Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a bachelor's degree in English Education from the University of Delaware, and a master's in TESOL Literacy from Wilmington University.
The ability to accurately describe something, whether verbally or in writing, is an essential life skill. No matter their level of English proficiency, all ESL students can benefit from instruction about descriptive adjectives.
Let's take a look at some activities you can use in the classroom to help teach ESL students about descriptive adjectives.
Games are an ideal way to master English because they provide a non-threatening way to practice the language. Students enjoy playing games because they are fun, competitive, and often rewards-based. Let's highlight some specific games that can be adapted to teach students about descriptive adjectives.
The board game Guess Who? is an easy way to practice using descriptive adjectives. In this game, each player chooses a mystery character while his or her opponent asks questions to try to guess the character's identity. The first player to guess the opponent's mystery character is the winner.
During the game, each player asks his or her opponent a question about their character. Following are sample questions each player might ask:
- Does your character have red hair?
- Does your character have long hair?
- Is your character bald?
- Does your character have curly hair?
- Is your character old?
- Is your character wearing a green shirt?
- Does your character have bushy eyebrows?
- Does your character have spiky hair?
As you can see, this game naturally involves the use of many descriptive adjectives. You can have low-proficiency students partner up and work in teams. If you don't have access to the actual board game, you can always improvise and make your own. Just find several images of different people and characters, print two sets of each, and distribute them to students.
For picture bingo, create several different versions of a bingo chart. In each square, instead of numbers or words, use pictures of people. Try to make the images as varied as possible so students don't confuse them. For example, the top row of one bingo chart might include the following images:
- A smiling child with black braids in her hair who has green eyes and is wearing a purple sweater
- An elderly man with a bald head, blue eyes, and a wrinkled face who is wearing a sweater with geometric shapes
- A middle-aged man with black hair and a mustache who is wearing a suit and tie
- A teenage girl with red, curly hair, freckles, and glasses
After distributing one chart to each student, along with some bingo chips, begin describing each picture until someone yells, 'bingo!'
Aside from playing games, you can implement other activities into your instruction to help students learn to use descriptive adjectives. Following are some additional lesson ideas.
Have students write an acrostic poem using the letters of their first name. The first letter of each line will spell out an adjective that describes them. For example, a student named 'Ricardo' might write the following acrostic poem:
Have students share their acrostic poems with the class. They can create a self-portrait to go along with the poem, and the poems can be displayed in the classroom for back-to-school night.
Another creative way to practice descriptive adjectives is with a mystery drawing activity. Have students choose a partner. Give each student a different picture of a descriptive person or scene. You can find these in old magazines. For example, one student might have a picture of a beautiful, snowy mountain scene. Another student might have a picture of a graceful swan swimming in a crystal-clear lake. Yet another student could have a picture of a woman's face from an advertisement for lipstick.
During each round, one student will dictate his or her picture to a partner. The illustrator will attempt to re-create the image based only on his or her partner's verbal descriptions. At the end of the round, they can compare the drawing with the original. Then, they can switch turns.
This activity combines oral language and listening skills with practice using descriptive adjectives.
Teaching your ESL students about descriptive adjectives can help them on their journey towards English-language mastery. Some games you can use to help students practice include Guess Who? and picture bingo. Other activities include writing acrostic poems and drawing descriptive images.
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