By Kevin Fabris

September 30, 2015

10 - 20 Minutes, Easy ESL Games,, EFL, ESL, Fun, Game, Games, Guessing Game, Some Materials Required, songs, Speaking, Super Simple Songs, Use It, Vocabulary, Young Learner

Once your ESL students (young learners) have mastered some English vocabulary, it’s take their abilities to the next level.  Sentence building.  What’s In The Box is an easy ESL game that can help your youngest learners make that important step.

The Details:

  • Students should be between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.
  • Ideally this game should be played with between 4 and 7 ESL students.
  • This game should take between 10 and 20 minutes depending on the number of students playing.


  • A Children’s songs CD & CD player or equivalent.
  • A Box (It can be small or big. It depends on the size of the “things” you use).
  • Things –  anything will work: toys, shapes, stuffed animals, etc.  Just make sure the “things” you place in the box match the lesson material your teaching your children. For example, 3 years old students may be learning about shapes, numbers & colors. So, use colorful shapes and numbers.
  • Picture cards can be used for older students that know more words.  This is basically a version of   ESL Game #022 – Watermelon designed for children rather than high school students and adults.

How to get your students to start sentence building:

  1. Ask your ESL students to sit in a circle & close their eyes.
  2. Place one of the “things” you brought into the box.
  3. Put on a song your whole class knows and sing along.   While singing start passing the box around the circle.
  4. Randomly stop the music. (make sure you “randomly” stop the music when a stronger student is  holding the box the first time).
  5. The student holding the box then has to use age/level appropriate English to describe the item in the box without showing the other students.  If the item is a banana a student might say something similar to; “It’s yummy.  It’s yellow and long.”  The point is to get students connecting words.  Even if it’s only one or two words at first.
  6. The student that guesses what the “thing “in the box is gets the “thing” as a point.
  7. Repeat steps 1 – 6 until every student has taken a turn describing what’s in the box.

Note: When you are trying to get your students to start sentence building you have to remember to always match the “things” with your student’s abilities.  The goal is to build confidence not embarrass them in front of their peers.

Example sentences based on age.

  • 3 – 4 years old → Ask them to make a sentence or two: It’s a circle. It’s red.
  • 5  years old and up → Ask them to make 2 – 3 sentences explaining  the “thing”  e.g., It’s an animal. It’s white. It eats bones.  When they don’t know what to say don’t hesitate to give them prompting questions, e.g, what is it?, what’s the colour?


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