Activities For Teaching English As A Second Language To Adults Classroom Activities For Young ESL Learners

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Classroom Activities For Young ESL Learners

The brain likes to learn in small chunks. Young children have a short attention span. Put these two ideas together and add that learning a new language is not an easy task. Therefore, the ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher has the difficult task of keeping young students interested, alert, and motivated to learn.

My younger students are between the ages of 5 and 14 and my lessons last two to three hours. Developing interesting and relevant lessons is an ongoing challenge. Working from a textbook is a good place to start. Texts for young children generally offer some good activities, but I have to add these. First, the texts are often intended for a multilingual class of immigrant children learning in a new English environment such as Canada, England, the United States, or Australia. In my case, I live and teach in Thailand, almost all my students are Thai, and most of the texts mean nothing. For example, dialogues such as “Good morning, Jose. “How are you, dear?” should be changed. Foods such as “bacon and eggs”, “roast beef and Yorkshire pudding” or “ham and pea soup” are unknown and meaningless to Thai children. Often I write my own short dialogues with local names and familiar foods, places, etc. The key is to keep the learning relevant, especially for young learners. If you don’t, you’ll lose. They get bored quickly.

Every fifteen to twenty minutes, I try to change the activity, eliminating the more difficult ones (grammar, spelling, phonics, etc.) first. Children know that if they apply themselves to learning at the beginning of the lesson, they will be rewarded with some fun activities later. But even difficult things can be made easy. I live a series for teenagers called “The Grammar Lab”. It centers around an imaginary group of weird and absolutely eccentric characters: Splodge, Ruff and Tumble, Mo and Snapper, Mabel and Mildred. I have even used parts of the texts in some of my adult classes.

Students relate to visual stimulation, and I like to engage them in learning activities rather than standing in front of the classroom and lecturing them. I have the little ones draw pictures of words that start with a certain letter. I use great phonics material from and. They like to color so I try to make it an educational activity like coloring numbers, shapes, letters or pictures with easy captions.

Simon Says is very popular among my younger classes. I use it to teach movements: Stand up, sit down, touch your nose, turn left, for example, we often end the lesson with a five-minute Simon Says.

Board games like concentration are fun. Instead of matching pictures, sometimes students have to match the picture with the word. This is good for increasing vocabulary.

The never ending story is one I use often. With about fifteen minutes left, I’ll start by writing on the board, “A funny thing happened to me on Saturday.” Then I give the board marker to the student to write the next sentence. Students enjoy creating their own stories and writing in characters and situations. I use it to teach descriptive adjectives, pronouns, and other grammar points.

Another good dictionary builder is Categories. I write 30-36 words and five-six categories like Office, Water, Colors, School, Hospital or Work on one end of the board. Students should go up to the board and put each word one by one under the right category heading.

I add a twist to Snakes and Ladders by asking students to use a word or words before moving on.

Since the brain learns best in small doses, changing activities regularly is how I keep my students interested as much as possible. Learning should be fun and it is up to the teacher to make it happen. If you get a chance to try some of these activities in your classroom, I’d love to hear how they go. Email me at [email protected] If you would like a copy of my eBook “Introduction to Study Abroad”, please contact me at [email protected]

Dr. Robert Taylor

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