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.

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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Books of ESL games
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ESL Stories
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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

events or festivals marking months of the year
18 May 2018

How would you teach the months of the year? Learning the months of the year is often a rather dry task for ESL learners.Here are lesson plan ideas to make each month more vivid and memorable. Teach six months in one lesson, then revise and add to those in a further lesson. It'll be easier for students to memorize what you are teaching them if you do not overload them. Pick a typical characteristic, event, type of weather or local festival for each month. Ideally, these need to be things your students already know, so they only have to focus on learning the name of the month.What you choose will vary depending on your location, but in the UK it could be: January: New year's day, making new year's resolutions, wishing everyone a happy new yearFebruary: Freezing, windy weather, making snowmen, or Valentine's day. In the States, you might choose Groundhog day.March: The coming of Spring with tender leaves coming out on trees and crocusesApril: Rain, because April is known for its showers or April Fools DayMay: Mayday (a national holiday), Mothers day or VE day, 8th May 1945.June: Midsummer's day, the Spring equinox or D Day July: End of the school year, Sunshine and going on holiday to the beachAugust: Nottinghill Carnival, Summer holiday conceptSeptember: Back to school or the Harvest FestivalOctober: Autumn leaves or HalloweenNovember: Guy Fawkes bonfire night, or Remembrance SundayDecember: Snow, or Christmas The game ideas that follow are from my book ESL Games: 176 English Language Games for Children. If you are teaching teens and adults, you want these teen & adult games and activities instead. To make learning the months of the year easy it's imperative to choose associations to each month that are common knowledge to your students. There might be some local festivals that would be ideal to associate to the month they are held in. If your classroom is made up of multiple nationalities then choose a selection of the most famous events and festivals from around the world. You might even use birthdays of your students.Get a picture for each month and display them. Ask students to work in pairs and invent a mime for each month. Ask pairs to mime while the others try to guess which month it is. Do this in teams and award points to those who guess first. Pupils will loosen up as the game goes along, especially if there are points at stake.Don't insist if your students are too shy and don't like it. Have each student sketch concepts for two months. Call out a month. All those with that month stand up and name it out loud. After you've called each month once the kids swap papers and do it again. Give students a chance to write out the words while you stick pictures up around the classroom. Avoid giving out photocopies. Have kids work from the board instead. For example, if it's a gap fill, write the text up, with the gaps and put the vocabulary down the side of the board. Students copy it all into their workbooks. This means more writing for the students and less photocopying for the teacher. Try a word jigsaw, crossword or anagrams instead of a gap fill. Use language games to drill the months of the yearPlay Show Me, with students touching or pointing to the months you name, going faster and faster. Now see if someone in class is ready to call out a month for the others to point to.With the classes with 14-15 kids you can introduce a running game here - or a game with more movement such as All Change.With the bigger classes try Kidnap.Then for all classes an easy speaking drill like Relay Race - the kids make teams in rows, at the front of each row are all the weather pics that the kids drew at the start of the lesson, and on go they pass them down simply repeating the word. RevisionIn the next lesson revise these first six months and teach the next six. Revise first using games from ESL Games: 176 English Language Games for Children, or the Teen and Adult games book. Games like Which one has gone? Show me, Bingo, Jump the Line, The Big Freeze or Find a Friend, Connect Four, Battleships, Grammar Auction (with sentences such as: In January I make snowmen.)  Teaching tip: Allow ten minutes of every lesson for revision- see my books for revision games. If you don't cover previous topics each month, students will have no chance of remembering it. For sure, at the end of the year you won't have covered as much as you would, had you turned over all the pages of your textbook, but at least the children will remember it, be able to say it, and think that English is fun - so that's a good base for them and better than covering a load of stuff, none of which they remember and are too scared to say! Helpful resources to teach the months of the yearIn my game books use steps one and two to introduce new words, steps three and four to drill them and steps five and six to work on reading and writing.* Available in instant download. * Available in paperback

teacher and boy learning English through play with cars and couple discussing a movie
16 May 2018

I heard from a private tutor who asked me how best to proceed teaching English to children in hospital one on one. One of his pupils is now 18 and has been fighting a dreadful disease all his life. This child has learned almost perfect English with a beautiful accent. He did this by listening to music, watching movies and playing video games. I'd be inclined to be actively involved working with the children, rather than sticking them in front of a website, after all, they can do that without a teacher, don't you think?  Using movies to become fluent As a teacher, it's a cop-out to play long movies during valuable class-time but you can play trailers (teasers). Show the trailer and make guesses as to what happens in the film. Talk about the characters and how you think they will evolve. The student then watches the whole film for homework and you discuss it in the next lesson. Find out what types of film your student enjoys. Don't (potentially) bore them with your favorite black and white all-time classics but get their input and follow their interests. On the other hand, don't stick exclusively to those movies your student likes. Broaden your cultural horizons and choose great films from all around the English-speaking world.If your student is a beginner and doesn't understand enough English for discussion, use much simpler tasks when working with a movie clip. For example, have the student look out for the colour of a car, an item of clothing, or the food being prepared in a scene. Tailor your questions to the level of your student. Tips: It can be most helpful to show subtitles in English in conjunction with the English audio.Make sure the content is appropriate. Using songs Work on lyrics of your student's favorite songs. See how many lyrics the student knows already and fill in the blanks. You'll find lyrics.com useful. Teach key vocabulary through games such as these: How to teach a child English one on one. Make up an action for keywords in the song and perform these actions while the music plays. Ask your student to suggest actions, this way you'll be in the realm of what he or she is comfortable with. For homework have your student find out about the musicians and talk about the band members biography and daily lives. Make quiz questions about your student's interests, building them up gradually over a series of lessons. Keep all these questions, each one on a separate piece of card, that you can later draw out of a hat for a quiz game. Use different colour card for types of questions - red for a music question, green for a geography question, blue for science, yellow for sport, and so on. If your student is not interested in sport then choose a category that does interest them. Personally, the endless questions about which baseball player scored the highest number of runs in Dallas in 1972 is of no interest to me, but to others, it's fascinating! Questions should be a mix of things they know and teach you, and you know and teach them. Both of you will learn! If your pupils are beginners use games like Find the Pairs Memory game, Battleships, from this book, Snap, Cluedo, Monopoly and other board games, they all have speaking opportunities. The key is to work with topics your student loves. If you find out what your pupil loves and work with that it'll be a win-win situation. You'll learn from each other. If he or she has a hobby, find out all about it. For example, if your students loves pottery, it might not be realistic to make a pot during a lesson but you can learn about the techniques and the materials needed. You can also learn about types of pots, porcelain,famous pottery and archaeology. Just because the textbook covers family members or clothes doesn't mean you have to stick to that religiously. If your textbook teaches adjectives with clothes (a red skirt, a long coat) and your pupil is crazy about cars, teach adjectives with cars instead (a fast Porsche, a blue Mercedes). Remember, the lessons are about your student, not you. If you are bored with discussing different types of trains after four lessons, your student may just be getting started!  

grammar parts of speech words written
14 May 2018

Grammar is the foundation of language, yet some ESL and EFL students have not learned the basic grammatical concepts of their own language. Sometimes pupils do not understand the basic structure of a sentence and the ESL teacher is left with this task.You can teach pronouns even if students do not know what a pronoun is.  Teach pronouns in context in sentences. Pupils will learn to use them. However you might be required to teach grammar as a topic. So, here are some ideas to teach pronouns through fun games.Start by listing these pronouns on the board. I, you, he, she.Bring up a boy, a girl to the front. Use a picture if you are missing either one. Tell the class to stand in pairs.Give an action for each pronoun:I - point to oneself.You - point to the student you are pairing with. Use a hand, an arrow or a suitable gesture if pointing is unacceptable.He - point to the boy at the front on the left.She - point to the girl at the front on the right. Place them far apart so there is no doubt or confusion as to where students are pointing.Say these over and over while the class point. Those at the front are doing it too.In this lesson only teach I, you, he and she. Drill these thoroughly through games, until they are automatic. It's better to teach less and have students retain more, rather than teaching everything and students retain nothing or confuse the pronouns.Here's a miming game to drill pronouns. Ask, "Who is playing football?" Have a class member mime playing football, let's say it's a girl. You say "She is." Write this on the board. Repeat with a different question such as, "Who is writing?" Choose a student to mime writing. "He is." Repeat the idea with "I am" and "You are". Then mix all four up and practise. Using mime, pointing and speaking make the meaning of these pronouns real. It's much easier to understand and retain a concept by acting it, being it, living it. In the next lesson revise first and add we and they.We - indicate oneself and the student one is pairing withThey - point to the group of boys and girls at the front.Play a game where students race to demonstrate the pronoun you name in groups. For I all students point to themselves. For you, all students point to their pair, looking at each other.  For we students jump together, interlocking elbows and using both hands to indicate both of them. For they students jump into a group of three and indicate a different group of three.Play the memory game, "Which one has gone?" At the front of class place a boy (he), a girl (she), a group of three (they), a person pointing at himself (I), a pair of students pointing at themselves (we), and the teacher (that's you). Check understanding by indicating each configuration while the class name the relevant pronoun. Ask the class to close their eyes and hide their faces in their arms. Quickly shuffle the groups at the front. Then hide one of the individuals or group. Either have them hide behind your desk, or put a sheet over them while they crouch down. Ask the class to open their eyes and tell you which one is missing.It might be a bit chaotic and you might feel this is time-consuming, but wouldn't you prefer your pupils to grasp these pronouns once and for all, rather than be making mistakes for a long time until they sink in via the textbook?At this point, I would play more games from the book to drill short sentences with pronouns - for example, Abracadanagram from 176 English Language Games for Children. Or use any of the drill games from my teen and adult games book.Reinforce all the listening and speaking games with writing games - see the games books for ideas.Let me know whether you use any of these ideas and how they go.Kind regardsShelley Ann VernonTeaching English Games

disruptive boy throwing paper in classroom
9 May 2018

Dear Teachers, How do you stay sane when one of your pupils is disrupting the class and refuses to cooperate? Here's Renate, teaching in Spain: "There is a child in one of my groups who makes teaching especially challenging. He never sits still, even for a minute. He makes animal sounds, crawls and jumps about. His goal is always to do the opposite and to disrupt any activity. I try not to raise my voice although he makes me angry. I also feel for the other children who would like to learn English but in such an atmosphere it’s very difficult." 1. Keep coolAngry people can look pretty comical so don't become the butt of the joke! It can be hard to keep your cool with a provocative, naughty child. To help you stay cool, bear these points in mind:Losing your temper weakens your position of authority. It shows you can't control yourself.If you are all stewed up inside, you won't be enjoying your lesson at all!Additionally, shouting at a naughty child makes him or her the center of attention.If being angry and shouting isn't an option, what tools do you have?  2. Look after yourself firstThe first thing to do is to help yourself. You can't help others if you are feeling weak and helpless. The most urgent issue in Renate's case above is to remove her anger towards the child. When the child provokes her, she feels angry and the atmosphere becomes difficult. This atmosphere is not being created by the boy, but by the combination of the boy's naughtiness and the teacher's anger. Therefore if the teacher's attitude changes, the atmosphere will change. 3. Acceptance, Understanding and CompassionFirst, accept what is. This kid may be so full of energy that it is really difficult for him to sit still, and perhaps he has ADHD. Instead of feeling mad, try feeling compassion. I understand he drives you crazy but if you get into a negative emotional state it won't help you, and you won't enjoy the lessons so much.So be selfish. Change your outlook, even if you change it artificially. Pretend to yourself that this poor boy has difficulty and it's not his fault that he is like that. The situation in class will be the same, but you'll feel better about it.4. Don't reward his demand for attentionShouting at this child, singling him out, will make him the center of attention. He may love that! Try Ignoring him completely when he misbehaves.Don't use his name.Pretend he is not there. He's doing the animal noises to get attention.Don't even look at him. Imagine he's invisible. Most kids hate being ignored, it's the worst punishment. Experiment with this.Praise him, using his name, when he is good.Make him the center of attention when he is good.  5. The teacher is the bossJust because you are being understanding of his difficulties doesn't mean he is the boss. Be calm, firm and consistent. I had a naughty child at my house last night and I asked her to move over onto a stool next to my chair. She didn't move. I asked again. No reaction. So I insisted, nicely and firmly that she move over - she moved over. If they test you, you need to show them that you ARE the boss, and it's non-negotiable. 6. Make good behaviour a choiceIf, after three firm requests the child still disobeys, try a question like this one: "Would you like me to speak to your father when he picks you up after class or would you like to sit nicely?"This gives the boy the choice. He is responsible, he chooses. It's more effective than just threatening him.Then, if he doesn't behave well you HAVE to follow through and speak to the dad. Empty threats undermine your authority. 7. Does he need to burn off energy?Since this boy loves making animal sounds, why not use that to help you teach. Use the skit Zoo Talk (from my book of 30 plays and skits for children) and get him to do the sound effects.If he's jumping off the walls, do a vocabulary quiz or question and answer session with the group. For every correct answer, the boy does a star jump. For every incorrect answer, he does three press-ups.8. What if there is no change?Tolerance: If, after you have asked him nicely and firmly to behave, he is still a total pest, send him over to play in a corner. Just set him aside so that you can at least teach the others. Perhaps he can do a puzzle or play with some toys, well away from the others. I don't think he will like being cast aside and he may well want to be re-integrated into the group. You can say yes, as long as you behave nicely. 9. Give interesting lessonsUse my resources to engage your pupils, with stories, games, music and skits.

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

Books by Shelley Ann Vernon: