Thanks to Jitka in the Tcheque Republic for the two videos.
ESL Plays EFL Plays ESL Drama For Children Learning English Fun ESL skits
Adaptable Humorous Easy to put on
30 Fun ESL skits and plays for children learning English.
Age: Children aged 4 to 12
Number of pupils: From 1 child only to a group of 15
Level: Scripts are written for beginners and can be adapted for higher levels
From Shelley Ann Vernon
Hello and welcome to this page on ESL plays for children. Find out just how much ESL drama can bring to your lessons, help your pupils learn and keep the motivation and fun factor high.
If you are teaching children in small groups or private one to one lessons this is for you
Discover tips and insights into using plays for ESL and EFL
Get a free ESL play script to use in your next class
Think about it. You're sitting there scratching your head and racking your brains about something fun that you can do to teach and practise possessives or the future tense and not much is springing to mind!
Well if you've got my classroom games then you'll have plenty of ammo for class time, but ESL skits and plays are the icing on the cake. Children love them, and so do the parents and the school.
ESL / EFL plays are ideal for including as part of an end of term show to parents or to the whole school. Keep the group motivation high, increase your credibility as a teacher and ensure that parents keep sending their children to your classes.
Let's hear the excuses for not using ESL plays
- "Plays look like too much fun, where's my textbook?! Learning English should be laborious and hard work."
- "The children will make too much noise and I won't be able to control their every word and move."
- "I don't have time for that, I've got 26 units to get through this term!"
- "I can't use plays to teach English because I can't act for toffee!"
The problem with those excuses
It is unlikely that anyone would disagree that the most effective way to teach ESL children is to provide them with opportunities to learn English in the context of everyday situations with the emphasis on communicational skills.
And what else does an ESL play do but that?
Young children use drama naturally. They are always in the land of make-believe: "this is our house, and this is the baby, she is just born and she has to sleep now". They assign roles and direct the action: "I'll be the mommy and I'm going shopping. You're the daddy; you have to go to work!" And they slip in and out of multiple roles: "now it's my turn to be the teacher".
Older children love being part of something. Preparing an ESL play together is a bonding experience for the group. All children are involved, from the shyest to the most outspoken and all contribute to the final outcome. Children want to belong and being part of a play allows that to happen.
You don't have time not to use ESL plays. Drama is not an addition to your 26 units, but a method of teaching them more effectively. It does not matter if you can't act - the children will be doing the acting and they are the experts!
Proven benefits of ESL Drama
Aside from direct benefits for learning English, which we're going to look at lower down, using creative drama makes students more skilled and more rounded individuals.
One of the findings of a three-year study funded by the Guggenheim museum in 2006, Teaching Literacy through Art, showed that including arts education increases fundamental literacy skills in elementary school students. Students involved in these programmes also "scored higher on expression, risk-taking, creativity, imagination and cooperative learning."
ESL plays provide practical experience in communicating, they give children the opportunity to learn to work together and to be part of something, to belong in a group and to develop tolerance and empathy as they begin to see the world from different perspectives. They promote active learning, enriching and reinforcing their more traditional school experiences. In addition most children are excited by the prospect of performing in front of others as a chance to be the center of attention. So, when it comes to teaching English as a second language, no matter the age of the student, drama and children are a winning combination.
Why should we use plays for teaching English?
First of all, it's authentic. Using drama enables children to use English appropriately in real conversations. English is taught in the context in which it will be used, which makes students aware of the language first and foremost as a means of communication and which is far removed from lists of vocabulary, work-sheets and textbooks.
The conversational use of language in an ESL play script promotesfluency. While learning a play, children listen to and repeat their lines over a period of time. By repeating the words and phrases they become familiar with them and are able to say them with increasing fluency.
ESL Drama also teaches children to enunciate their words properly and to project their voices when they speak, helping them to become clear and confident speakers.
Using drama to teach English also helps to improve the understanding and retention of language. By the time a child has read, rehearsed and acted out a scene focusing on the phrase "I've forgotten my..." there is little likelihood of ever forgetting how to use it in context. The same would not hold true if the verb "to forget" had been memorised by rote for a vocabulary test.
The active participation required in an ESL drama lesson involves not only the intellect but also children's imagination and emotions. By encouraging self-expression, drama motivates children to use language confidently and creatively.
Drama allows children to tap into different learning styles - visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. Hearing the lines, seeing the actions, feeling the props, acting out movements and using expression all make the lesson a far richer one.
ESL plays are ideal for mixed ability groups. Children whose language skills are still very limited can be given fewer lines and in addition are given the opportunity to communicate using nonverbal cues such as body movements and facial expressions.
How ESL plays help with student motivation
"I have been using your plays with 5 year-old kindergarten students and the result is absolutely fantastic! They are not just having fun during the role-play, they have also started using the structures from the plays in various situations outside the classroom, at play-time, mealtimes, etc.
The plays DO GET THEM TO SPEAK. And this is a very rewarding experience for us, teachers, to hear them SPEAK, not just use the target vocabulary.
Teaching vocabulary has also become easier through your plays as for the children every single new word they are learning is now more meaningful as it is connected with their real life experiences.
I have also been getting a very positive feedback from the parents telling me that their children like acting out these role-plays at home with their parents and toy animals.
Thank you for this great material, Shelley.
I'm Russian but teaching in Turkey."
Olga Keskin ELT Teacher Istanbul, Turkey
As teachers we all know that trying to teach an unmotivated child is like hitting one's head against a brick wall. With very young children we seldom come across this problem as most kindergarten and preschool children are motivated by curiosity and love to explore new ideas. Sadly, as a child grows older, learning is often seen as a chore.
Let's look at some of the reasons children become de-motivated and see whether the use of drama could be a factor in overcoming them.
The child's experience of success or failure has a significant effect on his motivation to learn. If children repeatedly fail, even when they have put a great deal of effort into their learning, they are inclined to approach future tasks with a negative attitude.
Using drama as a teaching method with the appropriate choice of play and roles, there is no reason why all children cannot experience success. The secret here is to make the task challenging, but achievable for each child.
The teacher's own enthusiasm also goes a long way towards motivating a child. Anyone who has taught a classroom of children knows how quickly they pick up and reflect your moods. If you think your English grammar lesson is boring, so will they!
By using drama as a teaching method and allowing children to experience language in the simulated reality of a play they will derive far more fun from the lesson and fun is always motivating. In addition, chances are they will be considerably more motivated to use the language in similar situations in real life.
Obviously then, drama techniques motivate children to learn by breaking the monotony of the English class and lifting the tempo as children discuss and act out their roles, learn what they are going to say and decide how they are going to say it.
The third major factor concerning a lack of motivation is the child'sneed to belong. Watch an apathetic child in the classroom come alive on the playing fields and play his heart out for his team. That is where he feels he fits in, his talents are respected and he is part of the team.
In a drama lesson all children are equally and actively involved, each role is essential for the successful performance of the play. A sense of belonging can be achieved here that is difficult to attain in the more traditional classroom setting.
Another important motivational factor, related to success, is self-confidence. As children become familiar with their lines in a play, they become more confident in their use of language.
Even timid children, who generally withdraw from group activities and are shy about talking English in front of their friends, will often come out of their shells when given a role which they are capable of handling.
Role-playing comes naturally to children, especially the younger ones and when playing a role they easily shed their shyness and inhibitions. As they discover that they can be anything, just by pretending, children grow in self-esteem.
In fact the power of the persona is such that children who might otherwise be hesitant about speaking in public are often able to do so unselfconsciously when playing a part
How to get started with ESL plays
Warm up ideas
Now let's look at where to start. If you have not yet introduced your class to drama there are many circle games that you can use to initiate dramatic play. Violin Spolin's Improvisational Theatre Games are a good way to start as they help the children relax, encourage them to use their imagination and help them become more confident.
In one of Spolin's circle games the group stands in a circle. The first child turns to the right and makes a simple movement, the child on the right repeats the movement, then gives a new movement to the child on his right and so on until everyone has had a turn.
This game can be played with sounds as well - start off by making them non-verbal. As the children become more proficient at this game the movements and sounds can be accumulated, with each additional sound and movement eventually building the entire sequence into a form of dance. A verbal version of the game could combine the vocabulary you plan on using in a play with the movements.
Singing is also an excellent way to practise language. Once the children know a song and enjoy singing it, put the new words to the tune. Almost anything is possible.
Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, becomes Eggs and bacon, for my breakfast
without any trouble and is sung just as lustily! Put familiar tunes to some of the phrases found in the play before you even introduce the script so that by the time you do introduce it the children know the key vocabulary and phrases already. Have the children singing in rounds and encourage raucous participation.
Adapting the play
Once the children have begun to experience their ESL classroom as a fun and safe environment and are beginning to understand the basics of performing, it is time to introduce them to the real thing.
Choosing the right play is important. It should not only be age appropriate but also appropriate for the language level of your students. It is also important, of course, to ensure that the lines spoken in the play are in keeping with the particular language areas you are teaching at the time.
- The plays here are written especially for ESL classrooms, for children aged 4 to 12 inclusive.
- They are short and repetitive and designed to involve the whole group, no matter how big or how small.
- They combine fun and movement with language usage carefully planned to provide optimal speaking practice in real life contexts.
- Roles should be assigned according to your students' language ability levels. Children who are more capable and more confident can be given more lines, while shyer children or those with a more limited vocabulary can have fewer lines to say, repeat lines said by other children or speak as part of a group.
- Every play can be used for any number of children. In a one to one situation where the teacher takes one role and the pupil takes the other lines and this is explained for each play in the notes. The beauty of this is that if a child does not show up to rehearsal or even to the final performance it does not bring the whole show to a halt.
- Keep the script simple, but develop it further or modify it if your students' proficiency or lack of proficiency in English requires it. Some of the lines in the play may be optional. Edit these freely to suit your needs, based on the main idea. The plays are written for beginners so if you have intermediate students you will either be able to learn the plays faster or you can add extra lines.
Pre-teaching the play's vocab and phrases
Once you have decided on the play it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty of rehearsals. While older and more capable students can be given copies of the play to read this is generally not advisable for younger and less capable children. For all students, no matter what level they may be on, the emphasis should be on speaking, acting and movement, not on reading lines. It's a matter of personal choice but my own recommendation is not to give out written lines at all.
Pre-teach the vocabulary first. Use it in songs and in games like Spolin's circle game and those in 176 English Language Games for Children or the preschool games book; chant the words, stamp out the syllables, act them out individually - this is really fun when using words describing emotions and actions.
Now teach the key phrases. Once the children are familiar with the separate words let them start practicing the lines in the play. These short sentences can also be practised in games. The idea is not to have individual children word-perfect in their own roles but to let the whole class experience using the sentences and vocabulary in context.
Rehearse. Only when all the children know the key words and lines of the play should you put together all the elements - words, expression and movement. Allow the children to use their own creativity in setting the scene, deciding on props, costumes etc.
Keep props simple. Remember that, as far as the last two are concerned, these should be kept very simple, using the "less is more" principle, and they only need to be included in the final rehearsals.
You will find that if you give the children props too soon they can become very absorbed by them and take a lot of time arranging them and so forth instead of getting on with saying their lines! Therefore give out the props when the play runs fluently. The addition of props is then a novel element to keep the children's interest right through to the final performance.
ESL play performance
It is absolutely vital to put on a performance, even if it's to the class next door, because it allows the children to feel the satisfaction of showing their work.
Usually it is possible to invite parents to arrive earlier to collect children from the last lesson of term if you give sufficient notice, or arrange a special time. One can often perform the play at the school, during assembly, or for a special performance. School heads are generally proud to show off to parents so even if you are a visiting teacher running after-school classes the head of school still sees this as a plus that the school has to offer to prospective pupils and parents.
A tip regarding the actual performance: Don't start the show with the play but instead have pupils sing a group song or two with actions, play some vocabulary games in front of the audience by way of a warm up and finish with the play. This helps the children get used to suddenly being in front of an audience and will mean they are much, much less likely to freeze up with nerves when it comes to saying their lines.
Preparation of posters and invitations could form the basis of another English lesson. If the prospective audience has limited English skills perhaps a translation of the play could be made available to them. I was once asked for subtitles by a parent, which surprised me as the language in the play was so basic, but in fact afterwards I realized that it is polite and helpful to acknowledge the audience in this way.
Take a video of the play, if you can. Not only will the children love seeing themselves act, it will serve as useful revision whenever the children watch the play. It will enable you to give them feedback later and will provide you with a benchmark against which further development can be determined, PLUS you can use it to market your lessons and find more pupils. A recording of one of your plays is a testimony to your success as a teacher.
The plays build confidence to speak English:
The children in my beginners' English class had such fun doing yourfree skit 'Ready Steady Go!' at their graduation last May that I was pretty well obliged to buy the book so I could propose another skit at the close of their summer session! They were begging me for a skit. 'The Robot' was perfect and so simple to do. It really helped the kids build confidence in their ability to speak English. Thanks for making us look good!"
Becky Good, Battambang, Cambodia
The classes work so well...
Whenever you have any more ideas be sure to let me know. The storiesare fantastic, the games are great and the plays are wonderful !!!!!!!!!!!Thanks so much for making my classes work so well.
Different language in every script...
I am currently playing the games with my daughter and she simply loves them. Now I noticed there's a language trick in every script "Where are you going?/What are you going to buy? / Would you like versus Do you like?" They are smart choices and my daughter loves playing them.
The children love you!
And here is a little note I got
from one of my 5-year-old pupils,
Heather Smith, Canterbury, UK
Free ESL playscript
Here is a sample play from the 30 ESL plays - Ready Steady Go! Right click and save target as to save to your computer - it is a PDF so you need Adobe Reader to read it.
Andreevain Romania sent in a picture and says: "I played ‘READY STADY GO!’ with my kids and they liked it very much - here they are in the bus ready to go into the fantastic play world."
From Cristina Roig: "Last week I did the plays Ready Steady go! And The Restaurant with my class (5 year’s old) they absolutely loved it, we had a lot of fun and the parents were astonished of their capacity to start speaking some sentences in English (it is, after all, their first year). Your material is fantastic!"
ESL Plays for Children - Flexible Group Size
Eachplay is written so that it can be performed by the teacher and pupilalone in the case of a one to one situation, or by any number ofchildren up to a maximum of about fifteen. The reason for themaximum number is to keep rehearsals fun and flowing and keep childrenheavily involved rather than having too much hanging around waiting fora chance to say some lines.
ESL Plays - Funny Skits and Scenes
Theplays are written with a humorous twist at the end, or are genuinelyquite funny and cute.
ESL Plays for Children - Tips
Theintroduction contains a lengthy tips section on how to go aboutrehearsals and teaching the plays. One of the keys being topre-teach the main vocabulary before even starting the play, as well asthe key grammatical phrases. Another key tip is to practiselittle and often rather than spending a whole lesson on it, and to doeverything from memory - no reading out of text.
Fun ESL plays - Immediate Access
These plays are in an e-book format so you can download it instantly and pay no postage, no waiting and you can get started right away. This also allows us to make it available to you at a very reasonable price.
The ebook format can be downloaded to your computer and consulted online as well as printed.
30 fun ESLplays for children, flexible group size from 1 to 15 pupils, withadaptable script.
These 30 plays are excellent value at LESS THAN a dollar each- $23.97USD! You have a choice of USD or Euro currencies on the order page.
Consider these 30 plays as a curriculum to keep you occupied for at least a yearof teaching, supplemented with games and songs, or fit them in withyour course book. $23.97 USD is great value for so much fun material as you'll get so much pleasure from preparing these plays andyour private students or small groups of children will really enjoy learning with you in this way.
And this purchase is ABSOLUTELY RISK FREE because it comes with a 2 month trial period and a full money back guarantee. Try it out and make up your own mind.
So download your e-book now
“Fun ESL Plays For Children”
Click here to order now with Pay Box's secure server and remember if you are not satisfied just let us know and I will refund you in full.
Prefer to order by post? Click here to print out an order form.
Prefer to order by phone? Please email me to arrange a call that suits both our time zones - info (at)teachingenglishgames.com
You will be able to download the plays immediately on processing of your order.
Teaching English Games
P.S. I am sure you will have as much fun, and feel as much satisfaction, using these fun skits and plays with your pupils as I have…