To Be ESL Games and Activities: how to teach the verb • Grade University

ESL games and activities for the classroom to teach "to be"

ESL games and activities for the classroom to teach "to be"


  • Grammar
  • Teaching qualifications
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

To be is undoubtedly one of the most important verbs in the English language. Every ESL teacher knows, though, that teaching this verb to beginner students might be particularly challenging

In this article we are going to discuss how to teach the verb to be in a fun way with the help of games and activities.

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How to teach “to be”: tips and tricks

But first and foremost: what about the strategies that make teaching to be more effective? We have prepared some ideas:

Give your students enough time

The topic may seem easy for you and not worth discussing for too long. 

However, every teacher should bear in mind that to be is one of the first topics their students face while starting their English language journey. 

Therefore, the fact that one verb has three different present forms  and can’t be used with other verbs simultaneously is quite complicated to understand

Carefully plan your studying schedule and leave up to three lessons to discuss this verb in detail and get as much practice as needed. 

Give enough practice

There is no such thing as too much practice. 

Therefore, practice absolutely everything! Pronouns, singular or plural forms, affirmative and negative sentences, questions,  and cases where to be is not needed – all of these things require careful and thorough practice and drilling. 

The more practice your students get, the more confidence they have. 

Dos and Don'ts of ESL teaching

Explain everything

Again, it may seem obvious  that to be is used with nouns and adjectives, but we always need to remember that students might have problems even with defining the part of the speech

That is why don’t just give students a number of rules and some brief examples. Practice looking for the verb in sentences, ask your students to give their own examples of adjectives or “other verbs” etc. 

How do you know whether they are aware of what “the subject” or “pronoun” is? 

Imagine that you are learning the language from scratch again, and keep in mind that your students might feel the same way now. 

Make it practical

At the point of learning to be, the reading skills of your students are likely to be low. 

Also, one of the main priorities for any ESL teacher during this period is teaching students how to speak using basic grammar and vocabulary

Teaching to be is a great chance to show your students how to give and ask for the simplest information. 

So, the bottom line here is that you should make your “to be” classes as practical as possible and filled with various examples of how to be is used. 

Also, add some encouraging tasks that would motivate your students to practice using the verb themselves. 

In this way, two major problems will be solved: your students will learn how to use to be as well as share some simple facts about themselves. 

How to motivate your students?

Demonstrate possible mistakes

It is not hard to anticipate some mistakes of your students at this point. 

Here are some things you will probably have to explain to them:

  • Problems with combining pronouns and to be: Tom and Jerry is friends.
  • Usage of to be and “another verb” in the same sentence: I am wake up very early.
  • Various Present Simple mistakes: Is he play the piano? 
  • Problems with singular and plural, countable and uncountable nouns: News are very sad.

The range of possible problems is wide but predictable. That is why you may create flashcards with some potential to be mistakes and ask students to correct them.

Warn them that these mistakes are very common, so once they’ve completed this task, they need to be aware of these tricky cases.

On the one hand, sure, this strategy won’t help them to avoid all the mistakes. On the other hand, students will get valuable practical experience and will know what tricky situations to expect

Be ready to go backwards

You have created a superb presentation and millions of chances to practice to be, but your students still make mistakes and feel uncertain. Well, this is a situation familiar to all ESL teachers

Sometimes, in spite of all the practice you have done, you just need to go backwards and explain something one more time.

It’s OK. Be patient, speak in the simplest way possible and repeat the same stuff again and again as much as needed. After all, it is always hard at the beginning

Teach English to beginners effectively

How to upgrade your teaching of “to be”

Knowing all of these tips makes it easier to upgrade your teaching of to be by implementing some fun ESL games and activities

And now it’s time to look a little bit closer at them:

Verb to be games

It Must Be True

One of the funniest and most competitive games is to practice creating affirmative and negative sentences with to be. Here, students are supposed to make correct and true sentences about themselves using the prompts from the random flashcards.

The first player makes a true affirmative or negative statement after examining their cards.  They do this by putting three cards face up on the table and reciting the phrases they see out loud. 

The player receives a point if the sentence is true and properly composed. Players can use objects or other students in the room as evidence to support the truth of a statement. 

After that, the player pulls three additional cards from the deck. The following player lays down three cards and constructs a truthful statement, and so forth. A player replaces one of their cards and misses a turn if they are unable to construct a true statement. 

At the conclusion of the game, the player with the most points wins.

Are You?

Students compete to fill in their bingo cards with the names of their classmates by asking to be questions to each other.

This is one of my favorite verb to be ESL games. 

An affirmative or negative present simple statement without a subject (the name of somebody from the class) may be found in each bingo worksheet. 

The student aims to finish the sentences by using the verb to be in the present simple yes/no questions. A student  may ask something like, “Are you a fan of Star Wars?” in response to a phrase that begins in the following way: “... is a fan of Star Wars”

When a classmate responds, “Yes, I am,” the student fills in the gap with their name. Students may ask only one question at a time. 

The student who collects the bingo set first wins. 

More games ideas!

Activities for the verb to be


Students watch the video and guess what is depicted in  the hidden pictures by using to be and composing sentences with to be

Telepathy is one of the most popular ideas on how to teach the verb to be in a fun way. 

For this activity, the teacher needs to show the video/ slides with the hidden picture and the  sentence with to be below. Students make guesses about the pictures using sentences and questions with the verb to be

Then, the correct answer is displayed. The students whose answer is correct get the point. The person who gets the biggest number of points wins.

Here is an example of the video you can find on YouTube or create on your own: 


Students need to guess the secret identity of their partner by asking questions with to be.

Here is one more beloved verb to be activity for adults. 

The teacher has to prepare some flashcards with the names of famous people, book or movie characters and give them to the students at the lesson. After receiving their cards, students have to come up with the questions and ask them. 

In this case, to be questions serve as hints to the secret identity of their partner. The task is pretty challenging as students are supposed to compose correct and meaningful questions that will lead them to their final guess. 


The majority of the games seem to be perfect for offline lessons. What should I do as an online ESL teacher? Are there any ideas on how to teach and practice the verb to be in the online classroom 

Don’t worry! All of these tasks can be easily adapted with the help of some useful ESL resources like Wordwall,, Canva and many  more. 

Read our article about useful ESL resources to get more ideas for inspiration.


How can I create the materials for Telepathy?

You don’t really need any skills of video production or montage to create such an activity on your own. 

Canva and are amazing user-friendly resources that will help you to create bright and unique designs. 

What is more, has the feature of saving your presentation as a video, so you can  create your own video in this way too. 

Some useful ESL resources


To sum up, there are so many ways to make your lesson an exciting and enjoyable experience with the help of certain verb to be activities for adults we have discussed above. 

You just have to choose your perfect to be ESL games or activities for the verb to be. Do you use any activities or verb to be games in the classroom? Are your beloved options different? 

If so, don’t forget to tell us in the comments about your favorite verb to be ESL games and your ideas on how to teach the verb to be in a fun way. 

Teaching the verb to be may help beginner students start speaking better.

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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