Implementing various kinds of adjectives into the lesson plans of online classes are excellent ways to improve the overall comprehensiveness of the student. Adjectives are fundamental words that add descriptiveness to nouns. They add flavor and spice to basic, ordinary sentences. Incorporating adjectives helps paint a better picture of what the speaker attempts to convey. Of course, this is essential in the ESL classroom. Knowing when and why to intertwine different types of adjectives into speaking and writing bolsters the students understanding and English-speaking abilities. But some of you may be wondering ‘how exactly do I go about doing that?’

How To Teach Adjectives Esl

The most efficient way to teach adjectives is to have the students recognize them in the first place. Teaching recognition is doable across every age level and skill group. According to Montana Rogers, of the FluentU English Educator Blog, “There are hundreds of commonly-used adjectives in the English language. To make it easier for students learning these words, try teaching adjectives in groups rather than individual, unrelated vocabulary words.”1 The adjective groups that are best suited for ESL students are- Positive, which carry emotional associations (ex- happy, thankful, important…), Comparative, which, when paired with ‘than’ help distinguish specific contexts (ex- “Ashley is shorter than Scott”),  and Descriptive, which describe the physical characteristics of the subject (ex- “The big, blue house is very nice). Grouping adjectives into these categories allows teachers to better compartmentalize the receptiveness of the words and how they are used to their students.2 Positive and descriptive adjectives are thought to be the best when introducing adjectives to kids. Whereas, comparative adjectives are best geared for older, more advanced students whose tasks are to develop more complex sentence structures and word chains. For details on how to introduce these adjective groups to students of all ages, please feel free to take a peek at my recently published “Adjective Activities and Games for ESL Students” article. It delves into the nuts and bolts of how to teach adjectives by introducing unique activities and games to bring into your classroom.  

Another useful technique in introducing types of adjectives is to show rather than say. To an ESL student, words do not have a particular meaning until a signifier is attached to them. With that, it is no wonder visuals and TPR are so heavily relied upon when teaching students English. The same goes for various types of adjectives. To introduce positive and descriptive adjectives to young students, show the facial expressions, colors, pictures, and TPR to correlate with the word itself. By adding additional emphasis to a single word, a student can better connect the signifier to the signified. For a very base example, when introducing the concept of colors, try to avoid simply stating the name of the hue. Instead, pre-make signs with the color and the word underneath to best draw a connection between the word and its meaning.

The same can be said when introducing more complex comparative adjectives to older students. Typically, when juxtaposing two conflating perspectives, I will ask the student a question and use TPR at the same time. If asking, ‘which is bigger, an elephant or a dog?’ I will first use hand signals in the form of a tipping scale to signify which one weighs more. Then, depending on their response, I will continue to use TPR to help the students not only formulate a complete sentence but understand entirely what they are saying. If their response is, ‘elephant,’ I will guide them to say “an elephant is bigger than a dog” expanding my arms outward when saying ‘elephant’ and pinching my fingers together up to my eye when I say ‘dog.’ Of course, each approach is dependent upon your students and what they are prone to respond best to. Giving them something additional to help remember the necessity of the word’s usage is key.

My go-to method of introducing different types of adjectives to my students is to simply incorporate them into the general framework of the class. An easy way to introduce adjectives is to ask questions about students’ lives, which can lead to discussions about everything from describing family members to comparing and contrasting favorite animals. In addition, I often use the courseware itself to engage the students and spur them to talk adjectives. If you work for ALO7, as I do, chances are your lesson starts with a cartoon scene featuring our Malus, a map of America, a photographed landscape, or some other visual. As an ice-breaking warm-up activity, feel free to raise questions about the pictures and how they look. This simple activity can inspire the students to make use of different types of adjectives, regardless if they have a full grasp on the concept, or not. Either way, it is good practice and can be made useful on every page of the lesson.

In closing, there is no question that adjectives are a massive reason why English can be fun! Not only are they limitless in their potential to add depth and variety to sentences and ideas, but adjectives for kids, especially ESL students, are wonderful tools to help develop good sentence structure habits and increase their lexicon of vocabulary words. 

Citations for “How to Teach Different Types of Adjectives to ESL Students”
1 Montana Rogers, “Show, Don’t Tell: How to Teach Adjectives to ESL Students,” FluentU English Educator Blog,https://www.fluentu.com/blog/educator-english/how-to-teach-adjectives-esl/.
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Ty Unruh
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Ty Unruh

Great article! I’d love to work with adjective gradients someday. I’ve had students in the past who tried using a sophisticated synonym for a simple adjective with comedic results. I’d like to see a fill-in-the-blank activity in ALO7 courseware for more advanced students in which they rate adjectives on a spectrum. For example, bad→awful→dreadful→terrible→atrocious. In absence of a picture, how would a teacher use TPR to demonstrate comparatives like better or worse?

Lauren
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Lauren

Thanks for breaking down at what ages to introduce different types of adjectives. I hadn’t thought about that in a concrete way before. Keep writing!