I’m looking forward to the summer months. Even though there’s still snow on the ground, I recall my adventures teaching ESL at a children’s summer camp. I learned a lot, as I do every year. I enjoyed adapting existing material and creating my own instead of working strictly from a textbook. It was challenging and time consuming, but I would argue better, more student-centered, and fun.
Brainstorming was my go-to activity to kick off the day. This was usually done by asking students to create a poster. Kind of like a word-cloud, but with pictures, and sometimes cut-outs and stickers. It gave the students, ages 8-12 and working at a high-beginner level, a chance to be creative while using their English-language skills. Topics included family, friends, and hobbies. Afterward, we talked about the posters, and sometimes had a gallery-like exhibition if students were too shy to present in front of the whole class.
Having students do a hands-on project was also useful. I recall a bridge-building project, I know it sounds like science class, but it works just as well in ESL. It gave the students a chance to use their speaking skills by working together. I divided the class into two teams and we saw who could construct the sturdiest bridge across two tables using common items such as tape, markers, paper, string, etc. The most fun was testing the bridges with a weigh until they collapsed.
As for reading and writing, I gave them a simplified passage – Little Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs. I created a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet to test their reading comprehension, as well as pictures or matching sets to test their vocabulary. I also strategically placed mistakes on their worksheet to see if they could catch them. This gave the students a chance to stop and “ask the teacher”, which they did every time. It gave me a chance to check in with the students, test their understanding, and explain further. Just that small adaptation kept everyone engaged.
Of course, students at that age can pay attention at their desks only for so long. I built in plenty of time for breaks and games. I had my own go-to activities such as word snake, hangman, unscramble, broken telephone, outdoor sketching games, stretches, ball-toss word games, etc. However, if someone had a particularly good idea, we went with that. The students enjoyed several rounds of musical chairs to the sounds of Buena Vista Social Club. Fun for the sake of fun.
What are some of your go-to fun and creative activities that go beyond textbook learning? How do you feel about fun for the sake of fun?
Post Written by: Svjetlana Vrbanic @lanavrb