Put Away Your Books: 3 Exciting Games for Teaching English Classroom Commands

Sit down, please!

Stop talking, please!

Everyone, take out a piece of paper.

If your students can’t understand these and other simple classroom commands, you may find yourself in a very chaotic classroom situation.

In some cases, you might even know the local language of your students. While it could be tempting to instruct your students in their first language, try to refrain from doing so!

Part of learning a new language effectively is being able to draw upon context to determine the meaning of words and phrases. And today, we’re going to look at some ways to do that with English commands.

Put Away Your Books: 3 Exciting Games for Teaching English Classroom Commands

It’s important for ESL students to be able to understand various English commands in the classroom. Not only does this ensure a smoother English lesson for you, but it also helps students learn the imperative grammatical form and prepares them for other English-speaking situations. They’ll be able to respond promptly to commands and give commands when necessary.

Now let’s look at useful English classroom commands, as well as some activities you can use to teach them!

Review the Grammar and Prepare Your Students

For your more advanced students, take the time to go over the imperative form in general. Remind them that the imperative form is quite common in English.

Make sure they understand that the imperative structure is quite easy. Simply use the infinitive form of the verb without to; for example, “Let me in!” or Close the door, please!”

Review the negative formation too. “Do not” is put in front of the infinitive and is often shortened to “don’t;” for example, “Don’t open the door!” or “Don’t fall asleep!”

You’ll also want to introduce your commands by writing them on the board, that way students can easily reference the sentence structure as they practice in class. This is a step that you should take for all of your students, no matter their level or age.

When it comes to defining the commands, there are a few methods that work:

  • Translate the commands using the students’ native language.

I recommend going with the second or third method. Providing translations in your students’ native languages can take away from the language-learning experience, encouraging them to rely on definitions rather than using contextual clues to figure out the meaning of various commands.

Now that we’ve touched on teaching commands, let’s look at some exercises to help your students practice using the imperative verb form. You can use one or more of these activities to help your students achieve fluency with commands.

3 Engaging Activities for Teaching and Practicing English Classroom Commands!

These activities can help establish the tone in your classroom and allow students to get accustomed to the English-speaking classroom environment. With a little practice, your students will be able to understand and respond accordingly to specific commands in your class throughout the school year!

I Command Thee: Match!

This is a fun, low-key activity to test your students’ understanding of classroom commands and solidify the most important ones to remember.

Before class, prepare a worksheet with images that correspond to the commands you’ve taught your students. If you’re looking for images to use in your worksheet, Pixabay is home to more than 1.5 million free images.

Say you wanted to use the command “Open your book,” you might have an image of a student sitting at their desk with an open book in front of them. List “Open your book” and various other commands in a word bank at the bottom of the sheet, then have your students choose the appropriate sentence for each picture.

Students can work individually or in small groups to complete this activity. For an added element of fun, make it a competition to see who can correctly match all the commands first. Just remember to save time at the end of the lesson to go over the students’ answers.

Tip: A variation on this activity is the game Bingo. Make several variations of the worksheets with various images of the commands. In class, give each student one of these worksheets, then call out different commands. If a student has the command on their worksheet, they should cross it off.

The first student to cross off all the commands in a row or column wins the game.

Simon Says… Let’s Study!

This activity is an excellent choice for your kinesthetic language learners. In fact, acting out commands in real time will help all of your students become more confident with classroom commands.

To begin with, you, the teacher, should act as Simon.

Simon should stand at the front of the classroom and call out various commands, like “Touch your head” or “Jump two times.

Call out one command at a time, giving your students a few moments to respond.

When you call out the command make sure you say “Simon says…” at the beginning of the command; for example, “Simon says raise your hand.” The students should mime or do what Simon says. Scan the room, and if you catch any students performing the wrong command, they should sit down and are out of the game. Students who perform the action correctly should remain standing for the next round.

If Simon doesn’t state “Simon says… at the beginning of the command, for example, “Raise your hand!” students should not perform the task. If any students do perform the task from a command without “Simon says,” they should sit  out of the remainder of the game.

So, to summarize, students who correctly do what Simon says and only when they hear “Simon says” at the beginning of a sentence should remain standing for the next round. Repeat until you have one student left standing. This student is the winner.

Tip: With older students, let them take turns being Simon. This way, they don’t only practice executing the commands, they get to practice giving commands as well. After all, ESL learners should also be comfortable giving commands as this may come in handy in future situations.

Charades: Act It Out!

Take your command practice up a notch with Charades!

Before class, write down a command on each of these small pieces of paper—make sure that each sheet has a different command. Once finished, fold the pieces of paper and drop them into a bowl, basket or bag.

In class, divide the class into two or three teams, depending on the size or your class. Write their team names on the board, as that’s where you’ll be keeping track of points.

The teams should take turns sending one teammate to the front of the room. When the student comes to the front, have them choose a command from your container. Without speaking or showing the paper to anyone else, the student must act out the command for their team to see. Give their teammates one minute to correctly guess the command. If the team guesses the correct command within one minute, award them one point. If a team doesn’t guess the command by the end of the minute, the slip of paper goes back into the bowl.

Continue playing until all of the slips have been used.

The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Tip: In order to optimize the learning with this activity, it’s important to make sure each student has a chance to act out a command. Often times teams will try to continually send the “best” actor to the front of the room. Make it clear to your students from the beginning that every student on the team must go at least once before any students get a second turn. If you catch a student going a second time before everyone on their team has had a chance to act, subtract a point from their team.

If you need some awesome content on giving commands in English, you should check out this video:

24 of the Most Common and Useful Classroom Commands

There are dozens of commands you may need in your classroom. Here are some of the more common commands and some of the ones I’ve found the most useful, especially when coming up with commands for your activities.

I also recommend including “please” at the beginning or end of the sentence when practicing these commands. That way, your students also get a quick lesson on being polite in English.

  • Be quiet.
  • Close your books.
  • Come here.
  • Draw ___.
  • Find a partner.
  • Give me your homework.
  • Keep going.
  • Listen / Listen to ___.
  • Open your books.
  • Raise your hand with you have the answer.
  • Raise your hand when you’re finished.
  • Read aloud.
  • Read quietly.
  • Repeat after me.
  • See me after class.
  • Sit down.
  • Speak louder.
  • Stand up.
  • Stop talking.
  • Switch seats.
  • Take out a piece of paper.
  • Tell me the answer for ____.
  • Time is up.
  • Try again.
  • Write down the answer.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Learning how to make basic commands in English is an important step in achieving fluency. And with these exercises, your students can practice making imperative sentences in a way that’s fun and engaging.

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