People love to talk about themselves. Use these quick activities to practice the forms of the verb ‘to be.’ You can use these in Spanish and other languages, too.
Use beanbags or another soft projectile for Verb Ball. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Verb Ball. Everybody stands in a circle and tosses around a beanbag, a beach ball, or some other object. This is a good activity for right after you have learned all the forms of a verb– and it doesn’t even have to be ‘to be.’ The first person starts with ‘I’ and passes the ball. The person who catches the ball says ‘am,’ and then throws the ball to another person while saying ‘you.’ The recipient replies with ‘are,’ and then throws the ball to somebody else while saying ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Keep going through all the pronouns and their conjugations.
2. Matching race. Split the group into teams. Give each team a set of cards with the forms of the verb and put a big card with each of the pronouns on it up on the wall. This is a relay race: only one person on each team can go up to the board at the time with one card. Teammates take turns running up to put their cards under the correct pronouns. The team that gets all their cards up on the wall in the correct places first is the winner.
For a more advanced class, give them almost complete sentences on the cards. For example, the card says “…am a student,” and the team has to put it on the wall under the pronoun I. There are different variations you can play, like putting cards in boxes. We like having students tape the cards to the wall or board, because there can be a rule that only one student from each team can have the tape in his or her hand at a time. That way, they have to run back to the rest of the team and hand off the tape to the next person, and it prevents overeager competitors from all running at once.
3. Interviews. Make up a list of questions that the students should know how to answer using ‘to be.’ For example:
Have students sit in pairs and interview each other. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Who am I?
Who are you?
Who is he?
Who is she?
Who are we?
Who are you and he?
Who are you and she?
Who are they?
Who is the teacher?
Who are the students?
Who is the principal?
Who is your mother / father?
Who is the president?
Interview the students, and, when they get good at answering, have them interview each other. The questions can be changed to use students’ names, too, like this:
Who are Alana and Robert?
They are students.
Who is Mrs. Harrison?
She is the teacher.
You can make it into a game and give teams points for correct answers, or play jeopardy.
4. Tic Tac Toe: Question the Answers. Set up a tic-tac-toe board and fill it with simple statements using the verb ‘to be.’ Divide the students into an X team and an O team. In order to gain a point, the team must ask and answer a question correctly. For example, Victor and Jack are on the same team and want to take the square labeled, “Yes he is.”
Victor: Is Martin a student?
Jack: Yes he is.
5. Movie Quotes. Find clips of famous movie scenes and show them to the class. You could give them a list of the quotes and have them fill in the different forms of the verb as they listen. Here are some movies with famous lines that include am, is, and are:
You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.
–Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront
Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
–Ali MacGraw as Jennifer in Love Story
I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!
—Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network
There’s no crying in baseball.
—Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own
I’m the king of the world!
—Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson in Titanic
6. Celebrity identity game. Click here for a full description of this fun conversation activity.
Can you guess who wrote this autobiography?
7. Mini autobiography. When the students know some basic adjectives, have them write mini-autobiographies describing themselves physically, personality-wise, and talking about where they are from. Have each student draw a picture as well. Post the autobiographies around the room and have the class guess whose is whose.
8. Grammar circle. Stand in a circle and have each person introduce himself. Then go around the circle again: this time the first person introduces herself, and the second person introduces himself and the student who went before. Each student has to introduce him- or herself and all of the previous students. The person who started has to remember everyone’s name.
Julie: I am Julie.
Paco: I am Paco, and she is Julie.
Ruth: I am Ruth, and he is Paco, and she is Julie.
David: I am David, and she is Ruth, and he is Paco, and she is Julie.
9. I am; who is? Write I am ___. Who is ___? on the board for everyone to see. Then start the game by filling in the blanks with your name and another student’s name. The student who is called must answer with his or her name and another student’s name. Continue until all students have been called. Time the group to see whether they can improve their record.
Mrs. Harrison: I am Mrs. Harrison. Who is Victor?
Victor: I am Victor. Who is Alana?
Alana: I am Alana. Who is Ruth?
Ruth: I am Ruth. Who is Martin?
10. “To be” Jeopardy! Create a simple Jeopardy! game using descriptions that students have written of themselves previously. A sample question could be: He is a student. He is tall and blonde. He is from Chicago. The answer, of course, is in the form of a question: Who is Jack? Harder questions would use multiple people: They are girls. They are friends. One is blonde and one is brunette. They are serious students. Answer: Who are Alana and Julie? Don’t forget to use I, you, and we.