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Grammar has long been the bane of existence for many an educator. Teaching parts of speech, especially in the ESL environment, can sometimes become rote and uninteresting for both the student and the educator. However, there are some parts of speech that are more fun to teach than others, and every part of speech can be incorporated into a game! Let’s quickly look at teaching adverbs, and introducing new, innovative learning games into the online ESL classroom.

What Is An Adverb

So, what is an adverb, exactly?

An adverb, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, clause, or sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content.” In other words, an adverb is a word we use to change, modify, or intensify a noun, verb, adjective, phrase, or another adverb. This describing word is often noticeable in the sentence by ending in “-ly.” 

Adverb Examples

  • Likely
  • Simply
  • Actually
  • Certainly
  • Easily
  • Extremely
  • Specifically
  • Occasionally

Not all adverbs end in “-ly.” Some examples of these words include:

  • Instead
  • Rather
  • Soon
  • Sometimes
  • Together
  • Always
  • Never
  • Too
  • often

One fun game an educator can introduce into the online ESL classroom is “No ‘-ly’ Allowed!” A timed game, the students are asked to make a list of adverbs as quickly as possible without using any words that end in “-ly.” Start with longer intervals of time, and for each round decrease the allotted time. If the students are very advanced, encourage them to make sentences with the words on their list in order for them to “qualify.” What a fun way to teach adverbs and reiterate that not all adverbs end in “ly.”

Perhaps your students are little less advanced, or you’ve already played the above game and would like to try something different. OK! There are other interactive ways to introduce adverbs into the classroom.

Fun Adverb Games for the ESL Classroom

To start, begin with a fun action game:

“Adverb Action”

One a whiteboard or computer screen, write a sentence such as, “Harry eats lunch quickly.” The goal is for student Harry to read the sentence and then act it out. Once modeled, tell the students to check their chat if teaching online or pass them a note if teaching in a brick-and-mortar classroom. The message should contain an action for the student to act out for others to guess. Make a list of the adverbs for quick review after the game, with the whole class hilariously acting them out as you review. 

“Routines, Routines, Routines”

Put 30-seconds on a timer and ask the children to write down as many foods as possible before the timer rings. When the timer runs out, go down the list and ask each child how often they eat a particular food. Encourage the use of words such as: rarely, sometimes, usually, always, and never. 

“Movement Challenge”

Get the children up and moving! Similar to “Simon Says,” instruct the students to stand up and act as you instruct, except they should only do the actions that have adverbs. “Run quickly! [in place].” “Dance slowly.” “Jump!” Uh-oh! If there is no adverb and the student does the action, they are eliminated. Last person standing wins! 


A twist on an old classic is a mad-lib game using only adverbs. Make a story but don’t show the students. Ask each student to say an adverb. Once you have enough words, display the story with their words in the corresponding spaces. Have them take turns reading each silly sentence. Use TPR as they go, and encourage them to do the same!

Teaching grammar can be fun and exciting. Playing with words with our bodies and our imagination both encourages and motivates young English learners. Next time you find yourself teaching adverbs, try a game. Sound off below! What fun and innovative methods have you employed in the online classroom when teaching adverbs?

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