Are you looking for some verb activities for ESL to spice up your lesson plans? Then you’re definitely in the right place. Keep on reading for our top picks for teaching verbs to English learners.
Top 15 ESL Verb Activities
Are you ready to jump right into the best activities for teaching verbs? Keep on reading for all the details that you need to know!
#1: Flashcard Sentences for Teaching Verbs
In my opinion, flashcards are one of the most under utilized English teaching tools. They can be used for a ton of games and activities, but are one of the best verb activities. At the most basic level you can show students a flashcard and then they have to make a sentence using what they see along with the target verb form.
- I didn’t eat pizza last night.
- I ate spaghetti for lunch.
- I’m going to play soccer tonight.
- I’m not going to watch TV after school.
Or, students can pick a card from the table in front of them and make a true sentence about themselves. Do you want to find out more? Learn more here: ESL Flashcard Activities.
#2: ESL Hot Potato Activity for Teaching Verbs
Hot Potato is one of my favourite ESL activities because it can be used for any age group and for a variety of vocabulary sets or grammar points. Verbs are no exception.
The way it works is that students have to pass around a “potato” until the music or a timer stops. The person holding it has to do something. In this case, they could make a sentence using the target verb form, or ask/answer a question using the verb. You can easily adapt this activity to the level of your students.
Do you want to try it out? Check it our right here: ESL Hot Potato Game.
#3: Disappearing Text
Some verb tenses in English can be a little bit tricky, especially with the negative forms of them that have helper verbs in them. One way that you can help your students memorize this is to use this verb activity.
The way it works is that you write a sentence on the board and students have to say it together, out loud. Then, erase a word or two and students have to say the complete sentence again. Finally, there will be nothing left on the board but students will have memorized the sentence.
The hope is that they can take what they’ve memorized and adapt it in the future for their own use. Do you want to try it out in your English classes? Check it out here: ESL Disappearing Sentence Activity.
#4: Past Tense Activities and Games
You can find units on the past tense in every single ESL textbooks, including ones for absolute beginners. It can be a little bit tricky with regular and irregular verbs, as well as negatives which is why you should give your students lots of practice with them. Here are some of our best ideas for doing that:
#5: 20 Questions With Verbs
I’m sure you’ve played the 20 questions game before, right? You can also use it to practice action verbs. In this case, students have to guess what the secret verb is (the game is usually played by choosing a noun). Students can guess the secret verb by asking questions like:
- Do you do it at school?
- Do you do it with other people?
- Do you like to ______?
Or, you can adapt 20 questions for verbs to use with the past tense by thinking of something that you did yesterday. Students can ask questions like:
- Did you do it at home?
- Did you do it while going somewhere?
- Did you do it alone?
Do you want to try out this verb review game? Find out more details here: TEFL 20 Questions Game.
#6 How to Teach Verbs: Use Board Games
I love to play board games in real life and I also like to design games for my students to play as well. They’re super versatile and can be used with almost any verb form including the past, present or future. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily design your own board games to teach verbs in just a few minutes.
Find out more details right here: Design your Own Board Games for ESL.
#7: Videos for Teaching Verbs
The good news for English teachers around the world are that English Central and YouTube have a video for any topic, grammatical point or vocabulary set. This makes it super easy because who wants to make their own videos, right? Right.
However, there’s certainly more to it than simply pressing play and having the students passively watch. Instead, you’ll want to do some pre, and post-watching activities in order to get the most value out of them. If you’re teaching about verb tenses, then you’ll certainly want to have students notice all examples of a certain tense.
For even more ideas, you’ll want to take a look right here: Videos for Teaching English.
#8: Present Perfect For/Since Verb Activity
The present perfect using for and since is a common topic in high beginner and intermediate ESL/EFL textbooks. Get beyond the textbook activities with some of these games and ideas for teaching the present perfect. Check them out here:
#9: Memory Circle, a Fun Verb Game
If you teach kids, then you’ll want to try out this fun memory game that’s ideal for reviewing verbs. I especially like to use it for the past tense.
The first student starts the game off by saying a statement about themselves. It could be related to the previous day. For example:
- I ate fried rice for dinner.
The next student says:
- Tommy ate fried rice for dinner and I watched Games of Thrones.
The game continues on with each student adding their statement. If a students can’t remember, they have to sit down and are out of the game. More details here:
#10: Can/Can’t ESL Verb Activity
Can and can’t for skills are one of the first verb forms that beginners learns. For example:
- I can play soccer.
- He can’t play badminton.
If you want a fun verb activity to give your students some practice with this, then you’ll want to check out this fun verb game:
#11: Got to Hand it to You
If you want to make something old new again, then try out Got to Hand it to You. It’s one of the best verb review games that I like to use with all ages of students. You can see all the details about how to set it up right here: Got to Hand it to You ESL Review Activity.
#12: Vocabulary Auction
This is mostly a vocabulary focused ESL activity, but it’s also some ESL teaching gold for verbs. The way it works is that students have to bid on, and then trade words in order to make sentences. See how that’d be ideal for use as a fun verb game as well?
It does take a little bit of preparation time, but it’s totally worth it if you can recycle the activity with at least a few different classes. Check it out here: ESL Vocabulary Auction.
#13: English Action Verb Songs
If you’re teaching your young learners about action verbs, then you’ll definitely want to check out a song like this one on YouTube. It’s catchy, fun and helps your students remember some verbs and also gives some great examples about how to use them:
#14: Telling a Story, the Better Way
Have you ever noticed that is most units on the past tense, students have to tell a story of some kind. It could be related to the best vacation or most embarrassing moment just to name two common ones. For me, it was just a throwaway activity that I did without even thinking about it.
However, there is certainly a better way to do this verb activity to get far more educational value out of it. Do you want to find out how to do this? You can see all the details about one of our favourite verb activities right here: Tell a Story in English.
#15: Future Verb Forms ESL Activities
The future tense in English can be a little bit tricky because there are a few different constructions that you might use depending on the situation. For example, you use “will” for a decision made at the time of speaking, “going to” for something that’s already decided and the present tense for schedules. Kind of confusing, right?
You can help your students out with all the ins and outs of talking about the future by doing some of these fun and engaging activities with them. More details here: ESL Future Activities.
Worksheets for Teaching Verbs
Do you want some worksheets for reviewing verbs that you can just print off and use? Sure, we all do right! Here are some of our favourite resources for that:
Teach Verbs? Here are Some Top Picks for Lesson Plans
Or, you may want to design your own lesson plan for when you teach verbs. Here’s a template that you can use to teach any sort of grammar point, verbs included. It’s ideal for teenagers or adults but could be used with kids as well with some adaptation. Learn more here:
Did you like these Activities for Teaching Verbs?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 146 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so! Then you’re going to love this book over on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities for Teenager and Adults. The key to better English classes is a wide variety of interesting, student-centred games and activities and this book will help you do just that.
The book is well-organized into various sections so you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for in no time at all. If that’s not some ESL teaching awesome, then I’m not sure what is. You’ll be able to make it through an entire semester in style.
You can get 101 ESL activities in both digital and print formats. Consider taking a copy with you on your phone or tablet to your favourite coffee shop for lesson planning on the go. Or, keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office to use as a handy reference guide.
Yes, it really is that easy! Head on over to Amazon to check out the book or yourself:
Have your Say about these Verb Activities
What do you think about these verb tense games for the classroom? Are you going to try out any of the verb activities 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 2019-12-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API