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Drilling Games and Activities

The concept of drilling has its roots in behaviourist approaches to language teaching, such as audiolingualism, which believed that learning a language was largely about correct habit formation. However, while language teaching has moved on to other methods and approaches, drilling remains a popular activity in language classrooms for a number of reasons:

  • it provides intensive controlled practice of hearing and producing a particular language point;
  • it allows the teacher to give immediate feedback, and to hear immediate improvement;
  • it focuses students on the correct pronunciation and form;
  • helps memorisation and automatisation of language structures, patterns and chunks;
  • it can be an effective form of class control;
  • it meets students expectations of language learning.

The simplest way to drill students is simply to tell students to repeat after you. However, this is likely to get old quickly if you do a lot of drilling.

In this post you will therefore find a range of drilling games and activities to inject more creativity, humour and engagement into your lessons.

drilling games
You don't have to be a drill sergeant in drilling games.

Assorted Drilling Games and Activities:


In this technique the teacher breaks down the sentence or phrase to be drilled, starting with the words at one end and working to the other end.
T: I’m having fish and chips tonight.
T: chips tonight
C: chips tonight
T: fish and chips tonight
C: fish and chips tonight
T: I’m having fish and chips tonight
C: I’m having fish and chips tonight

Disappearing Drill

Put words or a dialogue on the board. Drill and then remove or cover some words. Continue to drill the missing words as you point at different parts of the board. Remove more words and drill until the board is actually empty.

Drama drills

Tell students to repeat the word or phrase with different emotions or to use different intonation. For example you could give a sentence which students should say as though they are surprised, angry, disappointed, excited. You could also ask a student to act as the “director” and tell the class how they should say the word or phrase.

Mill drill

Give students a question or prompt. Students move around the class and ask other students the question thus drilling the question.

Students may swap their question with the student they asked therefore giving them a new question to ask.

Substitution drill

The teacher provides a sentence which students repeat. The teacher then provides a substitution. The students change the sentence to accommodate the substitution.


T: I always go shopping on Tuesdays.

C: I always go shopping on Tuesdays.

T: Wednesday.

C: I always go shopping on Wednesdays.

T: watch TV

C: I always watch TV on Wednesdays.

T: never

C: I never watch TV on Wednesdays.


Drill Chorally, in Groups and then Individually. Choral drilling allows students to build confidence whereas smaller groups and individual drilling allow the teacher to identify who is getting it wrong and also allows individuals a chance to perform.

Chain drill

The teacher asks a question which a student answers. The student then asks the next student a question of the same form.
T: What colour is the sea?
S1: The sea is blue. What colour is the book?
S2: The book is green. What colour is the pen?
This can also be used with sentences which the students modify.
T: You stole my wallet.
S1: I didn’t steal it. S2 stole it!
S2: I didn’t steal it. S3 stole it!

Follow the word

Based on the card game “follow the queen.” Write the words you want to drill on pieces of paper and tell students to repeat a few times. Then scrunch up the paper or put it face down on a desk. Show one word and tell students to watch where the word is. Move the papers around and ask students what is on each piece of paper.

Mr Men Drilling

This is a variation of the Mill drill technique, using the popular Mr Men and Little Miss characters created by Roger Hargreaves.

Silent drill

The teacher says the sentence or word to be drilled. Students mouth the sentence or word, but do not actually produce the sounds.

Transformation drill

The teacher gives a particular form and students transform to another form.

E.g. active and passive

T: The police arrested a man.

C: A man was arrested (by the police).


As with any activity, the key to making drilling interesting is to keep it meaningful, relevant, short and varied. Giving context helps to keep it meaningful, such as seeing the drilled words or phrases within a dialogue. Equally important, drilled items should be relevant to the students.

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