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Using Ball Games to Teach English

Ball games are a great way of practicing all kinds of language with young learners, particularly kids who struggle with more traditional classroom activities. Because they have so many possible uses, ball games are particularly good for revising a load of old language before moving onto presenting the new language point of the day.

Throwing or bouncing balls to drill language

The simplest use of a ball is for students to throw and catch it while drilling something like months of the year or pairs of infinitive and irregular past forms of verbs. This can be done with all three of the ways mentioned in the introduction above – one student on their own, two or more students cooperating, or a more competitive version with more challenging throws or things said to catch the other people out. You could also have one or two people throwing and catching while everyone else chants, perhaps as teams. Other sequences which students can drill include Days of the week, Numbers, Times and Dates, Adjectives and adverbs, I me my mine, you you your yours, etc.

Going beyond drilling with throwing and bouncing balls

Another obvious activity that could be considered one step above drilling is brainstorming as a ball goes back and forth, e.g. “banana”, “apple”, “grape” etc if the topic is fruit. The same thing can be done for grammar by brainstorming things like past participles (“been”, “seen”, “watched” etc) and uncountable nouns. You can also do the same thing for pronunciation, brainstorming words with “iz” ending (“passes”, “churches” etc), words with long vowel sounds (“arch” etc), single syllable words (“fan”, “bar” etc), words stressed on the first syllable (“power”, “waterfall”, etc), and so on.

Target practice games for practicing English

Target practice in the classroom can be played with students aiming balls at the places that the teacher or a student says or writes up on the whiteboard. If you don’t have enough balls for one per student or don’t want lots of things flying around the classroom at the same time, students can use paper (screwed up into balls or made into paper aeroplanes) or one person from each team can throw, with their teammates helping them work out where to do so. To add extra language, you can let students try again if they can describe where their ball actually ended up (“It’s in front of the box” “That’s right. Try to throw it behind the box again then.”). You can also play the opposite game of one person throwing and the other students competing to be first to correctly shout out where the ball has ended up.


Ball actions

As well as listening for where the ball has gone, students can listen for what someone is doing with the ball, e.g. “You are bouncing it on the door” and “You are kicking it”. Students can also race to do the action that is shouted out or written up (“Balance the ball on your shoulder”, “Hold the ball between your knees”, etc), challenge each other to do tricky things (“Can you head it four times?” etc), or think of and do actions that no one else has (“We are holding it with our little fingers”). One person or group can also do a whole sequence of actions that the other people must try to remember, as practice of Past Simple and/ or sequencing language (“after that” etc).

TEFL dodge ball

This is kind of the opposite of the throw and catch games at the start of this article. People try to avoid the thrown ball, and if it hits them they have to answer the question, come up with the next word, guess the next missing letter, etc. If they are wrong, they lose a point or are out of the game. If they are right, they can throw the ball next, perhaps also setting the next challenge. If you and the students can stand the chaos, this works best with everyone running around freely, rather than gathered at opposite walls as in the normal rules of dodge ball.

Article written by Alex Case for Read more


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