EFL - ESL activities and games for asking "What's this?"

A collection of ideas and resources for teaching young learners how to ask and answer basic "What's this?" style questions. Feel free to use these ideas to form the basis of a lesson plan or to supplement an existing one. If you're an iOS or Android user, try this lesson out on our TEFL Handbook app. It gives you offline access to all of our materials, perfect for quick reference in the classroom.

Lead-in activity

The sample ESL board work introduces students to the dialogue and grammar that will form the focus of this lesson. Students learn to ask basic questions and identify the correct indefinite articles to use with their responses. As always, the teacher should try to elicit as much as possible from the students using actions or the students' L1.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for teaching whats this | Beginner

ESL activities for "what's this?" questions

Indefinite articles

Students have to fill in the gaps with the correct article. 

Add the following style of prompts to the board for the students to complete with a or an

_ man 
_ bag 
_ umbrella 
_ pencil case 
_ glass of milk 
_ orange door 
_ old man 

Have the students work on these individually, and correct the exercise together at the end.

What's this?

A quick and easy speaking activity where the teacher asks questions about different items in the classroom. 

Go round the room asking each student a question about an object in the classroom. Before they begin, go over the language structure of the answer that you will expect and add a simple example to the board. 

Teacher: What's this? 
Student: It's a chair.

Can you identify this? 

The students work in pairs identifying different objects in the classroom, using the target language for the lesson. 

The students will work in pairs, moving around the room identifying classroom objects using the language from the previous activity. Monitor them for the correct usage of articles and help them with any new vocabulary they encounter.

Related games

Relay challenge: Articles

Two teams of players race to the board to add statements containing articles. 

To begin, divide the class into two teams and have them form two queues at the back of the room or at least a metre from the board. On each turn, a student will move to the board and write a word (including the article). When they have finished writing their word, they'll hand the marker to the next person in their team. Students are not allowed to copy words from the opposing team's list. 

The round ends when everyone from one of the teams has had a turn. To encourage longer answers, score a point for each correct letter.

Additional ESL resources

If you're still in need of further ideas, we've had a look on the web for other free ESL resources from around the web. Here's what we found:

If you'd prefer a lesson plan aimed at children, this free lesson at fredisalearns has you covered.

islcollective have a 'what's this?' worksheet that would complement this lesson very well.

Finally, if you want to add some video to your lesson, this video by masteringarticles was our favourite.

More ESL lesson plans for beginners

We hope that you were able to grab a few ideas from this lesson plan. Our suggested next lesson is on teaching plurals. Be sure to check out our full list of ESL lesson plans for beginners (A1 Upper), as well as the complete collection. Also, if you're an iOS or Android user, the best way to view this content is through the TEFL Handbook Android application. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers, designed for in-class use.

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