5 examples of active grammar exercises

This was another homework assignment, in which we had to give multiple ideas how to tackle grammar in an active way. These were some of my ideas.

Grammar practice:

  1. Simon says.

For example: “Simon says stand behind your chair.”

  1. Collecting present & continuous forms.

Give everyone a little piece of paper with either the present or continuous form of a verb. Let them find their other form.

  1. Find your synonym/antonym.

Same idea as 2, but then let them find their synonym or antonym. Depending on the topic.

  1. Uitbeelden – swimming – 3 forms of the verb.

The general idea is, you have a hat containing multiple infinitives. Let one pupil grab a card and without showing it to others he/she has to pretend to actually do the motion the verb is describing. The person guessing the correct answer has to give the three forms of the verb.

  1. Circle exercise : I am … and I like …, This is … and he/she likes …

Give a certain topic, for example fruits. Start with one person saying: “I am .. and I like bananas.” The next one has to say: “This is .. and she likes bananas. I am .. and I like strawberries.”


Using a game to teach English actively

Hi there!

During last Friday’s English Language Teaching class we had to write down rules and vocabulary for the game Happy family, in the Netherlands known as kwartet. We also had to give an explanation on how to apply this with other games. So I thought I should add it here because I learned a lot of it. I never knew there were some many factors you should take into consideration with regards to such a small and simple game.

Happy family! (Subject : clothing)

First of all you would want to explain the game title. If there is one, give or ask for the Dutch title of the particular game. (Happy families à kwartet)

You want to inform yourself whether your pupils are familiar with the game or not, if not go through the game rules together, mainly because there are many different rules for certain games and you want it to be clear that they are all playing by the same rules in your classroom. Therefore, go through the rules either way, when they are and when they aren’t familiar with the game.

Game rules :

  1. Shuffle the deck.
  2. Every person gets five cards.
  3. Place the remaining cards on a pile in the middle of the table(s).
  4. The objective of the game is to make “happy families” with the cards in your hand. (Sets of four).
  5. Go clockwise and the youngest member starts.
  6. Ask a group member if he possesses a card you need to get a happy family.
  7. You can only ask for one card at the time, do so by naming the category and the specific item you want.
  8. If your group member has the card he responds and gives you the card. You can now ask another or the same group member if they have another card you need.
  9. When your group member hasn’t got the card you draw a card from the pile and your turn is over.  It is now the turn of the person next to you.
  10. In the end, the person with the most happy families wins.
  11. Don’t use swear words!

Now you want to go through the vocabulary, start with the vocabulary used in the game rules. Write down some hard words and ask for translations/definitions. Also ask for other difficult words your pupils might have found. For example:

  • Shuffle – schudden
  • Deck – pak kaarten
  • Pile – stapel
  • Clockwise – met de klok mee
  • Draw a card – pak een kaart

Move on to the particular vocabulary used for this type of game. Give some examples and let them give the definition/translation. You might also want your pupils to come up with other ways to ask for cards or respond to a question. For example:

  • It’s your turn.
  • From the category of …, could you give me …, please?
  • Here you go.
  • Thank you very much.
  • I’m sorry, I haven’t got that one.

Last but not least, go through the vocabulary within the game. In the case of this game, happy families with clothing as the subject, go through the words on the cards. For example:

  • Top hat
  • Socks
  • Sweater
  • Colours (blue, yellow etc.)
  • State of pieces of clothing (old, dirty etc.)


All things considered, in my opinion, the best way to have a clear and structured game in your classroom is probably to make a game with your pupils from scratch. Pick a certain type of game, set up the rules together and let them make the cards, board and/or whatever else you need for the particular game. That way the students will be positively involved and will be exposed to the language in a more active way than by just listening to you explaining the game and giving some examples and definitions/translations themselves.

Teaching activity: pictionary

Title  Pictionary
Level All levels
Aim Learn vocabulary by drawing and guessing.
Focus  Vocabulary
Time  As long as you like
Brief description




 Divide the class into two (or more) teams. First one pupil from team A comes up and gets a word, has to draw the word and his/her team has to guess within 1 or 2 minutes. Then one pupil from team B comes up etcetera. Then another from team A, then another from team B etcetera.
Preparation Make cards with vocabulary words to show the pupil who has to draw.

To make it funnier, stop them in a hat and let them draw a card.

Materials Cards with words and a black-/whiteboard with crayons or a marker.






Divide the class into two teams. Team A and team B. Team A starts (or toss a coin). One pupil of team A comes up to you and gets a word, when he/she starts drawing the 1 or 2 minutes start. The others of team A have to guess what word was on the paper by guessing what their teammate is drawing.

If they guess it before the time extends they get a point, if they don’t they don’t get a point. (keep the score on the board)

The turn goes to team B, repeat all the steps.

The game ends when you want it to end, for example 2 minutes before the ending of the lesson. Tell who won and what the homework for the next lesson is.



 My former English teacher used this game almost every week.
Motivation for my choice (+/- 100 words)



I know this game works because it worked for my classes when I was still at school. My teacher used this game to get us to learn our vocabulary because we would lose the game if only one other pupil hadn’t studied. My teacher made us study small vocabulary lists every week and ended every week with this game to see if we had studied. (we always had because we didn’t want to lose.) I love this game, it is easy, competitive and as long as you want to make it. It is quite a motivator.






Teaching activity: Simon says


Title  Simon says (example with prepositions)
Level All levels
Aim Learning vocabulary (for example: prepositions, numbers etcetera)
Focus  Grammar and vocabulary
Time  Until only one pupil is left/as long as you like
Brief description



 The teacher (at lower levels) or a pupil is saying “Simon says:..” or just the “…” part. The other pupils should only follow the directions when the pupil says “Simon says:…” otherwise they are out.
Preparation Make sure the pupils are already quite familiar with the words, don’t throw them in it. Make sure you have already spent some time on the words they need. For example: behind the table, underneath the chair etc.

And of course explain the game.



 If you are playing this with prepositions make sure you have tables or chairs or anything like that.

(With first years)






 You have already gone through the prepositions with your pupils. For example the lesson before. You explain the rules of Simon says, they only have to do what you say when you say Simon says before the preposition.

Give an example with one student. Say: “Simon says: stand up” the pupil stands up. Then say: “stand behind your chair.” If the student understands the game he won’t stand behind the chair in that case ask if the entire class understands. If he doesn’t he will stand behind it and you will have to explain again. If it takes too long just start, the students will start learning it while doing the game. If it is necessary tell them the name of the Dutch variety: Comando pinkelen.

Every time a pupil doesn’t do it right make him/her sit down or their chair and continue until one pupil is standing. That pupil is the winner.



A colleague at my internship school told me this during a lunch break (he is also a student at the NHL).
Motivation for my choice (+/- 100 words)



 I have tried this game twice with first years and it went amazing! It is such a simple game, but the kids love it because it is competitive. It is a short game so it is a great way to end a lesson or a fun way to start. You can also make it even shorter, for example by setting a time limit.

In my case the students asked me if we could end the next lesson again with this game and so we did. I used prepositions the first time and the second time I used ordinals with their fingers (raise your first finger, Simon says raise your fourth finger).