Try this simple and effective activity to teach the be verb (is, am, are) to young ESL students
In our new series, ESL Lesson Plan Ideas for Speaking English, we want to give English teachers some ideas of simple activities to use in their classrooms which focus on speaking English. They are simple and fun activities that we developed and use in our own English classes at Step by Step Eikaiwa in Japan. The best part is that they don’t require any preparation or flashcards, and can be used every lesson to give structure and familiarity to your lesson plans. Our first activity in the series is “Taking roll (be verbs: to be, is, am, are).”
Taking roll is perfect for mastering the expressions, “I am ~, You are ~, He is ~, She ~ is” along with the negative patterns, “I’m not ~, She’s not ~, etc.” Learning the be verbs (is, am, are) can be difficult for young ESL students who don’t understand the concept of verb conjugation. The best way to teach a difficult topic like this to children is to do an activity and repeat that activity often. Students will internalize without thinking, which is necessary to speak English naturally.
For our Taking Roll activity, we use the following simple routine for students to master the be verbs. After this activity becomes second nature, you can take it one step further and incorporate more advanced patterns such as, “We are ~, They are ~.”
How to do this ESL English speaking activity: Taking roll (be verbs: to be, is, am, are)
When a student’s name is called, the student must say “I’m here.”
After the student says “I’m here,” all the other students must say, “He’s here!” or “She’s here.”
The teacher repeats Step 1 – Step 3 for all the students.
To get more practice saying “He’s not here” and “She’s not here,” the teacher can use fictional names or popular cartoon/game character names. In our classes in Japan, Mario, Pikachu, Wakame-chan, and Sazae-san are good names to use for all ages.
Finally, the teacher says his or her own name, and the students must say, “You are here!” Sometimes students will try to be funny and say, “You are not here!” which means they understand and have mastered the be verb.
Extra Challenge 1
To practice other patterns such as “We are ~” and “They are~,” the teacher can read two names. After that, those two students must say “We are here!”, and the other students say, “They are here!”