Online Class Activities

Fun and engaging games and activities for online ESL lessons!

Key: 'G' grammar, 'R' reading, 'W' writing, 'S' speaking, 'L' listening, 'O' other

'Course site' refers to the learning management system (LMS) you use.

'Break-out rooms' are a great feature of some video conferencing platforms, such as www.zoom.us.

An Interesting Page - W

Take a screenshot of an interesting page on any website you like. Post it to your course site and include a reason for your choice. Students then do the same and comment on each other's posts, asking questions if they like.

Anti-Instructions (modal verbs) - GW

This is a good activity to practice language for giving advice and modal verbs. Post an example of anti-instructions on your course site (i.e. how not to do something - e.g. when you have a technical problem you should not ask for help, you must panic, try throwing the tech against the wall etc...), then have students post the correct instructions in the comments. Give pairs of students another item to write anti-instructions for. Have them work collaboratively on a shared document and then post their anti-instructions to the course site. Other students can then post the real instructions in the comments. Here are some suggestions; how to pass a test, how to learn a language, how to save money, how to study at home, how to be healthy, how to have a good relationship, how to get a job...

Blog-cast - RWS

Learners create recordings (or a podcast) for their blog of a book. These recordings are shared on the course site and classmates comment and ask questions on the post.

Chain Mail (review) - GRWS

List your students' names in an email, starting with the stronger students if there's a larger range of levels in the group - this will be the order the learners email each other. Start the email with a phrase (such as 'My favourite...', 'One thing...', 'The best holiday...' etc - even better if it can review a language point), complete the sentence, then email it to the next person in the list. They then add their entry and email it to the next and so on until it eventually arrives back in your inbox. Post this to the course site and use it to generate conversation, focus on grammar, review (e.g.) past tenses, or whatever else is relevant to your context.

Class Blog - RW

Create a blog using the course site or a free provider online. Choose a topic and have students write an entry on the blog page and comment on each other's blogs. This could be for 'my favourite movie', 'my favourite restaurant in town', 'something interesting about me', 'what I did with my friends or family this week' or even some kind of research project - depending on the level. This could also be done as a regular part of the course.

Class Lectures - SL

Record yourself giving a lecture on a topic of your choosing and include some comprehension questions. Have learners listen and answer the questions in an email to you - you can provide correction/feedback as necessary. Students then do the same as you and post it to the course site. Students can then listen to each other's lectures and answer the questions. You can then use what they produce for more activities, such as debates and polls.

Class Reading Log - RWS

Choose a book to read as a class. Students read a chapter every week and keep a log by writing summaries of each chapter. These summaries can be used to generate discussion and debate during classes. There are countless ways to expand on this activity, such as coming up with what happens next, writing a diary entry from the perspective of one of the characters, writing an alternative ending, making a comic using a free online comic creator, and so on.

Complaints (Indirect Speech) - GSL

Invent a character and give them a name, age, job and company. Now record an answering machine message (e.g. 'You've reached the phone of....') and post it to the course site. Think of some issues a customer might have with them depending on their job (e.g. delivery hasn't arrived, catering service wasn't to standard, poor customer service etc). Now do some language analysis on using indirect speech and politeness. Next, give each student a different issue which they must record an answering machine message for your character explaining the issue while using the language studied earlier. Randomly distribute these recordings among the students and have them record responses to the complaints. Choose a couple of examples to share with the group for error correction and feedback.

Connected News - RWS

Divide your students into groups of 3 and assign them a letter (A, B or C). Share a link to a news story with them and give each team member a task (e.g. A - Write a summary of the story. B - List and define 5-8 words which are important to the story and useful to know. C - Find 3 other news stories related to the original). For small classes, just have them all work on one story. They then coordinate together (e.g. using a shared Google Doc) and post their answers to the course site. You can then provide feedback and correction to their posts.

Developing News - RW

Create a small list of recent new stories. Students must follow the story for a week and then report back to you, or post their findings on the course site. Remember to give them instructions, such as; (1) Choose a story from the teacher's list. (2) Check on the story every day. (3) Check at least 3 news websites. (4) Choose a photo to go with your report. (5) Write a summary explaining how the story has developed through the week. This activity can also be used to practice specific writing skills, but to do that you will need to provide a model and an analysis of that model (e.g. format, register...) so that students know what they are working toward.

Excuses, Excuses. - SL

Record yourself describing a few situations (e.g. a student forgetting homework, losing friends car keys, forgetting someone's birthday etc). Post each one to the course site individually. Students then record themselves giving excuses and they post each excuse to the situation's original post as a comment. Students then vote on the best, the funniest, and the most believable excuses. Use this to generate discussion.

Find Someone Who... - SO

This is the classic ESL activity, but done online. There is a template for a 'find someone who' form on our 'Materials' page. Include questions appropriate for the level of your learners. Have them work in groups of around six students and put them into break-out rooms to conduct the activity. After a set amount of time, have each group present their findings to the class.

Google That - R

Prepare some general knowledge questions before class. Let the students know that they will race to find the answers to your questions by searching Google. Copy (Ctrl/Command + C) and paste (Ctrl/Command + V) your question into the chat box for students to quickly search for the answer. As soon as they have the answer, they should write it into the chat box. The first student to answer the question correctly wins a point. You can use the site www.agoogleaday.com for more challenging questions to ask higher level learners. An alternative would be to ask questions that require more research and a more considered answer. For these kinds of questions, no need to conduct them as races. In either case, you can have students go and prepare their own questions and each student asks the group their question in turn,.

Group Dictation - SL

Find or write a short text with enough sentences so that you, and each student can have one sentence each. Everyone - in random order - dictates their sentence while everyone listening writes them down. Tell the students that your sentence is the first and that they must organise the sentences in a logical order.

Hear Me Now - L

Record a short clip of yourself reading an interesting article or news story. Have the learners listen and transcribe the text in their own time. In the next lesson, use the content to generate conversation or as a lead-in for the next lesson's context. learners can then make their own recordings in response to the original text.

Here's What I Think - SLO

Record yourself answering a question on an interesting topic or some current events and post it to the course site. Students watch your video to generate discussion or they complete a worksheet. Students then do the same and comment on each other's recordings. Questions could be something like; 'what can we do about overpopulation?', 'how do you feel about climate change?', 'what things make you happy to be alive?', 'who is the most influential person you know?' etc.

How To Videos (Imperatives / Signposting Language) - GSL

Refer the students to some short 'How To' videos on Youtube.com. Do some language work on imperatives and signposting language. Students then record their own 'How To' video on a topic of your choosing (or theirs if they have a good idea). You could create a private playlist on Youtube for learners to upload their videos, or alternatively have them post the videos to the course site.

I Can See... - WO

Take a photo from a window in your house or office. Post the photo to your course site and include a description beginning with 'I can see...'. Students then do the same. Encourage students to post follow-up questions for their classmates.

I Would Like... - O

Ask learners to think of 3 things they expect from the course, and 3 things they expect from you as the teacher - they can do this as homework. In the next lesson, have students post their ideas to the chat box dof the course site. Discuss each point with the group and try to identify an recurring ideas. After the lesson, provide a summary of the responses and share it with the students.

I'd Like to Visit... - SO

Students create a map (using Google maps) showing 5 paces they'd like to visit. They should be able to give a reason why they'd like to visit these places. Then during class, put small groups into break-out rooms to compare their answers. They must decide as a group on the top 5 places they'd like to visit. Each group then shares their choices with the class.

I'm From Here - RSO

Create a map (e.g. using Google) and share it with your students. They drop a pin showing where they are from - no need to be too specific, just note the town for example. Students check where their classmates are from and then do some research. They then prepare to share something interesting they learned about their classmates location. You can put smaller groups into break-out rooms to share what they learned with each other to promote more production.

Interviews - SLO

Have pairs of students conduct interviews in break-out rooms. They then send you the transcript of the interview for error correction.

Keep it Short - RW

Post a short review (max 30-50 words) of a short story on your course site. Have students read and respond to your post, stating on a scale of 1-10 how likely they are to read the story. They then do the same. A quick google search will yield many results of sites hosting short stories for free.

Movie Trailers - WS

Have learners post a link to a movie trailer on the course site. Have them also include some kind of text (a review, a summary, an imaginary plot line, an imaginary quote from the movie etc) for the other students to comment on. What they produce can then be used for other tasks (like screenplay writing, story writing, dialogue recording etc...). This can be done as weekly section to a regular course.

My Favourite Site - SL

Record yourself describing your favourite website and why you like it. Post the recording to the course site and have students answer questions about your model. Students then do the same and post their recordings to the course site for their classmates to comment on.

My Music - WO

Create a playlist on Youtube with 3-5 songs you really like. Post a link to the playlist on your course site and include a justification for each choice in the post. Ask learners to read your post and listen to the playlist. They then do the same. Finally, they read each other's posts and comment on the music choices.

My Name Is - SO

Record a short introductory video of yourself (no more than 2 minutes) and include information appropriate to the level of your learners. Upload the video to your course site and have the students them use it as a model to record their own video including similar information. They should then share their video with he other students. They watch their classmates videos and think of one or two follow-up questions to ask them. They can do this just with audio if they prefer.

My Slideshow - GSL

Create a slideshow and screen-cast yourself going through the slides while narrating them. You can use this for any language point relating to the needs of your learners. Post the video to the course site and have learners comment or answer questions. Learners then complete the same task and post their videos to the course site. Use these videos to generate discussion.

Mystery Guest (question formation and predictions) - GSL

Ask a friend or colleague who is willing to be interviewed to participate. Before they join the class, give each student a category they must interview the mystery guest about (e.g. work, hobbies, family, favourite food, travel history etc). Give them time to prepare some questions, then have them ask the mystery guest. The other learners listen and make notes as the interviews progress. Afterwards, each student creates a profile of the mystery guest and posts it to the course site for collaborative correction work before you finally reveal who the mystery guest is. As an extension activity, you could have the students guess some extra information about the mystery guest which could be confirmed or not during the big reveal.

Our Things - WO

Take a photo of some object that's important to you (a phone, a computer, a musical instrument, a sentimental trinket, a book...). Post it to your course site and include a short explanation (around 100 words) as to why it's important to you. Students do the same and then post questions to each other about their objects. You can extend this activity by using a series of images to teach different language points, such as narrative tenses, sequencing, ranking etc.

Plot Me a Story - RW

Use one of the many free plot generators in the internet to generate something suitable for your group of learners. Instruct them to write the first half of a short story using the information provided. They then post their story to the course site. After that, they read each other's stories and write the second half to a story of their choosing. They then post their stories to the comments of the original one and read and comment on each other's stories.

Podcasts - WSL

Get your learners to sample a few podcasts (you can suggest some if you like) and have them choose one to listen to for a month. Each week they post a summary (max 150 words) to the course site for their classmates to comment on. Use this to generate discussion and/or debate.

Put It In Your Diary - RW

Learners write a diary in the form of a blog. This can be done from their perspective as a language learner or student, or it can be done from the perspective of a famous of fictitious character. Be sure to set clear instructions about how often this should be done, and set a word limit. You should also write one for the students to read. Have the the other students comment or ask questions on each other's entries - you can give them guiding questions to help with this for lower level learners.

Report the News - RW

This is an alternative to the activity 'Developing News'. For the more gregarious students, you could have them record themselves giving the news story as a news anchor would, and post it to the course site for others to comment on and respond to.

Role Plays - W

Have pairs of students email each other in a role play (e.g. booking a hotel, asking for information, making a complaint etc). Have the students post their email chain to the course site and use it to provide feedback and correction as a class.

Sentence Stems (error correction) - GW

Write the first half of a sentence in the chat box and have learners finish it with their own ideas. Use this text to provide error correction on whatever language point you wish. Examples include 'I have never...', ' tomorrow, I'm going to...', 'If I won the lottery, I....', 'I am living....', 'My friend told me...' etc.

Spot the Difference - SO

Useful as an activity for early-finishers. Give pairs of students two images with small differences (search Google - you'll find countless images to use). Put them into break-out rooms to work together to find as many differences as they can within a time limit.

Text Introductions - O

Post to your course site a short profile about yourself - up to 150 words - and add a nice photo. Include the usual introduction info; job, family, hobbies, hometown etc, but try to add a few interesting things too. Have students read yours before writing and posting their own profiles. You can give some prompt questions if needed. Once this has been done, they read each other's profiles and leave a comment or question. Give them a task to do while reading the profiles, such as 'who has the same hobbies as you?', 'who has done the most interesting thing?', 'who did something surprising?' and so on.

Things in Common - WO

Have pairs of students meet online outside of class time for around 20 minutes. They must try to find as many things they have in common as possible and send you a written summary using your course site. You can then provide error correction for their text.

Tongue-Twisters - S

Record yourself saying one of the tongue twisters on our materials page slowly, and quickly. Learners then practice at home in preparation for a race in the next class. Make sure that students know that accuracy comes before speed, and anyone who mumbles out the words will lose points. This is a really funny activity to do!

Website Ads (persuasive language) - GRW

Choose a website you really like, take a screenshot of it and write a short blurb describing its content. Use this as a model for the students to see how to use persuasive language. Students then do the same and post their ads to the course site for their classmates to comment on.

Wiki City Page - RW

Create a wiki page for this activity. Put the learners into pairs and have them create a wiki subpage for a made-up city of their choosing. Give prompts to help if necessary. Visit each group's page as it develops to provide feedback and correction. When they're all finished, have the learners read about and comment on their classmates' cities.

Wiki-Story (narrative tenses) - GRW

Create a wiki page for this activity. Upload a bunch of photos to the front page which can be used to create a story. Randomly assign a student to each photo and have them write that part of the story (up to 100 words). Use the resulting story to focus on sentence formation, narrative tenses, or any other emergent language relevant to the needs of the learners. For larger classes, you could divide the class into two or three larger groups and have them write different versions of the story (e.g. horror, comedy, romance...).

World Travellers - SL

Have learners choose 4 countries they would like to visit and why, and prepare some slides with pictures as homework. Then, in the next lesson, each student presents their ideas while sharing their slides. As a group you will need to discuss and debate which 4 destinations will be visited on an imaginary class trip.

Your Photo, My Past (past tenses) - GRW

Good activity to practice past tenses. Have the students send you a photo (by email) they find on the internet of a location/place. In the next lesson, give each student a different photo to the one they sent you. They must then write a paragraph about an imaginary holiday they took in the place in their photo. They then post the photo and the summary to the course site and comment on each others posts - give guiding questions as needed. You can then provide error correction on the text.