Read what a teacher says about this activity:

‘Pass the ball is a fun activity that you can use to review and practise vocabulary or grammar. It’s a good activity to use at the start of the lesson to energise your learners and review what you did in the previous lesson. You can use it with any subject, not only English.’ 

Stage 1: Prepare 

Make some paper balls from used paper or old newspaper.  

Stage 2: Introduce 

Say: ‘We’re going to play Pass the ball. Stand up.’ 

Take your learners outside into the yard or to a large space in the building. 

Tip: If you play inside your classroom, you may need to move some furniture.  

Ask learners to stand in a large circle facing inwards.  

Say: ‘I will throw the ball to one of you. I will ask a question to whoever catches it. That learner then throws the ball to someone else and asks them a question.’ 

Stage 3: Model 

Say: ‘Let’s try.’ Throw the ball. Ask: ‘What’s your name?’ The learner answers, throws the ball to another learner, and asks: ‘What’s your name?’, etc. Continue for a few minutes.  

Stop and move on to the topic you covered in the previous lesson. Ask: ‘What was the topic yesterday?’, e.g. favourites.  

Say: ‘The topic is favourites. All your questions must be about this topic.’ Throw the ball to learner A. Ask a question about the topic, e.g. ‘What’s your favourite food?’ Say: ‘Throw the ball and ask a question.’  

Stage 4: Check instructions 


  • ‘What topic should you ask about?’ (= favourites) 
  • ‘Can you throw the ball to the same person?’ (= no, a different person) 

Stage 5: Play in groups 

Divide students into groups of 5–6. Tell them to face each other or stand in a circle. 

Give each group a ball.  

Say: ‘Play Pass the ball.’ Monitor and support. Manage learners and noise.   

After ten minutes, say: ‘Stop. Well done. Sit down.’  


1. Word association: The teacher says a word, e.g. ‘classroom’. Learner A says a word associated with classroom, e.g. ‘board’. Continue until a learner cannot give a word, or a learner repeats a word. Start again with a new word.  

2. Grammar: Learners can ask any questions using present simple, e.g. ‘Where do you live? Are you hungry?’  

3. Storytelling (‘story chain’): Learners continue a story started by the teacher, e.g. ‘Once there was a boy named Alain.’  

Stage 6: Extend and share 

Ask: ‘Can you remember your group’s questions? Which question was the most interesting? Write it down.’ Give them two minutes. 

Ask each group to stand up and ask the class their question. The class answers. 

Check learners know the correct answers.  

Ask learners if they enjoyed Pass the ball. 

Groups can choose topics for their classmates. At the end of a unit or before a test, ask group A to look at their books and choose a topic for group B. Groups play Pass the ball on that topic. 

If you play Pass the ball regularly, you and your learners will discover different ways to practise different language and grammar. 


Energise: To make someone feel active or lively. 

Monitor: The way a teacher watches to see how well an individual, group or class is doing a particular task. 

Unit: A smaller part of something big (e.g. a section of a book). 

Word association: Linking vocabulary items to each other.