Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners | ESL Games for Adults


Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners

If you’re looking for some ESL activities for adult beginners, you’ve come to the right place! I’m going to share my Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners with you. Adult beginners can be a bit tricky to teach because although they don’t have the skills to engage in things like free talking or open discussions, they of course aren’t babies and you need to use topics, games and activities that are relevant and appropriate for them.

I taught in South Korean universities for 8 years and about 5 of those years were spent teaching beginners. Despite having studied English since elementary school, many Koreans can’t put together a grammatically correct sentence when speaking by the time they reach university. Adults beginners? Yes, basically. Keep on reading for my Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners.

#1: ESL Surveys

Coming in at #1 on our list of the Top 10 ESL Activities for Adults Beginners are ESL Surveys. I love me a good ESL Survey! Just ask my students-I use them at least once a month in every single one of my classes. I love them for a lot of reasons, including the fact that they hit all the four skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing) in a single activity and also that they get students up out of their seats and walking around talking to many different classmates. I love that stuff!

One quick word of caution about ESL Surveys-they’re aren’t for the total and absolute beginner. Although you can adapt ESL surveys to make them as easy or as difficult as you want them to be, students MUST be able to read and write simple 1-2 word answers, as well as say things like, “What’s your name?”

For more details, check out: ESL Surveys and How to Use Them in the ESL Classroom

#2: Videos in the ESL Classroom

Everyone loves a good video! They belong firmly at the top of my Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners list because they’re particularly good for those just starting out with English. It’s listening with a whole bunch of visual cues. Perfect!

For more information, check out: How to Use Videos in the ESL Classroom.

#3: Concentration

ESL beginners often start with learning vocabulary. If you don’t know any words, it’s impossible to speak a language! A great way to get students having fun while learning English vocabulary is by using this concentration card game. There are a few different variations, but for kids I usually use pictures and words. For adults, I’ll often use the word and them a homonym or antonym, or word-definition. It depends on the level of your students, but use your best judgement.

For more details about this ESL vocabulary game, check out: Concentration ESL Vocabulary Game.

#4: Is that Sentence Correct?

Next up on our list of the Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners is an ESL Grammar activity. It’s super simple, easy to set up on the fly and challenging enough for adults. I use it mostly at the beginning of class as a warm-up to review material from the previous class, or as a way to review what we learned at the end of class.

Check out this ESL grammar activity for more details: Is that Sentence Correct?

#5: Story Timeline

All ESL students read stories at some point! They’re particularly good for beginners because it’s an easy way to introduce or reinforce key grammar or vocabulary points. Story Timeline is a nice way to review what the students have read in a fun kind of way. You can make it as easy, or as difficult as you want, making it a nice choice for absolute beginners. The requirement of course is that students are able to read!

For more details, check out: Story Timeline.

#6: ESL Listening Template

How to teach listening

Check out this ESL listening lesson plan template. The good news is that you can adapt it to any level from the total beginner to the most advanced. The only requirement is that students know a little bit of vocabulary and are able to read. If your students are extremely low-level, you can help them along with the answers instead of putting them with a partner and turning them loose.

Go to: ESL Listening Lesson Plan Template.

#7: The Dreaded “Hobby” Unit

All beginner ESL textbooks for teenagers or adults have a hobby unit in them. After teaching for 10 years in South Korea, I was really, really tired of it! I’m sure my students were too-they’d studied English for just about the same length of time that I had taught it. Here’s how you can turn the dreaded hobby unit into something fun and interesting.

But, a word of caution. This Top 10 ESL Activity for Adult Beginners is not for the absolute beginner. Your students have to be at a high enough level to form and ask each other simple questions. High beginners should be able to handle this one with a bit of help from you. Perhaps some example follow-up questions on the board?

Check out: How to Avoid the Hobby Unit Brain Rot.

#8: The Monster Pack

resources for busy English Teachers

I love me a good trivia quiz! ESL students, especially adults do as well, which is why I use them every single day in my classes as a kind of fun warm-up. The only problem is that it can be a little bit difficult to find trivia that is not America or UK-centric and that has language simple enough for ESL beginners. This is where The Monster Pack comes in. Seriously. It’s some ESL gold and if you don’t have your copy yet, you’re missing out. I never use something in my classes that I don’t design myself with the exception of this. I use this every single day. It’s that good.

For more details and to get your copy today, check out The Monster Pack.

#9: Dialogue Substitution

For students who are too low-level to engage in “real” conversations, dialogues make a great option. You give them some bits of a conversation and they fill in the rest with their partner. They’re perfect for adults students who want to feel like they’re “talking” in your class. And they are! It’s a step on the way to freer conversations.

Here’s how I use them in my own classes: Dialogue Substitution.

#10: Dictogloss

Coming in at #10 on our list of the Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners is Dictogloss. Dictogloss is a challenging ESL listening activity. You can combine it with either speaking or writing. Speaking is the easier version while writing is more difficult. The best part about dictogloss is that you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want. You just have to vary the grammar/vocabulary as well as the length of the story.

Here’s how I use this popular 4-skills ESL Activity in my classes: Dictogloss.

We hope that you enjoyed our list of the Top 10 ESL Activities for Adult Beginners. Happy teaching!

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