Absolute Beginner English Basic Adjectives

ESL class
 Getty Images/AID

When absolute beginner students are able to identify a number of basic objects, that is a good time to introduce some basic adjectives to describe those objects. You will need to have some illustrations of similar objects that look slightly different. It's helpful to have them mounted on the same size of cardstock and have them big enough to show to everyone in the classroom. For Part III of this lesson, you will want to have, at minimum, one image per student.

Preparation

Prepare the lesson by writing a number of adjectives on the board. Use adjectives that are paired in opposites, such as the following:

  • beautiful—ugly
  • old—new
  • hot—cold
  • old—young
  • big—small
  • cheap—expensive
  • thick—thin
  • empty—full

Notice that you should use adjectives that describe the outward appearance of things because students have learned only basic everyday object vocabulary prior to this.

Part I: Introducing Adjectives

Teacher: (Take two illustrations that show similar things in different states.) This is an old car. This is a new car.

Teacher: (Take two illustrations that show similar things in different states.) This is an empty glass. This is a full glass.

Continue pointing out the differences between the various things.

Part II: Getting Students to Describe Illustrations

After you feel comfortable that students are familiar with these new adjectives, begin to ask students questions. Stress that students should answer in complete sentences. 

Teacher: What is this?

Student(s): That is an old house.

Teacher: What is this?

Student(s): That is a cheap shirt.

Continue choosing between the various objects.

Besides the traditional calling on individual students for answers, you can also make a circle game out of this activity. Turn over the images onto a table and have students each choose one from the pile (or hand them out facedown). Then each student flips over the image and describes it. After each student has had a turn, mix up the images and have everyone draw again.

Part III: Students Ask Questions

For this circle game, hand out the various images to the students. The first student, student A, asks the student to his/her left, student B, about the image. Student B responds and then asks the student to his/her left, student C, about B's image, and so on around the room. For additional practice, reverse the circle so that every student gets to ask and respond about two images. If it will take too long to go around a circle because of the class size, have students pair off and discuss their images. They can then switch pairs with people near them or trade images.

Teacher: (Student A name), ask (student B name) a question.

Student A: Is this a new hat? OR What is this?

Student B: Yes, that is a new hat. OR No, that isn't a new hat. It is an old hat.

Questions continue around the room.

Part III: Alternative

If you want to create a mingle with this activity, deal an image to each student, facedown. Students cannot show anyone their image and instead need to find the opposite of the one they have, like an interactive Go-Fish game. If you have an odd number of students, include yourself in the mingle. Alternates are listed in case students have not had "do" or "where" yet. For example:

Student A: Do you have an old house? OR Where is the old house? OR Are you the old house? I have the new house OR I am the new house. 

Student B: I have an expensive bag. I am not the old house.