Health Vocabulary Activities and Role Play

Suggestions with shouldI’m using the book World English Intro by Cengage learning in my beginning integrated skills course. I love this book because it has engaging material and photos by National Geographic. I just completed unit 10 which covers health and illnesses. The unit introduces expressing feelings such as “I feel sick” as well as using should and shouldn’t for advice. This article contains all of the material I created for this unit,  but if you’re teaching illnesses, remedies, health, or advice with should and shouldn’t, you’ll get great ideas and materials no matter what book you’re using.

As you can see from the preview of the documents below, many of them are vocabulary cards. I’ve had great success using vocabulary cards, especially at the lower levels. There are many games and activities that you can do with just a few sets of cards, and the pictures help to reinforce the vocabulary. Below are download links and descriptions of the different activities I did in my class using these materials.

Download Links 

1. Feelings Discussion

To get students to practice adjectives related to health and feelings along with the question “How do you feel?” you can use the feeling cards and the feelings talking chart to get students up and out of their chairs to practice this vocabulary.

  1. Print feeling cards
  2. Print a copy of the talking chart for every student.
  3. Give everyone a feeling card. Tell them that this is the feeling they will answer with when they are asked the question “How do you feel?”
  4. Ask them to walk around and ask their classmates the question. Then, have them write down their classmates answers on the chart using their name and a 3rd person verb.

2. Apples to Apples 

If you have never played Apples to Apples, it’s a popular card game where people try and pick a card they think best fits a category and will be chosen by the person who drew the category card. It’s a great game to adapt to ESL. It gets them to practice vocabulary and target grammar. You can use these cards to play Apples to Apples in several different ways.

Ailment / Feeling 

  1. Put students into groups of 4-5
  2. Give everyone 4-5 feelings cards.
  3. Make sure the group also has a stack of extra feelings cards.
  4. Give each group a stack of ailments cards.
  5. Everyone takes turns drawing an ailment card and saying “I have______________________.”
  6. Everyone else chooses the best feeling card they have to match the ailment card. Each person in the group except the person who drew the ailment card puts down a feeling card and says “You feel ___________________________.”
  7. The person who drew the ailment card chooses the best feeling card.
  8. The person who put down the best feeling card gets to keep the ailment card as a point.

Ailment / Suggestion

This is the same as above, with the exception that instead of getting feeling cards, students will get suggestion cards. They will say “You should_______________” instead of “You feel__________.”

Ailments and Feelings / Suggestions 

This is the same idea except that instead of drawing only ailment cards, you can mix the ailment and feeling cards. The person who draws will either say “I have _________” or “I feel____________.” and then the other people will give a suggestion.

Symptom / Diagnosis

To practice role playing for the doctor, you could have the person who draws pull from a stack of symptom cards and say something like “my feet hurt.” The other people will then put down a diagnosis card, for example, “You have a fever.” The person who put down the symptoms will then pick which diagnosis is the best for the symptom.

3. A Doctor’s Visit Role Play 

This is a great culminating activity for the unit because it gets students to practice feelings, symptoms, and suggestions.

  1. Print feeling, ailment, symptom, and remedy cards. Print them on different colors of paper so students can easily see the difference between them.
  2. Print a stack of prescription slips.
  3. Divide the class in half. Half of them will start out as patients and half will start out as doctors.
  4. Give the patients a couple feeling and symptom cards. For this activity, remove the positive feelings from the cards.
  5. Give the doctors 4-5 diagnosis cards and 4-5 suggestion cards.
  6. Model a doctor’s visit conversation. You may want to write a short doctor’s visit dialogue to go over with the class before this activity.
  7. Patients will go up to a doctor and tell their symptoms and how they feel. The doctors will then need to give a diagnosis and then suggest a remedy. They can only use the cards they have, so some diagnosis might come out to be a bit funny. The dialogue should flow something like this:
    1. Hi Doctor, I feel terrible. My head hurts and my feet are swollen.
    2. Hmmm, I think you have the flu. You should rest and drink water.
  8. The doctor will then need to write a prescription slip stating what the patient has and the suggestion given.
  9. After a couple minutes, rotate the patients to new doctors to get second, third, etc. opinions.
  10. After the first round, have the patients vote on which doctor gave the best diagnosis and suggestion.
  11. You can then have students switch roles


Preview of Documents 

Each document has more than the page shown.

Feelings Cards 

ESL feeling vocabulary

Remedies cards 

Suggestions with should

Ailments Cards 

ESL Ailments Vocabulary Cards

Symptoms Cards 

ESL Symptoms Cards

How do you feel talking chart

How do you feel? Speaking activity ESL

Prescription Slips 

Doctor's Visit Role Play



  1. Jessica, this is wonderful! Thank you! I am sad that I just found this site and now it will be offline in 2 weeks:(

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