Classroom Activity: Shopping for School Supplies Role-play (ESL/EFL)

ESL Activity: Shopping Role-Play for Elementary or Jr. High Students

English Level: Elementary to Advanced

No. of Students: 4-40

Class time: 20-40 minutes

Strengths: communicative, practical, review of school supplies and numbers, fun

Basic Idea: Students take turns buying and selling school supplies

I’ve done this ESL activity with grade 5, 6, and 8 students at my elementary/junior high school. It’s good fun and requires very little preparation.

ESL Activity Execution:

  • Tell your students to imagine that it’s the first day of school. However, for whatever reason, they do not have any school supplies. Therefore, they’ll need to buy some.
  • Elicit shopping expressions from the students. Write several expressions on the board that you’d like them to use in the role-play such as “How may I help you?”, “That’s cheap!” or “Discount please!” Make the language as complex or easy as you’d like.
  • Divide the class in half. Tell one half that they will be salespeople who sell school supplies. The other half will be shoppers. Have the salespeople arrange some school supplies on their desks (e.g. pencils, pens, scissors, a calculator, etc). Each salesperson should have a desk, and this desk will be his or her shop.
  • Tell the shoppers that they will walk around the room and try to purchase everything they would need for their first day of school.
  • Demonstrate an example shopping dialogue in front of the class. It should probably go something like this:

A: Good afternoon. How may I help you?
B: Hello. How much is this?
A: 8 dollars.
B: That’s expensive! Discount please.
A: Okay. 6 dollars.
B: Okay. Here you are.
A: Thank you. Please come again.

  • Let them start. Monitor the students to make sure they speak English and use the target expressions.
  • After about 10 minutes, have the students switch roles. Do it again. (As an option, you can let the new salespeople sell the products they just bought back to the people they bough them from. This can be quite fun ;)


This ESL activity works best if you have some fake money (in my school I use lima beans). Give the shoppers 10 beans (or dollars) at the beginning. Tell them each bean is worth 1 Euro (or dollar). This will motivate them to haggle and look for the best prices so they can purchase as much as they can. Also, you can ask the salespeople how much money they got when the activity is finished, which makes it more of a game.

english current wave

This is a great ESL activity that allows students to practice a very practical skill (shopping). Just make sure that at the end of the activity everyone returns the school supplies they “purchased” to their rightful owners :)

Have fun.

– Matthew Barton /

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