Beginning ESL

stacks of pennies and quarters

Purpose:  A fun and energetic game to practice counting coin amounts

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  sets of index cards with the words More, Less, and Same written on them (one word per card), a list of coin amounts


woman's hand with henna typing on a laptop

The College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) were created by the U.S. Department of Education to align adult basic education and ESL instruction across the states. They also provide learners attending ABE and ESL classes with the academic and critical thinking skills to be able to be successful in careers or higher education once they leave those programs.

cards with numbers 1 through 12

Thanks to Megan Hallstrom for this activity idea!

Purpose:  To practice verbally reviewing numbers

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Materials Needed:  cards with numbers written on them


Contents of the MN Literacy Council's ESL Pull-Out Phonics Kit

If you are looking for small group or one-to-one activity ideas for adult ESL learners, take a minute to explore the four different ESL pull-out kits. The kits take time off of teacher and tutor preparation by providing volunteers with complete activity instructions and materials for small-group and one-on-one instruction in four different areas: reading, phonics, pronunciation, and citizenship. The kits also provide structured support to volunteers which helps to develop their confidence, build independence and strengthen their teaching skills.

three words with large and small circles behind them to show the stress patterns

Purpose:  To help learners become familiar with the word stress patterns of their vocabulary words through using a visual support

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  None


A red pencil making editing corrections on a typed paper

Purpose:  To help learners practice using correct grammar, and to develop proof-reading skills so that learners can become more independent with self-corrections

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  A short passage with several errors, or sentences or a worksheet with errors

two stick figures with overlapping speech bubbles

Purpose:  To practice using vocabulary words in a conversational setting

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  list of 5-10 vocabulary words, one copy per learner


clipart image of red and white striped circus tent

This activity was adapted from ESL Teacher Alison Hoyer.

Purpose:  To give beginning level learners a concrete understanding of different tenses

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  a class set of cards with three different verbs written on them (one verb per card)


multi-colored speech bubbles

Purpose: To facilitate students speaking to each other, to get to know classmates and to use vocabulary related to the day’s lesson

Prep Time: 3-15 minutes

Materials: copies of the conversation grid (see link below)

Version 1: print the grid, write a title on it, and write four questions related to today’s lesson on it, and then make copies of it

Version 2: print the grid, write a title on it and make copies of it

The word find in red letters with a magnifying glass leaning up against it

Purpose:  To help learners practice identifying and reviewing the main information from a reading

Preparation Time:  none

Materials Needed:  a reading text, highlighters




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