ESL Activities for One on One Tutoring


Top 10 ESL Activities for One on One Tutoring

If you’re looking for some ESL activities for one on one tutoring, you’ve come to the right place! We have our top 10 ESL activities that will help get your private tuition student talking, enjoying their lesson and coming back for more! Without further ado, here are our favourite ESL activities for one on one tutoring.

Activity #1: Use Some Videos

Videos are a great way to generate some interest in a topic. Almost everybody watches YouTube or TV, so it’s a natural kind of way for your students to learn English too. Check out this post for details on using video in the classroom. The suggestions lend themselves well to private 1-1 classes as well.

How to Use Video in the ESL Classroom

Activity #2: Brochure Scanning

ESL-reading-activityIf your student wants to focus on reading, brochure scanning is one of my favourite ESL activities for one on one tutoring. When we read, it’s quite rare to read every single word in detail. More often, we scan quickly to find what we’re looking for and then skip the rest. Except when you’re learning another language, it’s common to read very slowly. This activity forces students to read more quickly in English and to look for only the relevant information.

Brochure Scanning ESL Reading Activity

Activity #3: Proof-Reading and Editing

If you are focusing on writing for your 1-1 lesson, a great activity to do with your student is proof-reading and editing. This is an oft neglected skill that can really help out your student. For whatever reason, it’s not taught that often in ESL or EFL classes, but it’s editing and proof-reading that can really take writing from average to good, or good to excellent.

Proof-Reading and Editing ESL Writing Activity

Activity #4: An ESL Reading Lesson

ESL reading lesson planThis ESL reading lesson plan template works great for classes of 40+ students as well as it does for a class with a single student. I’ve also used it for a 30 minute class, and expanded it to a 4-hour class. Beginners to fluent-it can work for everyone. It really is that versatile! Once you get the basics of this ESL reading lesson plan template down, you can just adapt and go from there to suit whatever you need.

ESL Reading Lesson Plan Template

Activity #5: Agony Aunt Problem and Advice

Everyone has problems and everyone loves giving advice! This is one of my favourite ESL activities for one on one tutoring when I want to get my quiet, shy student talking. You can adapt this activity from high-beginner to advanced, depending on the problem that you choose. It can also be a quick warm-up activity, or an entire lesson.

Agony Aunt Problem and Advice ESL Activity

Activity #6: ESL News Articles

ESL News Articles are a great way to teach 1-1 students. They make your life easy by grading the language from current events into different levels. Choose the article to match the level of your student and away you go! Most of these sites have questions to go along with the reading as well.

ESL News Article Websites

Activity #7: Fortunately, Unfortunately

This is a fun ESL warm-up that you can do with your student. It’s a great way to get your student thinking, speaking and having some fun using English at the beginning of the lesson.

Fortunately, Unfortunately ESL Warm-Up

Activity #8: Would you Rather?

Would you Rather is a fun ESL warm-up for kids. You can make this as silly as you want, and your student can help you think of some questions too. You could also use this every 1-1 class you have, with a different question each time.

Would You Rather ESL Warm-up for Kids

Activity #9: Picture Prompt

This is another one that works best for kids, but you could also use it for very low-level teenagers or adults. The way it works is that you show your student a picture and elicit a bunch of information from them. Of course, it should lead into the lesson that you’re teaching them that day.

Picture Prompt ESL Activity

Activity #10: Retell the Story 1-2-3

Dictogloss ESL speaking and listening activityRounding out our list of ESL Activities for One on One Tutoring is Retell the Story 1-2-3. It’s a great way to work on speaking fluently and your student is guaranteed to have a bit of fun in the process! You can use this ESL fluency activity over and over again, just make the topic different each lesson.

Retell the Story 1-2-3 Speaking Fluency Activity


ESL Activities: Top 9 Sites


ESL Activities and Games in Abundance!

If you’re looking for ESL activities, you’ve come to the right place! There are a ton of ESL activities and ESL games for just about any skill, level or age group of students. However, if you can’t quite find what you’re looking for on this site, there are a few other ones that can check out. In this post I’ll share my top 9 sites where I go to find ESL activities.

ESL Writing

ESL Writing– In a former life, I spent a ton of time teaching academic writing to university students in South Korea and my go-to site for lesson planning was ESL Writing. The guy behind this site, Rob Whyte is a Lonely Planet Korea author. Pretty cool!

As a kind of aside, if you’re looking for the ultimate supplementary activity book for teaching writing, Rob has written it. LOVE IT! Teach Essential Writing Skills.

ESL Speaking

ESL Speaking– If you have classes that are focused on speaking or conversation, this is the website for you. And it’s in fact another one of mine 🙂 Although I might be biased, I think it’s pretty easy to navigate. Just go the top menu bar and you’ll find kids or adults and then games or activities. Easy stuff and your lessons should be planned in minutes.


The Internet TESL Journal (ITESLJ)- The look of this site is a bit old school, but the content is rock-solid. There are a ton of great games, activities and lesson plans you can use in your classes. And it’s also quite well organized so you can hopefully find the ESL activities you’re looking for.

English Club

English Club– Think of English Club as kind of a curated version of the far more chaotic Dave’s ESL Cafe Idea Cookbook. There aren’t that many games, activities and ESL lesson plans but what is there is great. If you’re looking for a quick hit of ESL activity awesome, check this one out.

ESL News Articles

ESL News Articles– If you’re looking for some news articles that are suitable for ESL students, then you’ll need to check out this post I did over on another blog. I list my top 5 sources for current events articles that have easier vocabulary and grammar than the original article. Graded reading awesome coming your way!

The Monster Pack

The Monster Pack– The Monster Pack is full of English teaching goodness, including trivia, worksheets, puzzles, etc. Although I rarely use materials other than my own when teaching, I did use the Monster Pack every single day for years. The trivia make an amazing warm-up and sure, you could find your own by searching around on the Internet but for 10 bucks? It’ll pay for itself in timed saved in the first month alone.

ESL Games

ESL Games– Don’t be put off by appearances! Although this site does look a bit old-school, the content is most definitely solid. It’s also organized in an extremely easy to navigate way so you should be able to find what you’re looking for pretty quickly.

Fluency MC

Fluency MC– Jason, who is behind Fluency MC is a super rad guy and I like to promote his stuff whenever I can. Use his stuff in your classes and your students are guaranteed to have a bit more fun and learn some English too. Trust me on this one. They’ll love his stuff!


FluentU– I sadly only discovered this site recently. The sad part is that there is a ton of great stuff on it and why didn’t I know about it sooner? Check it out and you’re sure to find something inspiring/helpful/awesome, including some great ESL activities that you can use in class today.




ESL Surveys and Why I Love Them

Why I Love ESL Surveys


Surveys are one of my favourite ESL activities and I use them at least once a month in my classes. I love them for the following reasons:

  • They cover all 4-skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking).
  • They’re student-centred to the extreme. The teacher just has to set it up and then the students do all the hard work.
  • ESL surveys are great for sleepy classes because students have to get up out of their seats and move around the classroom.
  • Surveys encourage follow-up questions, which most students are usually quite weak at.
  • They can be adapted to just about any topic or grammar point. Just get creative!
  • ESL Surveys encourage students to interact with as many other students as possible.
  • They’re fun and most students seem to really enjoy this activity.
  • You can use them for follow-up too!
  • ESL Surveys are the ultimate ESL activity for big classes and in fact, the bigger the better! I only use them in classes that have 16+ students (12 is the absolute minimum).

In short, ESL surveys are kind of the best thing since sliced bread if you’re an ESL/EFL teacher. Try them out in your classes today and I’m sure you’ll love them as much as I do.

How to Use ESL Surveys

It’s really easy to use ESL Surveys in your classes. I most often use surveys at the end of a class to provide a bit of a review of the day’s lesson. They’re excellent for the end of class because the time required is pretty flexible and they can be cut short, or lengthened depending on your needs.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Print off enough copies of this Dependent Clause Survey (1 per every 2 students) if it’s suitable for your class. If you’re doing another topic or grammar point, use this as a template to make your own. It’s really easy to adapt surveys to just about anything.
  2. Give one copy to each student and draw an example one on your whiteboard.
  3. Do two example questions. One where you ask a student a question and one where another student asks you a question.
  4. If the answer is, “No” you have to choose another question and don’t do any writing. The ultimate goal is to fill up the chart with different people who all answered yes to one of the questions.
  5. If the answer is, “Yes” you have to write the name in and ask 1-2 follow-up questions. Then you use the extra information box to briefly record the answers to the follow-up question(s). Of course, the answers should be written in English, although full sentences aren’t necessary.
  6. Find a new partner and continue with another question, trying to find someone who answers “yes” to something.

Like this ESL Survey Activity?

ESL-activities-for-adults Then you’ll probably love this book: 101 ESL Activities for Teenagers and Adults. It’s the ultimate resource for ESL or EFL teachers! It belongs on the bookshelf of every ESL teacher who has teenager or adults students.

You can get the book easily on Amazon in both print and digital formats. The (cheaper!) digital version can be easily downloaded onto any device by getting the free Kindle reading app.

—>Buy 101 ESL Activities for Adults on Amazon Today<—

It’ll make your lesson planning easy, guaranteed.

49 Ways to Make your ESL Speaking Class Awesome

ESL Speaking Class: Level it Up!

If you’re looking to make your ESL Speaking class awesome, you’ve most certainly come to the right place! There are 49 tips and tricks that will help get your students active, engaged and speaking English. Happy students = happy teachers so check out this SlideShare presentation below for the 49 hits of awesome. And make sure you leave a comment below with your favourite tip, or add a new one of your own.

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.

You can easily get the book on Amazon in both print and digital formats. The digital one can be read on any smartphone, tablet, Mac or PC by downloading the free Kindle reading app. It’s the book that belongs on every single ESL/EFL teacher’s personal bookshelf.

—>Buy 101 ESL Activities for Adults on Amazon today<—

If you love this ESL ESL-activities-for-adults