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

christmas carol singers in front of a house
20 November 2019

Around November time teachers often ask me for lesson ideas with a Christmas theme. From my resources, there is a Christmas story, Christmas songs and Christmas skits. Details below...Firstly, I do sell a Christmas story for young children, from age 3 up to about age 8. It comes with a lesson plan made of games and flashcards. It's in instant download (best value)...or in paperback on Amazon, but the flashcards and lesson plan are downloads.Secondly, I do have two Christmas songs on my album for Special Days. They include masks, such as Santa (Father Christmas), reindeer and other masks.ESL Song 1 Christmas Day   Listen to mp3Tells part of the story where Hetty wakes up excited and there are presents under the tree.ESL Song 2 Christmas Eve   Listen to mp3Christmas Eve is a time for love, a time to give and to give thanks. Christmas Plays or SkitsThirdly, three of the skits (at least) in my book of plays and skits, may be tweaked to reflect Christmas time. Here they are:Ready Steady Go skit. You can get this free right here. Scroll down a bit and look for the link where it says to download your free skit. Set the scene. Kids are getting in the car or bus to go Christmas carol singing, or to the Christmas service at church or to a Christmas party at friends. Kids can forget items related to Christmas. For example, those going to church could forget their hymn book, their bag, their money for the church donation. Those going to the party could forget their presents, the Christmas crackers, decorations for the tree, the Christmas pudding, their reindeer hat...and so on.If you have my skits book then there's the Story Time play where the mum keeps coming up because the kids will not go to sleep. It could be Christmas eve, they could all have their stockings on their beds, (and my "It's Christmas Eve" song could be playing. The kids try to sleep but they can't. They keep calling mum or dad back to be sure that Father Christmas is coming, and not being able to sleep because they are so excited.With the Let's Go For A Walk skit, start the play with the best student saying, "I want to open my presents but we can't open them yet" And the other kids say "me too". They sign heavily and complain of being bored then follow the play script until the end. At the end when they decide to go to the sweet shop they go there but it's closed. And so by now, it's time to open the presents. The kids say "Let's open our presents." "Yes let's" and they rush off stage to open their presents, then they run back on and say Happy Christmas to the audience. So you take the normal script and throw in a few Christmas elements like the stocking and having it on Christmas Eve and bingo, there's your Christmas play. 

18 November 2019

This useful easy game is great fun one to one. (If you are teaching groups not 1:1, click here for the group version.) In the photo above, Anna and I are holding a scarf - you may use a rope, a piece of string, an old rag or even an item of clothing (not your best jumper!) if you do not have a scarf. I start by prancing around the garden, pulling on the scarf quite hard and spinning Anna, so she has to run to keep up and hold on. (You can see this on the video link lower down.) She loves it and shrieks with delight. Meanwhile, I call out different animal names, which we have already practised with Jump the Line and other easy listening games. Anna has to hold on to the scarf and cannot let go until she hears the key phrase "I'm hungry!" Only when Anna hears this can she let go of the scarf and run to safety, touching the tree before I catch her.  Use any words or phrases for this game. Choose any sentence or word as your key phrase. This can be played indoors too but it's best with some space. When I call out "I'm hungry", I chase Anna and just fail to catch Anna, (when of course I could easily have caught her) - but I JUST miss - that makes it exciting for her and she screams in delight. Enjoy this game, but check out these tips first, to make sure everything goes smoothly: Start gently saying the words calmly. Once your pupil has the hang of the game you may start to speed up your movements and the words that you say.To keep the child on edge and in suspense and make the game more exciting, try to trick the pupil into letting go of the scarf by pretending you are going to catch him or her, but you say a normal work and not "I'm hungry".  Don't use that technique with 3-year-olds or shy kids, go gently. Adapt how you play to the age and the temperament of your child.In this step two listening game, the pupil needs to be able to recognize the words before you play. It's not a game you would use to introduce new words. It's excellent for revision and also as part of the learning process once you have played a couple of step one listening games.I strongly recommend that you never catch your pupil - at least not until he or she is at least eight years old. Younger children cannot handle losing and they usually see it as a terrible sign of failure. It can cause floods of tears and put them off English! Remember they are sensitive little beings who have not been on earth for long so be gentle. SiblingsIf you have siblings this can be played with two children holding the end of the scarf. Take care though if one child is particularly small and frail that the older one does not knock them over in the excitement of the game. If this could be a risk for you then let the children take it in turns holding the scarf. VideoOn this link you can watch the game in action, right at the start of the video:www.teachingenglishgames.com/how-to-teach-a-child-to-speak-english Help: If you like this game, here are more!Gain the knowledge to put your child on a bilingual journey with my *140* fun games for one to one.Included! 3 videos over 2 hours of demonstration lessons. In instant download from me on this link. Or in paperback from most Amazon websites and other online book retailers, or order it from your local bookstore. ISBN-13: 978-1479354795.I'm here to help if you need me. Just ask in the comments box below and I'll reply to you. I'll be delighted to help.Shelley Ann Vernon,Teaching English Games 

teacher playing listening game with children using scarves drawing
17 November 2019

This fun game may be used to consolidate vocabulary and grammar. Use it with young children in small groups and one to one. There is a variant for larger classes. ListenCategory: Step 2 listeningGroup: Variants for small and big groupsSpace: Yes for small group variation, no for big groupPace: ExcitableMaterials: None, but props enhance the fun How to Play - small group variationStand in a space with learners around you. Children should be close enough to touch you with an outstretched hand. It is fun to play with props. Tie scarves around you, with each child holding on to the end of a scarf. Although this kind of prop is optional, the children love it. You may have two or perhaps three children holding on to the same scarf. Another option is to stand on a square of coloured paper, with children touching that square with one foot. Pupils must stay touching you, holding the scarf, or with one foot in the coloured square, until you say a magic word. When you say that word, try and ‘catch’ one of the children before they escape, releasing the scarf and running away to one of the classroom walls. When children reach a wall, they are safe. As an example, start by telling learners the magic word ‘mother’. Say ‘father, brother, sister, grandmother ... mother!’ When you say ‘mother,’ children run off, and you try and touch one of them. You could just try and touch a child before he or she has let go of you, or the scarf, without you moving from the spot. Alternatively, chase after a child, who must reach a wall before you touch him or her. • It is generally best never to catch the children, as it can make them feel as though they have failed, so be sensitive to this, but do make convincing attempts to catch them and just miss!• If you have a strong group member let him or her take your role in the game.• Be careful that the children are not too close to each other so that they do not bump one another during the game.• Add variety by changing the way you say the words. Use a flat monotone for several words and then, suddenly, say a word with great enthusiasm. This alone can make some children let go of you even though you did not say the magic word.• Vary the game by changing the setup. For example, you may have pupils seated around you on the floor. When they hear the magic word, they get up and move away to safety. Another idea is to have children balance on one leg while listening for the magic word, and then clap and run away when they hear it. If a child cannot balance, or forgets to clap before running away, he or she does a forfeit.• If children become too noisy, play a couple of rounds in total silence (aside from the teacher). Being silent becomes part of the game. How to play - Larger group variationTo use this idea in a classroom situation, where you have desks and chairs, use the magic word idea as described above, but this time the children sit down when they hear the magic word. The last one to sit down, if it’s obvious, does a forfeit. Language ideas to use with this gameThis game lends itself to any vocabulary. You may use short sentences, not just single words. For example, ‘train’ could be the magic word. Say ‘I like buses, I like cars, I like planes, I like … trains!’ To teach the past continuous, the magic word could be ‘reading’. Say sentences such as ‘I was driving; I was walking; I was reading!’ If you like this game, here are more!For fun listening and speaking games get my book of preschool games. Click this link to get it in instant PDF download. If you prefer paperback, you'll find iti on most Amazon sites, and other online retailers, or order it from your local bookstore. ISBN-13 978-1541133396. For reviews and recommendations on this book see my reviews page, or Amazon."I totally recommend this book and I have been so happy and stress-free since I bought it. It gave me a clear understanding of how to teach pre-school kids. I am a new ESL teacher who was "freaking out" before reading it. Now I am a happy teacher looking forward to my lessons with my pupils. I will keep this book forever with me and it is my number 1 resource. I am just a little bit sad that I didn’t discover it earlier, it would have made my first months so more enjoyable and relaxed. I like the structure and the extra advice inside, contrary to other books, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking over the activities as it presents them so clearly. It improved my planning time and the quality of my lessons. I am now a happy customer, I also bought other resources from the author and they are really great. I love the stories and the fact that they come with clear lesson plans and resources already made, just have to press print. I prefer to laminate mine. Thank you so much for creating such fantastic resources." Jessica Duguet Souber-Broglio, France,

kids perform funny sketch with umbrellas in the wind
6 November 2019

* I often receive these questions, so here's a blog on the topic: " In the summer I bought your Fun ESL Roleplays and Skits for children. I'm experimenting with incorporating more drama into my primary groups this year and I really like how simple your funny sketches are. I was wondering how you introduce the idea of working towards a play with your learners. Do you explain in their mother tongue? Again, along these lines, I was wondering if you have a bank of videos of your plays, or would that inhibit creativity?" Answering the easy part first, yes, thanks to generous gifts from teachers using my sketches, there is a bank of videos included free with the book of role-plays. You can see a couple here. I included these for teachers, to give them confidence to use fun sketches to teach English. But why not show them to the kids? That would make for a useful listening activity. Though I do agree with the teacher above, that the video may inhibit creativity and spoil the gradual discovery of the sketch, so perhaps show it towards the end of preparations.  Next, to incorporate drama, students make gestures and sounds, concentrating on being expressive. Speaking is often not a part of these warm-ups. Students might practise acting surprised, or making a freeze-frame group image of a situation. Theatre games include a lot of movement, such as pretending to be a leaf blown about in the wind or fighting with a vacuum cleaner that is sucking up the curtains! Check the intro of my skits book and the Viola Spoilin warm-up theatre games. With these, the focus is on acting rather than learning English.  And now, there is the question on working towards a role play with young learners. The important thing to ask is, are you being paid to teach English, drama, or both? If the main goal is to teach English, do not lose sight of that. When I use plays, I use them mainly to teach English rather than drama, so acting is a side issue, and I don't focus on it particularly. If you have kids for a summer camp and drama is part of your objective, then go for it. Theatre games can help students gain confidence in general, a great asset for life. However, if time is short and you want maximum results with English, then here is how I proceed... First prepare the kids as usual, doing listening and speaking games to introduce and learn the key vocab and phrases by heart. This should take a full lesson, though it may take more depending on the age and ability of your class. (Click here for my book of games ideal for this preparation phase.) After that main lesson, do fifteen minutes of each lesson on the sketch, using the rest of the lesson for a different topic. This keeps your lessons varied and saves you flogging the skit to death. Take a part of each lesson to review and have kids perform short role-plays using two to four lines from the skit. Gradually piece more of the play together, and eventually do a couple of run-throughs. Towards the end, sometimes after six lessons, introduce props but only at the end, because they are so distracting. Kids get so absorbed in the props that they can forget their lines and kill the flow of the play. By spreading out the skit preparation over several lessons you achieve a lasting result as far as students' acquisition of English. The constant review and gradual increase in confidence and fluency help students remember the skit vocabulary and grammar for life. Personally, I always do this work without the script. Kids learn everything by heart through language games and rehearsal. If you give out the script, kids will never have to make the mental effort to memorize their lines, and as for acting, forget it, they need to be liberated from the page to be free. Do I explain things to students in their mother tongue? Yes, I tell students that we were going to prepare a funny sketch as part of a show because it is always a motivator. Then we perform the sketch, either at the school assembly or in front of parents or other classes. It doesn't matter how or where, as long as you perform it for others. On the other hand if you don't speak the native language, that's OK. Actions speak louder than words, so just do it! When I taught in Nepal there was no explanation, we just did it - learned the vocab, put the skit together. The kids absolutely loved it and applauded the lesson at the end. They don't really need any explanations! LOL! Don't be a perfectionist, just get stuck in and see how it goes. Unless your mandate is to teach drama, focus on teaching English and leave drama as a perk. If you are being paid to be an English teacher, you must make that your priority. Don't spend half the lesson on drama techniques, you won't get as far with the English. Take maybe 5 minutes for drama warm ups - saying a sentence angrily, then sadly, then happily, then reluctantly, etc. That's a valid drama activity because it works on language fluency at the same time. Even without acting, kids love my funny sketches, and even the shy ones get involved. If you need any help, please ask me in the comments box below (your email is kept 100% private). I'll be happy to help. All the best, Shelley Ann Vernon.  

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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

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