead-cert way to get them interested in using English in class. As well as learning English through games, kids will be learning to cooperate with each other, be part of a team, take turns and follow rules. I don’t recommend any form of competition at this age. It can be stressful and counter-productive. Children play for the sake of the game, not to win. Don't sit back and turn the pages of a textbookChildren learn holistically, through pictures, movement, sound, music, singing, touch, and textures, stories, imagination, pretend play, fun, exploration, and games. Sitting in front of a book isn’t going to cut it! Stories are always popular, and especially popular are stories about animals. Children should get involved in the story-telling by acting the animals, making animal noises at appropriate moments, using cuddly animal toys as story characters, which only speak English, and thus give the kids a real reason to speak English, so they can communicate with the toy. Any of my story teaching kits will give you all of the above. Just follow the lesson plans and you'll have all the ingredients to capture the attention of your class. Each kit has flashcards, games, stories, lesson plans, songs, and role-play ideas. Follow along and you'll be a great success! Plus, your kids will learn English, enjoy it and like you as a teacher. Please find links to a choice of kits here.

24 November 2019

This speaking game is called "Find the Pairs Memory Game". It's also known as Pelmanism, Match Match, Match Up, Memory, Shinkei-suijaku and Pexeso. Use this in small groups or for one to one, to teach your pupil vocabulary and sentences. It's a classic game and I used to love it as a kid with lovely animal pictures. I still love it today, so you could use it with adult learners too.MaterialsYou need lots of pictures for this game. If you have plenty of time, you can have fun drawing these with your child or cut pictures out of magazines. You can also buy sets in toy stores. I have hundreds of flashcards for sale, in A4 and including a small size, which is easy to print and just what you need for this game. Here are examples from my transport collection:Either way, you need two sets of identical pictures. Or if pictures are not identical then you still need PAIRS. So you need two lions, even if they are not the same, or two spoons, or two pictures of shirts, and so on.How to playSpread the cards out in a grid and take it in turns to turn over two cards, trying to remember where they are in the grid. (Some people play with the cards spread randomly, but that is harder.) The idea is to turn up a pair, and the player who does that keeps the pair and takes another turn. If you find you are much better at this game than your pupil, then make a rule where when you turn up a pair, you keep it, but do not get another turn. That makes it harder for you to win.Language ideas for this gameWhen turning over the cards, players name the vocabulary on the picture. That's the simplest method and is best for when you are drilling newly learned vocabulary. You might also do singular and plural, for example, one horse, two horses. However, a good way to use this game is to drill short phrases or sentences that contain specific grammar. In that case, you use vocabulary that you already know and combine that with a new phrase or grammatical structure.Don't make the sentences long or the game will be laborious.Insist on absolute accuracy. This is a drill-game, not a general conversation. Accuracy is most important so that the pupil learns the correct structure and becomes fluent using it.If it becomes too easy for your pupil, change to a different sentence mid-game.If you use my small-sized flashcards (or prepare your own) you need to print them on 220-gram card. Either that or stick them on card before cutting up the A4 sheet or you will be able to make out the pictures, even when face down. In the demo, starting at 1 minute 40 seconds in, on www.www.ajeeojee.com/how-to-teach-a-child-to-speak-english you will see Julie and I drilling word order for adjectives: "a big brown lion, two orange tigers". One could use those same animal pictures for any verb tense and a whole host of phrases or sentences. For example: "At the zoo, I saw (turn over the first picture) a tiger and (turn over the second picture)...a bear." "Tomorrow we will see a tiger and a bear". Or, for a more advanced student, "If I could see any animal in the world right now, then I'd like to see a...tiger and a...bear". Basically, it's up to you what language you use with this game. Your imagination is the limit! If you need help, please ask me in the comments below, and I'll be glad to come up with something for you.Use it for spellingOf course one can play this with words instead of pictures, and that is good for spelling. A nice idea is to combine the picture of a lion with the written word and that makes a pair. You have to write the words out on card the same size as the pictures or it'll be too easy!One to one games book for more games like thisSo do watch this game on the demo if you have not already seen it and think about getting the whole book of 140 games because you can see two whole hours of lessons demonstrated and really see how to teach English through games. Don't wait any longer - get going right away with the full resource. Your child is getting older by the week so get started now!! Enjoy the game! All the bestShelley 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: 
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