Modal Verbs of Necessity - ESL Activities, Worksheets and Games

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ESL Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 35 minutes

In this productive worksheet activity, students practice expressing past necessity by talking about the need for certain items in different situations. Each student is given a copy of the worksheet. The students imagine that they went to each place mentioned on the worksheet. Students look at the items they took and didn't take to each place and think about whether they needed to take each item with them or not. Students then write a sentence for each item using 'I needed to take...', 'I didn't need to take...', or 'I needn't have taken...' Afterwards, the students discuss whether they needed to take the items or not. When everyone has finished, there is a class feedback session to discuss the students' answers.


ESL Matching and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 minutes

This rewarding teaching activity helps students to practice making sentences with the modal verbs of necessity: must, mustn't, need to and needn't. The students are divided into pairs. Each pair is given a set of modal verb cards and a set of action cards. Students shuffle the two sets of cards separately and spread them out face down on the desk in two sets. The students then take it in turns to turn over a modal verb of necessity card and an action card. If the two cards can be combined to make a meaningful sentence, e.g. 'mustn't' and 'drive fast', the student reads out the sentence and adds a justification, e.g. 'You mustn't drive fast because you might have an accident'. If the student does this successfully, he or she keeps the cards and has another turn. If the cards don't match or the student can't justify the sentence, the cards are turned back over. The other student then turns over two cards and tries to make a sentence and so on. The game continues until all the cards have been matched. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

Bare Necessity

ESL Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate - 30 minutes

In this fun class activity, students play a game where they guess activities from statements expressing necessity. The class is divided into two teams. One player from each team comes to the front of the class. An activity card is shown to both players. Players then take it in turns to make a statement about the activity to their team using modal verbs and expressions of necessity. Players can make statements talking about what a person needs to do in the activity or by stating what materials, equipment, or tools someone needs for the activity, e.g. 'You have to...' 'You need a...', etc. After a player has made a statement, their team is allowed one guess. If a team guesses correctly on their first try, they get five points. On the second try, they get four points, and so on. When the activity has been guessed, a new round starts with two new players and a new card. This continues until all the cards have been used. If both teams fail to guess the activity after five tries, a new round is started with two new players. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Necessary Skills

ESL Listening, Speaking and Matching Activity - Intermediate - 35 minutes

In this engaging worksheet activity, students ask yes/no questions with 'have (got) to' and 'need to' in order to find out which secret job each classmate has. Each student is given a copy of the worksheet and a job card. The students imagine that they have the job on their card and think about the skills needed for that job. The students' task is to find out who has each job on the worksheet by asking questions about the skills needed for each occupation. Students then walk around asking and answering yes/no questions with 'have (got) to' and 'need to', e.g. 'Do you need to be a good communicator?' 'Have you got to look smart and professional in your job?' When a classmate answers 'yes' to a series of questions about one job, the student writes their name next to the occupation. Students are not allowed to ask about the name of the job directly. They can only guess the job from the yes or no answers given by a classmate. When the students have completed the worksheet, the correct answers are checked with the class. Students win one point for each correct match. The student with the most points wins the game.

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