ESL Lesson planning | How to teach the days of the week
By Allan Sweeney
By Allan Sweeney
Teaching the days of the week is an essential part of any ESL curriculum, as it is a fundamental aspect of daily communication. This article gives you 14 fun and practical ideas for your lessons.
Using different approaches, such as warm-up activities, interactive games, and group tasks, you can cater to various learning styles and make the learning process more enjoyable. We hope you find some of these ideas helpful.
Warm-up & revision
This activity uses flashcards to introduce the names and order of the days of the week.
We recommend printing out days of the week flashcards for this activity, but coloured cards with the days written in thick marker pen will work fine for this.
Some of your students may already be familiar with the days of the week in English, so let's try to leverage that.
Begin by writing the question "What day is it today?" on the board.
Try to get the correct response before eliciting a list of days of the week and adding them to the board. Lean on the students' L1 if you need to. Drill the days of the week a few times from the board, moving your finger to each day as you step through.
Now, show the flashcards to students and instruct the group to repeat the name of each day after you. Do this as many times as you feel is necessary.
After you have done that a few times. You can modify the activity and start to test your students by:
- In the correct sequence, have individual students repeat the flashcard that you show.
- Shuffle the flashcards so that each student has to say a random day of the week.
- Depending on which country you are in, they may start the week with either Sunday or Monday. Make sure to find this out before and adapt to what your students are used to.
Video and song: Days of the week
For this activity, we will use a video with a song to introduce and reinforce the names and order of the days of the week to young ESL learners.
Introduce a catchy song that teaches the days of the week, such as "The Days of the Week Song" by Maple Leaf Learning.
Depending on the resources available to you, either play the video or audio for your students and encourage them to sing along.
Make the activity more engaging by teaching a clap routine to accompany the song. Another video from Maple Leaf Learning shows a couple of different ways to do this.
Days of the Week Ball Toss
Students practice and reinforce the order and names of the days by throwing a ball and saying the days of the week in sequence.
Have students stand in a circle and toss the ball around while saying the days of the week in order. For example, the first student says "Monday" and throws the ball to the next student, who says "Tuesday", and so on. The student who begins can start from any day they choose.
Once students have gotten the hang of this, you can make the activity more challenging by having them say the days of the week in reverse order.
Activities for teaching the days of the week
Memory Challenge: Days of the Week
The students are challenged to identify changes made to the order in a visual and interactive memory challenge.
Begin by adding days of the week flashcards to the board in order. Flashcards and magnets work best, but coloured paper and blue tack will do fine.
Tell students to close their eyes while you either change the order of the flashcards or remove one or more of the days. For example, you could swap Tuesday and Thursday, or remove Saturday altogether.
After making the change, tell your students to open their eyes and identify what has been changed or removed.
Select a volunteer to come to the board to restore the flashcards to their correct order.
Make the activity more challenging with each round by removing or swapping multiple days. You can also have students take turns being the ones to modify the flashcards.
- Throughout the activity, reinforce the names and order of the days of the week regularly to ensure that students retain the information.
The day after
Use flashcards with the days of the week to teach the concept of "before" and "after".
Again, flashcards and magnets work best for this activity, but it can easily be done with a whiteboard and markers.
Add a 'day of the week' flashcard to the board with an arrow pointing back and an arrow pointing forward. Explain to your students that the arrow pointing back represents the day before, and the arrow pointing forward represents the day after. Lean on the students' native language if you have to.
Ask a volunteer to come to the board and add the day before. Have another student do the same for the day after. For example, if the flashcard shows "Wednesday," ask the volunteer, "What day comes before Wednesday?". They should then select the flashcard and add it to the board in its corresponding place.
Repeat the activity for each day of the week, choosing different volunteers to come up to the board.
Role-play: Days of the week
The students act out the activities while their classmates guess the corresponding day.
Begin by adding the days of the week to the board, leaving space between them to write statements underneath.
Elicit 2-3 simple statements for each day from your students and add them to the board. The statements should be about your students and appropriate to their age and level. For example, "We have English class on Monday," "Clare goes swimming on Tuesday," "Jen and Mark have music class on Wednesday," and so on.
Once you have completed the board with statements for each day, have students take turns coming to the front of the class to act out one of the statements.
Encourage the rest of the class to guess the day of the week corresponding to the activity. For example, if a student performs "Clare goes swimming," the class would shout "Tuesday!"
Extension activity: Student quiz
The teacher challenges the class on what they learned during the previous role-play activity.
If you have done the previous activity, you should know enough about your students to quiz them on the days of the week.
Ask the class five to ten questions about the days of the week based on what you learned from the role-play activity. Add each question to the board and confirm that the students understand the question before eliciting the correct answer.
Some example constructions might be:
- What day does Clare have piano lessons?
- What does Mark do on Saturdays?
A week story
The students practice listening comprehension and reinforce the days of the week through a story.
You might need to find or prepare a short story before you start this activity. It should be suitable for the students' level and age. There are plenty of resources online where you can find one, and there are even fun videos you could use.
Read a story to the class that uses all of the days of the week. Make sure to read the story clearly and slowly, emphasizing the days of the week and acting out the activities mentioned. Read it as many times as you feel is necessary for students to understand and take notes.
Here's an example of a funny story that uses all the days of the week:
"On Monday, a monkey went to the market to buy some bananas. On Tuesday, he went to the park to swing from the trees. On Wednesday, he visited his friend the parrot and they sang songs together. On Thursday, the monkey decided to take a nap in the sun. On Friday, he had a funny dream about eating ice cream with a penguin. On Saturday, the monkey went to a party with his friends and ate lots of pizza. Finally, he played tennis with his auntie on Sunday."
After reading the story, ask the class comprehension questions to ensure they understood it. For example:
- What day did he visit his friend?
- What type of animal was his friend?
- What happened on Saturday?
Encourage students to take notes while listening to the story to help them remember the order of the days of the week and the key details from the story.
To extend the activity, you can have students create their own stories that incorporate the days of the week and share them with the class.
Days of the week line-up
The students have to line up in the correct order based on the days of the week.
One by one, provide each student with a day of the week flashcard or coloured card showing a day of the week.
That student must then stand at the front of the class holding up their day of the week card.
Each subsequent student who gets a card must then join the line in the correct position. After a student joins the line, ask the class if the position is correct before giving the next student their card. Repeat this until all the cards have been given out.
Depending on the class size, you could do this activity several times to ensure each student has a turn.
ESL classroom games for the days of the week
Memory: Days of the week
In this memory match game, students take turns flipping over pairs of flashcards with days of the week written on them, aiming to find matching pairs while practising their pronunciation and recognition of the days.
To prepare, print multiple copies of the 'days of the week' flashcards. Print two or four copies of each day per group. To save paper, we suggest you use the print settings of '9 pages per sheet' described in our printing instructions.
Next, lay the flashcards face down on a table or the floor, ensuring they are not in any specific order.
Briefly explain the rules of the game to your students. For each turn, a student will flip over two flashcards. If the two cards match, the student keeps the cards and takes another turn. If they don't match, the cards are flipped back over, and play continues with the next student.
Divide your class into small groups or pairs to play the game. Encourage students to say the name of the day out loud when they flip over a card.
As the game progresses, monitor your students and assist them if they have difficulty pronouncing or remembering the days of the week.
The game continues until all the flashcards have been matched. The student or team with the most pairs of matching flashcards wins the game.
Noughts and crosses: Days of the week quiz
The students play a version of noughts and crosses, answering questions about days of the week to mark a square for their team on the grid.
Begin by dividing the class into two teams, draw a 'noughts and crosses' grid on the whiteboard.
On each turn, a student from one team will select a square and must answer a question about the days of the week. Some example questions might be:
- What day comes before Wednesday?
- How do you spell Saturday?
If the student answers correctly, they mark an 'X' or 'O' in the square for their team.
Play continues until one team gets three in a row, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally, and wins the game.
Students take turns guessing letters to spell out the secret word (a day of the week) while practising spelling and reinforcing their knowledge of the target language.
We will use the child-friendly hangman alternative of a melting snowman for this hangman variation, but you can use your own idea. Here are a couple of other suggestions you could try:
- A pirate walking a disappearing plank.
- A person walking on a bridge over shark-infested waters.
To set up the game, write an underscore on the board for each letter in the chosen day of the week (e.g., for "Wednesday," write "_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _"). Next to that, draw a snowman with 3-5 elements that can be erased (e.g. hat, arms, nose, head, body)
Explain the concept of the game to your students and select a day of the week to be the secret word for the first round without revealing it to the students.
Students will take turns guessing one letter at a time. If a guessed letter is in the secret word, write it in the corresponding blank space(s) on the board. If the letter is not in the secret word, part of the snowman is wiped from the board.
Have the first student guess a letter. Continue with the next student in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, depending on your preference.
If the students guess the secret word before the snowman disappears, they win the round. The round is lost if it melts before the secret word is guessed. In either case, reveal the secret word to the students and review its spelling.
Play additional rounds using different days of the week as secret words.
Spelling circle: Days of the Week
In this Spelling circle elimination game, students take turns saying one letter at a time to spell out the days of the week, with those who make mistakes or hesitate sitting down until a winner remains.
Begin by arranging the students by having them form a standing circle.
Explain the concept of the game to the students: You will say a day of the week, and then each student will take turns saying one letter of the word in the correct order. If a student says the wrong letter or hesitates too long, they will be eliminated and must sit down.
Announce the first day of the week that the students will spell. The first student in the circle says the first letter of the day, the next student says the second letter, and so on, until they spell the day completely.
If students say the wrong letter or take too long to respond, they are eliminated from the game and must sit down. The game continues with the next student in the circle.
Once the students have successfully spelled a day of the week, announce a new day for them to spell.
The game continues until there is only one student left standing. This student is the winner of the game.
Whiteboard relay: Ordering the days of the week
Two teams of players race to the board to attach and arrange the days of the week.
This game works best with flashcards and magnets, but you can easily adapt it with coloured paper and blue tack.
Begin by dividing the group into two teams. Have each team form a line at the back of the classroom and lay out flashcards face down on a table between the line and the board.
When the game begins, a student from each group will walk to the table, pick up a 'day of the week' card and stick it to the board. They'll walk back to their team when they finish, allowing the next player to do the same. Each student must add their card to the board so that the days of the week are finally arranged in the correct order. They can move the existing cards if they need to.
The race ends when the first team adds all of the days of the week cards to the board in the correct order.
With consistent reinforcement and a creative teaching approach, students will soon master the days of the week and continue to build a strong foundation in their English language skills.
We hope that you find success with a few of these ideas in your own classes. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Allan is the Co-Founder & Lead Developer on the TEFL Handbook project. He spends his time building software and creating resources that support English teaching. You can learn more about his goals for the project here.