If you’re looking for some drilling games and activities for English learners, then you’re in the right place. Use some of these drill games and activities to help ESL/EFL students learn pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary quickly and easily.
Drilling Games and Activities
Let’s get into the best drill games to consider trying out with your students.
#1: Drill Together, then Individually
A common way that English drilling happens in class is to first drill together, then individually. For example, the teacher says, “I like pizza.” The class repeats, “I like pizza.” Then, each student can say the sentence themselves, using whatever is true for them (I like cats. I like soccer.”
#2: The Hot Potato Game
If you want to create some fun and excitement in your English classes, then consider using hot potato. To turn it into a drilling game, write down some forms that you want to drill on the board. Students pass around the potato and when the music stops, point to one of the forms (For breakfast, I ate _____). Students have to read the sentence and then fill in the blank with their own answers.
#3: Disappearing Text Drilling Game
This is a classic drilling exercise. Write a sentence on the board that contains the target structure. Students read it out loud, together as a class. Then, erase a word or two at the end. Students still say the entire sentence. Continue until there is nothing on the board but students are saying the entire word. Check it out:
#4: Chain Drill
In this activity, the teacher starts if off by asking a question. A student answers it and then asks another student a question using the same form.
T: What colour is the sky?
S1: The sky is blue. What colour is the sun?
S2: The sun in yellow. What colour is the table?
S3: The table is white. What colour is the ______.
#5: Drilling Pronunciation
Pronunciation is one of those things that is usually taught with drilling. Students simply need some repetition in order to get it right. Here are some of my favourite ideas:
Whenever I teach kids, I always bring a set of flashcards to class. They are ideal for drill games for just about anything. Have a look at this video for some of my favourite ideas:
#7: The Memory Circle Drilling Game
This is a classic way to get students to use a lot of whatever form you’d like! It’s a memory game where students have to repeat all the previous answers and then add their own. Check it out here:
Or, have a look at this video for a quick overview:
#8: Mix It Up
Think of the target sentence you want to drill. Write down each word on a separate piece of paper. Put them face up on the desk, in the correct order and have students read the sentence out loud. Then, move them around and have students still say the correct sentence but point to the word as they say it.
Finally, put the words face down but students should know where they are. Then, move them around and students can repeat the process.
#9: Dialogue Substitution
Have you ever noticed that students often just blow through dialogues without really paying attention to what they’re reading? You can combat this by removing some of the key words. Depending on which ones you select, you can also turn this into kind of a drill. Check it out:
Dictation is a little bit of an old-school activity but it does go a long way towards making sure students actually know the forms of whatever you’re teaching them, particularly for things like contractions. To turn it into a drilling activity, first have students repeat after you. Then, students can write it down. Then, repeat it again. Check it out:
#11: Puzzle Finder
This is a nice game for students just getting started with simple grammar. Make up some puzzle pieces with the beginnings and endings of basic sentences (My name-is Jackie, I am-8 years old, I have-2 brothers). Then, each student gets a puzzle piece or two and has to circulate around the class to find their match.
Once everyone is done, it becomes a drilling exercise. The two students can say their sentence. Then, the teacher can say it all together. Then, all of the students in the class can repeat. Check it out:
#12: Transform It Drilling Activity
The teacher gives students a sentence in one form and students have to transform it into another one. For example:
- I eat pizza (present simple) —> I ate pizza (past simple).
- The police arrested the man (active voice)—> The man was arrested (passive voice)
#13: Vocabulary Auction
If you want students to make a lot of sentences using a certain form, then a vocabulary auction might be your activity. To turn it into a drilling exercise, have students read out their sentences one-by-one. If correct, the teacher can repeat it and then the whole class can say it. Check it out:
This is a common way to drill forms. Students repeat after the teacher, with a new variation. For exxample:
T: I usually go shopping on Tuesday.
Ss: I usually go shopping on Tuesday.
Ss: I usually go shopping on Wednesday.
T: play tennis.
Ss: I usually plan tennis on Wednesday.
Try out this fun drilling game for kids that adds an element of competition. I’m sure you’ve played it before, but basically, students have to pass a message down the line. In the end, be sure to repeat the correct sentence and then have students repeat after you. You can also say a variation of the sentence and students can repeat that as well to reinforce the key concept. Check it out:
This is a nice drilling game for questions and answers. For example:
- How old are you? I’m 12.
- What’s your name? My name is ______.
- Where are you from? I’m from _____.
- Do you like pizza? Yes, I do.
To further drill these simple questions and answers, be sure to have the students say the question (the class repeats) and then the answer (the class repeats). Find out all the details about how to play here:
A nice way to introduce some drilling, along with action in the classroom is with TPR (Total physical response). The teacher says something (sit down, pick up your pencil, drink some water, etc.) and the students have to perform that action. Learn more about this teaching method here:
Why Use Drilling in a Language Class?
Drilling of pronunciation, grammar, or vocab falls under the audiolingual approach to language teaching. The idea is that people learn a language through habit formation and this happens through drills.
These days, most people have moved away from this to a more communicative approach. However, there is still some value in English drilling of important concepts. Here’s why:
- It can provide intensive, controlled practice of key points.
- The teacher can easily give immediate feedback and error correction.
- Students can focus easily on the correct pronunciation.
- Students can learn a language in chunks.
- It allows students to achieve some degree of fluency with certain forms.
- It’s a great method for classroom management with rowdy classes.
- Students often expect this in a language class so you’re meeting their expectations.
There are a number of common questions that people have. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How can I make drilling more interesting?
To drill grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation in a class, the key to making it more interesting is to keep it short, only a few minutes at most. Also, be sure to use a variety of different drilling games and activities.
What should I drill in an ESL class?
The things to drill in an ESL class are the grammar concepts, pronunciation or vocabulary that are most important and necessary for English learners. The forms of basic grammatical points that students will use a lot in everyday conversation are particularly important.
Should I use drilling in my TEFL classes?
Drilling is an important part of the audiolingual approach to language learning and teaching. They think that habit formation is key to achieving competence in a language. It can be an important part of a TEFL class, particularly for the key concepts.
Need More Ideas for TEFL Classes?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 67 Pages - 06/09/2016 (Publication Date)
The key to better ESL or EFL classes is a wide variety of engaging and interactive things to do. That’s where 39 ESL Review Games and Activities come in. There are many ideas for drilling pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary to help make them more memorable for students.
You can find the book in a variety of formats. Have a look today and get ready for better English classes tomorrow:
English Drilling Exercises: Join the Conversation
Do you have any drilling games that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2022-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API