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ESL Descriptive Adjective Activities

Instructor: Sarah Mills

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.

In this lesson, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) students will learn strategies for teaching learners about descriptive adjectives. The lesson will include activities that can be implemented into instruction.

Descriptive Adjectives

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.

Guess Who?

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.

Picture Bingo

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!'

Other Activities

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.

Acrostic Poems

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:

Round face

Imperfect teeth

Chocolate-colored hair

Arching eyebrows

Radiant skin

Dimpled cheeks

Oval-shaped eyes

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