How To Teach Adjectives To ESL Students | A Step By Step Guide

How To Teach Adjectives

Once ESL students learn the correct use of adjectives in English, they can express themselves in more interesting ways and make richer and more meaningful English sentences.

Adjectives Quiz

Grasping the concept of adjectives can be challenging for ESL students, especially young learners. Not only that, there are several different types of adjectives that ESL students should master.

In this guide, we will provide step-by-step instructions on how to teach adjectives to ESL students in such a way as to help them improve their spoken and written language skills. We’ll also provide links to useful resources for teaching adjectives to kids and beginner English language learners. Let’s get started.

How To Teach Adjectives to ESL Students

Step 1: Elicit some Adjectives From Students

Even if students don’t yet know what an adjective is exactly, chances are they know some words that are adjectives. So, the first step to teaching students about adjectives is to activate students’ existing knowledge and elicit some adjectives from them. A great way to do this is to look around the classroom and ask students about different things they can see. For example:

  • “Look at this marker pen. Is it red or blue?”
  • “What color is that book?”
  • “Is the tree outside big or small?”
  • “Is Chris tall or short?”
  • “Does Jenny have short hair or long hair?”

After asking students these questions, write their answers on the board in the form of a sentence. For example, “The marker pen is red.”, “Chris is tall.“, etc.

Step 2: Define Adjectives

Now that you have activated students’ existing knowledge about adjectives, it’s time to explain what adjectives are. When defining what an adjective is, try and use an easy-to-understand definition. Here’s an easy definition of adjectives you can use:

An adjective is a word used to modify the meaning of a noun or pronoun.

After providing this definition, you might need to remind students what a noun/pronoun is and provide some examples of what you mean by ‘modify the meaning of a noun/pronoun.’

For example, write on the board the sentence “Chris bought a t-shirt from a department store.” Then, add some adjectives to modify the nouns in the sentence. For example, “Chris bought a red t-shirt from a big department store.”

After showing students a few more examples, they should begin to understand what an adjective is and how they are used to modify nouns/pronouns.

Step 3: Explain Different Types of Adjectives

The next step in teaching adjectives is to explain the different types of adjectives there are in English. Of course, you may wish to teach this over several lessons, especially if you are teaching kids or beginner learners.

Here are the four different types of adjectives your ESL students should learn:

Comparative Adjectives

Comparative adjectives are used in sentences to compare the differences between 2 nouns/pronouns. For example, “Chris’ new car is faster than yours.”

Check out our list of comparative adjectives to see regular and irregular comparative adjectives and learn about their conjugation rules.

Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are used to modify a noun/pronoun and describe it or describe a quality about it. For example, “Kelly is so beautiful! She is tall and has long, straight hair.”

Check out this list of adjectives to describe people for more examples of descriptive adjectives.

Positive Adjectives

As the name suggests, positive adjectives are used to describe a noun in a good, positive light. For example, “Craig is very kind and generous.”

Superlative Adjectives

Superlative adjectives are used when describing nouns in terms of their upper or lower limits. For example, “Kevin is the smartest student in the class. He has the highest I.Q.”

You can find lots more Superlative Examples Here.

Step 3: Describe Pictures

Describe The Picture Activity

When teaching adjectives, describing pictures is a fantastic activity to encourage students to practice making their own sentences. This activity works both in the classroom and while teaching online.

Prepare several interesting pictures of various scenes. For example, a picture of people talking in a restaurant, and picture of a beautiful garden, etc. Next, ask students to write down five sentences describing the picture. After that, encourage students to share their descriptions with the class and elicit from students the adjectives that are used in each sentence. Write these on the board so that students can learn the adjectives that their classmates used.

Step 5: Practice Identifying Adjectives

Next, it’s time to give students a more challenging activity. Show students an authentic text, such as a magazine, newspaper, book, etc. Next, choose a passage from the text and ask students to identify as many adjectives as they can. To help students identify the adjectives, you can suggest that they think about whether a word modifies a noun in the passage. This simple activity really helps to focus students as they try to figure out whether or not a word is an adjective.

Once students have identified many adjectives, have them swap out the adjectives in the text with their own adjectives. This can lead to some really funny paragraphs and is a great way to emphasize to students the power that adjectives have to change the meaning of a sentence.

Step 6: Practice With Worksheets And Exercises

Once students understand what adjectives are and how they are used, they still may not be able to use them confidently and fluently. And so, they need lots and lots of practice over many lessons. Worksheets and practice exercises are particularly useful to help students master using adjectives.

You can find many such resources on the internet, but here are some to get you started. Check out our free adjectives worksheets page and our interactive adjectives quiz for inspiration.

Resources To Teach Adjectives

Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide on how to teach adjectives to ESL students useful. Before you go, check out these related resources for teaching adjectives:

Adjective Flashcards
Comparative Adjectives Lesson Plan
Superlative Adjectives Lesson Plan
Comparative And Superlative Adjective Games