ESL Adjective Word Order Exercises & Games

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

While your students may quickly learn the most basic adjectives, their order requires practice. This lesson provides you with some engaging activities to help your students develop a spontaneous way to say adjectives in the correct order.

Extensive Adjective Vocabulary

Your ESL students should be able to learn extensive lists of adjectives even if they are beginners. This benefits them enormously given that we use adjectives all the time. Once your students have a fairly extensive vocabulary in use, we can have them practice adjective word order through some fun exercises and games.

Depending on your students' level, you can begin with eight basic categories for adjective order: general opinion, specific opinion, size, shape, age, color, nationality or origin, and material. Let's begin with a couple of exercises that help us check for correct order and then move onto games.

Exercises

The objective of these exercises is that your students put adjectives in the correct order.

  1. You would give your students a worksheet with nouns and adjectives in incorrect order. For example: car: Japanese, big, nice, blue. Similarly, cellphone: black, hard plastic, Chinese, thin. Your students will then take them and put them in the correct order.
  2. Your students would look at pictures of people you can easily print from the Internet and describe them. To make it engaging, you could print out pictures of famous actors, musicians, etc. We would work mainly with hair and eyes since these are such common nouns to describe people in daily conversation. Students can either practice orally or in writing. For example, they see a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio. A student says: Leonardo has small, blue eyes and short, blond hair.
  3. This activity does not require any material other than what is already available in your class. Students pick items they see in the class and describe them using the correct adjective order.

Games

Students can enjoy these games a lot because they require quick thinking as they practice correct adjective order.

Complete the Sentences and Compare

This activity allows students to write whatever they wish using the correct adjective order. You could advise students to write a minimum of three or four adjectives plus the respective noun they wish. The only rule is that students have a limited time to do the exercise. This gets them to think quickly.

Sentences look like this:

  • Yesterday, I ate a...

Student(s) write: ...tasty, big, fresh hamburger.

Here are some ready-to-use sentences for you:

  1. My brother and I watched a...
  2. For my birthday, I got a...
  3. My neighbor has a...
  4. Last weekend, I went to a...
  5. Last week, I saw a...

At the end of the game, have students compare their answers.

Stop Writing!

Each student gets a worksheet with a table in which they have one noun to begin. At the count of 'three', each student begins to fill in each cell of the table with the respective adjectives. Each student works separately and does not let the other(s) see their work. Here is how the table looks. We can see in italics what the student would write, which includes n/a if the noun does not allow for a given adjective.

Noun General opinion Specific opinion Size Shape Age Color Nationality or origin Material Total
Meryl Streep nice talented average height n/a 67 white American n/a 30

The first student to finish says 'Stop writing!'. The others must stop. Then, students read their answers aloud. For each correct answer they have, they add 5 points. If an answer coincides with one of another student, each student gets 2.5 points. They add them all together to get a total for each row. The student who gets the most points gets to say which noun is next in the row.

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