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ESL Activities With Little Preparation
How often do you find yourself preparing a lesson, racking your brain for something different, a new activity to enliven a group of tired students, or just to bring something new to class? If you’re like most teachers, it’s not easy to think of something new and interesting every day, and often we just don’t have the time (or the energy!) so we fall back on our tried and tested ideas (and sometimes slightly worn). , or follow page after page of a textbook.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that hard. Many ideas can be adapted to many different language points, giving you something that can be used over and over again. If an activity has a clear attraction, a clear motivation (students need to know why they are doing something – but adding an element of competition to an activity is one way to achieve this) and, of course, clear instructions, then you are on to a winner.
There are many good resource books with hundreds of quick and easy activities that require little or no preparation. Look around your school resources for books like “Five Minute Activities” by Penny Ur and Andrew Wright, or “Keep Talking” by Friederike Kippel. Don’t forget that your fellow teachers are good resources too – use them!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1 You may be familiar with “Backs to Board”, where a representative from either team walks away from the board while his/her teammates try to explain to him/her the word you wrote on the board, without saying it. word or its variants. Well, why not extend this to full sentences? Teams have one minute to explain the sentence to their partner, without using any of the words, or their spelling, or signs. You can adapt this to any tone or structure you want to try.
2 Sentence reduction: Write a long sentence or a short paragraph, rich in vocabulary, on the board. In teams, students take it in turns to delete one, two or three words in a row. The sentence must still make sense grammatically, then. If not, change the words and go to the next team. Continue until no more reductions are possible (your readers will be amazed at how short a sentence can be, while retaining its grammatical meaning!) The winning team is the one that cuts out the most words. (Modification: Do the opposite – start with one word and have students replace it with two or three, expanding the sentence).
3 For spelling and vocabulary, try this: Start with one letter on the board, say “S”. Then the first student thinks of a word that starts with “S” and adds another letter, for example “ST”. Then the next student thinks of a word that starts with “ST” and adds another letter and so on. If someone in the group thinks that such a word does not exist, they can name the author who named the word. If there is no such word, the author is out, but if he thinks of the right word, then the opponent is out. The winner is the last student remaining.
4 If your students are imaginative, give each group four or five pictures cut out of magazines, and let them create a picture story – you can leave the context very open, or focus them on a specific time or function. If you want to focus on verbal communication, don’t let them write their story! If you also want to review their writing, write to them as they go along. When they have finished, have each group tell their story to the others.
5 As a “getting to know you” exercise, ask students to write three things that are true about themselves, and two that are not true (but true). Students take turns reading their sentences to others, who must discuss and ask questions of the reader and try to find out which of his/her sentences are correct. A good ice-breaker is to do this yourself first so they get the idea – write five things about you on the board. (Variation: Write five one-word facts about yourself on the board, for example “32”, “Liverpool”, “Three”, “Blogs”, and have the students, in pairs, try to answer questions that will guess them. answers.)
6 Another one for imaginative students: Order the first line of a different story to each group. They have a few minutes to continue the story, and then pass their paper to the next group, who read the story so far and add the next part. Continue until the stories reach their original groups, who then finish and read the stories. To focus on a particular language or vocabulary point, you can do this orally as a chain story: Give the first sentence, then the first student continues the story. They should at some point use the tense, or structure, or word (already assigned), that you want to work on. Continue until all students have participated.
7 For some energetic writing practice, divide the table into three columns, and give each column a heading with the three structures you want to practice (eg “first, second, third condition”, “yes/no questions, indirect questions, question tag”, “present perfect simple, present perfect continuous, past simple”). Divide students into pairs. One of each pair is a writer and the other is a runner. Give each pair lots of small pieces of paper and some blu-tac, and tell them that they have to make as many correct grammatical sentences as they can in each of the three categories and put them on the board (with their initials to know them. ). Set a time limit of five or ten minutes. The writer writes a sentence, then the runner picks up the paper and taps it on the board. Shout “CHANGE” each time for them to change roles. Finally, let all pairs look at the sentences and evaluate them. If they get one wrong, they tell you, and that sentence doesn’t count towards that pair’s score. (Variant: You can make this activity more difficult by saying that each sentence must have at least 10 words, for example.)
8 Another option is to give each student a secret celebrity ID, which they attach to their back or forehead. They go around the class asking yes/no questions to establish their identity. You can confirm that it is by the death of all famous people (“Do I live in the United States of America?”), or now perfectly, by making them alive (Have I acted in many movies?), or in the future, by the death of all Famous people use it. imagines that these famous people are not yet born (Am I going to be an actor?).
9 Students stand up, and shout out two ideas, or people, or concepts, or adjectives, or opposite places. For example, “beach or mountains”, “Spielberg or Hitchcock”, “red or blue”, “Playstation or Nintendo” depending on the age/interests of your students. Point to one side of the room for an idea, point to the other side for another. Students go to the side of the room they choose – each time choosing a few students to explain the reasons for their choice. If you want, you can let it develop into a discussion between the two groups.
10 Do a “grammar auction” or “fill-in-the-blank auction” with mistakes students have made (and you’ve noted) or with an area of language you want to work on. Divide the students into teams, and allocate $100, or 10,000 yen, or whatever amount you want to each team. If you can photocopy some real money, so much the better. For the grammar auction, give each team a sheet of paper with 10 (or more) sentences (based on the mistakes they made or the area of the language you are working on). Some should be grammatically correct, some should be incorrect. Give the team some time to discuss whether they think the sentences are true or not, and then have them gamble on that decision for each sentence. Then give them the answer – if their decision was correct, they double the amount they gambled – if not, they lose their stake. To fill in the blanks, give them 10 or more fill-in-the-blank sentences (again depending on the area you practice or their mistakes) and this time they choose the correct word to go into the blank and gamble on it.
You can find variations on these activities, and many, many more in the books mentioned at the beginning of this article, among others. Try one of them today for something different in your ESL classes!
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