The “Family” unit is a classic is almost every single ESL/EFL textbook, especially for beginners. It can be a little bit boring for the teacher, as well as the students if you do the same old thing all the time. Check out some of my favourite family ESL activities to try out with your classes today. They range from beginner to advanced, and kids to adults.
Top 20 ESL Family Activities and Games
#1 ESL Family Games: Mixed up Sentences
If you’re teaching beginners the basics of how to describe their family, then you might want to consider using this grammar review activity.
You can use sentences like:
“I have a brother and two sisters.”
“My Mom is 48 years old and my dad is 45.”
“My brother likes to play soccer.”
You mix them up in random order and the students have to unscramble them to make correct sentences. Learn more here: Mixed Up Sentences Review Activity.
#2 ESL Family Activity: Picture Prompt
This ESL Family Activity works for just about any topic actually. The way it works is that you put a picture or photo up on the screen. In this case, you’d probably want to show a family doing some activity. Then, depending on the level, students have to say vocabulary words they see in the picture (beginner), or describe what’s happening (more advanced).
It’s a nice way to begin a class as it helps to set the context. Check out more details here: Picture Prompt ESL Warm-Up.
#3: Information Gap Activities
This style of ESL activity is a classic! It’s where there is a single set of information, but each student only has some of it. They have to work together to put the whole story together.
Information gaps lend themselves well to stories of another family (not their own). Instead of just reading it, do this kind of activity to make it more memorable.
Find out more here: ESL Information Gap Activities.
#4: Just a Minute
If you teach more advanced level students, then you’ll want to consider using this Toastmaster style activity. Students have to speak for an entire minute about their family without stopping. It’s a nice warm-up, or you could consider using t at the end of class as well.
To turn it into more of a conversational activity, put students into groups of 4. Then, each of the 3 students who were listening have to ask 1-2 follow-up questions based on what they heard.
Check it out here: Just a Minute ESL Speaking Activity.
#5: Just One Question
This is a fun warm-up activity that gets students out of their seats and moving around the class. If you have sleepy students, it may be your ideal solution!
Put students into pairs and then ask them to think of some interesting questions related to family (around 5). Then, they choose just 1 that they want to survey their classmates about.
Give students time to ask 8-12 of their classmates and take notes about the answers (1 member of the pair is the “talker” and the other is the “writer”). Then, students take a look at their answers, find some patterns and then report their results to the class.
You can learn more about it here: Just One Question ESL Warm-Up.
#6: Journalling about Family
If you teach writing, or even a 4-skills class, consider using journaling with your students. You can give them a few minutes at the beginning or end of a class to do this, or assign it for homework.
I generally assign my students a topic or question to help them get started. Some questions about family that you could use include the following:
- Describe your family.
- What qualities do you admire in your Mom and/or Dad?
- How does your family spend time together?
- What’s your favourite memory of your family?
Find out more here: Journalling for English Learners.
#7 ESL Family Activities: Dictogloss
This ESL activity can focus on either speaking or writing, and either way, it’s heavy on the listening. Choose a reading passage related to family. Then, read it out at a mostly normal pace so that the students can grasp around 50% of the information.
Put the students into pairs and they have to work together to recreate the main idea of what they heard. Then, read it again and students can add more information.
At the end, put the reading passage on the screen and students can check and see how they did. Find out more here:
#8: Family and Relative Clauses
Relative clauses and the topic of family are often put together in ESL textbooks. It just lends itself well to this in my ways. Think about these example sentences:
- My father is someone WHO is very trustworthy.
- I have a brother THAT can play the guitar.
Find out more about how to teach this grammar point here: How to Teach Relative Clauses.
#9 Family ESL Activity: Speaking Fluency Activity
120-90-60 is a way to encourage students to speak more fluently. Have students prepare a short talk about their family, around 2 minutes long. They can write a few short notes, but not full sentences. Then, they give their speech to a partner or small group.
The next round requires them to include all the same information in 90 seconds. Round 3 is 60 seconds. It’s a fun challenge that students have fun with! Of course, the topic you’d set would be something related to family in this case, although it lends itself well to almost anything.
#10: Family ESL Surveys
I’m ALL about using surveys in my TEFL classes. Just ask my students and they’ll tell you that they have to do them around once a month, if not more. There are a few reasons that I love them:
- Students have to get out of their seats
- They cover all 4-skills
- You can use them for almost any topic (including family)
- It’s simple to make your own in just a few minutes
- They help students with follow-up questions
Check out some examples of surveys I use in my classes here: Surveys for ESL Students.
#11: ESL Family Trees
Making an ESL family tree is a classic activity for this unit. Depending on the level of student, you could make it as simple, or as detailed as you want. It’s an ideal way to review ESL family vocabulary, and it also makes a nice homework assignment, or class presentation.
How you do your ESL family tree activity is up to you, but I strongly recommend checking the textbook that you’re using. They’ll often have a page with a family tree already there.
The next best option is to print off a simple, blank family tree from the Internet and have students fill it in. A way to extend this activity is to have your ESL students share their tree with a partner or small group (bigger classes) or to the whole class (smaller classes). Be sure to give them some example sentences that they can use to describe their ESL family trees.
#12: ESL Family Vocabulary
If you have a textbook that you’re teaching from, the basic family vocabulary words will almost always be included. More advanced books will include things like niece, nephew, step-brother, etc. However, if you’re not using a book but want to teach your students this vocab, there are plenty of worksheets out here.
Here’s one of my favourites:
Or, here are some of the most common words related to family that you’ll want to teach your students:
#13 ESL Family: Yes and No Question/Answer Activities
One of the first grammar lessons that most beginners learn in English is the “Be” verb. And one of the most common topics to combine this with is “family.” It’s very easy to explain to even total beginners the concepts of: mother, father, brother, sister, etc.
Taking these two things together, there are a ton of simple family questions you could ask:
- Do you have a brother?
- Are there four people who live at your house?
- Is there a mom and dad in the picture
- Do you see three children?
For more ideas, you’ll want to check out the following: ESL Yes or No Activities.
#14 ESL Family Activities: Using the Whiteboard
I don’t know what it is, but my students are ALL about drawing on the whiteboard. There are a ton of fun activities you can do with the whiteboard and the topic of family. If you want to see some of them, then you’ll need to take a look at this awesome resource:
#15 ESL Family Vocabulary Game: A to Z
If your students have seen family vocabulary before, then you may want to consider using this quick warmer activity to help them activate their prior knowledge before jumping into the heart of your lesson.
The way it works is that each group (2-3 students) writes down the alphabet. Then, they try to think of one family related vocabulary word for each letter. For example:
And so on. The winner is the team with the most points at the end of the allotted time. More details about this quick ESL vocabulary warm-up right here: A-Z ESL Warmer.
#16: ESL Family Songs and Chants
If you teach kids, then songs and chants are some ESL teaching gold! However, if you don’t have a musical bone in your body (like me), not to worry. There are lots of good ones on YouTube to consider.
#17: Using Eliciting for ESL Family Vocabulary
Unless your students are true beginners, it’s likely that they already know at least the basic family vocabulary like mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma, etc. If that’s the case, consider starting off your classes by eliciting some of these words. There are two reasons to consider doing this.
The first is that you’re able to find out what the students already know so it’s possible to target the lesson more specifically to what they don’t. The second reason is that it’s useful for activating the students’ prior knowledge so that the new words they learn can be easier to remember. Check out some of the best ideas for doing this:
#18: Concentration Vocabulary Memory Game
One of the best games to help students review new vocabulary is concentration. Make up some cards with either words/definitions, words/hints, or words/pictures of the various family vocabulary. What you choose to do really depends on the level of the students.
Then, students play a matching memory game with each other. Find out more about it here: ESL Concentration Game.
#19: Word Association ESL Families
A nice warmer activity for the unit on family if your students are not beginners is word association. Elicit some words that students think of when they hear the word “family.” Then, organize them into various
#20: Guess the Family Member Game
ESL Family Worksheets
Do you want some ready-make family worksheets for your English learners? Then you’ll need to check out some of our favourite resources right here. And of course, be sure to check out the textbook you’re using, along with the homework book or teacher’s resource book which often have some excellent resources to use in your classes.
Family ESL Worksheets:
Be sure to check out these resources as well if you’re looking for some ESL family tree worksheets. There are lots of them there, ranging from very simple to a bit more complicated.
What about a Family ESL Lesson?
If you’re looking for a ready-made ESL family lesson plan or two, then these activities and games probably didn’t work for you. Not to worry. Here are some of our top picks for complete lesson plans for family:
Did you like these ESL Family Activities?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 147 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
Yes? Though so. Then you’re going to love this book available on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities for Adults. It’s the book you need if you want to have more interesting, engaging English lessons.
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You can get the book in a couple of different formats. Take the e-version with you on your phone or tablet to your favourite coffee shop for lesson planning on the go. Or, get the physical version and keep it on the bookshelf in your office to use as a handy reference guide. It really is that easy to have better English lessons.
Check out the book for yourself today, but only if you want to get yourself a serious dose of ESL teaching awesome in your life:
Have your Say about these ESL Family Activities
What are your thoughts about these family ESL games and activities? Did you try them out in your classes? Do you have a recommendation for an ESL family tree worksheet for kids or adults. Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2020-10-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API