If you’re looking for some passive games for ESL, then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for all the details you need to know about ESL passive voice activities, along with worksheets, lesson plans and more.
Top 12 ESL Passive Games and Activities
Are you ready for the best passive games for English learners? Then read more to find out our top picks with these 12 activities!
#1: Name 3 Things
In this passive game, you can have students make questions that they will then have to answer. You can make a bunch of playing cards using the following form. For example:
Name 3 books that _____ (made) into movies.
Students have to make the correct passive question:
Name 3 books that were made into movies.
Then, students can race to answer the question. I generally put students into groups of 4 for this activity and then have them compete 2 against 2. Each team can take turns drawing a card and then making the question that everyone has to answer.
Some more possible questions include the following:
- Invent-last 50 years
- Install-programs on computer
- Play-sports in high school
- Find-animals in Africa
- Produce-things in your country
- Speak-languages in Europe
- Show-movies this year
- Born-famous people in the USA
#2: Passive Concentration Game
If you teach more advanced learners, you can try out this challenging memory game that helps students make sentences using the passive. The way it works it that you make up a set of cards. Half will have verbs while the other half will have nouns.
Going in groups of 4, students place them face down in an organized fashion on their desk. The first student draws two cards and if they get a noun as well as verb, they have a chance to make a sentence using the passive. If they draw “leak” and “document,” they could make the following sentence, “The document was leaked to the media.”
If correct, they keep the two cards and get 1 point. Then, the next person goes. If not a match, they place the two cards facedown in the same spot and the game continues on.
Does it sound like a fun activity for your students to try out? You can find out more right here: Concentration Memory Game.
#3: Dialogue Substitution with Passive Verbs
A common way that the passive is introduced in ESL textbooks is through a dialogue of some kind. But, have you ever noticed that most students just kind of mindlessly read them with their partners and don’t really take in what they’re reading. This is totally normal but it’s not really our students’ fault. It’s just that we haven’t given them a reason to pay attention.
Instead, you may want to try removing the verbs from the dialogue. Or, you keep the verbs in but remove some of the key nouns. This turns it from just a simple reading activity to one that also focuses on meaning and it’ll make the dialogue more memorable.
Do you want to find out more about how to do this with your English learners? Check it out here: ESL Dialogue Substitution Reading Activity.
#4: Proofreading and Editing
I love to do this activity at the beginning of the next class after teaching about the passive voice as a kind of review. The way it works is that I make up a short passage that uses the passive, except that I include a number of mistakes. Students have to go through it to try and find them.
Depending on the level of your students, you may want to focus exclusively on verbs, or you could also make other mistakes with things like punctuation or vocabulary choices. You can find out more details here: ESL Proofreading and Editing.
#5: Passive Voice ESL Videos
I love to use videos to introduce the passive voice, or as a way to review this concept at the end of a lesson. The good news for English teachers is that there is a video for any level, topic, vocabulary set or grammar point, including the passive on YouTube.
Except that there’s more to it than just popping on a video and pressing play. To get the most educational value out of videos, you’ll need to do some pre and post activities. Here are some of our recommendations: ESL Video Activities.
#6: Famous Inventions Passive Voice ESL Activity
Together as a class, work together to make a list of the 10 most important inventions of all time. Then, put students into pairs and they can use their smartphones to research who invented each thing along with the year and to write a grammatically correct passive sentence.
For example, “The telephone was invented by Alexanders Graham Bell in 1876.”
The first team to complete all 10 sentences correctly is the winner.
#7: ESL Grammar Activities
If you want to spice things up a little bit in your ESL grammar lessons, then consider using some of these games and activities. And the passive voice is ALL about the intricacies of English grammar. Here are some of our top tips and recommendations for teaching grammar, including ESL phrasal verbs, along with activity ideas:
#8: Is that Passive Sentence Correct?
A quick and easy way for students to get some practice with passive forms is to make some sentences. Some have mistakes while others do not. Students have to spot the ones with errors and then make them correct. It’s simple, and also makes a nice homework assignment.
Do you want to try it out? You can see all the details here: Sentence Correction Activity.
#9: Sentence Structure Activities and Games
The structure of passive voice sentences can be a little bit tricky and students often struggle with them a little bit when they’re first learning about them. There are lots of activities and games that you can use to help your students out with this though. Here are some of our top recommendations:
#10: How to Teach Grammar
Do you want to find out the steps you can use for teaching an ESL grammar lesson? Then you’ll definitely want to check out this CELTA style ESL lesson plan template for all the goods. It’ll make your life easier for real!
#11: Remember This ESL Passive Game
This is a fun memory game that you can use to help your students with the passive voice. Put a number of small objects on a tray of some kind and then give students a minute or two to try to remember what’s on it and the positions.
Take the tray away and move 3-5 objects around. Then, students have to make passive voice sentences about what’s different. For example:
- The pencil was moved to the other side.
- The eraser was removed.
#12: ESL Passive Voice Song
There are a ton of fun songs on YouTube that you can use to teach your students about the passive voice. Here’s one of the best ones:
Passive Voice Worksheets
Are you looking for some passive or active voice worksheets that you can just print and go? I’m sure you are! Why reinvent the wheel if someone has already done the hard work already, right? Here are some of our favourite resources for passive worksheets:
Passive Voice ESL Lesson Plans
If you’re super busy and want a lesson plan for the passive voice that you can just print and go, then you’re in the right place. Here are some of our top recommendations:
Passive vs Active Voice
In English, the active voice is when a sentence has a subject that acts upon the verb. Here are some examples of sentences made using the active voice:
- Cats love tuna.
- She counted out the change.
The passive voice means that the subject is a recipient of the verb’s action. Here are some examples:
- Tuna is adored by cats.
- The change was counted by the woman.
In general, use the active voice when speaking or writing. However, you may want to use the passive voice in English in the following cases:
- You want to focus on the person of thing affected by the action (Mary was invited to the party by her boss). The focus is on Mary, not her boss.
- We don’t know who the agent is (My dog has been let out of the yard). It’s unclear who let the dog out.
- When it’s obvious who the agent is (I’d been instructed to make my emails more formal). It’s clear that the agent is his boss.
- When the agent is not important (Do you need a ride? No thank, I’m being picked up).
- When people in general are the agents (Books can be borrowed at the library).
5 Tips for Teaching the Passive Voice to English Learners
Here are a few key teaching tips for the passive voice. It’s a bit of a tricky grammar point so please keep the following in mind.
#1: Focus on 1-2 situations
As you can see from the section above, there are a number of situations when you might consider using the passive voice in English. However, it can be a bit overwhelming to throw all these out to our students at the same time. Instead, focus on only 1 or 2 of them.
In my personal opinion, the most important usage of the passive is for when the agent is not know and it’s in this context that I generally introduce the passive to my students.
#2: Don’t Forget About Context
When teaching anything, it’s so, so important to set the context first. After all, students need to know some situations in which they can actually use the language if your lesson is going to be useful. I generally introduce the passive through a listening or reading exercise so it’s clear to my students how to use the language in a natural way.
#3: Practice is Key!
Just because you teach students about the difference between the passive and active voices once or twice doesn’t mean that they’re going to remember it. The key is to give your students lots of opportunities to keep working on it and be patient if they don’t remember.
#4: Explain it in Different Ways
You’ll have some students that are great at listening to something and picking it up. Others like to see if in writing while others may find it useful to see a chart of some kind. However, the best combination is usually all of these approaches together!
Help your students out by explaining things in a few different ways. Try to make it as simple as possible and your students will really appreciate it. I generally don’t throw out a bunch of exceptions until the end of the a lesson. I wait until my students have the gist of it until throwing a monkey wrench into the whole thing.
#5: Use a Variety of Passive Games
Teaching about the passive doesn’t have to be boring and dry! Use a variety of fun, engaging games and activities like the ones from this list and you’ll go a long towards ensuring that your students can remember your lesson.
Did you Like these Passive Games and Activities?
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There are more than 3 dozens activities in this book which will help you make it through an entire semester in style, no matter which grammar points you’re teaching. If that’s not some ESL teaching awesome, I’m not sure what is.
You can find the book in both digital and print formats. Take a copy with you on your phone or tablet to your favourite coffee shop or library for a serious lesson planning session. Or, consider picking up a copy to keep on the bookshelf in your office or teacher’s resource room to use as a handy reference guide.
Does it sound like exactly what you need to level up your English teaching game? It mostly likely is! Check out the book for yourself over on Amazon:
Have your Say about these Passive Voice EFL Activities
What do you think about these ESL passive voice activities? Did you try out some of them 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 2020-04-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API