ESL Interjections Activities

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

English interjections are particularly difficult for non-native English speakers to learn due to the words' many uses and inflections. This lesson gives ideas for activities to help ESL students learn to use interjections.

Learning Interjections

Interjections are an interesting part of spoken English. Many sounds have different meanings depending on the inflection used and the context leading to the sound. For non-native English speakers, learning how to use interjections can be incredibly confusing.

A great way to learn subjective concepts like interjections is to experience many different examples of their proper use. The more a student can gain experience properly using interjections, the more the student will be able to interpret and use them in everyday speech.

This lesson offers activities designed to give your English as a Second Language (ESL) students practice with the use of English interjections. The activities are organized into those that work great in a social environment (working together) and those that give students more practice to strengthen their skills individually.

Group Practice with Interjections

All of these activities are designed to be engaged in as a group. They will give your students practice putting their knowledge of English interjections to work.

Match the Interjection with a Scenario

You will need card pairs with one card giving a scenario and the other showing the matching interjection. For example, you might have a card that states A rock just fell on your toe paired with an interjection card stating Ow.

Pass out the cards to your students. Each student should get only one card (either a scenario or an interjection). Make sure that you hand out an even number of cards. If you have an odd number of students, you can take one card to complete the paired sets. At a signal, the students holding the scenario cards should go around to the others to find the interjection that is appropriate for their scenario. Interjection card holders can call out their interjections to help scenario card holders find their pair. Mix up the cards and play again.

Match Different Interjections with a Scenario

Some interjections can be used with different inflections for different scenarios. Some scenarios have more than one appropriate interjection. For this activity, use your set of interjection-scenario cards from the preceding activity, but hand out only interjection cards to your students.

Call out a scenario and a location, such as If your interjection could be used when you rush to catch the bus but miss it, gather at the door. Give three or four scenarios and locations for students to group themselves by scenario. Have the students tell the class their interjection and why they chose the scenario they did. Ask if any other students would have chosen differently.

You could change this by handing out scenario cards and calling out interjections. In this version, students would group based on which interjection best fits the scenario they have been given.

Brainstorm Scenarios for an Interjection

Divide the class into small groups. Each group then gets a set of interjection cards. One card is drawn and all students in the group give an example of a scenario that would conjure that would lead to that interjection. Repeat until all the interjection cards have been used.

Individual Work

These activities allow students to work on their use of interjections independently. Some of the activities are for the whole class, but the students work on their own with no social interaction cues.

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