3 Fun ESL Grammar Activities
Teaching and learning grammar is definitely one ESL element teachers and students alike will not put on their favourite list. It can be really difficult to even explain simple grammatical concepts to students whose first language isn’t English. Also, making activities or games fun is a challenge. That is why I’ve put together this list of 3 fun ESL grammar activities. But before we delve into those, let’s briefly look at why your students need grammar games.
3 Reasons You Need Grammar Games
Grammar games and activities are just as important (if not more!) than the input sessions in which you explain the grammar point they need to learn. While memorization has its part to play in learning grammar for your students, fun ESL grammar activities is definitely the much better way to go – and a much more interesting one at that!
Let’s look at the benefits of including fun grammar games in your lessons:
- Grammar makes things interesting. When you ESL learners are able to apply the grammar they have learned and use fun ways to practice it, they are more likely to retain what they have learned. Fun activities make learning interesting, and I’m sure we’d all prefer to learn anything in life if it doesn’t always feel like work, but rather play.
- Use your student’s pent-up energy for games. Doing fun grammar activities with your students is a great way to break up a lesson and take the focus away from you as the teacher. Students with pent up energy also then get to release all of that energy and do something constructive with it.
- Aid competition and social skills among your students. Games and activities, for grammar and other English elements, are there not only for them to learn, but also to foster their competitive streaks and develop social skills. If there is a cool reward at the end of an ESL grammar activity, your students may even try harder than they normally do to win.
3 Fun ESL Grammar Activities & Games
Not all games and activities will work with your class, but it is nevertheless important to try them out. Make a list of favourites that your students enjoy and see if you can adapt them and use them for more than just grammar practice.
Lots of teachers ask, “how do you teach grammar with fun?” These 3 ESL grammar games will help you with just that.
1. Board Games
You can easily adapt board games to suit a variety of lessons. I’m going to use Snakes and Ladders here as an example of a fun ESL grammar activity.
What to prepare:
- Some cards with the grammar you want your students to practice. These can include prompts to which they must give a correct example sentence of the grammar point, questions about the grammar they need to answer, incorrect sentences they need to correct, and so forth.
- If you don’t have Snakes and Ladder boards, print these off from the Internet or prepare them yourself.
- Have dice and tokens ready for each group.
How to play:
- Students can play in pairs or in small groups of three to four. Each student needs a token, and for each group, no student can have the same coloured token.
- Students start at the bottom left corner or #1 and decide who goes first.
- Student #1 needs to correctly complete the activity on the card and can then roll the dice and move their token so many spaces on the Snakes and Ladders board.
- It is then Student #2’s turn. If this student doesn’t complete the card’s activity correctly, they forfeit their chance to roll the dice.
- Each student takes turns with the board’s usual ladders and snakes helping or hindering them from moving ahead regardless of answering the card correctly.
- First student to get to the top of the board wins.
2. Points Shooting
Another fun activity you can adapt to any class. It is also more physical in nature, making it especially great for young learners.
What to prepare:
- You need as many trash cans or baskets as you will have groups of students playing.
- You’ll also need plastic balls, bouncy balls, or crushed up pieces of paper.
- Prepare questions the students need to answer in relation to the grammar point or grammar review exercise. If you are letting the students play in groups, prepare these on cards with the correct answers.
How to play:
- Play as a class first so you can model the activity if it is your first time playing it with your students.
- Once they get the hang of it, divide your students in groups of two to four.
- Pass out groups of the Q&A cards to your groups. Have the students decide in which order they are playing.
- Student #1 needs to correctly answer the question on the card that you prepared and then they can shoot their ball. If they score, they get 6 points, and if they miss but answered correctly, they get 3 points. One person in each group needs to be responsible for scoring.
- It is then person #2’s turn, and so on.
- You can decide on a reward for the group who got the most points.
3. Johnny Grammar Word Challenge
This game is probably better for intermediate and advanced students but you may be able to adapt it to younger students. While the game is available in the Google Play and App Store and you can motivate your students to practice and play at home, you can modify it as a classroom game. The purpose is for the groups to answer as many questions correctly in a limited amount of time.
What to prepare:
- Cards with grammar-related questions. This can cover what you are currently teaching or as a review game.
- Timers for each group.
How to play:
- Divide your students in pairs or small groups. Hand out a set of cards to each group and a timer to each group. (If you don’t have enough timers, then everyone can play at the same time and you need to be the “timer”.)
- Show them how to play. One student asks another the question on the card and then the next student, and so forth. The students need to try go through all the questions in a specific-period of time, e.g. 60 seconds or 2 minutes.
- You can walk around and moderate. Do a quick review at the end and you can decide if you want to introduce a reward for the group that performs the best.
From these three examples you can see that it isn’t difficult to make fun activities grammar related and you can even adapt online games to suit your needs in the classroom.
About the author
Denine W is a freelance EFL teacher, writer, and editor/proofreader. She taught EFL to young learners (from kindergarten to high school students) in Taiwan and to adults and young learners in an online EFL environment. In whatever free time is left, she likes to read, plan her next trip abroad, scrapbook, and do online grammar quizzes.