Ball Toss: A 4-Skills ESL Activity

Ball-Toss: 4-Skills ESL Activity


Skills: Reading/Writing/Speaking/Listening
Time: 5-10 minutes
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Materials: Lightweight ball (such as a beach ball) with questions written on it

Ball Toss is a 4-skills ESL activity with many variations. One variation I have used with great success is writing questions on a beach ball. I use a white board marker to write on the ball, but let it dry thoroughly before class, so it doesn’t smudge but it can be washed clean and reused with different questions later.

How this ESL activity works is that students gently toss the ball to one another and read aloud and answer the question under their right thumb. A more complex variation is: Student A reads/asks the question, tosses the ball to Student B, who answers that question, then asks the question under their right thumb, and tosses the ball to Student C, who answers Student B’s question.

If it’s a “getting to know you ESL activity,” use questions to elicit name, age, and basic information. Otherwise, it can be used to practice likes/dislikes, 5 W/H-questions, etc. It is quite a versatile activity and can be used with just about anything that you’re studying.

If you don’t have a ball handy, you can crumple up a piece of paper to use as a ball. Ask a question and toss the ball to a student. That student must answer and ask a question (the same question for true beginners or related question, if higher level), then toss the “ball” to the next student. If you want the students to ask different questions, you should give them a topic (daily routine, hobbies, etc.) or grammar pattern to use.

If you want to make sure all students have equal turns, have students sit down after catching the ball. If you have more than 10-12 students in your class, you may want to divide them into groups, each with their own ball, so students aren’t waiting long periods between turns. This will also increase student talking time.

Teaching Tips:

At the end, you may want to ask students questions about other students’ answers. Let students know before they begin that they need to listen closely to each other’s answers. This will make them more likely to pay attention between their own turns and, of course, provide additional listening and speaking practice.

Generally, this activity can be used with all ages. You can even use it with younger students as long as their ability is high enough to answer the questions. The same for class size: you can use it for larger classes, as long as their level is move advanced, simply because they will be better suited to working in small groups with less attention needed from you. If you have a class of 30 beginners, you might want to simply toss the ball and ask a question, rather than require them to read it, and have each student repeat the same question as they toss the ball. After 10-12 students have asked and answered the same question, take the ball and toss it to a different student, asking a new question.


1. Prepare a beach ball by writing questions on it. Allow enough time for the ink to dry before class. Low prep version: crumple up a piece of scrap paper with the questions written on it.

2. Have students stand in a circle (as much as possible). If your class is large, divide students into groups of 10-12.

Variation A:

When a student catches the ball, they must read out the question under their right thumb. They answer their own question and toss the ball to another student.

Variation B:

When Student A catches the ball, they ask the question under their right thumb to Student B. When Student B answers, A tosses them the ball. Student B asks Student C the question under their right thumb and so on.

No Prep Variation:

The teacher asks a question and tosses the ball to Student A. Student A answers, asks Student B a question, and tosses them the ball.

Love this ESL Activity?

If you love this ESL activity, it’s from the book 101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. There are 100 more ESL activities just like it that are guaranteed to get your students having fun while learning English. There is enough material for an entire year of classes and it’s easily organized into categories: 4-skills, listening + speaking, reading, writing, icebreakers + warm-ups. It’s lesson planning made easy, guaranteed.

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