If you’re looking for some modal verb activities, games, worksheets or lesson plans, then you’re certainly in the right place. Find out all of our tips and tricks for teaching modal verbs the awesome way.
Modal Verbs Activities and Games: Top 15
Are you ready to get into the best activities for modal verbs, an important ESL part of speech concept? Then here are the top 15 picks.
#1: ESL Surveys for Ability
I LOVE to use surveys in my classes. Ask my students and they’d probably tell you the same thing! One area that they work especially well is with modal verbs, particularly can and can’t for ability. You can fill the survey sheet with lots of questions like the following:
- Can you play a musical instrument?
- Can you play tennis well?
Then, students have to go around the class talking to their classmates to find someone who answers yes to that question. Then, they have to ask a follow-up question.
Do you want to try out this 4-skills ESL activity? More details here: Surveys for English Learners.
#2: Which Job Is It?
In this guessing game, students think of a secret job. Then, they have to write down a few hints using the following modal verbs:
- Have to
- Don’t have to
Working with a partner, they can tell them the hints and their partner can guess the job. You can repeat the process 2-3 times with a different partner.
#3: 2 Truths and a Lie
Most teachers use this activity as a kind of icebreaker but it also fits very well with modals for ability or skill. For example:
- I can make homemade kimchi.
- I can run for a really long time without stopping.
- I can study for 6 hours without taking a break.
Two are true but the other one is false. Students have to grill me with questions for 2-3 minutes to find out which! Then, students take turns playing with each other.
#4: Find Someone Who Bingo for Modal Verbs of Ability
This find someone who bingo game makes an excellent icebreaker but you can easily adapt it to work on modal verbs of ability. The way it works is that students have to fill in their bingo cards with selections from a list of skills or abilities. For example: play soccer well, cook something delicious, drive a car, etc.
Then, they have to walk around the class talking to their classmates to find someone who can do each thing. Do you want to know more about this ESL speaking activity? Check out all the details here:
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 85 Pages - 02/02/2020 (Publication Date)
#5: Agony Aunt Advice Activity
One area where a ton of modal verbs are used is in giving advice (should/shouldn’t/ought to, etc.). One of my favourite activities for this is Agony Aunt. It’s fun, challenging and totally relatable as long as you choose an appropriate problem.
Do you want to find out more about it? You can check it out here: Agony Aunt ESL Advice Activity.
#6: Prove It with Modals for Ability
Students can help you think of a list of physical challenges that are not that easy to do. For example:
- Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time?
- Can you do a headstand?
- Can you do 20 pushups?
Then, students have to choose 3 of the skills and write them down on a piece of paper. After that, they have to walk around the class to find a classmate who can do it. If the classmate says that they can, they have to prove it!
#7: Modal Verbs Songs and Chants
Songs are a super fun way to make English more memorable. You’ll find lots of options over on YouTube for both kids as well as adults. Here’s one that’s quite well done:
#8: Can/Can’t Secret Thing Game
When you’re teaching about can and can’t for ability, you’ll want to try out this fun game. The way it works is that students think of a secret thing according to a certain topic. Animals for example and then write three hints about it using can, starting from general to more specific. For example:
- It can eat leaves.
- In Korea, you can only see it in the zoo.
- It can easily see over tall things.
The answers is giraffe! But, you can collect these papers from the students and play a game. More details here: Can/Can’t ESL Game.
#9: English Class Rules and Modal Verbs
Tell students that this is their big opportunity to have a say about English class! Working in groups, they can make a list of 10 rules for your English class. Some can be serious like students must bring their textbooks, but others can be silly.
#10: It’s the Law (Permission and Prohibition Modals)
In this activity, students think about using can for permission and can’t for prohibition. In groups of 2-3, students have to think of at least 5 laws in their home country. For example:
- You can’t drink until 19.
- You can drive with your parents at 16.
When this is complete, elicit some answers and briefly discuss them as a class. Then, students can talk together about any changes they would make if they were in charge and why.
#11: Sentence Structure Activities
With modals, there is certainly some care that needs to be taken with sentence structure and how it all fits together. To help your students work on this important skill, you’ll want to check out the following resource:
#12: Obligation Activity
If you want to do a certain job well, there are of course certain requirements. For example, if you want to be an Olympic athlete, you:
- must start at a young age.
- must train almost every day.
- mustn’t eat lots of junk food.
- must have a source of funding
- must have a coach.
Put students into groups and assign each of them a job, or they can choose their own. Then, they have to make at least 5 sentences. Finally, each group can join with another group and give hints about their job. The other team can guess what it is. Or, the entire class can guess the job.
#13: Modal Verbs Videos
Instead of me always talking up at the front of the class, I like to mix things up sometimes and have another teacher give the information! In this case, YouTube is some serious gold. Besides a quick lecture, there are a ton of others kinds of videos for any grammar point, vocabulary set or topic. Just have a look and you’ll find the ESL teaching awesome.
Here’s just one example:
#14: Job Interview for Abilities and Skills
Students can take turns interviewing each other. They can start with easy questions like, “Can you type?” and then get into more difficult questions like, “Can you write an email in English with no errors?”
It’s just for fun so encourage difficult questions.
#15: Would you Do That?
Students make a list of 10 things, 5 of them are things they would do and 5 are things they wouldn’t do. For example:
- I would go sky diving.
- I would eat an entire pizza if my mom didn’t stop me.
Use would for all the statements. Then, put students into pairs and the partner has to decide which statements are things their partner would actually do and which ones are things they wouldn’t do.
What is a Modal Verb?
Modal verbs are used to show if something is certain, possible or impossible. For example:
- It will rain tomorrow.
- It can’t be her coat.
Modals can also be used for ability, permission or making request and offers. For example:
- I can play tennis.
- Can I take this book home with me?
- I can help you with your car.
You’ll also find them used for suggestion or obligation. For example:
- You should stop smoking.
- He must train tonight.
List of Modal Verbs
These modals can also be made into a negative form.
Model Verb Worksheets
There’s certainly no need to reinvent the English teaching wheel! A ton of teachers have gone before us and created lots of solid modal verb worksheets. Just print and go and you’ll be able to save yourself a ton of time. Here are some of the best options:
Online Practice for Modal Verbs
If you want to give your students some additional practice with modals, then you’ll want to consider some online practice and games. Here are some of our recommendations:
Modal Verb Lesson Plans
Do you want to find a solid lesson plan for modals instead of creating your own? Who doesn’t, right? It can save busy teachers a ton of time to just print off something and go. If that’s exactly what you’re looking for, we have some good news for you. Here are our top pick for modal verb ESL lesson plans:
Did you Like these Modal Verbs Games?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 144 Pages - 10/24/2019 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so! Then you’re going to love this book that you can find over on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Grammar Activities. The key to better English classes for kids, teenagers or adults is a wide variety of engaging and interesting activities. This book will definitely help you get through an entire semester of English grammar teaching in style!
Does it sound like what you might need? It probably is if you want to level up your teaching game. You can find the book in both digital or print formats. Keep a copy in the teacher’s room at your school or on your phone to serious lesson planning sessions. It really is that easy.
Pick up a copy of 39 ESL Grammar Activities for yourself on Amazon, but only if you want a serious dose of ESL teaching awesome in your life:
Have your Say about Modal Verb Activities
What are your thoughts about these modal verbs activities and games for ESL? Did you try out one of the activities from this list or do you have another that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2020-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API