If you’re looking for some fun common and proper noun activities and games to use in your lessons, then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for lots of those, along with lesson plans, worksheets, online games and practice recommendations and more.
Common Noun vs Proper Noun
Before we get into the games and activities, here’s a quick primer on what a common noun is and what a proper noun is.
A common noun is a person, place, or thing. It uses a lowercase letter except at the beginning of a sentence. Some examples are police officer, house, cat, pencil.
A proper noun is a specific person, place, or thing. It begins with a capital letter, even if in the middle of a sentence. Some examples are Mother Theresa, Vancouver, or Gone with the Wind.
Common and Proper Noun Activities and Games for ESL
Let’s get into the best ideas for the classroom! Nouns are a very important part of English speech.
#1: Common and Proper Noun Concentration Game
This is a fun game where students have to match the common noun (hamburger) with a brand name (Burger King). Make up a bunch of cards with these matching sets. Around 16 cards total is ideal. Cut them out and make one set for each group of 4.
The students place them face down in between them. Then, they take turns selecting two cards so that everyone can see. If it’s a match, they have to make two sentences, one with each noun before they get a point. If correct, they take the cards and get another turn. But if it’s incorrect, they place them back in the original spot and the game continues until all the cards are selected.
#2: Running Dictation
Try out this challenging 4-skills ESL activity with your more advanced level students. Find (or write) a dialogue that uses a mix of common and proper nouns. In pairs, students have to work together to dictate the conversation and then put it into the correct order.
Usually, I’m a little bit lax with things like capital letters and articles when checking answers but if I’m using this activity to review this grammar point, I’m not! Before getting started, I mention to my students to pay close attention to the nouns. If it’s a proper noun, then it should have a capital letter. If a common noun, it will usually have an article (some ideas here: ESL Article Activities). Then, I check to make sure and review it at the end! Want to give it a try?
#3: Dictogloss Common and Proper Noun Activity
This is an activity for more advanced level students that’s serious on the listening skills. Find or write a passage with lots of common and proper nouns mixed in. Perhaps someone talking about a future vacation.
Then, put students into pairs and read it out at a faster than normal pace. Students have to take notes and then try to recreate what they heard. It’s possible to do this by speaking with their partner but to focus on these nouns, it’s better for students to do it through writing.
Read it again and students do the same thing, adding more to what they have. Then, they can compare what they have with the original version. Have a closer look at the nouns, having students find at least a few examples of each proper and common nouns. Find out more here:
#4: Proper Noun Song
If you teach kids, a nice teaching tool is songs and chants. Maybe you’re kind of like me and aren’t musical at all though. If this is the case, not to worry. There are lots of nice ones on YouTube on just about any topic, including proper nouns and common nouns.#5: Dialogue Substitution
A common way that grammatical points are introduced in ESL/EFL textbooks is through a dialogue where it becomes a noticing kind of activity. But, maybe your students are kind of like mine and just blow through these things without really paying attention to what they’re reading? It’s not their fault. It’s just that I haven’t given them a reason to really pay attention.
One way to turn something like this from a simple reading activity into one that involves meaning as well is to remove some of the key words. In this case, some of the nouns. Learn more about it:
#6: Flashcard Sentences
When teaching kids, I will almost never go to class without a set of flashcards! There are just so many interactive and engaging activities to do with them.
When teaching about common/proper nouns, I like to use them for some writing practice. I include a mix of flashcards that contain some common nouns and some proper ones. Then, I distribute a flashcard to each student and ask them to write a sentence down in their notebooks, paying special attention to articles and capital letters as appropriate.
When everyone is done, we go over the sentences together, checking for errors. Do another round, trying to give a different type of noun card to each student. More ideas here:
#7: Vocabulary Auction
This is a fun activity that helps students make better sentences, including ones with common/proper nouns. Each group has to bid on words and then engage in a trading session in order to try to make as many sentences as possible.
Use a mix of various types of nouns when preparing this auction game and then make sure to point out how the use of articles is impacted by what kind of noun it is. Students will have to take this into account when making their sentences. Check it out:
#8: Got to Hand it to You
This activity takes something that’s traditionally very teacher-centred, a quiz show and turns it into something more student-centred. In this case, make sure the questions are related to common and proper nouns. One way to do this is make some sentences that have various errors related to these nouns. For example, with capitalization and articles. Check it out:
#9: Relay Race Game
#10: Choose your Own Adventure Writing Activity
Nothing forces students to really know the ins and outs of capitalization and articles with common and proper nouns like writing. One of the best interactive writing activities to consider trying out is this choose your own adventure one. It does take a bit of work to set up and explain but the results are totally worth it! Have a look here:
This is a fun game that gets students up and out of their seats, moving around the classroom. Make up a list of common nouns (shoes) with corresponding proper nouns (Nike). Then, cut out the words, making sure that each student has 3-4 papers.
Students have to circulate around the class, trying to make matches for common-proper nouns. If they find a match, they can do rocks-scissor-paper and the winner takes both pieces of paper and gets one point. Continue the game for an allotted amount of time or until 2-3 students have completed all their matches.
#12: Taboo, ESL Speaking Style
A fun game to get students more familiar with nouns is this Taboo style game. Students have to take turns describing a word and the other members of their group has to guess what is it.
In this case, use a mix of common and proper nouns. Then, before the student gets the point, they have to say what kind of noun it is. In some disagreement among group members, the teacher can offer some assistance. Find out more:
#13: Common Noun to Proper Noun
Make up a set of cards with various common nouns on them. Then, put students into groups of 3-4 and give each group a set of these cards. The first student take the first card and read it out loud (social media platform). The other students race to say a corresponding proper noun (Pinterest). The first person gets the card and one point. Then the next students reads the card and the game continues until all the cards are gone.
#14: Sentence Building Games and Activities
Nouns are certainly the building block of any sentence. Time spent in class working on building better sentences, including ones with a mix of common and proper nouns is never wasted time. Here are the best ideas for doing this:
#15: Most Words
#16: Noun Hunt
Provide students with newspapers, magazines, or printed texts. Have them search for and highlight common and proper nouns in different colors. Afterwards, discuss the differences between the two types of nouns as a class.
#17: Noun Bingo
Create bingo cards with a mix of common and proper nouns. Call out definitions or sentences, and students mark the corresponding nouns on their bingo cards.
#18: Noun Story
Provide students with a short story with blanks where nouns should be. They need to fill in the blanks with the appropriate type of noun (common or proper) while maintaining the story’s coherence.
#19: Noun Charades
Write common and proper nouns on separate slips of paper. Have students draw a slip and act out the noun without saying the word. Classmates guess whether it’s a common or proper noun.
#20: Noun Collage
Have students create collages using images from magazines or printouts. They can sort the images into two categories: common and proper nouns. This combines visual and hands-on learning.
#21: Noun Pictionary
Similar to charades, but this time students draw the noun on the board while their classmates guess the category (common or proper) and the specific noun.
Common Proper Noun Interactive Online Practice
If your students want to get some extra practice with this grammar point, there are some great proper noun online games and exercises to recommend:
Lesson Plans for Teaching Common and Proper Nouns
A nice way to save a ton of time is to use lesson plans that other teachers have already made. There are lots of great sources for ESL Common Proper Noun Lesson Plans. Here are some of the best ones:
Common & Proper Noun Worksheets
If you’re a teacher, then you’ll know how much time you can save by finding worksheets that other teachers have already made. They’re ideal for in-class or to give out as homework assignments. Here are some of the top picks for noun worksheets:
Did you like these Common and Proper Noun Games?
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- 87 Pages - 10/24/2019 (Publication Date)
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Have your say about these Common Proper Noun Activities and Games
What’s your top pick for an activity for fun activities for common/proper nouns? Is it one of the options from this list or do you have another one that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2024-02-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API