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Practicing with Adjectives

by Beverley Woodward | 31 Oct 2017
Resource Description: Being able to use adjectives correctly in sentences is essential to write well in English. Adjectives add details and description to sentences. This lesson is included in a “parts of speech” unit for a beginning-intermediate ESL writing course. It is a group activity that gives students practice using adjectives in sentences. 
Audience: Adult, University
Audience Language Proficiency: Intermediate
Duration: 50 minutes
Language Skill: Writing
Content Area: English for Academic Purposes
Materials and Technology:

Beach ball

White board

Dry erase marker

  • Students will learn how to use adjectives to describe a noun and a pronoun.
  • Students will learn a question that is answered by using an adjective.
  • Students will learn to place an adjective in two positions of a sentence.
  • At the end of this lesson, students will be able to correctly use adjectives to describe a noun or pronoun.
  • Students will learn how to ask a question about a noun or pronoun that results in identifying an adjective. 
  • Students will also be able to use an adjective in the correct positions of a sentence.

The teacher explains that adjectives describe or clarify nouns or pronouns. Using adjectives in sentences adds details and makes sentences more interesting. The following activity will give students practice using adjectives in a sentence.

The teacher writes on the board:

  Adjectives describe nouns or pronouns.                

Then the teacher then writes the following question and response:

            What kind of person are you?

            I am a ________ person.

Next, the teacher explains the activity:

In this exercise, a student will ask the question, “What kind of person are you?”  The answer to that question will be a sentence that contains an adjective. For example, “I am a creative person.” The adjective “creative” describes the noun “person.” Notice that the position of the adjective is immediately before the noun it describes.

The teacher asks the students to name more adjectives that describe a person and writes the adjectives on the board. After listing about 15-20 adjectives, the teacher initiates the first part of the activity.

The students stand and form two lines facing one another. The teacher explains that the person who holds the ball will ask the question on the board and then throw the ball forward to the student across from him/her, who will answer the question. Students will continue moving the ball back and forth to one another, asking and answering the question, until it reaches the end of the lines.

The teacher models the activity by holding the ball and asking the first student, “What kind of person are you?” Then the teacher gently throws the ball to the student across from him/her and awaits the student’s answer. The student responds by filling in the blank of the sentence on the board.  For example, “I am a smart person.” The teacher congratulates the student and responds that the word “smart” is an adjective. In addition, the instructor tells the students that they can answer the question by using one of the adjectives on the board or another adjective that is not listed. Next, Student 1 (who is holding the ball) asks Student 2 (who is standing across from him/her), “What kind of person are you?” Student 1 throws the ball to the Student 2. Student 2 catches the ball and answers the question by filling in the blank with an adjective, “I am a _______ person.”

The questions and answers continue until all the students have had the opportunity to ask and answer the question. The teacher then announces that students will continue the activity, but they should not use any adjectives that have been previously mentioned. Then the activity continues until each student asks and answers the question again..

At that point, the teacher asks the class, “Where is the adjective located in your response?” After a student answers the question correctly, the teacher repeats the response and comments that the position of an adjective in an English sentence may be different than the position of an adjective in other languages.

Next, the teacher will introduce the second part of the activity. The students will continue to ask, “What kind of person are you?” However, now the response will be, “I am _______.” The teacher writes this sentence on the board. He/she comments that in this part of the activity, the adjective will be after the “be” verb, and the adjective will describe the pronoun “I.” The teacher states that an adjective can be used in one of two positions in an English sentence: 1) before a noun or 2) after a linking verb, such as “be.”

Next, two students model the activity for the others. Student 1 asks the question, “What kind of person are you?” and throws the ball to Student 2, who is standing across from him or her. Student 2 answers by repeating the sentence and adding an adjective after the “be” verb, such as “I am athletic.”  Student 2 continues the activity by asking the question and throwing the ball to Student 3 who answers the question in the same manner. This will continue until each student has a chance to ask and answer the question at least once.

In the third part of the activity, the teacher directs the students to form a circle. He/she explains that they will continue the activity. However, this time the student who asks the question can throw the ball to anyone in the circle. Furthermore, the student who catches the ball can answer in one of the two ways—saying the adjective before the noun or after the “be” verb. This will continue until every student has had the opportunity to respond to the question.

Finally, after asking the students to be seated, the teacher provides an opportunity for student reflection by writing on the board a sentence that has adjectives in both positions, such as the following: The basketball teams are enthusiastic.

The teacher asks one student to find an adjective in the sentence. Then the teacher ​continues asking questions, with minimal teacher talk, until students identify both adjectives and their positions in the sentence. 

If time allows, the teacher can write another sentence on the board, such as: The beautiful tall vase is heavy.

The students will identify the adjectives in the sentence, discuss what each adjective describes, and comment about the positions of the adjectives in the sentence. This example also provides students with the opportunity to consider how multiple adjectives may be used before a noun.

  • Informal discussion/ observation
  • Quiz about parts of speech
  • Exam

A subsequent lesson can identify other linking verbs, besides the "be" verb, that can be followed by an adjective.

Another lesson can focus on the order of multiple adjectives before nouns. 


Boardman, C. A. (2008). Writing to communicate 1. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.                      

Folse, K. S., Muchmore-Vokoun, A., & Solomon, E. V. (2014). Great writing 2: great paragraphs. Boston: National GeographicLearning / Cengage Learning. 

TESOL Interest Section: English as a Foreign Language