EFL - ESL activities and games to teach basic instructions

This ESL lesson plan teaches beginners how to give basic instructions in English. It includes; a lead-in activity, along with some practical ESL classroom activity and game ideas that accommodate low-resource classrooms. If you use an iOS or Android device, don't forget that you can get offline access to these materials, along with a much more extensive selection of ESL lesson plans, through the TEFL Handbook app.

Lead-in activity

Our suggested board work uses colour-coded text to give English teachers an idea of how the interaction might play out in the classroom. In this case, elicit as many commands as possible using mime. As always, the use of L1 is optional.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity to teach give instructions | Beginner

ESL activities for giving instructions

Command drill

This drill based ESL activity leverages the commands from the lead-in activity. Drill through the examples in order while the students copy you.

Drill sergeant

A fun listening activity idea that will test your students' retention of the target language for this lesson. Before you begin, erase the examples from the board and ask the students to close their books. Start to give the class commands from the list in a random order, adding negative forms into the mix as you go. The students should respond with the correct action.

Role-play with commands

In this fun ESL speaking activity, the students pair up to give each other instructions. You should encourage them to correct each other's mistakes and use negative forms.

Related games

As usual, our suggestions for ESL games require the minimum of resources (whiteboard, markers, dice).

Simon Says

A fun game for EFL classes with young learners. Give one of the commands while acting it out. If you say the words "Simon says" before the command, the children must copy the action. If you don't, and the children copy it, they are eliminated from the game.

Additional EFL - ESL resources

As always, we have scoured the web for materials that should bolster your lesson planning options. Here's what we found:

If you're looking for more ESL activities to teach commands or the imperative, this article from busyteacher has some excellent ideas for adult classes. If it's free worksheets you need, islcollective have a fabulous selection. They also have a  board game that practises imperatives.

Kids Online English have a fantastic video which complements this lesson and serve as a helpful little revision activity. Check it out below.

More ESL lesson plans for beginners

If you've found these ideas useful, have a look our complete list of ESL lesson plans for beginners (A1 Upper), as well as our entire collection of ESL lesson plans. Our suggested next lesson is on questions with "have got".

Are you an iOS or Android user? Then you should give our app a go! The TEFL Handbook app has over 100 lesson plans, 300+ ESL activities and over 100 ideas for classroom games. All of which can be accessed offline, perfect for quick reference in the classroom.

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