This lesson plan has been moved over to my new site: 1oo Things That Make Me Happy
This lesson plan has been moved over to my new site: 1oo Things That Make Me Happy
Happy Tuesday, everyone!
I’m not much of a morning person, so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about setting up classroom routines to help cut down on prep-time, and make mornings run more smoothly. I find that teaching is less stressful when I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to say just after I greet my students.
One idea that I’ve been thinking about is starting with a class segment that I’ll call Expressions of the Day. I’m simply going to start each class by introducing a couple of useful English expressions, explain how they’re used, and have students come up with a few example sentences. Every day, I’ll challenge students to try to use one of their new expressions at some point during the class.
I plan to choose phrases that either (a) I personally use in everyday life, or (b) could be helpful in understanding media and cultural references. I’ll to try to avoid cute but outdated idioms like, “raining cats and dogs.” Students seem to like that one, but to be honest, I don’t know any native speakers who wake up, look out the window, sigh and say, “It’s raining cats and dogs again.” Most people I know just say, “Ugh. Rain.”
And that’s it! Simple but practical, I hope.
If you’d like to try this out along with me, I’ve created this little graphic organizer, which you can view and print right here: Expression Organizer
If anyone is interested, one of these days I’ll post an expression checklist that you can keep on hand so that you never run out of ideas.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have a moment, please post ’em in the comment box below.
Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I last posted, and I was planning on posting a quick update to let you all know that I haven’t disappeared. I am in the process of moving, and my brain has been taken over by sofas and comforters and window blinds and drain stops.
Somehow, in the process of posting this update, I came up with a new vocabulary-building prompt, and a few ideas to help you plan your lesson:
Lesson Plan Procedures:
You have just moved into your first new apartment. The apartment is unfurnished except for a refrigerator, an oven, a shower, a toilet, sinks, closets and cabinets. You have a sofa, a bed and a mattress. You will need to buy everything else. With your group, make a list of 20 things that you need to buy.
As always, I’d love to hear from you.
Please let me know how it works out for you if you try it out.
And please share any other related ideas that you have!
*******Update: New Stufft Alert**********
Hi everyone! I’ve been working on a new site, and I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been putting together a collection of conversation questions on a variety of topics over there. Most of the questions are intended for lower-level English learners, and would be perfect for a conversation box. And best of all, every set of questions comes with a printable worksheet for you. You can find the new questions over here: Beginner-friendly speaking questions
Yesterday I posted about creating a question box geared toward your Beginner ESL students. Today I’m going to give you a big list of simple questions to fill your box with. There are tons of lists of conversation questions on the internet, but most that I can find are aimed toward Intermediate students and above. My goal is to create a massive resource for teachers of lower-level classes who want to get their students chatting.
I’m trying to keep the questions simple, with no phrasal verbs or idioms. Some of them may require students to look a word or two up in the dictionary, but not more than that. Some of them are yes/no questions, but if the student is ready, you can encourage them to elaborate. For example, if the question is, “Do you like dogs?” Your student might say, “Yes, I do. I have a dog. My dog’s name is LuLu. She is brown and white. She is friendly.” Etc…
Please keep in mind that this is a growing list, and I plan to update it regularly, so if you have any suggestions on questions or categories to add, please leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page.
I’ve organized the list into the following categories:
I would suggest color-coding your question cards (blue for present, pink for past, etc.) to make it easier for students to pick questions that are relevant to them. Again, this list is a work in progress, so if you have suggestions for other categories, feel free to let me know.
Note: The prompts in the next two categories (Talk About and What Do You Think About…) are intentionally open-ended. Encourage students to say anything that comes to mind on the subject. You will probably need to teach the meaning of “Talk about” and “What do you think about,” but students will catch on quickly.
What Do You Think About…?
Thanks for taking a look at my gradually-growing list. I hope you find it helpful. If you decide to use them in your class, I’d love to know how they worked out for you. And if you have any suggestions for new questions or categories, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
Conversation questions about food: Yum!
Conversation questions about animals: Woof!
Conversation questions about feelings: Happy!
Conversation questions about homes: Home!
And the general, constantly-growing list of speaking questions for lower levels at my new site, ESL Airplane: Beginner-friendly speaking questions
Every week or so, I have some variation of the following conversation with a different teacher:
Other Teacher: Which level are you teaching?
Other teacher: That’s hard! You need so much patience.
Me: Yeah, that’s true.
Other teacher: I prefer teaching the higher levels because I like having conversations in class. You can’t really do that with beginners.
Me: Um…Well, that part’s not so true.
I love teaching the lower levels! I think it’s a misconception that beginner language learners can’t have good conversations. I mean, obviously, absolute beginners won’t be discussing politics on day one, but after a few weeks, my motivated adult students can say a lot more than, “Hello, my name is…”
I have a Brazilian student, for example, who often talks about violence in his hometown and starts conversations with classmates about safety in their countries. Another student from Japan is fascinated by trash cans in America and loves to talk about littering, recycling, and garbage removal around the world. These aren’t light topics, and of course the students make grammatical mistakes and need assistance with vocabulary, but with lots of body language and giggling, they can usually get their points across. I really think that once they get settled into the class and get comfortable in their environment, beginners like to talk as much as anyone else.
So if you’ve been assigned to teach a beginner class, and you’re feeling kinda jittery: Don’t worry! Your babies will be chatting about all kinds of important things soon. Beginners don’t stay beginners forever, and when they start talking, you can really see the effects of your teaching.
The Little Box of Questions
The little box is my go-to tool for prompting students of all levels to talk. I fill it with assorted questions on a variety of random topics and give students time to chat. You can use it in whole-class activities, or split students into smaller groups and give them time to talk spontaneously in small groups.
How to Use Your Little Box:
You never know when a box full of random questions will come in handy. Here are a few suggestions for how and when to use it:
Can you think of any other ways to use a box? I’d love to hear ideas from other teachers. Please leave your comments and questions in the box below.
In my next post, I’m going to be sharing my list of beginner-friendly questions to fill your box with, so check back soon!
While googling around for new classroom activities, I often find myself thinking, “That sounds like a great idea, but who has time for all of that preparation?” Like many adult ESL teachers, I’m not paid for the time that I spend planning my classes, so I’m kind of obsessed with simplicity when it comes to preparation. I’m always looking for fun, effective activities that are super-simple to set up to add to my teaching routine.
I’ve chosen a couple of my favorites. I like them because they are communicative activities that really get everyone talking. They can both be used at any level, and with mixed-level classes.
So, here you go:
1. One Question Walk-and-Talk:
Tell your students to think of one single question that they could ask their classmates.
For example, What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?, What was the last thing you bought? or What’s your favorite place to visit in this city? (You could leave it open-ended if you’re using it as an ice-breaker, or you might have students ask questions on a specific topic or with a specific grammatical structure.)
After everyone has one question in mind, ask your students to stand up, walk a bit, and then grab a partner. They should take turns asking their question to their partner. After about a minute or two, call out “Switch partners!” Students should grab a new partner, and ask the same question again. You can have them switch partners several times. It helps to have some kind of bell or whistle around to signal that it’s time for a partner switch.
If you want to add a little more structure to this activity, you might consider asking the questions yourself, instead of asking students to think of them. For example, you might ask students to walk, grab a partner, and then say, “Ask your partner: What’s your favorite food?” And then have all students ask the same question at the same time.
At the end of the activity, I ask students to share one thing that they learned about one person in the room. We go around the classroom, round-robin style, and everyone shares a single sentence about someone in the class.
2. Speak for a Minute:
Before class, cut up some blank scrap paper into little squares. (Or, if you don’t have time to cut them yourself, tell students just to tear a little piece of paper out of their notebooks.) Give each student one or two slips of paper. Then ask each student to write down a random topic that someone could talk about. The topic should just be a word or two. I usually tell them that it could be something general like “food,” “sports,” or “shopping” or it could be more specific, like “watermelon,” “trash cans,” “monkeys,” or “Justin Bieber.” After they’re done, ask them to fold their papers in half and give them back to you.
Once you have all of the slips, tell students that they will each take turns choosing a topic from your pile. Their challenge will be to speak for 60 seconds about the topic without stopping. (If your class is more advanced, you might give them 2 or 3 minutes.) If they choose watermelon, for example, they might say, “I love eating watermelon, especially on the beach in the summer. Watermelon reminds me of barbecues in my grandmother’s backyard when I was a child, etc, etc….” If time allows, I usually allow a couple of classmates to ask questions after the speaker finishes.
This activity works well for me because I teach small classes. If you do it in a larger class, you might consider dividing students into smaller groups of 4 or 5, and have them time each other, instead of doing it as a big class activity.
Those are my two simple go-to activities. What are yours? I’m always looking for new ideas, so please, please, please, leave yours in the comment section below. 🙂