ESL Activities - Grade 2


ESL activities for grade two students don't have to be all that different from the activities enjoyed by mainstream students. The great thing about teaching kids is that whether they speak English or not, they all enjoy and benefit from many different kinds of teaching techniques. They all like to get up and run around, touch things, take in sights, manipulate objects, imagine and act things out. And while the learning objectives for ESL students include an extra language layer on top of the basic curriculum, and though the presentation of new information may need to be altered so they can understand it, many of the same activities can be used for both ESL and native English-speaking students.

ESL Activities in Grade Two

Second grade students get to learn a lot of really fun things from life cycles to cultures, both ancient and modern, to folk tales. The teaching of all of these things can include hands-on activities, games, songs, reading, writing, and the students sharing from their own expertise. The following are just a few examples of ways ESL students can learn English, standardized curriculum and American culture while building a cooperative community and having a great time.

Many more ideas for ESL activities for children are available online. Links to some of the best resources are included.

Grow a Garden

Growing a garden is a long and time-consuming process, to be sure, but it's fun, the kids get to play in the dirt, and they will learn a lot across several different subject areas.

  • Science - Kids learn about life cycles and plant structure and reproduction.
  • Math - You can teach measurement as the kids watch their plants grow taller, wider and closer together.
  • Reading - Read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Its repetition will reinforce vocabulary, and the students can pantomime the actions (climb, sit, eat, sleep, play) as you read aloud to them.
  • Writing - Students can write a story about a plant in their garden.

Make a Sculpture

Playing with clay is always fun, and ESL students can learn vocabulary words as they mold different parts of a human face, a car or whatever you want them to work on.

They can even do a group sculpture where each student is assigned one part to make, and they then put all the parts together. Don't worry if it looks funny or completely disproportionate. You can all laugh together at the crazy alien you've made, give it a name, and make up stories about it.

Build a Railroad

Second graders in many states learn about American tall tales and folk heroes. Teach them about American western expansion and the Industrial Revolution as they learn the story of John Henry and build their very own railroad across the classroom.

Put On a Play

Expand on the folk heroes lesson by assigning roles and having the children act out the tall tales for each other and/or their families. For ESL students, this will allow them to practice reading, speaking, listening, and putting events in order; and they can also learn vocabulary as they help to construct costumes and sets for their productions.

Show and Tell

Here is where ESL students can really shine in the regular classroom. American second graders are learning about other cultures, and if you have ESL students from those cultures, they have a unique expertise to offer.

Depending on the student's English proficiency, you may need help from a parent, a translator or another student, but allowing a student who may feel insecure in many ways to be the authority on something for a few minutes will boost confidence and create an environment where they feel more comfortable taking risks with the language and making friends with the other students.

Play Percussion

Music is an international language, and kids love playing percussion. In every grade two music classroom, students learn rhythm and counting. For students with a very low level of English proficiency, this is the perfect opportunity to teach numbers and to get them comfortable speaking in class, even if all they say is ta-ta-tee-tee.

Make a Cartoon

Students who can't speak English can often express themselves perfectly well through drawings. Telling stories with pictures or putting a picture story together in the right order is a great way to practice sequencing and understanding cycles.

The cartoons can include dialogue or not, and for extra speaking practice, students can share their picture stories with the class, explaining what is happening in each frame.

Grade two ESL activities can be a lot of fun for both the teacher and the students. The more comfortable they feel, the more they are allowed to explore, and the more encouraged they are in their natural gifts and talents, the more fun they'll have, and the more they'll learn. So have a ball, make a mess, and teach some kids some English!

More Resources

For more second grade activities and resources, check out these excellent websites:

  • A to Z Teacher Stuff - This website has lesson plans for the first and second grader. The activities are geared for both English speakers and non-English speakers.
  • - Lesson plans are included in a variety of subject areas, both academic and physical education topics, to help the second grader improve their skills in reading and math. The lesson plans could easily be adapted for use with ESL second graders.
  • ESLKidsLab - This website offers several worksheets for young learners.