Modal Verbs of Ability ESL Activities, Games and Worksheets

Ability Bingo

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Game - Reading, Listening and Speaking Activity - Elementary (A1-A2) - 25 minutes

In this free ability modals game, students play bingo by finding classmates who have certain abilities. Give each student a copy of the bingo card. Students then go around the classroom asking 'Can you...?' questions in order to find classmates who have the abilities shown on the bingo card, e.g. 'Can you wiggle your ears?' When a student finds someone who answers 'Yes, I can', the student asks the person to demonstrate their ability by performing the task. If the person can demonstrate the ability, the student writes their name in the square on the bingo card and then moves on to talk to another person. The first student to get five names in a row, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally shouts 'bingo' and everyone stops. Check the answers by asking the five students to perform their abilities to the class. If they do this successfully, the student wins. If not, the game continues. Afterwards, the students continue the game by trying to complete the entire bingo card with names.
Ability Bingo Preview
 

Can and Can't

ESL Can and Can't Worksheet - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Elementary (A1-A2) - 20 minutes

This can or can't worksheet activity helps to teach students about modal verbs of ability. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Students write about their abilities by completing sentences on the worksheet with 'I can' or 'I can't'. When the students have finished, divide them into pairs. Students then take it in turns to ask about their partner's abilities by asking questions with 'Can you...?', e.g. 'Can you snap your fingers?' Their partner replies 'Yes, I can' or 'No, I can't' accordingly. If their partner replies 'Yes, I can', the student asks their partner to demonstrate the ability if possible.
Can and Can't Worksheet Preview

Interactive Version - In this can and can't interactive worksheets, students do an exercise to learn the modal verbs of ability 'can' and 'can't'.

 

Can you...?

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Activity - Reading, Listening and Speaking - Elementary (A1-A2) - 25 minutes

In this free 'Can you...?' activity, students guess whether a partner can or can't do certain things. The students then ask 'Can you...?' questions to find out if their guesses are right or wrong. Divide the students into pairs (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. Working alone, students guess whether their partner can or can't do the things listed on their worksheet by circling 'can' or 'can't' in each sentence. When the students have finished, they take it in turns to find out if their guesses are right or wrong by asking their partner 'Can you...?' questions, e.g. 'Can you draw a square and a circle at the same time?' Students put a tick or cross in the last column on the worksheet, depending on whether their guess was right or wrong. If possible, students ask their partner to demonstrate their ability. The student who guessed the most correct answers wins. Afterwards, students tell the class about their partner, e.g. 'I talked to Pam. She can spell the teacher's full name, but she can’t play the piano, etc.'
Can you...? Preview
 

Fun Ability Test

ESL Can and Can't Activity - Reading, Writing and Speaking - Elementary (A1-A2) - 35 minutes

Here is a fun modal verbs of ability activity to help students practice 'can' and 'can't'. In the activity, students try to complete various challenges and fill in a chart to show what members of their group can and can't do. Give each group of three a copy of the worksheet. The students write their names next to the first challenge on the worksheet and then take it in turns to try to complete the challenge. Students put a tick in the 'can' and 'can't' column next to their name, depending on whether they completed the task successfully or not. The students then repeat the procedure for the other challenges and complete the chart. When the students have finished, they write a summary of what their group can and can't do. After the students have completed their summaries, they read them to the class and discuss which challenges were the most difficult to do.
Fun Ability Test Preview
 

Modal Verbs of Ability

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Worksheet - Reading, Matching and Writing Activity - Elementary (A1-A2) - 25 minutes

In this ability modals worksheet, students learn and practice the modal verbs of ability 'can' and 'can't'. Give each student a copy of the two-page worksheet. Students begin by matching each animal with a corresponding ability. Next, students complete sentences about the animals with can or can't. After that, students write true sentences about themselves with can or can't using the verbs from the first page. In the last exercise, the students correct mistakes in 'can' and 'can't' sentences and rewrite them.
Modal Verbs of Ability Worksheet Preview

Interactive Version - Here is a modal verbs of ability interactive worksheet to help students learn or practice the ability modals: can and can't.

 

Prove It!

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Activity - Reading, Listening and Speaking - Elementary (A1-A2) - 25 minutes

In this amusing can and can't activity, students try to complete mind-body coordination tasks, body teasers and fun speaking exercises to prove their abilities. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. The students then move around the classroom asking 'Can you...?' questions from the prompts on the worksheet, e.g. 'Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time?' When a classmate answers 'Yes, I can', the student asks them to prove their ability. If the classmate can complete the task, the student writes their name in the 'Name' column on the worksheet and moves on to speak to someone else. When everyone has finished, invite the students to demonstrate their abilities to the class.
Prove It! Preview
 

Can and Could

ESL Past and Present Abilities Activity - Reading, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this insightful can and could activity, students find out about their classmates' past and present abilities. Divide the students into groups of up to ten and give each student a card. The students are responsible for finding out the information on their card by speaking to everybody in their group. The students then go around their group finding out about their classmates' past and present abilities by asking questions with 'Can you...?' and 'Could you...?' Students put a tick on the back of the card each time a classmate answers 'Yes, I can' or 'Yes, I could'. If possible, the classmate should also prove their ability by completing the task on the card. When everyone has finished, the students sit down in their groups and take it in turns to talk about the information they found out. Afterwards, students give feedback to the class on their findings.
Can and Could Preview
 

Crazy Abilities

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

This fun ability modals game is based on the card game Crazy Eights. In the game, students say what ability or skill two things have in common using the modal verb 'can'. Give each group of three a set of cards. Each player receives six cards containing pairs of items. The first player chooses one of their cards, lays it on the table, and directs a question to the second player, e.g. 'What can a penguin and a duck do?' If the second player gives an acceptable answer (e.g. They can both swim.), he or she lays down a card and directs a question to the third player. If the answer is not accepted, then the second player is not allowed to lay down a card, but the third player is. The game proceeds from there. The first player to lay down all their cards wins the game. This game also contains wild cards that can be used at any point during the game to delay other players from winning.
Crazy Abilities Preview
 

Fibber

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Game - Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this modal verbs of ability activity, students play a true or false guessing game about their abilities. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Students complete statements on their worksheet with true and false information about their abilities. When the students have finished, divide them into pairs. The students then take it in turns to read out a true or false statement about their ability. Their partner asks up to three follow-up questions to help them decide whether the student's statement is true or false. Their partner then makes their guess and the student reveals the answer. Students score one point for each correct guess. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Fibber Preview

Interactive Version - In this modal verbs of ability breakout room activity, pairs of students play a true or false game where they talk about their abilities.

 

How well can you…?

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this modal verbs of ability teaching activity, students practice talking about skills and levels of ability using modal verbs and adverbs of manner. Divide the students into pairs (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. Students take it in turns to ask their partner 'Can you...?' questions and mark their responses on the worksheet. When their partner replies 'Yes, I can', the student asks a 'How well can you...?' question. Their partner responds with one of six phrases on the board that express their level of ability and the student ticks the appropriate 1 to 6 box on the worksheet. If their partner replies 'No, I can't', the student moves on to the next 'Can you...?' question. When everyone has finished, the students form new A and B pairs and write the name of their new partner’s former partner on the worksheet. The students then ask and answer questions about their new partner’s former partner using the third person singular, e.g. 'Can he swim?' When the students have finished, they complete sentences at the bottom of the worksheet with information about the students' levels of ability.
How well can you…? Preview
 

Past and Present Abilities

ESL Modal Verbs of Ability Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this fun can and could activity, students play a true or false guessing game about past and present abilities. Give each group of three a set of cards, which they shuffle and place face down in a pile on the desk. Students then take it in turns to pick up a card and use the prompt on the card to ask a question to the other students about a past or present ability. For example, if the prompt read 'sleep during the day', the student might ask 'Can you sleep during the day?' or 'Could you sleep during the day when you were a child?' The other students can either give a true or false answer. The student with the card then asks follow-up questions to work out if the other students are lying or telling the truth. The student then makes a guess for each student and the correct answers are revealed. For each correct guess, the student scores a point. The game continues until all the cards have been used. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Past and Present Abilities Preview
 

The Leftorium

ESL Ability Modals Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this free modal verbs of ability activity, students try completing certain tasks with their left hand. Students then ask and answer questions about their left-handed abilities using 'can' and 'can't'. Divide the students into groups of four and give each student a copy of the worksheet. Tell the students to imagine that they are in the Leftorium with Ned Flanders from the Simpsons and that they have been given some tasks to do using only their left hand. Students then put their right hand behind their back and attempt each task on the worksheet in turn. If the students are able to do the task with just their left hand, they write 'Yes, I can' next to the task. If the students are unable to do the task, they write 'No, I can’t'. When everyone has finished, the students 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 singular. Afterwards, students give feedback to the class on the tasks they can and can't do.
The Leftorium Preview
 

What could they do?

ESL Past Ability Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this past ability activity, students ask and answer questions about four people’s past abilities using could, couldn't and adverbs of degree. Divide the students into pairs (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. The worksheet contains information about four people when they were twenty. It shows what they could do and how well. The students take it in turns to ask and answer questions about the four people’s past abilities and complete missing information in a chart on their worksheet. When the students have finished, they write a paragraph about what they could do at a certain age.
What could they do? Preview
 

Ability Bluff

ESL Forms of Be Able to Game - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (A2-B1) - 30 minutes

In this forms of 'be able to' activity, students play a true or false game to practice modal verbs of ability and expressions with 'be able to'. Divide the class into two groups (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. Students complete the worksheet with true or false information about their abilities as indicated. Students also think of a brief personal story about each ability to tell a partner. When the students are ready, they pair up with someone from the other group. The students then take it in turns to talk about an ability and tell a story. Their partner's task is to listen and ask follow-up questions to help them decide if the student is telling the truth or bluffing. Their partner then makes their guess and the student reveals the answer. Students score one point for each correct guess. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins. Afterwards, students report back to the class on the best bluffs.
Ability Bluff Preview

Interactive Version - In this ability modals breakout room activity, pairs of students practice forms of 'be able to' and ability modals by playing a true or false game.

 

What's missing?

ESL Be Able to Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (A2-B1) - 25 minutes

In this 'be able to' activity, students complete sentences with the correct form of 'be able to' and a verb. Divide the students into pairs (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. The students' task is to complete the sentences in bold with the correct form of 'be able to' and a verb. Their partner has the completed sentences on their worksheet. Student A begins by reading the first sentence to Student B, adding in the appropriate form of 'be able to' and the verb. Student A must say the exact sentence that Student B has on their worksheet. If the guess is correct, Student A moves onto the next sentence. If not, Student A tries again. When Student A has completed all the sentences correctly, the students swap roles. Afterwards, the pairs discuss how they would reply to each sentence.
What's missing? Preview

Interactive Version - In this 'be able to' breakout room activity, pairs of students work together to complete sentences with forms of 'be able to' and a verb.

 

When could you first do this?

ESL Past and Present Abilities Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (A2-B1) - 30 minutes

In this insightful modal verbs of ability activity, students ask and answer questions about present and past abilities. Divide the students into pairs (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. Students then take it in turns to ask their partner a 'Can you...?' question from their worksheet, e.g. 'Can you swim?' If their partner replies 'Yes, I can', the student finds out when they were first able to do the ability by asking 'When could you first do this?' Their partner replies and the student asks suitable follow-up questions from the bottom of the worksheet to gain extra information, e.g. 'Where did you learn to swim?' The students write all their partner's answers in the appropriate columns on their worksheet. If their partner replies 'No, I can't' to the first question, the student asks 'Would you like to learn to (swim)?' 'Why/Why not?' and notes down their partner's answer in the last column. Students continue taking it in turns to ask and answer questions until both worksheets have been completed. Afterwards, the students give feedback to the class on what they found out about their partner, e.g. 'Jack can swim. He could first do this when he was 5 years old. He learnt to swim at school, etc.' As a variation, you can have the students write about their findings first before giving feedback to the class about their partner's abilities.
When could you first do this? Preview

Interactive Version - In this past and present ability modals breakout room activity, pairs of students practice asking and answering questions about their past and present abilities.

 
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