The word brings up images of stuffy old professors putting big red crosses on some poor child’s homework, or the smug smile your teacher had on their face when you’d ask them if you could go to the toilet and they said,
“I don’t know, can you? ”
But we’re not talking about those kind of grammar lessons here. We want to share with you some fun ESL grammar games so your kids can actually enjoy learning about grammar .
Grammar gets a bad reputation, but we promise that with a little imagination, you can make your grammar lessons into a treat for your young learners.
How do you teach English grammar in a fun way?
Firstly, by believing that it can be fun! Too many of us see grammar as something that’s bound up in rule books, red ink and pretentious people correcting apostrophes on shop signs…
However, grammar is the glue that holds a language together – without it we wouldn’t be able to communicate because our speech wouldn’t make any sense. It’s not something terribly fixed either, many regions and dialects make common use of “errors” in their speech, but they speak perfectly valid English.
Taking the time to appreciate the nuances of English grammar and how it affects our ability to communicate will help you transmit that passion onto your ESL students.
Secondly, make sure your students have lots of real-world examples and context surrounding the grammar you’re teaching. Don’t limit yourself to what’s in a book or by making them do endless gap-fill exercises: make sure you have variety and can model the grammar in different contexts.
One great (and easy) way of achieving this is using music and song lyrics to teach grammar. Using good music resources will grab your students’ attention, while learning the lyrics and singing along is really effective at helping them internalise the grammar structures you’re teaching.
Sign up for a free ELT Songs account to get access to our extensive library of ESL music video resources for kids
Using grammar games helps break up the lesson and provide some variety, which is one of the cornerstones to creating a great ESL lesson plan. Not only will this be beneficial for you as a teacher, but it’ll help your students practice the grammar in a low-pressure environment and encourage them to practice.
Ready for our favourite ESL Grammar Games for kids?
We’ve hand-picked some fun grammar activities for you to try. We’d also love to hear from you! Send us your favourite grammar games via our contact page and we’ll share your expertise with other teachers at the bottom of this article.
For now though, here are our favourites.
It is and it isn’t: An ESL Grammar Game for Practicing Negative Constructions
This game requires zero-preparation and gives your students free reign to use their own imaginations. It’ll help them practice third-person conjugations as well as negative constructions.
How to play
- Pre-teach any vocabulary related to negatives (can/can’t, is/isn’t/, likes/doesn’t like/, eats/doesn’t eat etc).
- Put students in pairs and tell them to take turns thinking of an animal. They tell their partner things about their chosen animal like, “It doesn’t like cats, it eats meat, it can run very fast…”
- Their partner has to guess what animal they’re talking about.
Mad Libs: a classic turned ESL Grammar Game!
Has there ever been a game more adaptable to teaching English grammar than Mad Libs? Here’s a version of the game that you can use for your class.
How to play
- On scrap pieces of paper have different classes of words (for example, one pile for verbs, one pile for adjectives, one pile for nouns and one pile for time words like “today/yesterday” etc).
- Pair your students up and get them to take one piece of paper from each category.
- In pairs, they have to construct a proper sentence from the words they’ve chosen and make sure the conjugation matches the time word that they have. For example, if they chose “last week” then they have to conjugate in the past simple.
- Go around the pairs and see what funny sentences they’ve come up with and give them feedback.
This activity is usually quite funny, especially if you throw in some wildcards like “fireworks” or “vampire”.
What we love about this activity is that it really challenges kids to use their own understanding of English grammar to construct sentences. They aren’t just parroting back phrases, but are actively using their own imaginations and working out where each part of the sentence goes and why.
Hot Potato: perfect for energizing your class
This ESL grammar game is a great way to wake students up and get them alert! It’s also very easy to play and only requires some flashcards and a timer. If you have any classes in the afternoon and find that your students are a bit spent by the end of the day, this will engage and motivate them.
How to play
- Pass an everyday object around the class (you can use a small ball, a pen, a teddy – anything really!)
- Every so often shout “stop!” and whoever is touching the object is now ‘it’.
- Put a timer on your phone for 30 seconds.
- Show the student a flashcard from something you’ve been learning in that lesson.
- They’ll have 30 seconds to make up a sentence using the vocabulary item from the flashcard.
Having that time pressure really kicks their brains into gear! It’s another great way to make sure your students are actually engaging with the material that they’re learning, using it in their own way and not just always parroting back phrases.
Want some free ESL Grammar Resources for Kids?
We hope you’ve now seen how fun teaching English grammar can be and you’ll make use of our favourite games.
If you’d like to step it up a notch by using multimedia to help your students practice grammar, you can sign up for a free ELT Songs account.
All of our music video units cover vocabulary, conversation and grammar in a way that builds upon what students have learnt in the previous lessons. They’ll gain more confidence in using English grammar constructions by singing the lyrics of our popular songs.
Try it out for yourself – sign up for a free account to get instant access so you can unlock the teaching potential of Planet Pop.