You’re a busy teacher. Your to-do list is running off the page, and you’re running off to class. Sometimes a grab and go activity is just what you need.
That’s why these activities which review modals require little to no prep, just what a busy teacher needs. Simply read the directions and walk into class ready to help your students learn!
Try These 5 No Prep & Low Prep Activities For Reviewing Modal Verbs
The Perfect Match
In this activity, one person asks advice of his classmates until he gets the answer that he is looking for. Start by presenting a scenario to your class. A student is looking for advice on whether or not he should do something, for example, drop a class, go on a date, change his major, etc. Choose one person to be the student asking for advice, and send him out of the room while you discuss possible responses with the rest of your class. While that student is out of the room, assign each remaining student a modal verb (could, might, can, ought to, must). Try to give the same number of students each modal. Only one student should use “should” to answer his classmate’s question. When the other student asks for advice, that one person tells the student that he should do the thing he is asking about. (For example, if the student asks, “Should I drop this class?” only one student should say, “You should drop the class.”) The rest of your class should use their assigned modal to give another answer to the asking student. (“You could just stop going to class. You might want to change to pass/fail.”) When the student returns to the room, he asks various students his question (Should I drop this class?) until he finds the one person who says he should do just that. Once he finds that person, the round is over. For the next round, send someone else into the hallway to play the student who now has a different problem and assign different modals to the remaining students and play as before.
Permission Role Play
Role plays are a great go to activity for ESL students. You can target a specific grammar point while getting in speaking and listening practice, too. To practice modals in a role play, have one person ask another for permission for a particular activity. The following role plays encourage students to use modal verbs as they negotiate with their partners.
The Teen’s Weekend: One person is a teenager who wants to go away with his friends for the weekend. One or two other people are his parents who want him to spend the weekend with them at his grandmother’s house in the middle of nowhere. Both parties negotiate with each other using as many modals as possible until they come to an agreement about the weekend.
Just What the World Needs: One person is an inventor who has come up with a product they want to sell to a big company. This person desperately needs as much money as possible for both the invention and to help a sick family member. One or two other people play representatives from the company, and they do want to purchase this terrific invention. However, they do not want to pay the person any money up front since they do not know if the invention will be successful. Start the role play with the inventor explaining his product, using modals to communicate what the public could, should, and might do with his invention if they could buy it. Then, all the students in the role play should use modals to negotiate a sale or other arrangement between the inventor and the company.
My Schedule is Full
In this activity, students mingle asking their classmates for help with a particular task they have planned for the week. Start by having students write the days of the week on a blank piece of paper – Sunday through Saturday. On that schedule, they will write one (fictional) event with which they will need help from fellow classmates: moving to a new apartment, having a big party, putting on a play, etc. Each student must then try to get six classmates to help him with that activity. To do so, he will mingle and ask his classmates for help using modal verbs. (Would you help me move on Thursday?) If a classmate agrees to help with his activity, he must also help with hers. He writes her name next to his activity, and he writes her name and activity on his blank schedule on the appropriate day. Each person can only have one event scheduled each day of the week. So if a classmate asks for help with something on Monday and a student has already agreed to help someone else with an event on Monday, he must say he cannot do it and therefore cannot get that student’s help. If a student is unable to secure the help they need on the day they scheduled their event, they can change the day of the event to try to get their six helpers. At the end of time, see who was able to get enough people to help them and, at the same time, completely fill their own schedule.
In It Together
As a class, brainstorm a list of problems an ESL student new to the U.S. might have. As you are listing the problems, encourage students to use modal verbs when talking about how a new student might struggle. For example, he might miss his family. She could get lost going to class. Etc. As students suggest problems, write them on the board. You don’t have to write the complete sentences. Once you have listed as many problems as your class can, have each person write a letter to a student who has not yet travelled overseas. In the letter, you student should warn his future classmate about the struggles an English student new to the U.S. might have. The letter should also offer suggestions on how to best handle those problems. In the letter, students should use modal verbs whenever possible, both in introducing the problems and in offering solutions to them. If you like, extend the activity by putting students into groups of four or five. These groups should read each other’s letters and then compile all the best advice into a pamphlet that could be sent to future students. Display your students’ letters and pamphlets on a bulletin board titled “We’re all in this together.”
Mother May I
One of the easiest ways to practice modal verbs (and get out of the classroom at the same time) is to play a simple game of Mother May I. In this game, one person stands at one end of the playing field. This person is “Mother”, and he or she will be giving the other students permission to move from the opposite end of the playing field toward her. Students take turns asking whether they can take a certain type of step toward mother. For example, one students might ask, “Mother, may I take five baby steps?” Mother answers either affirmatively or negatively. If her answer is yes, the student takes those steps counting aloud as they move. The next student then asks for permission. “Mother may I take three scissor steps?” Mother answers again. Students can name any kind of step, and then should then act out that step as they move – karate steps, jump steps, kangaroo steps, etc. If you like, encourage students to use modals other than may when they ask permission. The first person to reach Mother wins the game, and that person gets to be Mother in the next round. This game is particularly nice as it reviews modals, gets students moving, and reviews numbers all at the same time.
We all know what it’s like to be a busy teacher.
That’s why these activities for reviewing modal verbs are designed to work without a lot of preparation on your part. Your students will still learn, and they will have a good time doing it, too. And you’ll have time to do other important things on your to-do list.
What are your favorite grab and go activities for teaching grammar?