TEFL Worksheet Generator - make your own worksheets

How to teach play, do and go

By Alex Case
Verbs with sports teaching tips, including verb + sport collocations games

Teaching “play”, “do” and “go” with sports is useful for talking about a common topic of conversation, sorting out a common kind of mistake, and teaching lots of useful vocabulary that collocates with those verbs. It is also a good introduction to collocations more generally.

What students need to know about play, do and go

Although there are exceptions, most uses of these three verbs fit into these rules:

  • “Go” is used with sports ending with -ing, often things that are leisure activities as much as sports, like “skiing” and “hiking”
  • “Play” tends to be used with competitive sports which have a ball, teams, a winner, and/ or points, like “football” and “hockey”
  • “Do” is used with things that don’t fit the categories above, especially martial arts like “judo” and kinds of exercise like “aerobics”

This use of “go” can be seen in the contrast between “go shopping” (a leisure activity, like “window shopping”) and “do the shopping” (a chore like “do the laundry”, often meaning in supermarkets).

As well as the three verbs, you’ll want to teach sports that go with them, mainly ones your students do. It’s also worth considering including words that accompany them in longer sentences like “like (playing soccer)”, “(do kendo) well”, “don’t know how to (play squash)” and “often (go fishing)”, but note that some involve changing the “go -ing” forms into the verbs “ski”, “hike”, etc.  

How to present play, do and go

Give students a communicative or comprehension activity with examples of these such as asking “Do you like playing golf?” from a list of given questions or finding which of the descriptions of people’s leisure most matches theirs. They can then try to find patterns in the uses of the three verbs there, before matching them to descriptions like those above.

How to practise play, do and go

Play, do and go brainstorming races

Students are given a category like “ball sports that go with ‘play’” and race to write correct examples. They get one point for each correct thing that other teams didn’t think of. You can reinforce the three categories with challenges like:

  • martial arts that go with “do”
  • exercises that go with “do”
  • team sports that go with “play”
  • sports with winners that go with “play”
  • ball sports that go with “play”

Play, do and go pelmanism

Make a pack of cards with the name of one sport or activity on each, e.g. 10 words that go with play, 8 words that go with go, and 6 words that go with do. Students spread the cards across the table and try to find pairs which go with the same word, e.g. “jogging” and “swimming” because they both go with “go”. This is most fun and challenging with the cards face down, but can be done with the cards face up if that will be too difficult.

Play, do and go snap

This faster game can be played with the same cards as pelmanism above. Students deal out the cards but don’t look at them. They take turns turning their top card over and race to shout out “Snap” whenever the last two cards turned over take the same verb, e.g. when their partner turned over “tennis” and then they turned over “badminton”. If they are right that the two sports match, they get all the cards that have been turned over, and play continues. If they shout “Snap” when the last two cards take different verbs, they have to give cards to their partner(s) as a punishment, and the other cards stay on the table.

Play, do and go sports guessing game

Students choose one sport and give hints like “I rarely play this” and “People do this in a dojo” until their partner guesses which they are describing.

Play, do and go dice game

Students can use a dice to choose which verb they should use to try to make a true sentence about their partner with:

1 or 2 = play

3 or 4 = do

5 or 6 = go

As that might produce lots of repeating the same kinds of sentences, they can also roll again to decide if they should use:

1 = like

2 = dislike

3 = have

4 = sometimes

5 = never

6 = will

Play, do and go tennis

Students practise collocations with the three verbs as they throw a ball back and forth, by the returner trying to say a sport with the same verb as the server said, e.g. returning with “(Do) karate” if their partner say “(Do) Pilates”. To stop them repeating the same few sports, I would tell them that both the server and returner lose that point if they use the same sport as someone has already said during the game.

If using a ball will be disruptive, students can pretend to throw an imaginary ball, or clap three times after each word to make sure everyone reacts quickly.

Play, do and go sentence completion activities

Give students typical sentence stems to go with the sports you are practising like “I have only played _______________ once or twice” and “I hate doing ________________”. There are three activities that you can do with these:

  • students read out just the part they have written and their partner guesses which sentence stem it was written in
  • students read out true and false sentences for their partner to guess the truth of
  • students try to find things in common using the sentence stems (perhaps written as “We…” etc)

Play, do and go mastermind mimes

Students mime “play table tennis”, “go cross country skiing”, etc for their partners to guess, and hold up their right thumb if the verb is correct and their left thumb if the sport is correct, continuing until both thumbs are up together.

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET February 2024
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
© Tefl.NET

Leave a comment

Tefl.NET : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Vocabulary Ideas : How to teach play, do and go