Spring Break has come and gone, but has given students a lot to talk about. For the first lesson after the break, I like to do an interview and presentation activity to get my students back into English mode.
We begin with a simple greeting and question activity using follow-up questions to elicit more information after a simple yes/no question. From there, we work through the question words on the worksheet and make four questions to use in our interviews.
Students then form pairs and are given 5 to 10 minutes to interview their partners about what they did over the break. They use that information to make a short paragraph about their partner’s activities. When the time limit is up, one of the students from each pair stands up and presents the paragraph they have prepared to the rest of the class. When the presentations are finished, students find a new partner and repeat as before, this time the students who didn’t present in round one present their prepared paragraphs.
It’s a fun and simple activity that allows students to exchange information and support each other while shaking off some of the rust that invariably accrues over a long vacation. It also works well for mixed level classes, where more advanced students can assist the lower level learners.
Here’s a fun worksheet I worked up to practice using simple transitive verbs. First, students should fold the sheet in half and brainstorm 12 nouns and 4 adjectives. I let students use textbooks and dictionaries, and encourage them to find interesting words that are new to them.
Once all the students have finished brainstorming, we proceed to the other half of the worksheet. Students should first write the meanings of the verbs at the top of the sheet in their native language. This can be done on the blackboard first if the teacher prefers. Then students should complete the sentences with the words they brainstormed on the first half of the worksheet.
When the sentences are complete, students pair off and share their original, and hopefully funny, sentences. This can be made into a game or into more of a pair discussion depending on the ability and energy level of the students.
Winter break has come and gone, and everyone is back in study mode. Here is a worksheet I made up to help students talk about their winter break experiences in English.
It is a fairly easy task that can spark some interesting discussions. First, using the question words at the top of the page, students make 5 questions to ask others. The question words and verbs are mixed up, students should pay attention to which verbs they are using with the various question words.
Once the questions are written in the provided spaces, students make pairs and ask and answer one question each about their winter break, writing their partner’s answer in beneath the question.
What did you eat over winter break?
Billy ate fried chicken over winter break.
– or simply –
Billy ate fried chicken.
For more advanced students, encourage (or require) them to ask at least one follow up question before changing partners.
I almost always try to make the first lesson after summer vacation about what students did on their vacations. In elementary school we stuck to “Where did you go?”, but junior high students are capable of more complex conversations.
The goal of this lesson is to have students ask and answer questions about their summer vacations. In more advanced classes simply explaining the activity and setting them to it can be enough, but it is always better to review ways to form questions and offer some examples and well as suggest some useful vocabulary. I start by having the students think of some questions to ask the teachers, and maybe even predict the answers we will give. Everyone gets a chance to practice the question structures and listen to properly formed answers.
For the actual interviews, I first pass out the worksheets, then break the students up into pairs. The task is to ask questions and use the answers to write a simple description of their partner’s summer vacation. I usually provide about 10 or 15 minutes for both partners to complete the task, then have them present their results to the class. This is an especially good task for very quiet classes, as it gives them the chance to practice speaking, writing, and listening in a structured way.
As of April this year, I’ve begun teaching ESL and English Communication in junior high schools here in Japan. It’s taken some getting used to after years of teaching in elementary schools, but I feel like I’ve hit my stride.
There’s very little need for me to introduce new structures and drill grammar because the students get more than enough of that in their regular classes with the Japanese English teachers. I try to minimize teacher-talk and maximize oral communication time, and to that end have made up several Q&A worksheets to practice various expressions and grammar points.
This is perhaps the most basic, and most versatile, of the worksheets I’ve made so far. Students prepare five questions based on any relevant grammar points or lesson themes, then in take turns asking their questions and writing down their classmates’ answers. As an activity it allows students to exercise thinking, writing, speaking and listening skills while creating a quantifiable result that teachers can check and grade. Plus, it’s fun!
It dawned on me that I’ve never talked about the classroom games I use.
Here’s where I fix that.
I use several janken (rock-scissors-paper) games on a regular basis in my
classes. They are a fun and easy way to drill vocabulary and let off steam at
the same time.
I use this game frequently with the phonics flashcards. How it works is
simple. I put five (or so) flashcards on the board. Then I choose one
student to stand in front of each card, manning the station. The other
students form lines in front of each station. The student at the front of the
line greets the student manning the flashcard, then they both say the word or phrase on the card. The two then do rock-scissors-paper. The winner mans the station and the loser joins another line to try again. There is no real “end” to this game, so I usually set a time limit and whoever is manning the stations at the end can be considered the winners.
This game is a good lively vocabulary drill game. First, make row of
flashcards across the blackboard. I usually use eight cards depending on the
difficulty of the vocabulary and the size of the blackboard. Split the class
into two teams and have them line up at opposite ends of the blackboard. The
first students in line each point at the flashcard on their end of the row and
say the word or phrase on the card. They then proceed to the next card, say
the word, proceed to the next card, and so on. The two players will meet
somewhere in the middle and do rock-scissors-paper. The winner continues
forward, while the loser goes to the end of their team’s line and the next
player starts. If a player makes it all the way to the other end of the row
of cards, that player’s team gets a point. Whichever team scores the most
Friend Catcher Janken
This game is another good vocabulary drill game. Divide the class into two
teams and have them line up opposite each other. The teacher stands at the
front of the two lines and holds up a flashcard. The students at the front of
the line each say the word or phrase on the card then do rock-scissors-paper.
The student that loses is “caught” by the winning student. The winner leads
the loser to the back of the winner’s team’s line and the next two students
play. At the end of the game the biggest team wins. I usually determine the length of the game by how many times I want to cycle through the flashcards I’m using.
I’ve used other games over the years, but these three are the ones I keep
coming back to. They are easy to play, require little or no explanation,
and my elementary school students really enjoy them.