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Modal Verbs of Ability - ESL EFL Teaching Resources

Ability Bingo

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Elementary - 25 Minutes

In this entertaining teaching activity, students circulate, asking questions about the abilities of other students in order to fill in a bingo card. This fun resource teaches students to ask and answer questions using modal verbs of ability. Students have to demonstrate their ability if possible. The first student to get five names in a row wins.

Ability Bingo.PDF  Free 


Can and Can't

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 20 Minutes

Teach your students about modal verbs of ability with this helpful worksheet. Students begin by completing sentences using can and can't to talk about everyday abilities. Then, the students work in pairs. They practice asking and answering questions about each other's abilities.

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Can you...?

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Elementary - 30 Minutes

In this engaging speaking task, students learn to talk about their abilities using modal verbs. Students work individually and try to guess if their partner can or can't do the activities listed on their worksheet. They underline or circle can or can't in each sentence without talking to their partner. When they have finished, students take it in turns to ask their partner if they can do the activities on their worksheet. For each statement that the students guessed correctly, they receive one point. The student who gets the most correct answers is the winner. Students then come to the front of the class and tell the other students about their partner.

Can you.PDF Free

 ESL Modal Verbs of Ability

Crazy Abilities

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Elementary - 20 Minutes

This teaching activity is based on the card game 'Crazy Eights'. In this game, students think about what pairs of items have in common in terms of skill or ability, and express that using modal verbs. Students work in groups of three. The students take it in turns to lay down cards on the table. Each card contains two pairs of items. The student with the card directs a question using the target language to the player on their right, e.g. What can people and birds do? If the player can express what ability or skill the two things have in common, they get the chance to put a card down and ask a question. If they can't, play moves to the next student. The first player to get rid of all of his or her cards wins the game. This game also contains wild cards that can be used at any point during the game. 

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Find Someone Who Can...

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Elementary - 25 Minutes

This productive ESL activity is ideal for teaching students how they can ask and answer questions about ability using modal verbs. Students have a list of different abilities on their worksheet. Students have to find someone who possesses each distinct ability. The students ask each other various 'Can you...?' questions. When a student responds with a 'Yes, I can' answer, the student demonstrates they have the ability and the other student writes their name down on the worksheet.

Find Someone Who Can.PDF  Free



ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Elementary - 25 Minutes

Here is an appealing guessing game to help students practice talking about ability using modal verbs. Each student is given a copy of the worksheet. Students complete sentences with information about their abilities. They write some sentences which are true and some which are false. They also tick either the true or false box after each sentence, to confirm which are which. Students then work with a partner. They take it in turns to say their sentences. The other student has to decide if the sentence is true or false. Students score one point if they guess correctly. One point is awarded to their partner, if they guess wrong. At the end of the activity, the students add up their points to find the winner.

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Fun Ability Test

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 45 Minutes

This is a fun teaching activity for students to learn about modal verbs of ability. Students try out entertaining challenges in teams and fill in a chart to show what members of their team can and can’t do. To start the activity, the class is separated into teams of three. Each team is given a worksheet that contains ten amusing challenges. The students write their names on the worksheet and then take it in turns to try out each challenge. They tick the 'can’ or ‘can’t’ column next to their name depending on whether they completed the task successfully or not. When the groups have completed all the challenges, the students write a summary of what they can and can’t do. After they have completed the summary, the students take it in turns to tell the class one thing they can do and one thing they can’t do. You could also get them to express this using could or couldn’t.

Fun Ability Test.PDF  Free

How well can you…?

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Elementary - 30 Minutes

This speaking activity teaches students to talk about people’s skills and varying levels of ability using modal verbs. The class is split into pairs. In the first part of the teaching activity, students ask 'Can you...?' questions and reply using 'Yes, I can' or 'No, I can’t'. The responses are recorded on a worksheet. If a 'Yes, I can' answer is given, the students continue on to the second question 'How well can you...?' The response is again marked on the worksheet depending on which of six phrases the student used. When everyone has finished, the students form new pairs. This time they ask about their new partner's first partner using the third person. When the activity is complete, students complete sentences at the bottom of the worksheet with the information about both students.

How well can you.PDF  Exclusive


Modal Verbs of Ability Lesson

ESL EFL Lesson - Elementary - 1 Hour +

This entertaining lesson is aimed at elementary students learning modal verbs of ability. The lesson starts by showing the students a picture of some superheroes. A poll is taken to see which superhero the students like the most. After the poll, the students are shown the trailer of "Superman - Man of Steel" to get them involved in the topic of super powers. After watching the video, students work together in pairs to answer true or false statements about the video. This is followed by a gap-fill exercise on the board where students make sentences about what different superheroes can and can't do. Next, each student is given a piece of paper and some coloured pencils and asked to make a poster of their own superhero. Under their picture, the students write about their new superhero's powers using modal verbs of ability. Finally, the students work in pairs. They ask and answer questions about the abilities of their new superheroes. Finally, the superhero posters are displayed on the classroom wall for the other students to see.

Modal Verbs of Ability Lesson.PDF  Free


The Leftorium

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 35 Minutes

In this entertaining activity, students try doing different tasks with only their left hand. Students then ask and answer questions about their abilities using 'can' and 'can’t'. The class is divided into groups of four and each student is given a copy of the worksheet. The students are told to imagine that they are in the Leftorium with Ned Flanders from the Simpsons and that Ned has given them some tasks to do, using only their left hand. In their groups, students put their right hand behind their back and then attempt each task in turn. If they are able to do the task with just their left hand, the students write 'Yes, I can' next to the task. If the students are unable to do the task, they write 'No, I can’t'. When all the students have finished, they interview the people in their group and ask questions about their ability to do the tasks. The students write their classmates' answers on the worksheet using the third person.

The Leftorium.PDF Free


Ability Bluff

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 Minutes

In this compelling teaching activity, students play a true/false game to practice the language of talking about ability. The class is split into two groups (A and B). The students sit together with the people in their group. Each student is then given the appropriate half of the worksheet. The students complete the information on their worksheet with either true or false information as indicated. When the students have finished, they sit face to face with someone from the other group. The students take it in turns to talk about what they have written on their worksheet. Their partner asks questions and tries to work out if they are telling the truth or bluffing. When everyone has finished, the students report back on surprising abilities or best bluffs.

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Can and Could

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 20 Minutes

In this teaching activity, students go round the classroom and find out about other student's past and present abilities. Each student is given a card. The students are responsible for finding out the information on their card by speaking to everybody in the class or group. They do this by asking and answering questions using the modal verbs of ability 'can' and 'could'. The students put a tick next to the sentence each time somebody answers 'Yes, I can' or 'Yes, I could' or succeeds in doing a task. When the students have spoken to everybody in the class or group, they sit down and take it in turns to talk about the information they found out. Students then give feedback to the class.

Can and Could.PDF  Exclusive


Modal Mania

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 Minutes

This speaking task is perfect for reviewing modal verbs. The activity covers modal verbs of ability, possibility, obligation and prohibition. The class is split into groups of four. Each student has five picture cards. There are also modal verb cards placed face down in a pile. Students take it in turns to pick up a modal verb card and match it with one of their picture cards. The student then has to explain how the two cards match to the other players. Students can be as creative as they like in order to convince the other players. If the other players agree, the student can get rid of their picture card. The student who gets rid of all their picture cards first is the winner.

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Past and Present Abilities

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 Minutes

In this enjoyable speaking activity, students ask and answer questions about past and present abilities. Students are divided into groups of four and each group is given a set of cards. Students take it in turns to take a card. The student with the card then decides if they are going to ask about the past or present. They then ask the other students in their group about their abilities, using the prompt on the card. The other students can either lie or tell the truth. The student who asked the question must then ask follow-up questions to work out if the other students are lying or telling the truth. Students win one point for each correct guess. Each group plays until all the cards have been used. The student with the highest number of points at the end is the winner.

Past and Present Abilities.PDF  Exclusive


When they were twenty

ESL EFL Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 Minutes

In this pairwork activity, students practice asking and answering questions about four people’s past abilities using could, couldn't, and adverbs of degree. The students are divided into pairs (A and B) and each student is given a worksheet. The worksheet contains information about four people when they were twenty. It shows what they could do and how well. Student A has half the information and Student B has the other half. The students ask each other questions about the four people’s past abilities and complete a chart with the missing information, e.g. Could Jacob cook when he was twenty? Their partner replies using 'could' and 'couldn't' and adverbs of degree. When they have finished, students write a paragraph on what they could do when they were younger.

When they were twenty.PDF  Exclusive


Related Teaching Resources: Asking Permission and Making Requests  /  Modal Verbs of Obligation and Prohibition

                                                Modal Verbs of Possibility, Certainty and Necessity  


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