I often go to class with the bare minimum of preparation because I’ve developed a lot of different ESL activities over the years that are really like their own compact lesson plans. I can pull these out just about any time, and adapt them to just about any level.
Activities for ESL are different than games for ESL, although they often have many of the same traits and characteristics. Activities for ESL will often involve just one student, or sometimes a small group, reading and writing of some sort, and perhaps a presentation afterward. Games for ESL, on the other hand, will usually involve more than one person, perhaps as members of a team, and there will be nothing produced, besides language, of course.
Let’s take a look at some great, and easy to prepare, activities for ESL that will have your students asking for more.
- PowerPoint: Lots of new ESL teachers love to use PowerPoint activities for ESL. These are not where you sit and show slides of some type of grammar structure or vocabulary models, but where you actually have students working on computers to make a PowerPoint presentation. I don’t do these myself, because I think it’s just a way for students to sit with a friend and talk a lot in Chinese. Still, some teachers swear by these, and it’s easy to see why. When a student can make their own short report on a subject, throw some pictures in there for visual aid, and then stand up in front of the class and present, well, that’s pretty good now, isn’t it? Try one of these PowerPoint activities for ESL the next time you have a class, perhaps on places in China, or students’ hometowns.
- Matching: Matching activities for ESL are one of the best things that you can do with lower-level learners. I used to do this a lot, and when I get the occasional lower-level class, I’ll still do it. Let’s say you have a unit on jobs and places. Your vocabulary will be things like:
Policeman Police Station
Firefighter Fire Station
Now simply put these into columns or a table in MS Word and print them out and cut them up. Students will have a fun time putting them back together in groups or in pairs, and it will take you about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Number Stories: Another great idea involving activities for ESL is what I like to call “number stories,” which are great reading and writing exercises that can also be written down. Start by putting up numbers 1 through 10 on the board, and let the students do the same in their notebooks.
Now let the students make one sentence for each word on their list.
- The apple is red.
- The dog is big
- The WC smells bad.
- KFC hamburgers are delicious.
Now have the students combine all of that into a short story, like this:
- The apple was red,
- So the big dog ate it.
- He felt sick, so pooped in the WC, and now it smells bad,
- After that he went to KFC to eat some delicious hamburgers.
Your students will have a great time with this, and they’ll be laughing quite a bit when it comes time to present. Try to adapt this and make some more great activities for ESL out of it.