Top 10 ESL Activities for Total Beginners

Try out These Top 10 ESL Activities for Total Beginners


When I first began my ESL career teaching in South Korea, I taught total beginners. It was like I got thrown into the deep end of the pool and I could barely tread water. 10 years later, with a whole lot more experience under my belt, total beginners don’t intimidate me like they used to and in some ways, I even like them better than advanced students. It’s easier to teach someone numbers and colours than the subtle differences between all the future tenses.

Anyway, if you’re in the same boat I was when I first started teaching, check out my Top 10 ESL Activities for Total Beginners. They’ll make your lesson planning easy, guaranteed. Click the links in the brief descriptions for a lot more detail about each individual activity or game. There are also lots of tips for how you can use them in your classes.

#1: Picture Prompt

Picture Prompt is a simple warm-up activity for ESL students that can be used with total beginners. For very low-level students, you can ask things like, “What color is the ball?” or, “How many people are there?” It also lends itself well for use with more advanced students-just ask higher-level questions.

#2: Hot Potato

Hot potato ESL speaking game for kids

Hot Potato is one of my favourite ESL activities for total beginners. Basically, a “hot potato” moves around in a circle and when it stops, the person holding the potato is shown a flashcard. For total beginners, they could simply say the word. For more advanced students, they could use that word in a sentence, or have to answer a question from you related to that flashcard.

#3: English Central Videos


English Central Videos are an excellent tool for the ESL classroom. They have videos for all levels, including total beginners. Click the link to see how I use them in my classroom, or get creative and use your own ideas!

#4: Odd One Out

Odd One Out is a nice warm-up game that even beginners to learning English can play. I usually require students to tell me why they chose each answer that they did. Even total beginners can do this too, just in a very simple way.

#5: Concentration

If you’re looking to teach some English vocabulary to your students, concentration makes an excellent ESL activity for total beginners. You can set it up so that students have to match pictures with words. More advanced level students can match definitions with words.

#6: Disappearing Text


Disappearing Text is a nice way to finish up a class with total beginners to learning English-it’s a quick one, only five minutes so makes a great time-filler as well. The best part about it is that you can use it to review grammar and vocabulary at the same time.

#7: Rocks-Scissor-Paper

Rocks-Scissor-Paper is one of my favourite ESL activities for total beginners to review material before a test. It’s fun and even the lowest of low level classes can do it! Plus, it gets sleepy students up and out of their seats moving around the class.

#8: Listen and Draw a Picture

Listen and Draw a Picture is an excellent way to review body part vocabulary. Usually I’d require students to do this together in pairs, but with total beginners, you can speak and students can listen and draw.

#9: Ball Toss

guess game

Ball Toss is an extremely versatile ESL activity that lends itself well to smaller classes of total beginners. You can use it for just about anything, so get creative!

#10: Is that Sentence Correct?

Is that Sentence Correct is another ESL activity for total beginners, but it can be adapted to just about any level you might have. It’s an interesting way to review grammar at the end of a class, or as a warm-up at the beginning of the next one.

Like these ESL Activities for Total Beginners?

Then you’ll love this book: 101 ESL Activities for Kids (6-13). If you’re looking to not waste time lesson planning, this is the book you’ll need! It belongs on every single ESL teacher’s bookshelf.

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