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

professions construction workers
13 March 2020

*Professions: What do you do? I’m a mechanic. What does he/she do? She’s/He’s a vet. Start by teaching the professions vocab by asking the class what they do and choosing 8 professions for everyone to learn. The danger of learning more than 8 new words is that it's too many, so no one remembers any of them! Teach the 8 professions via a listening game where you repeat the words over and over. The best way, even for adults, is to do a mime or gesture for each profession. You say the profession, the class mime it. This makes the word and the meaning memorable. Then have some students stand up and mime the professions in small groups. You say FREEZE. The students freeze in the position they are in. Point at one of the students and ask "What is his (or her) profession?"  The class guess what profession is being mimed, which may or may not be easy depending on the position the other student is in. Once you have demonstrated this a couple of times make three teams. One team is the students who are acting, the other two teams watch and guess the professions. Rotate around so each team has a turn acting and freezing while the other two teams try to score the point guessing what the profession is first.If you find you have the same students jumping in and answering before anyone else has a chance then put all those quick students together in the same team.You might be thinking that this sounds a bit childish but the thing is that it really works for learning vocabulary and remembering it. It's so much more effective than just writing up the words on the board for students to copy down.Have students mime in groups or all together. This helps the shy ones feel less awkward. Next, write up the words on the board and have students copy them down since this is important and helps those students who need to see words written in order to memorize them. Then you can write up some anagrams of the words and let students call out what they are. "cotdor" - doctor. Then, it would be useful to work on the question "What do you do?" or "What do you do for a living?" since this is typically how we ask people their profession in spoken English. We don't say "What is your profession?" We might ask that in a formal interview, but not for everyday conversation. Passing game: For this, first drill the question with the whole class repeating it three times after you. Then take a piece of paper with the profession written on it, or use a picture. Show the card. "Doctor". Hand the card to a student and ask: "What do you do?" The person answers you with "I'm a doctor" and takes the card. Demonstrate this a couple of times. Now the student passes the card to the student next door asking "What do you do?" The other student takes the card and answers "I'm a doctor". Repeat with the next student along with the whole class watching. Now you are sure everyone knows what to do so that card goes on it's way around the class with everyone practising the question and answer. In the meantime you give the first student a different profession card to pass around, asking "What do you do?"' and answering "I'm a mechanic" (or whatever is on the card.) Once students are busy passing the cards and practising, clap to stop the activity - all those students with cards stand up and do a forfeit, like answering a general knowledge question, or, for kids, do a silly dance or something fun. After that you can have the class draw a grid with NAME and PROFESSION and students go around the class asking the others "What's your name?'" and "What do you do?" and filling in the chart. Then ask students to get into groups of similar professions, but don't tell them what they should be - leave it up to the students. Students group together in different parts of the room so you might have service jobs in one part of the room, people who work with their hands elsewhere, creative jobs, sales jobs and so on. Then compare notes and see why students thought their professions were related.  Next, play the Fill in Drill game. For this you can write out some simple English - aim it at the level of your class. The game is in my teen and adult ESL games book. This is great for using the professions, the question and answer and mixing in general English for fluency. An example of a text you could use would be this: "Hello there, I'm Paul. What's your name?" "Hello, I'm Jane. Nice to meet you." "What do you do for a living?" "I'm a surgeon" (insert one of the professions you have been using). "Wow, that's interesting. Do you like it?" "I like it apart from the fact that you have to cut people open." (put in something relevant to the profession) "Oh, I see. Mmmm, that could be difficult." "What do you do?" "I'm a _____________" That should be long enough since the students will be memorizing the whole dialogue during the game. Then you can ask them to write it all out from memory and swap papers and check each other's spelling._______________________ Now you have worked on this, it’s time to introduce the third person question form: What does he do? What does she do? Get the class to ask the question with you. Point to a pic of a man doing a job. (Use my professions flashcard set, which can be purchased here, or have students draw pics, or find some in magazines or your textbook.) Ask ‘What does he do?’ Choose one student to answer. Now switch to a female for, ‘What does she do?’ and have students answer. Jump back and forwards between men and women so students get used to switching from he to she. Say the question in different rhythms, pausing on a different word each time, and have students copy your rhythm. Speed it up, slow it down. That’s a good excuse to have students repeat the sentence several times but in a varied way. If you are musically inclined, sing up an arpeggio ‘What does he dooooooooo?’ Boys hold the base note on ‘What’. Boys or girls hold the other notes in the chord in turn. Then point at a picture and class answers ‘he’s a gardener’ or whatever the profession is. If you have kids, this will take some training. But once your kids know how to hold a chord as a class, you’ll be able to use this musical interlude for lots of sentences.  If your students are fun-loving, play the hand slap game from 176 ESL Games for Children. Kids love this. Some adult will, but not all. Students stand opposite each other. Each one places his or her right hand out in front. Student A’s hand is on top. (See the picture, here left, but with two people not four.) Student A asks, ‘What does she do?’ Student B replies with any profession that comes to mind, ‘She’s a doctor.’ And SLAP, student B tries to slap student A’s hand, before student A can move it out the way. Swap over.Your students don't have to be laughing in your lesson, (though they might) but the very fact that they are actively participating is going to mean they will be learning better.If your lesson is a long one, you can play full game description  From ESL Activities for Teens and Adults: Play the Grammar Auction game using all forms of the question and answer, some correct, some with errors. You could play Typhoon or Blow Your House Down using famous people your students are likely to know. This could be presidents, singers, actors, chefs, architects, politicians and people in the news, people on TV from soaps or shows and so on.  If you want to work on the past simple form and ask "What did she do?" then use famous people who are dead. Albert Einstein: What did he do? He was a scientist. Let me know how it goes and what ideas you try out from there.  Shelley Ann VernonTeaching English Games 

kids performing skit
23 January 2020

This blog contains an hour-long lesson plan to teach the present perfect with games and my skit Ready Steady Go (source of the skit is here). Target language:Present perfect: I've forgotten my...If preferred use this lesson plan for the past simple and teach "I forgot my" instead.Nouns: bag, jacket, sunglasses, hat, gloves, keys. This vocabulary may be adapted to your preferences or syllabus.Phrases: Are you ready? Are you sure? Yes I'm sure Language games to learn the vocabulary Listening Games: Introduce the key nouns using flashcards or real objects. Play the listening game Jump the Line, where kids jump back and forth depending on which side of the line the flashcard (or item) is that you name. Click the link for a full description of Jump the Line for one pupil but it's the same for a group or class.Then you could play Rapid Reaction, where kids race to slap their hands down on the flashcard you name. If you can't get all your kids around the pictures in a group then make four lines in front of the board. Say "touch a bag" and the 4 kids at the front race to touch the bag flashcard, and then go to the back of the line. There's no need to score points, but if your kids love competitive team games then you could score. Simply award a point to whichever team is fastest each time. I don't bother point scoring with this game as it can be pretty hard to tell who was first unless you use fly swatters, then you can see which one is underneath!Depending on the age and ability of your pupils, the above two games may be enough. If you need more continue with Find Me before I count to five. Spread little flashcards around class, more than one copy of each. "Find me some sunglasses! 1,2,3,4...5."  Check my Preschool Games book or Primary School Games book for more. Speaking Games:  Which one has gone? Place the vocabulary flashcards face up with the kids around you. With a big class, use the board. Ask kids to close their eyes, or hide their faces. Remove one (or two) flashcards and ask which one has gone. Kids open their eyes and tell you which picture you removed. If the same kid answers every time, have him or her remove the pictures. Start with just a few pictures and add more, or duplicates, to make it harder as the game goes along. Teaching the phrase "I've forgotten my sunglasses."  Demonstrate the concept by laying out some sunglasses, a bag, and other items. Wave goodbye to the class and head towards the door. As you are leaving, stop suddenly and say, "Oh no! I've forgotten my sunglasses." Go back to the items, pick up the sunglasses and leave again. When you reach the door stop and say, "Oh no! I've forgotten my bag." Return for the bag. Continue until the kids have the idea.  Of course, if you speak L1 you can translate the phrase to the kids as well.Practise the phrase "I've forgotten my..." with a game, like Board Bash. In pairs, kids choose an item, say "I've forgotten my bag", and aim at the bag flashcard with a rolled-up pair of socks or another suitable missile. Make small groups for this if you have a big class. You don't want kids sitting around waiting a long time for a turn because it is boring for them. Relay Race is a good speaking game to drill full sentences like, "I've forgotten my keys" while passing down the flashcard of keys, or real keys. Click here for a full description of Relay Race. Teach the concept of "Are you ready?" Demonstrate the idea of being ready via a runner ready to start a race. Take a ball, ask a student, "Are you ready?" He/she says, "yes", and you throw the ball. Use a dictionary if necessary to translate "ready". Have the class ask you in unison, "Are you ready?"  Look ready and then say, "No! I've forgotten my bag." And pick up your bag. Repeat through the items.  Play a game in pairs to practise "Are you ready?"  Demonstrate this with one of the best students first, who is likely to understand quickly.  Place one hand out in front of you. Your student places a hand on top of yours. You ask, "Are you ready?" The student says, "Yes". Next, you wait and then suddenly try to tap the top of your student's hand. He or she has to move his/her hand out of the way so you miss. The first time you will hit the student's hand, obviously, since he/she doesn't know what to expect. So repeat until the demo is clear for everyone. Now put students in pairs and have them play, the person doing the tapping has to ask, "Are you ready?" each time. Writing: It would be useful at this point to have students copy all the vocabulary and key phrases into their notebook. Some students need to see how things are written to help them memorize.  There are plenty of writing games in my Primary school games book (but none in the preschool games book). Click here for an example game, Writing Race. Now it's time to start putting the skit together. The first time through you play the role of the driver and have all the students as passengers. If you have a student who is way ahead of the others, make him/her the driver on the second time through. Talented students need to be stimulated or they get bored.It may be that after two or three times through the skit, your class will be able to perform it perfectly, bar the odd student, inevitably there are one or two who don't learn well, and you can't wait for them to get it because if you do, the entire rest of the class will be tearing their hair out. It's just the way of things in a classroom. Give the slower ones extra help if you can, outside of class time. If you can, make an audio version  available online for students to listen to at home. With my skits book you get some videos included (I don't have a video for every skit yet, but the collection is building.) Kids could have access to these to help them learn outside of class time.It may be that you take several lessons to put this skit together. It depends on the age and ability of your pupils. I spend one full lesson on the skit, as described above. After that, I continue to rehearse the skit at each lesson, for 5-15 minutes (again depending on the level of students). And I do something completely different for the rest of the lesson. This prevents the skit from becoming stale through overexposure. When you see the skit is ready, be sure to perform it to another class, to the school at assembly, to parents...or at the very least, have another teacher come in to watch. If possible, video the skit and play it back to the kids.  My experience with this lesson:I used this lesson in Nepal with 9-year-olds and it was a resounding success. The kids were super enthusiastic and delighted to be using English in context rather than just yelling phrases out of their book at the teacher. One of the permanent English teachers came in to watch and the kids were thrilled to perform to him. The next day all the kids were begging me to give them another lesson. My Nepalese kids were quick learners so we put this together in one lesson. The best student made a confident driver, but the two weakest students could not manage their sentence, "I've forgotten my..." alone, so the other pupils helped them. In contrast to these fast learners, when I taught 5-year-old beginners this skit, we spent a full hour on drill games and then rehearsed it for 10 minutes over at least six lessons. They were then able to perform it fluently to parents at the end of term show.The younger or slower your learners, the more language games you need at the outset, to drill the vocabulary and key phrases. Other games I had on my lesson plan, in case of need were: All Change, Run and Fetch, Clapping Games, or use any games from my games books. Relevant ResourcesYou may download the full skit free from here.Enjoy my 30 skits for kids with this book in instant download. (You can get it as a paperback from Amazon or your local bookstore, but the PDF version is handy for printing a skit should you want to.)All these games are in my book of grammar games ESL Games: 176 English Language Games for Children. Available in instant PDF download Kindle, and paperback

best ever preschool story books images
10 January 2020

Preschool children are spell-bound by stories. A Quick plug for my stories:That's why I created 40 stories, with lesson plans, flashcards, songs and workbooks, and these are brilliant teaching tools for busy teachers who want to give fun lessons and engage their preschool pupils. My stories are brought alive by the lesson plans made of games, that make it possible for 3-6-year-olds to learn English as a foreign language.Fantastic story books:Here are some of my other favourite preschool storybooks. Some of these have withstood the test of time and still beat most of the new story books that are written hands down!Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.Wow, I remember this captivating book from when I was a child. It's over 50 years old but is still one of the best preschool children's books ever. It won the Caldecott medal in 1964 but the illustrations are totally appealing today and the emotional journey Max goes on just as relevant! Max starts being naughty, chasing the family dog with a fork and getting up to mischief. He talks back to his mother who calls him a wild thing and sends him to his bedroom without any supper. Furious in his room, Max's imagination turns his bedroom into a land of wild things, where he becomes king and is worshipped. He gets up to lots of mischief as king of the wild things but then he feels a desire to go to the place where he is most loved. He ends up back in his bedroom where supper is waiting! Buy it with the author's original illustrations from Amazon.com here.Peter Rabbit by Beatrix PotterHow cute are the illustrations? Any children age 3 and up still adore Peter Rabbit. Like the wild thing Max, Peter gets up to no good running about in the forbidden garden where tempting lettuces abound. He gets chased and narrowly escapes being caught. Breathless and frightened he makes it home where he goes to bed with a camomile tea to calm him while his well-behaved sisters eat a scrummy dessert! As well as enjoying the story you can talk about boundaries and safety, and what can happen if you go out of bounds to places that parents say are not safe. Peter Rabbit probably won't go into the garden again and learned his lesson! Tip: Watch out which edition you buy. There have been modern illustrations put to the original story and they are sooooooooooooooo lacking in charm compared to Beatrix Potter's own drawings. She was, after all, a natural scientist and conservationist as well as an illustrator and writer. Buy Peter Rabbit original version here. Winnie the Poo by A A MilneLovable Winnie the Pooh and his Tigger, Eyeore and Rabbit. Full of wit and wisdom from 1926. If you don't know Winnie the Pooh, it's time you did! Please share these cute tales and beautiful philosophy with your preschoolers (not for complete beginners). E.H.Shephard did all Milne's illustrations, so if you want the originals, look out for his name in the book details. Get the complete tales of Winnie the Pooh, original text and illustrations here.“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Winnie the PoohAnything by Norman ThelwellFor hilarious cartoons and uncanny insight into children, dogs, cats and above all...ponies. Timeless humour. Try Brat Race for a humourous look at children. There is very little text if any, but the pictures say a thousand words and are good talking points. Get the hardcover here for $6.The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleAnother classic. According to Wikipedia, it has sold the equivalent of a book a minute since it was published...way back in 1969!I know there are a lot of great new books out there, but sometimes I find they are a bit bland, striving to please all peoples and all views, or too moralising, or the pics are boring because too much personality might displease someone, somewhere. But PLEASE please add your favs to the comments box below for all of us.  The best of the best must-haves...we would love to hear what your favourite and most successful story books are. Here is the link on amazon.com.Teaching PointsEven though the above story books are not designed for young English language learners, but native speakers, the pictures are explicit and it's easy for children to understand what is happening from them alone.  That said I recommend that you pre-teach the key vocabulary for each story beforehand, and use my games for this. Then you can read the story and do post-story activities just as with my ready-made resources. If you have my story resources you'll find post-story activities suggested with every story, and these are adaptable to any story. Some ideas are:role-playing,putting story pics in order,making a puzzle out of a story picture,playing hide and seek with story props or flashcards,drawing objects or people from the story,making a story poster,making puppets of the story characters,making up actions for key moments in the story,making masks of story characters,using props during story-telling,playing games relevant to the story thememaking up a rhyme with actions around the story theme,and plenty more!I hope you like these classic books and if you need me for anything, please just ask!All the bestShelley Ann VernonTeaching English Games

english language day banner
7 January 2020

Sometimes schools organize an English day, as a celebration of all things related to learning English. The United Nations celebrates English Language Day every 23rd April, (William Shakespeare's died on that day). To quote the UN website, "language Days at the UN aim to entertain as well as inform, with the goal of increasing awareness and respect for the history, culture and achievements of each of the six working languages among the UN community". That said, for greater variety and flexibility, English day doesn't have to be about English, England, the States or wherever. English day could be about anything, just presented in English. One of my teacher friends did this:Our theme was TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD. In the morning we started by raising the flags of several countries and we then presented a lot different wonderful things around the world. Next, the students ran a quiz in teams, asking and answering questions about all the different countries and facts they had researched for the day. After that, we organized presentations in different classrooms, one for each continent and a specific country for each stand. Each group of students prepared a stand. Each one had displays on the country they were to talk about, including geography, culture, gastronomy, famous people, and touristic places. These topics were shared out among the students for that country.In the afternoon we had a Talent Show. Here any students who wished to could show their skills in dancing, singing, reading a poem, performing a short skit, juggling, doing some gym moves, or any other talent they wished to feature. It was great to see our students present it." To make the juggler or dancer relevant to the English day theme, have the student introduce him or herself in English, explaining what he or she will do. If he or she is too shy or reluctant then another student may introduce the participant instead.Most people like finding out about the world around them. But for all students to be motivated, allow flexibility. You might outline the overall theme for the day, but if you can let students choose their own aspect, something that appeals to them, you'll be more likely to have greater student participation and motivation. So let students cast a wide net around your theme. If your theme is the USA and a student is really into music, he or she could present, in English, on a favourite band. Another student might like to present on American fashion designers or the Ford motor company. Some students might be into preparing a stand on the greatest sportsmen and women of English-speaking countries. Others might prefer to present their top ten movies where English is the original language of the film. You don't want to force students to look up famous monuments and towns if that is a dry topic for them. The important thing is that your students enjoy and relate to what they prepare and present on the day.English day themes that can include a vast array of topics are things like running a film festival day, where each group of students selects their top film (it has to be an English language film). Students can find the poster for it, show the trailer, act certain key scenes in groups, say why they like it. Then run a film quiz where students identify famous lines or name characters from the movies.Or how about a day where you go back in time and live in the 70s, with wigs, flares and 70s music. Kids could learn words to different classic songs from the time and perform them with basic choreography. Tracks from the movie Grease are classic and appeal just as much now as then but there is plenty to choose from!Throw a themed party in the style of a specific country and time. Divide students into groups to research the party theme and content. This might include dress code and fashions, typical food and drink for the occasion, music, a guest list suitable for the time, i.e. Winston Churchill, film stars from the period, singers, artists, writers... Students can dress up as a key figure from the time and come to the party as them.If these ideas are too much work or would make too much mess, have a day with presentations, a quiz, an hour for table games, and a show with songs and skits.Table games for small groups can be Boggle, Battleships, board games in English like Cluedo or English monopoly, or grammar games like snakes and ladders. There are printable board games included with my stories for kids here.Presentation idea: To help students feel more at ease talking in public, have them play a role or pretend to be someone else. Say the student loves Soprano, let him or her prepare a short speech as Soprano, talking about who he is and his music or ideas. Students can present on a job they would like to do and act a scene where they do that job. Students often feel more confident when they are not exposing themselves, but hide behind the identity of a character.  This can be even better if students dress up as the character, or failing that, have at least one prop to represent him or her. If students can get online they can search for podcasts by or on their chosen personality, and use those to help construct their presentation. Performances can be karaoke songs, songs with a simple dance routine or actions, a flashmob, and these easy plays and skits. Each class or group performs something in English for the other classes. The whole school watches. Parents can be invited too. Here are ideas for an end of term show, and these can be used on English day.https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/tips-for-end-of-term-show

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

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