If you’re looking for some activities and games for teaching modals, then you’re certainly in the right place. We have more than 20 of them, along with worksheets and lesson plans for teaching modal verbs. Keep on reading for all the ESL teaching gold!
Teaching Modals Activities
Check out these modal verb games and activities.
#1: Modal Verb Board Games
Just ask my students and they’ll tell you that I love board games! One of my favourite units to use them with is modals for giving advice (should/shouldn’t). Have a look here for tips on designing your own board games and to take a look at mine:
#2: ESL Role-Plays for Teaching Modals
I love to use role-plays in my beginner classes. They are ideal for giving students who are not quite capable of having full-blown conversations some confidence with speaking.
For modals, there are a number of scenarios such as asking a teacher for permission to do something, giving advice to someone or talking about something they have to do (but don’t want to). Have a look here for more information about using them in class:
#3: Hot Potato Game
#4: Just One Question
Try out this fun survey-style activity for modals of possibility/likelihood (might, may, could, will). In pairs, students can come up with an interesting question about the future and then quiz their classmates about it. Find out all the details here:
#5: Basketball Game Modal Verb Challenge
This is a fun activity for young learners who are beginners. It makes reviewing modal verbs fun and interesting. The teacher can ask questions like:
- What’s something you can do?
- Should you come to school late?
- Will you have pizza tonight for dinner?
Find out more about it here:
#6: Picture Prompt for Teaching Modal Verbs
This is a nice warmer activity that lends itself well to modals for likelihood and ability. Find an appropriate picture and then elicit from the students what they see. Take the words that students give you and make grammatically correct sentences. For example:
- They can play basketball.
- They might be tired.
Find out all the details:
#7: Vocabulary Auction
#8: Typhoon Review Game
Try out this fun review game for modals! Come up with a number of questions that use modal verbs, ranging from easy to more difficult and give this game a go. It’s super fun and students of all ages love it! Learn more:
#9: Running Dictation for Teaching Modal Verbs ESL
This game is some ESL teaching gold! It covers all four skills and can lend itself to most grammatical structures or vocabulary sets, including modal verbs. It’s a lot of fun too and students really enjoy doing it. Have a look here for more information about it:
#10: Rock Scissor Paper
Try out this fun review game for all ages. Match modal verb questions and answers and then put them on separate pieces of paper. Students are given a few of them and then have to circulate around the class to find their matches. Once they do, they play rocks scissor paper and the winner takes both papers, which equals one point. Learn more:
#11: Dictogloss for Teaching Modals
#12: Consider Using the Test-Teach-Test Approach
Unless students are absolute beginners, it’s likely they already know a good bit about how to use modals. In this case, you may want to try the TTT approach. Give students a small task/test and see what areas they’re struggling this. Then, teach a little bit about it and give another task/test to see what students have learned.
It can be a nice option to change things up in your classes. Give it a try!
#13: Conversation Starters
If you tell students to ask each other questions using modals, you may be met with silence. The instructions are far too vague. Instead, if you want students to talk to each other, then give them some convo starters. Here are more details about that:
#14: English Central Videos
I love to use videos in my classes to generate some interest in a topic. English Central is a nice source for them because they’re all designed for English Learners. You can find one at an appropriate level for just about any topic.
#15: Sentence Building Games and Activities
Because modals are helping verbs, there is certainly an element of correct word order in any sentence that you might use them in. That’s where these sentence structure activities and games can come in. Here are some of my top picks:
#16: Dialogue Substitution
#17: Asking for Permission Phrases and Expressions
One of the most common uses for modals is to ask for permission (may, can). Check out these expressions, phrases and dialogues that show how to do this:
#18: Got to Hand it to You Activity for Teaching Modals
I love this activity because it takes error correction which can be a little bit boring and makes it far more interesting. Write some sentences or a short passage with errors related to modal verbs. Put students into teams and let them get to the game. Find out more:
#19: Problem/Advice Reported Speech Activity
We use the modals should/shouldn’t for giving advice. This also lends itself well to reviewing reported speech. Find out how I combine these two things here:
#20: Agony Aunt Advice Activity
If you’re teaching about giving advice using modals, then you’ll want to check out Agony Aunt. It’s a simple but fun activity that students really enjoy. Check it out:
#21: Error Correction Game
#22: Disappearing Text for Teaching Modal Verbs
Try out this time-filler activity in the couple of minutes at the end of class. It’s useful for helping students remember the correct word order in sentences with modal verbs. Have a look:
#23: Can/Can’t (Ability) Game
We use the modal verbs can and can’t to express things we are able to do (or not do). Try out this simple game:
#24: English Drilling
A nice way to help students remember how to use modals in a sentence is to do some drills. Here are some of the top ideas:
#25: Modal Verb Charades
Write down various modal verbs and their meanings on cards. Have students take turns picking a card and acting out the meaning without speaking, while their classmates guess which modal verb it is.
#26: Modal Verb Bingo
Create bingo cards with sentences that contain modal verbs. Read out sentences with missing modal verbs, and students mark the corresponding modal verb on their bingo cards.
#27: Modal Verb Debate
Assign students to teams and give them controversial topics to debate. They need to use modal verbs to express possibility, necessity, and opinions while presenting their arguments.
#28: Modal Verb Story Writing
Have students work in pairs or groups to create short stories that incorporate a specific set of modal verbs. This encourages them to use modals in context.
#29: Modal Verb Guess the Situation
Write down various situations on cards and have students draw a card. They must then use modal verbs to describe what they would do in that situation, while others guess the situation based on their descriptions.
#30: Modal Verb Song Lyrics
Choose a song with lyrics that contain modal verbs. Students listen to the song and identify instances of modal verbs, discussing their meanings and usage.
Teaching ESL Modal Verbs Lesson Plans
If you’re a teacher then you already know how much time it can take to plan lessons. That’s why it’s ideal not to reinvent the wheel but to borrow what other teachers have created. Check out these lesson plans for teaching modals:
Teaching Modals Worksheets
There are lots of options for teaching modal verb worksheets. Here are some of the best resources on the web:
Teaching Modals FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching modal verbs. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How do you teach modals?
The best way to teach modals is to first set the context for the lesson and then introduce them with a reading or listening passage. After that, give some explicit teaching about modal verbs and then give students some opportunities to practice using them.
What are the five types of modals?
The 5 main types of modals include:
- Modals for ability (can/could).
- Modals for permission (can/may)
- Modals for likelihood (will, might, may, can, could).
- Modals for obligation (must, have to).
- Modals for advice (should).
What are some fun modal verb games?
How do you explain modals?
To explain modals, first talk about the various functions. They can show possibility, intent, ability or necessity. They are helper verbs that go together with the main verb in the sentence.
What are the 9 modal verbs?
The 9 modal verbs are:
What are some fun ESL games for teaching modals?
Did you Like these Activities for Teaching Modal Verbs?
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- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 87 Pages - 10/24/2019 (Publication Date)
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Teaching Modals: Join the Conversation
Do you have any favourite activities or games that you like to use for teaching modal verbs? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about it. We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2023-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API