Effective ESL Be Verbs Lesson With Worksheets & Fun Strategies

Grab the Free Kid-Inspired Be-Verbs Lesson Pack by clicking the button below.

In this article:

  • Tips for Teaching: Am, Is, Are
  • Activity Ideas
  • Free Lesson Pack with Printable Worksheets and Activities

The Challenges in Teaching Be-Verbs to Your English Learners


When you’re done with this article, you’ll have a solid plan for getting your English Learners using their be-verbs correctly and fluently.

Most native speakers don’t have to worry about using be-verbs correctly and it can be hard to understand what’s so difficult about using “am,” “is,” and “are” correctly.

For an English language learner who did not grow up in an English environment, verb conjugation can throw them off.

Honestly…

It’s not that be-verbs are difficult to understand. That’s the easy part.

The difficult part is practicing them until they can say them without having to think about it.

That is why…

…we need to create lots of opportunities for our students to hear and practice speaking correct English grammar.

That means we need to cut down on the time we spend explaining concepts to students and increase the time they spend interacting with the language, just parents don’t spend a lot of time explaining grammar to their toddlers. 

All Kid-Inspired materials are designed with this goal: to get students using the language so much that they end up using it naturally, without having to think about it.

We want each and every student…

We want each and every student hearing and saying loads of our target language objectives each class until they can say them without even having to think about it.

If you need more help…

If you need more help with how to organize your classes to get your students using the language as much as possible, check out my book Kid-Inspired Teacher where I lay out a framework for how to organize your classes to make them both effective and engaging.

Kid-Inspired Teacher How to Teach ESL Book Cover
Kid-Inspired Teacher by John Carlson

 

Types of Be-Verb Sentences to Teach


Because there are a few types of be-verb sentences, it’s important to choose one type and focus on it until students have gotten familiar with it.

  • Be-verbs with Adjectives
  • Be-verbs with Singular Nouns
  • Be-Verbs with Plural Nouns
  • Negative Be-Verbs
  • Be-Verb Questions

Very often, the most difficult part of be-verb sentences is the articles and the plurals that go in the latter part of the sentences.

For instance, a student may get the be verb right in a sentence but forget to add the “a” before the noun that follows, or forget to add the “s” to make the noun that follows plural. Check out the examples below.

  • She is a girl.
  • They are girls

The following lesson ideas cover listening, speaking, reading and writing, all 4 language domains. 

In this article, I’ve only been discussing the present tense be-verbs, but the lesson ideas work equally well with the past tense be verbs.

Teaching Be-Verbs Lesson Plan Ideas


Here is an overview of how you can teach be-verbs to your students whether you’re in the classroom or online.

Be-Verbs Lesson Plan


  • Write example sentences on the board.
  • Have students extrapolate the rules from the example sentences inductively. You can call them grammar detectives to make it exciting and mysterious! Click here for more on inductive learning.
  • Practice quick response. I say a subject, the class calls out the correct be-verb. 
  • Put them in groups of 3. One student calls out a subject, the other 2 race to say the correct be-verb. The winner gets a points counter (bean, token, point on a whiteboard, ect) and also gets to call out the next subject.
  • If they are responding quickly with the correct be-verbs, practice with asking and answering basic be-verb questions. You may want to stick with only adjectives, or only nouns at first to make things a little less overwhelming, especially for beginners.
  • Give students a challenge to ask and answer 5 be-verb questions about a picture without mistakes. When they’re ready, they answer the questions with you. If they pass, they can go write those sentences. If they don’t pass, they practice some more first and try again.
  • Once they pass, and while they are waiting for other students to finish, they can complete a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet where they identify the be-verbs in sentences or in a reading text. (If you’re a member of the ESL Curriculum Membership, present tense be-verbs are covered in depth in Beginners 4. Past tense be-verbs are covered in Low-Intermediate 2.  See below.)
  • You can provide a reward board game for students who have completed all of the tasks.

Fun Activities You Can Use to Teach Be-Verbs


1. Line Up and Jump Activity


Here are a couple of fun activities you can use to practice be-verbs with your students.

  • Have students line up in a line facing you. 
  • You assign actions for each be-verb: 1. Jump right for “is.” Jump right for “are.” Put your hands up and jump for “am.”
  • Call out a subject.
  • Students respond with the correct action while calling out the correct be-verb.
  • After students have gotten the hang of the activity, you can add in a fun consequence for getting it wrong, like 10 jumping jacks. 

2. Picture This Activity


In this activity, you’ll need 1. Pictures of Animals  2. Flash Cards with adjectives Written or Pictured on Them.  3. Flash Cards with Be-Verbs on Them. If you’re a member of the ESL Curriculum Membership, click here to grab some resources for this activity.

  • Students lay out the pictures and flash cards on their desks.
  • They organize the pictures and flash cards into sentences describing the animals. 
  • They share their sentences with each other.
  • They draw a picture of an animal and write sentences describing it on a sheet of poster.

Check out the lesson pack below for ESL Worksheets and activities you can use with your students online or in the classroom. 

Grammar Lesson

There & Be-Verbs Worksheets


Everything you need for an engaging be-verbs lesson with your English learners. Click the button below to grab the lesson now.

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