ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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ESL Activities

Below, you can find a variety of activities that can be used in different types of classes. These activities are not content specific and work on a variety of skills. As with all of the activities at this website, feel free to adapt them for your own uses, but give credit where it’s due. All of the worksheets are saved in .doc format and were made using the free office suite OpenOffice.

Note: I talk about many of these assignments in podcast #4.

Interview Roleplay
I used this assignment in a history class, but I think it could work well in a global issues class, too. I asked students to find a reading about a person, summarize it in their own words, and prepare some interview questions that they would liked to be asked as that person. In class, they told their partner some basic information about the person, then had the partner ask them the prepared interview questions. Afterwards, the partner was free to ask their own questions.

I also had students do a vocabulary journal and an individualized vocabulary quiz as part of this activity.

Here is the assignment handout.

Reading Circle
This works for intermediate and advanced classes, though it could work with lower levels, too. It develops reading, listening, speaking and critical thinking skills. It also gives students a chance to choose their own content. Students find an article (1-2 pages) and cut / simplify it as needed. They also prepare a vocab list, comprehension questions and discussion questions. Finally, they lead a small group discussion. The readers define the vocabulary words and answer the questions for homework, preparing to discuss their answers in class. They also make some questions of their own for the discussion.

Here is the assignment sheet.

Here is an example made by a student in a Psychology class.

Here is an example that I made.

Vocabulary Journal
I’m a big believer in optional homework, because I always want my students to have ideas for additional work if they are willing to do it. Vocabulary journals are great for that, as students are able to do as much or as little with them as they want. When I give the assignment, I encourage students to take words from readings that they do instead of simply looking at vocabulary lists. I do this because I believe that reading is probably the best way to improve one’s vocabulary (with or without a journal). I also encourage them to put the definitions in their own words instead of simply copying them from their dictionaries.

Here is a copy of the assignment sheet. As you can see, only the world, part of speech and definition are required. The rest of the component are optional, although I highly suggest having them make their own sentences.

Here is a model vocab journal entry. Note: before I copied this and gave it to students, I labelled each part of the entry by hand so that it would make sense when viewed alongside the assignment sheet.

Here is a handout for making individualized vocabulary quizzes. Simply ask students to write the word only (based on their vocabulary journals), then collect it and give it back to them at a later date and ask them to write the rest.

Reading Journals
Another good optional homework assignment that can be used with almost any reading is a summary. Usually, a the beginning of the term I’ll introduce the idea of summarizing readings and just leave it as a standing optional homework assignment throughout the term. When students do them, I ask them to underline a sentence or two that they want me to focus my grammatical corrections on, or to specify another type of feedback that they want. When assigning summaries, I really stress the importance of putting things in their own words. I encourage them to use words and short phrases from the readings, but not to lift entire sentences. I talk about plagiarism, but I also stress the fact that summarizing in one’s own words is better for language learning than simply copying.

Here is a handout introducing a reading journal for an advanced TOEFL reading class.

Here is a handout describing some possible feedback types.

Another similar optional homework assignment is a freewrite. Again, I often introduce this at the beginning of the term and leave it as a standing optional assignment. Basically, I ask students to respond, in writing, to what we’ve been reading or discussing. They can do this however they want. They can do some outside research and present some additional information, they can write about their own opinions, they can tell a story from their past. I leave it up to them. And just as above, I ask them to let me know what type of feedback they want when they turn in their freewrites.

Here is a handout describing some possible feedback types.

Presentation Skills
This handout
quickly outlines a variety of presentation skills, including aspects of body language, speech and organization.

Who Gets the Heart?

This activity is Kira’s. It’s called Who Gets the Heart? and I discussed it in podcast #9. Students play the role of doctors and have to decide (in group discussion) who gets a heart transplant. Their choices include a combination of actual people and fictional characters.

For example, when I did it, students chose between Hu Jin Tao, Yao Ming, Britney Spears, a single father of two, an only child and so on. I had them discuss their choice in groups, then freewrite about it for homework. For the next class, I put them into groups based on who they chose and had them brainstorm reasons. Finally, we did a debate. You could also do discussion activities about healthcare or even salaries as a follow-up.

English for Tourism: Roleplays
In my English for tourism classes, I’ve started using roleplays as a way to practice sentence patterns and increase student talk time. I begin by pre-teaching a concept (usually something pragmatic like “making a request” or “giving a command”). Next, we brainstorm a list of relevant content words (like “requests one might make in a hotel”). Students are then given 5 to 10 minutes to do their roleplay with a partner. Finally, volunteers are asked to present their roleplay to the class, while I stand by writing relevant words / phrases on the board.

I tend to favor roleplays that feature conflict or disagreement because these stimulate more language use. I encourage students to be creative and give a lot of details during their roleplays. Plus, as my students want to be tour guides, they’ll need to be comfortable handling a variety of different situations.

Note: The roleplay file was last updated on 4/17/07.