Messy Desk – there is/there are‏‎ activity

Lesson Plans & Activities

A messy desk covered in items.This activity is ideal for teaching there is / there are to young children and then practicing it with them.

In English to say that something “exists” or is in a certain location we use the phrase there is or there are according to whether we are talking about one or more items (i.e. whether it’s singular or plural).

To help young students learn and use these correctly you can try this activity and as an added bonus, it’s also useful to practice everyday vocabulary‏‎ the students might need.


Collect various small items: a coloring pen, a hat, a soft toy, a ball, etc. – items relevant to your students’ age are preferable. The only restriction here is that they should be Countable nouns‏‎.

Get a big bag of them and take it to class. Then, before you begin the activity, clear your desk completely and set the stage by hamming it up: opening the bag carefully, gasping at the contents of your bag, looking surprised at what is about to happen and so on.

You will also need to take a sheet with you – more on that later.


Go around the class asking each student to take one item out of your bag (or maybe you take one out of the bag and hold it aloft). When they do, encourage them to say what that item is: hat, pencil, ball, and so on giving simple nouns.

Ask each student to place the item on your desk. When they do, say:

Look, there is a ball!
Look, there is a pen!
Look there is a bag!

Once all the items have been picked out of your bag, go through them by saying:

Look at my desk! There is a pen! There is a teddy bear! There is an apple…

Have the students repeat after you, and when they are happy with that get them to tell you what the item it when you hold it up. Do this with every item and make sure you have more items than students.

Of course you have prepared more than one of some items and once the class is happy with there is, you leap over to your desk, pick up 2 apples and cry:

There are two apples!

Make sure you give the class plenty of practice. Pick up one item and have a student tell you what it is and then pick up two of the same item and have a student tell you using, obviously, there is or there are as appropriate.

The Game

Once you feel confident your students know the vocabulary get a sheet and lay it over your desk, covering everything from view.

Give the students a few moments to talk to each other about what’s under the sheet. Then start asking (ideally choosing a student at random for this):

What is there on my desk?

Elicit a simple answer for each object, like:

There is a card.
There is a book.

The guessing element of this activity gets the children more involved and allows them to produce correct sentences almost without realizing they are doing so. So, for best effect do not tell the students they are supposed to remember what is on the desk!

And then start in on the plural items. If there are two apples then the student has to say:

There are 2 apples.


For older or more proficient students you can increase the difficulty of this game by placing the objects around the class and eliciting answers that use prepositions of place like:

There is a teddy bear next to Jeremy’s chair.
There is a book under the desk.

You can also turn this into a team game by awarding points for remembering items and getting the there is or there are correct.

Image © Liedman

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1 Comment

  1. Assia Elbrrah

    Thank you for sharing , exactly what I needed !