The ESL WH questions (who/what/when/why/where/how) are vital to English conversation! Pay attention to how often you use them—it’s probably quite a lot! That’s why it’s vital to help our students practice this important skill with some fun WH Question Games and Activities.
Are you ready to see the best WH question activity? Let’s get to it!
WH Questions Activities and Games for ESL
Let’s get to the ESL games and activities for W+H questions.
#1: Rock Scissor Paper
This is an excellent review game that lends itself perfectly to W/H questions and answers. The way it works is that you make a spreadsheet with lots of different questions and answers. For example:
Where do you go to school/ I go to J.R. Best.
What do you like to do in your free time?/ I like to play soccer.
When do you go to bed usually?/ I usually go to sleep around 10 pm.
Then, you cut them up into strips of paper, with questions and answers separate. Make enough so that each student has about 5 pieces of paper, and you can repeat questions/answers 2-3x.
Distribute the papers to the students, five per. Then, they have to stand up and walk around the class finding their matches. Once they do that, they do rock-scissor-paper and the winner takes both pieces of paper and gets a point.
In the end, the winner is the person with the most matches. Do you want to try it out? Have a look at this fun ESL review activity here: Rock-Scissor-Paper ESL Game.
#2: Board Games
In real life (not when I’m teaching!), I like to play board games. I like them a lot actually! So, I like to bring them into my classroom as well.
Did you know that it’s super easy to design your own ESL board games for just about any topic, vocabulary set or English grammar point like ESL gerunds infinitives or adverbs of frequency? Once you get some practice, you’ll find that it’s easy to do in just a few minutes.
In this case, you’d want to fill up your game board with W and H questions. Then, students have to land on that square and answer them. Or, you may want to mix in some answers as well and students have to say what the question is. It’s challenging, fun and students can’t get enough of them!
Do you want to try it out with your students? Learn more about how to make your own here: ESL Board Games.
#3 ESL WH Question Activity: Dialogue Substitution
Have you ever noticed that W/H questions are often introduced in some sort of dialogue in the textbooks? If you have your students read through it with a partner, they’ll likely do this pretty mindlessly.
A way to change this is to remove some of the dialogue! In this case, you’d want to remove the who/what/when/why/where/how from the questions. And, you could also remove some of the answers, perhaps the words that have to do with meaning.
Then, students not only have to read through it together, but they have to fill in the blanks at the same time. Difficulty level: much higher! Check it out here: ESL Dialogue Substitution.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 94 Pages - 06/18/2020 (Publication Date)
#4: The Expert ESL Speaking Activity
This is an activity for intermediate or advanced level students. The way it works is that students have to think of three things that they’re an expert in, or that they know a lot about. Then, put students into pairs and they have to have some short conversations about these topics.
If you think about, this activity will lend itself to all sorts of who/what/when/why/where/how questions. Like a ton of them, and it’s all in a free practice kind of way. I like that students will get a chance to use these questions in a more informal setting with this one.
All the details you need to know here: Expert English Conversation Activity.
#5 WH Questions Activities: Conversation Starters
If you tell your students to have a conversation using W + H questions, you may be met with total silence! At least in South Korea where I taught, students are a little bit shy and often need a bit more direction than that.
One way to do this is to give your English students a list of conversation starters. In this case, you’d want to use who, what, when, why, where, how questions to start if off. And better yet, they’d all be surrounding a certain theme like food, travel or hobbies.
Do you want to find out more? Check it out here: ESL Conversation Starters.
#6 WH Question Game: Sentence Structure
The word order or sentence structure for these kinds of sentences can be a little bit tricky. I often find that my students need some practice in order for it to become more automatic and for them to not make mistakes. The answers are often no problem, but questions are not!
If you want to help your students out with this, check out some of my favourite activities here: Sentence Structure Games.
#7: Picture Prompt WH Question Activity
A nice way to introduce these kinds of questions is to use the picture prompt. Find a picture with lots of interesting things going on. Then, you could ask your students questions using W or H words. For example:
- What is the woman doing?
- What’s the little boy wearing?
- Where do you think they are?
- How old does the little girl look?
You could also consider doing something like at the end of class after you’ve taught students about W/H questions. Students could think of a question to ask their partner about the picture. Or, it’s a quick subject-verb agreement activity.
Do you want to learn more about one of the most versatile ESL activities? Check it out here: Picture Prompt ESL Warmer.
#8: Story + Follow-Up Questions
Have you ever noticed that most ESL textbooks in the unit on the simple past or past continuous require that students tell a story of some kind? Something like the most embarrassing moment, or most exciting thing that they’ve ever done. Most often, this is kind of a throwaway activity, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how:
- Give students a couple of minutes of preparation time. This will result in better stories.
- Put students into groups of four.
- One student tells their story, the other three students listen and have to each think of 1-2 follow up questions using W or H.
See how many questions and answers this will result in? It’s some ESL teaching gold right there! You can find out all the details here:
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 68 Pages - 11/12/2019 (Publication Date)
#9 WH Questions Game: Hot Potato
This is a fun game that lends itself to just about any grammar or vocabulary point. The way it works is that you can buy the “potato timer” on somewhere like Amazon. Or, you can use your cell-phone timer and do random times. Finally, there are also YouTube videos that will stop the music at random times.
Students pass around an object and when the music or timer stops, whoever is holding the object has to do something. In this case, you may want to get the person to make a WH question to ask the person who was holding the object before them.
Or, you could show them a flashcard and they have to make a question related to that. To find out more about this fun ESL game, check this out: ESL Hot Potato.
#10: Just One Question
This is a fun survey style of ESL activity that gets students up and out of their seats, moving around the classroom talking to their peers. The way it works is that students think of one interesting question about a certain topic. Food, hobbies, travel, etc.
Then, they have to ask at least 1o of their classmates, along with a follow-up question or two. They compile the results and report back their findings to the class. I LOVE this activity and I’m sure you will too! Find out all the details you need to know here:
ESL Survey Activity: Just One Question.
#11: Family Activities and W/H Questions
If you think about it, there are just so many possible questions related to family that our students can talk about. Here are just a few of the what seems like million possibilities:
- What does your family like to do together?
- Who do you spend the most time with in your family?
- Where do you like to go on vacation?
- Who does most of the cooking at your house?
- How often do you eat dinner together?
Here are even more ideas: Family ESL Activities.
#12: Comparative and Superlative WH Questions Activity
What are comparatives and superlatives? Here are two quick examples:
Comparative (My house is bigger than yours!)
Superlatives (That’s the biggest house on my block.)
If you think about it, there are just so, so, so many W/H questions that can be used to lead to answers that use this grammar. Check out some of the best ideas right here:
#13: Presentations with Follow-Up Questions
I LOVE to do presentations in my TEFL classes for various reasons, but perhaps my favourite one is that it’s a nice change of pace! Instead of me talking all the time, my students are.
The good news is that it’s easy to turn this ESL speaking activity into one that’s heavy on the WH questions by requiring that students ask follow-up questions to the presenter. In a small class, you could have each student ask 1 follow-up question. In a bigger class, put students into groups of 2-4 and have them do the same thing.
More details: Presentations for TEFL Classes.
#14: Giving Directions for ESL
Giving and getting directions involves a lot of where questions. The good news is that there are a ton of fun, engaging and student-centred activities related to this common ESL topic. You can check them out here:
ESL Activities for Directions.
#15: ESL Question Words
Maybe your students are kind of like mine? By that, I mean that they get pretty tired of hearing me talk by the end of the semester (at least I think they do). If you suspect this to be the case for your classes, then consider letting another teacher do the teaching! You can find a lot of nice videos on YouTube for any age and level of student.
#16: Sentence Building Activities and Games for WH Questions ESL
Time spent working on building better sentences is never wasted time in our classes. This is the foundation of the English language and something that students need lots of practice with.
In the case of ESL WH Questions, it can be a little bit tricky in terms of how to make a question, especially when you add in things like negatives, past tense and continuous forms. Here are some of the best ideas for helping our students out with this:
ESL Sentence Structure Activities.
#17: Running Dictation WH Questions Game
Ask my students and they’ll probably tell you that I love board games, surveys and running dictation! It’s mostly because these activities are engaging, interactive and cover a wide range of skills in a single activity.
In this case, you could find or write a conversation with lots of W/H questions and answers in it. Then, students have to work in pairs to dictate the conversation and then put it into the correct order. It’s challenging but fun and I think your students will love it. Find out all the details here:
ESL Running Dictation Activity.
#18: More Ideas for Teaching ESL
#19: Just a Minute
If you teach more advanced students, consider trying Just a Minute. The way it works is that someone has to talk about a certain topic for 1 minute without stopping. To turn it into an activity heavy on the listening and also on the W + H questions, put students into groups of 3-4 and require that everyone ask at least 1 follow-up question.
Find out more about it:
ESL Just a Minute Speaking Activity.
#20: Error Correction Game
#21: ESL Conversation Lessons
If you teach more advanced learners but want to work on the W/H questions, why not use a standalone English conversation lesson like one of these ones? They have lots of W/H questions in them and are interactive, challenging and will your students talking in a big way. Have a look here:
#22: Typhoon ESL Speaking and Listening Activity
If you want to give students some serious practice answering WH questions, then consider playing this fun review game. It’s ideal for the class before a midterm or final exam and can be used for all ages of students. Give it a try and get ready for a seriously fun class:
WH Question Worksheets
Are you looking for some WH questions worksheets? We don’t have any here, but please check out our top recommendations:
WH Questions Online Practice
If your students want to do some online practise with these questions (or you require them to!), here are some of the best resources:
WH Questions Lesson Plans
Finally, are you super busy and just want to have something that you can print and go? No problem, we’ll help you out with that too. Here are our top choices for W/H Question lesson plans that you can just use with minimal fuss or hassle:
Why Questions ESL
Here is a list of some of the best why questions for ESL.
- Why did you choose to study/work here?
- Why do you do your favourite hobby?
- If you could sit on a bench in a park with anyone, who could you choose and why?
- Why does it always seem to rain in movies during a sad scene?
- Why do you like/not like a certain food.
- What age would you like to be for the rest of your life and why?
- Why are you studying English?
- Why do you sit where you sit in this class?
- Would you rather vacation in Europe or the USA? Why?
- Why did you eat what you ate for breakfast this morning?
WH Question Games FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about WH questions and games, activities and lesson plans. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
What is a Question Activity?
A question activity is anything that gets language learners asking and answering questions. There are a number of activities that do this, including surveys, board games, just one question, asking follow-up questions to a story and more.
What are the 21 Questions?
This is a classic activity where one person is chosen at random to answer 21, rapid-fire questions from the other people in the room. Follow-up questions can count as part of a total of 21 questions.
What are the Five WH Questions?
The five WH questions start with the followings words:
How Can My ESL Students Practice WH Questions?
The best way for ESL students and language learners in general to practice WH Questions is to use a variety of communicative activities that get them talking with each other! Or, consider trying out some conversation starters that use the 5W + H questions.
Did you Like these ESL WH Question Activities?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 94 Pages - 05/30/2015 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so. Then the book you’re going to love is this one over on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities for Teenagers and Adults. The key to better English classes is a wide variety of interesting, engaging activities and this book will help you get there.
Make it through an entire speaking or conversation course in style with this book. The best part is that you find it in audio, digital or physical versions. Take the digital version with you to your favourite coffee shop for some lesson planning on the go. Or, keep a copy on the bookshelf in your teacher’s resource room at school. Finally, you may want to listen to the audio version while working out or doing some housework for some serious inspiration.
It really is that easy to have English lessons with teenagers or adults! Do you want to find out more about the book? Head over to Amazon to learn more:
Have your say about these WH Question Games and Activities
What did you think about these WH Question Activities and games? Did you try out one of them from this list, or do you have another that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself, find this useful resource.
Last update on 2022-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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