Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)

Syntax: “Group Mad Libs, Gone Nuts”

 Language Level: Mid-Level (basic sentence construction skills)

Learner: Adult Learners, College Students

Activity: “Group Mad Libs, Gone Nuts”

Time: 25-30 minutes

Topic: Syntax: Nouns, Verbs, Objects, Adjectives, Prepositional phrases, etc.

Materials: lined papers, pencil, imagination, and positive attitude




I have chosen to write about Syntactic Structures because I am fascinated with nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. I believe that students happen to experience a magical moment when they are able to put together their first sentence with the help of these nouns and verbs.

Therefore, “Group Mad Libs, Gone Nuts” is a fun exercise designed to be an icebreaker/ a warm up and an introduction for a longer teaching class (25-30 Minutes class) dealing with Syntax. Most importantly, this exercise is designed to tackle some of the most basic and fundamentals ideas of Syntax: Nouns, Verbs, Objects, Adjectives, Prepositional phrases, etc. This class will be a good introduction to Complex and Compound sentences, which will be taught in future classes by using the sentences emerging from this exercise.

“Group Mad Libs, Gone Nuts” reinforces the connection between the written and spoken language. It also helps learners to build on new vocabulary, teamwork and reading and writing skills. This activity performed in connection with phonology activities can strengthen phonological processing, vocabulary development, syntax, and schema activation skills.

By the end of this exercise students must familiarize with Nouns, Verbs, Objects, Adjectives, Prepositional phrases, etc. Students should have a list of sentences and be ready to write Simple, Complex and Compound sentences, which will be studied on the next class. Students will share their sentences with the rest of the class.


Note: Students should use proper language. No offensive, derogative or hurtful language is allowed. Therefore, tolerance and respect are mandatory.




  1. Teacher asks questions before students begin working on their mad libs.
  2. Teacher asks students to turn to the person next to them in order to exchange information regarding the following questions:
    1. What’s Nouns, Verbs, Objects, Adjectives, Prepositional phrases, etc.?
    2. Why are these parts of speech important or not in our Syntactic Structures?
  3. After 5-7 minutes of exchanging information, teacher elicits students to share their first impressions.
    1. Teacher writes on the white board the students’ definitions for later comparisons.
  4. Teacher provides to the students a list in which definitions for Nouns, Verbs, Objects, Adjectives, Prepositional phrases are provided.
    1. Students look over this page before beginning to work on their mad libs and compare this new information with their definitions.




  • Students will use a single sheet of paper for this exercise.
  • Students write the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 on the piece of paper.
  • Students write a few words by each number as the teacher instructs them
  • (Students are expected to always pass the paper to the next person after each instruction, so the final sentence will have been created by 4 different students.

They should read something like “Kelly had 23 pennies in her nose.” As an end result.




  1. Students write a proper name or pronoun next to #1.
    1. Students pass the paper to the student next to them.
  2. Each student has a new paper. Students writes the correct form of the verb        ‘TO HAVE or TO LOVE, or ANY OTHER VERB’ under #2.
    1. Pass the paper over again.
  3. Student writes any NUMBER and OBJECT (any noun, for example a classroom object or around his/her house) under #3
    1. students should make sure to use plural nouns if they write any number greater than one.
    2. Students pass over their papers.
  4. Students write “in HIS/HER/MY/YOUR ___” in line #4.
    1. Students should of course choose the right possessive to go with #1
    2. Students can write any PLACE or BODY part in the blank.
      1. Example of “in his head” or “in his jail” or “in his arm” or “in her ear”


*Once the students have finished putting together their sentences, have the students read aloud their sentences. Listen carefully; you should get some good laughs.


Note: Save this list of mad libs sentences for future follow-up activities.



  1. Are their any new adjectives, nouns or verbs students didn’t know?
  2. Did Students use the right verb choice?
  3. Are there any alterations to the mad lib sequence?
  4. Did Students put coherent sentences together.
  5. Can we “combine” these sentence to come up with Complex and Compound sentences?




Think about what are Simple, Complex and Compound sentences.

Go to this web page and watch this cool video:


Web site References:



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