EFL - ESL activities and games for teaching the passive voice

An ESL lesson plan containing activities, games and resources for teaching the passive voice to intermediate level ESL students. If you're an Android user, try this lesson out on the 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 board below illustrates one to introduce the passive voice. Start off by transforming the example active statement into its passive equivalent, eliciting as much as possible. After that, elicit some variations of that statement in different tenses. Finally, step through and explain the functional uses of the passive voice.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for teaching passive voice | Intermediate

ESL classroom activities for the passive voice

The old switcheroo

In this ESL writing activity, students will work individually to make passive statements from the following active sentences:

1. Thousands of people watched the match on television.
2. Steven has fixed the flat tyre.
3. Every July, the Smiths send their son to summer camp.
4. I will clean the car every Saturday.
5. The council recycles millions of glass bottles every year.

Once they have finished, they can compare their answers with a partner.

Answer key:

1. The match was watched by millions of people.
2. The flat tyre has been fixed.
3. The Smith’s son is sent to summer camp every July.
4. The car will be cleaned every Saturday.
5. Millions of glass bottles are recycled by the council every year.

Describe the process

The point of this ESL writing activity is to get your students applying the passive voice practically and functionally. In groups of two or three, students will work together to define a description of a particular process. Give them a list and attempt to elicit some more:

Making a pizza
Changing a tyre
Becoming a doctor/teacher/ninja
Going to a restaurant

Assign one process to each group and brainstorm any vocabulary you think they might need on the board. Tell them that they must use the passive voice as much as possible. When finished, groups read their descriptions to the class. Listen for missed opportunities to use the passive voice and elicit suggestions from the other students.

The daily reporter

Students will work in groups of two or three for this fun ESL writing activity. Inform them that they are going to write an imaginary news story. These stories must contain at least five examples of the passive voice and be in an assigned tense. You can elicit news article ideas or use the following:

Present perfect: A storm has hit their village
Present simple: Tour of the capital city
Past simple: A bank robbery
Future: Their hometown will build a 100ft statue of Homer Simpson

ESL games for the passive voice

Here is one idea for a game that English teachers can use to practice the passive voice. As usual, we only include game ideas that require no more than a whiteboard, markers and dice.

Hot seat: Don't be so passive

The students have to describe a passive sentence to another classmate. Divide the class into two teams. On each turn, one student will sit with their back to the board, facing their teammates. You'll write a funny passive statement on the board. Players must then describe that sentence to the person in the hot seat without using any significant words from the board. The student in the hot seat must first say the passive sentence from the board, then convert it to its active form before the round is over. Set a time limit/stopwatch if you wish. Some example statements to get you going:

1. English is spoken by dangerous people.
2. Thousands of cars were stolen by monkeys.
3. The Pokémon was killed by Antonio Banderas.
4. McDonald's has been robbed by Manchester United.
5. The horses will be ridden by angry penguins.

To make it easier for the students to organise their explanations, divide the sentence on the board into three parts. The subjectverb and object.

More B1 ESL lesson plans

If you've found these ideas useful, be sure to check out our complete list of ESL lesson plans for intermediate level students. For other levels, see the entire collection of ESL lesson plans. Also, Android users can access all of our materials through the TEFL Handbook app. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers.

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