ESL Verb Games

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

One of the easiest ways to liven up the ESL classroom is to begin teaching verbs! There are numerous ways to make verb lessons successful and fun at the same time. Read on, for some ESL verb games that are guaranteed to get your students smiling!

Introduction to Verbs

Verb lessons should be some of the easiest ESL lessons you will ever have to prepare. Since gestures and actions are an important part of teaching new vocabulary to ESL students, teaching verbs becomes easy since you can act them out for your students. Check out these fun ESL verb games that can be used in most any ESL classroom.

ESL Verb Games

These games should suit ESL classrooms of various levels and ages. Make tweaks or modifications where necessary, but aim to keep the games both active and fun!

Action Verb Charades

This is a game best suited for whole or small group settings. The object of the game is to have students act out a verb, without talking, while classmates or teammates try to guess which verb it is. This game can be used with different themes or action verb categories, depending upon the lessons currently being taught.

  1. Divide the class into two teams, or small groups of at least 4-6 players
  2. Draw or write action verbs on a number of index cards; you can also use verb flash cards
  3. One at a time, students will pick an action verb card and then act that verb out for others to guess
  4. When a team member correctly guesses the verb, they are awarded a point
  5. A timer can be set for each player's turn (15-30 seconds), or a designated amount of time can be chosen (3-5 minutes) and teams will take turns acting out verbs to see which team can get the most correct before the timer goes off
  6. At the end of the total designated time, the team with the most points wins

Verb Shout Out

This is a game best suited for a whole group setting. The object of the game is to have students identify, and then act out, the verbs from a story being read to the class. This can be modified for older students by using newspaper stories or by having students come up to tell stories. Rather than act out the verbs, older students can write down verbs as they hear them and then check to see if they caught them all at the end.

  1. Choose an English story or length of text suitable to your students' ages and learning levels
  2. Read the text out loud while students listen carefully for verbs
  3. When a student hears a verb, he or she must yell out 'verb' and then act it out (younger students) or write it down (older students)
  4. For younger students, divide the class into two teams and award a team a point every time one of its players identifies and acts out a verb. At the end of the story, the team with the most points, wins
  5. For older students, have them add up the number of verbs that were written down and award points or rewards for the students who correctly identified all of the verbs

What Am I Doing?

This is a guessing game best suited for small groups of 4-5 players. The object of the game is to guess a verb by asking questions about how/where/when you would be doing that action.

  1. Divide class into groups of 4-5 players
  2. Write action verbs onto post it notes and then, place one on each student's forehead without letting them see which verb they have
  3. Each student will ask his or her teammates 'yes' or 'no' questions, in order to figure out the verb
  4. After each question, the player is allowed to guess the verb. If they guess wrong, they must ask more questions
  5. If the player is able to correctly guess his or her verb within the designated amount of time (1-2 minutes), they get a point
  6. At the end of the overall designated amount of time (20-30 minutes), the player with the most points, wins

Tip: For younger or lower level students, provide question prompts so they know what types of questions to ask.

Example Questions:

  • Do I do this at home?
  • Do I do this everyday?
  • Do I do this outside?
  • Do I do this in the kitchen?
  • Do I do this at school?
  • Do I need school supplies to do this?
  • Do I do this with other people?
  • Is this a chore?
  • Is this easy?

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