More Hands-on Activities and
for Teaching English
Students learn in a variety of ways, so it is important to teach using
multiple methods. Teaching
activities and games can help language students learn and practice new
vocabulary, grammar, ideas, and concepts.
Hands-on activities and classroom
games encourage creativity, communication, and collaboration. If
students are working with partners or in small teams, they have to
collaborate and communicate to complete the task. Students can practice
their English speaking skills.
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In our first article in this series, we described seven activities to
engage your students in learning English. You can read that article
here: Hands-on Activities for Teaching English.
Incorporating hands-on activities into
plans is key to
reaching a variety of students.
Here are seven more simple activities and games to get students moving
and learning in the English classroom. These activities can be used by
teachers, parents, tutors, study groups, and home-school teachers to help English
language students learn and practice new vocabulary,
Parts of the body
This is an easy game for reviewing
parts of the body in English.
The class will be divided into small
groups of three to four students. Before class, make sets of word cards
using note cards or sticky notes. Write one body part on each card.
Make one set for each group. If you use note cards, you will also need
tape for each group.
Divide your class into small groups of three or four students. Each
group gets one set of cards. One student in the group is the model, and
the other group members will attach cards to the correct body part of
the model. Set the timer for about 5 minutes. When the time starts, the
other group members stick the cards to the correct body part on
When time is up, the teacher can check cards for each group. Read all
of the cards out loud and award one point for each correct answer.
Students enjoy this activity, and there will be lots of laughs!
Move to music
This is a great way to get students
out of their chairs and communicating. Teachers can use this activity
with any topic and at any time with little preparation.
The instructions are simple. When the music begins, the students get up and randomly walk around the classroom. When
the music stops, students turn to their nearest classmate to discuss a
topic or answer.
I like to use this activity with discussion questions. I ask a
question, then turn on the music. As students are walking, they can
think about their answer. When the music stops, they find their partner
and discuss the answer.
This is also a great icebreaker activity for a new class. When the
music stops, students take turns introducing themselves and answering
questions given by the teacher.
Sound chain / Phonic chain
This is an easy way to review phonics
and letter sounds. The whole class sits in a circle. One student says a
word. The next student must say a word that starts with the last sound
of the previous word. To make this more difficult, choose a topic or
category for all the words: boy’s names, animals, things found in a
Topic: things found in a kitchen
Student 1: knife (ends with f sound)
Student 2: food (begins with f sound; ends with d sound)
Student 3: drinks (begins with d sound; ends with s sound)
Student 4: soap (begins with s sound; ends with p sound)
Student 5: pan (begins with p sound; ends with n sound)
Continue around the circle until everyone has contributed or until you
run out of words. For a variation, you could eliminate students when
they can’t think of a word and the final student playing is the winner.
Scoring is optional.
This is a fun game for intermediate
and advanced students. It is an easy way to review questions and
vocabulary. To play 20 questions, one person (the player) thinks of an
object, and the rest of the class can ask 20 questions in an effort to
guess what it is. The player must tell the class the category (person,
place, or thing). Optional: The object must be in sight.
The class asks the player questions that can be answered with "yes",
"no", "sometimes", or "I don’t know." Students can guess the mystery
object at any time, but that counts as one of the 20 questions. The
winner is the student who correctly guesses the object, or if nobody
correctly guesses, then the player wins.
The traveling game
This activity is a fun way to review
vocabulary and the alphabet while practicing sentences. This game is
known by many names including "the shopping game," "I took my basket
shopping," "I packed my suitcase," and "camping trip." You can use any
version of this game to review vocabulary in many topics. The words don't necessarily have to make sense with the category.
Player 1: I’m taking a trip, and I’m going to pack an apple.
Player 2: I’m taking a trip, and I’m going to pack an apple and a book.
Player 3: I’m taking a trip, and I’m going to pack an apple, a book,
and a cap.
Player 4: I’m taking a trip, and I’m going to pack an apple, a book, a
cap, and deodorant.
Continue around the circle, using the entire alphabet.
For variations, use sentences in different tenses and different
Yesterday, I went shopping and bought a…
- Tomorrow, I will go shopping, and I will buy…
- Last year, I traveled to Australia and brought back…
Fun with synonyms: guess the word
Use this activity to review vocabulary
and practice synonyms. Give each students note cards or sticky notes and 1-3 vocabulary words from the
unit you wish to review. Students must
write down the word and 4-5 synonyms on the card.
Then, students will
read the synonyms on their cards, and the rest of the class will guess
the vocabulary word. For a variation, the teacher can read the synonyms
and students can write the vocabulary word, or you can play in teams.
As the teacher reads the synonyms, the first team to buzz in and answer
with the correct word wins a point!
Bingo is an easy and fun way to review
vocabulary and can be used with any topic. You can find printable blank
Bingo boards online or have your students draw their own (usually 5 squares X 5
squares but can be any size you wish).
Give your students a list of vocabulary words. They use the words to fill
in their Bingo boards, leaving one or two
free spaces (not in the same row).
You will also need markers. If you plan to re-use boards, students can
use small objects such as candy, pennies, or dried beans as markers. If the boards are only used one
time, students can mark the words with a pen or pencil.
After the Bingo boards are completed, the teacher reads definitions for
vocabulary words as the students cover the correct word with a marker.
The first student to complete an entire row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), yells, "Bingo" and wins. You can continue to
play until more students win or start over.
This game could also be combined with Fun with Synonyms after
students create their synonym cards.