- Internet Resources for English Language Professionals
US Embassy, Bangkok
(Adapted from: TESOL Web Resources Course 2003;
Leslie Opp-Beckman, University of Oregon)
General EFL Resources
- US State Department English Language Programs Office
- http://exchanges.state.gov/education/engteachingThe English Teaching Forum, Electronic Journals and links to many sites
- The Internet TESOL Journal
- Reference material for teachers, lesson plans, student activities
- Dave’s ESL Café
- Reference material for teachers, lesson plans, student activities
- Eduref https://eduref.org/ The National Council for Open Education. Great site!
- 51 Free Lesson Plans https://eslauthority.com/resources/free-esl-lesson-plans/
You don't need to log in to use the search box. Enter the phrase "lesson plans" (or any other keywords that interest you) in order to pull up a wealth of good information.
Adaptable lesson plans in many topic areas for elementary and secondary learners.
Discovery Tools Worksheet Generator
Formerly the M-tech generator, now housed in good company at Discovery. Choose from several vocabulary and math worksheet templates in the "Create a Worksheet" area, or just use a teacher-created worksheet in the library of "Worksheets to Go."
And, if you like this style of generator, also visit:
The generators allow you to make worksheets by filling out a simple form. The materials are made instantly and can be printed directly from your computer. Your creations are exclusive to you. If you would like to keep your creations, save them when you make them.
- Education Place
From Houghton Mifflin, Resources for elementary-school teachers, students, and parents. Includes Reading/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies Centers, Intervention, Professional Development, searchable activity database, educational games, and textbook support.
- Encarta Schoolhouse
Lessons sorted by topic area and linked to the online Encarta encyclopedia resources.
- Everything ESL
Content-based lesson plans for ESL/EFL.
- I-TESL-J, Lesson Plans
Lesson plans for ESOL from Internet TESL Journal, organized by skill area.
- It's Up To Us, HIV-AIDS Education
An AIDS Education Curriculum for ESL Students and Other English Language Learners from Henry Lesnick (this is a topic I am frequently asked about).
- Microsoft Lesson Connection
A searchable collection of lesson plans.
Also see: Microsoft Productivity in the Classroom
- NY Times, Lesson Plan Archive
Teaching ideas based on news items from the NY Times.
Teaching resources in English from NASA that can be adapted to ESL/EFL settings.
- Dictionary: Cobuild
Check out the various sections for Idiom a Day, Wordwatch and Definitions Game.
Another resource from a dictionary company with Word of the Day, Word Games, and Word for the Wise.
- Grammar Guide created by AustralianHelp http://australianhelp.com/grammar
- Dictionary: Your Dictionary, A Global Language Resource
A multilingual resource with Dictionaries, Grammars, Language Identifiers, a Gameroom, and a section on Endangered Languages.
- ESL Quiz Center
Dave Sperling's web site with quizzes from other EFL and ESL instructors for Geography, Grammar, History, Idioms, Slang, & Words, People, Reading Comprehension, Science, World Culture, and Writing.
- English Language Centre Study Zone
Includes grammar presentations, interactive practice exercises, and help pages for basic writing skills.
- Grammar Bytes, Interactive Grammar Review
Click on the green monster to get started. Inside you will find an Index of Grammar Terms, Interactive Exercises, Handouts for Students and Teachers, and a section on Grammar Rules.
For another compilation of grammar rules, see:
Grammar Handbook from the UIUC Writer's Workshop.
- Grammar and Multi-Skill Sites
Michael Krauss has gathered together many web sites and ranked them beginner through advanced. Do you agree with his rankings? Is there anything you would change?
- Grammar Safari from LinguaCenter
This is a teacher resource with an innovative idea for incorporating authentic materials into the Grammar classroom.
- Guide to Grammar and Writing
Guides and quizzes for grammar and writing from Comnet.
More grammar guides are also available through Purdue's Owl
- The Most Common Spelling, Grammar & Punctuation Mistakes (a suggestion offered by Keira Brennan)
- Homophones Quiz
A 111-question quiz for advanced speakers of English on pairs of homophones and near-homophones in American English (e.g. patted ~ padded).
- Internet-TESL-Journal (ITESL-J) Quizzes
Interactive quizzes for Grammar, Places, Vocabulary, Idioms, Homonyms, Scrambled Words, and more.
- Karin's ESL Partyland Quiz Center
Quizzes for Grammar, Idioms, Slang & Phrasal Verbs, Reading, TOEFL, Trivia, Useful Expressions and Vocabulary.
- Word a Day
The music and magic of words -- that's what A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) is about. They are a community of more than 500,000 linguaphiles in 210 countries. You too can subscribe and be a linguaphile. The subscription is free.
If you like this sort of resource, also see:
Cool Word of the Day
- BBC World English, Learning English
Language study modules based on news events from radio. Support is available in many languages.
- English Listening Room
Listen to songs and fill in the blanks
- History Channel Speeches
Hear the words that changed the world. From Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech to Lou Gehrig's farewell to baseball, this collection is drawn from some of the most famous broadcasts and recordings of the twentieth century. To listen to these files, you must have RealPlayer installed.
For more speeches, see:
Gift of Speech, Women's Speeches from around the World
Women's speeches from around the word.
- Interactive Listening Comprehension
Now part of Yahoo's directory, this site lets you find news, music, and spoken word (stories, poems, speeches) sound files.
- Listen to Stories, Mat Doyle
Lovely harp music and original tales.
Note: This web site can be fairly ad-intensive. Find lyrics to songs to want to use in class (this can save you lots of listening and typing time).
- PBS Online News Hour
Offers news stories, news summaries, video footage, discussion forums and essays. Elementary and high school teachers may also want to check out "PBS Teacher Source, Technology and Teaching" http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/teachtech.htm for tutorials and subject-specific topics (math, science, art & literature, social studies, etc.).
- Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab
Mostly conversational-style dialogues. Especially good for beginning ESL/EFL students.
- Shaggy Dog Stories
This web site has authentic stories in mp3 format.
- Voice of America
Radio news, music and program broadcasts in many languages.
National Public Radio (NPR)
Current and archived news stories from around the world with accompanying sound files. You can search for specific news topics, too.
World Radio Network (WRN)
WRN carries live audio newscast streams in RealAudio, WindowsMedia and StreamWorks 24 hours a day from 25 of the world's leading public and international broadcasters.
- CNN News FYI for Teachers
Activities of all kinds based on news articles.
If you'd like articles on culture topics, also see:
Fables and idioms activities for English learners.
- English Club: Reading
Reading activities for ESL and EFL learners, including: Classics, Short Stories, Jokes and Proverbs.
- International Reading Association
As an advocate of excellence in the teaching of reading, the International Reading Association participates actively in the process of shaping sound public policy in education. Research-based positions on critical issues are disseminated through a series of policy statements, resolutions, and other publications.
For more information on reading in an ESOL context, see:
Articles and lesson plans for teaching Reading from educators worldwide.
- Learning Network
The Western-Pacific Literacy Network offers web-delivered instruction using current and past CNN San Francisco bureau news stories. Though the intended audience is adults, instructors and learners (of all ages) are encouraged to use this material to promote better literacy. Each module includes the full text of each story and interactive activities to test comprehension. The learner can choose to read the text, listen to the text, and view a short video clip of the story. Each module is designed for ease of use so the learner can use it independently. The instructor can also incorporate any story into class activities and lesson plans.
- The Maze
A "branching" story that lets you choose your direction as you read.
For more on action mazes, see Martin Holmes'
Action mazes can be used for many purposes, including problem-solving, diagnosis, procedural training, and surveys/questionnaires.
- Project Gutenberg
A large repository of texts in the public domain.
If you like this sort of resource, also see:
- This Day in History
A daily look at events from history. Often euro-centric, this can make a nice springboard for researching alternative points of view and parallel events.
- Travelers' Tales
A collection of folktales.
For more on folktales, also see:
iEARN Folktale Project
- Candlelight Stories
Check out "Online Storybooks" in the free section of this web site.
- Directory: Google's Mystery Stories
An online directory of mystery stories from Google. For another directory, see:
Directory: Yahoo's Online Stories
This is a directory with links to collections of Folk and Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories, Holiday Stories and Interactive Stories, with younger audiences in mind. Some sound files also available.
- Holiday to Murder, An Online Novella
One of Rob Hopcott's murder mystery stories is published at this web site as a free short online novel (novella) featuring the popular character Alice.
Also see this site for ghost stories:
The Moonlit Road
Listening files also available.
Online mysteries, information about famous authors such as Agatha Christie, Clue-A-Day game for solving a crime, and much more. It's great fun! Also see MysteryNet for Kids at http://kids.mysterynet.com/.
- Mystery Short Fiction
Mystery Short Fiction is a work in progress. The goal is to list all mystery short fiction published in English since 1990. There are books and magazine issues that haven't been tracked down yet, and new ones appear every month.
- Ongoing Tales Mystery E-Magazine
Mystery stories in serial format. A detailed Table of Contents is available at http://www.ongoing-tales.com/contents.html.
- UptownCity's Online Mysteries
Short mysteries in simple English. You can email them to guess or get the ending!
- Web Companion to Agatha Christie
A complete listing of novels and publication dates in which it gives the information for each novel:
*A complete list of major and minor characters.
* A brief synopsis of the plot.
* Spoiler (for those who want to know "whodunit" and how).
- State of Writing A wonderful list of many links for English as well as other languages
- 28 Boring Words and What to Use Instead A vocab/writing thought provoker
IECC is a free teaching.com service to help teachers link with partners in other cultures and countries for email classroom pen-pal and other project exchanges.
For another keypal service, see:
Mighty Media Keypals
This site is easy to use as the student, when registering, chooses a number of qualities s/he would like to find in their key pals. Students can also choose the country from which they would like to have their key pals if they want to get information about specific countries. They can also specify a fixed range to age to deal with as well as if they would prefer males, females or both.
- I-TESL-J, Writing
Articles and lesson plans from English language educators around the world on the topic of writing.
- National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Reports
Many reports on the integration of various computer-based tools and resources in writing and reading-related activities. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to open these PDF reports.
- http://bid4papers.com/blog/spelling-grammar-punctuation-mistakes/ A useful cheatsheet for some of the most important spelling, grammar and punctuation rules. (Thanks, Keira!)
- For some OWL resources, see:
Writing Help, HUT
Help resources for teaching academic writing from Ruth Vilmi.
Writing Help, Wooster
Composition and grammar advice, for example: MLA and APA documentation, punctuation, plagiarism, thesis statement, etc.)
- PIZZAZ, Creative Writing Activities
A web site for educators with ideas and step-by-step instructions for incorporating creative writing ideas in the English classroom.
- Punctuation Made Simple
A small, simple site with some rules and examples for problematic forms of English punctuation.
A collection of topics, ideas, and assistance for school related research and writing projects.
- Student Lists
The Student Lists were established in February 1994 to provide an email forum for cross-cultural discussion and writing practice for college, university and adult students in English language programs around the world. There are currently ten student lists.
- Writing Techniques Handbook, UIUC
Practical writing advice plus genre-specific information on:
Tips on Taking an Essay Exam Writing About Film
Writing About Poetry
Writing Cover Letters
Writing a Literature Paper
Writing a Thesis for a Literature Paper
Writing a Philosophy Paper
Writing Personal Statements
Writing Standardized Essay Exams
For another resource specifically on essay writing, see:
A guide for academic writing, giving clearly cut definitions of what essay, thesis, report is, dealing with pre-planning, gathering material, structuring, , making paragraphs, writing introduction and conclusions and other essential things, which are followed by exercises aimed at consolidating the material.
- Web Projects, Quests and More
A great collection of web sites with accompanying projects and tasks.
- Multiverse: Web Quests, Science and the World
From Dafne Gonzalez. She especially likes the science quests.
- WebQuest Page at San Diego State University
Start with the Overview and FAQ link. Then, visit training materials and Examples.
- WebQuests from Discovery
More examples of webquests. See, in particular, the template link for webquests.
You can find another very simple template for offline or online use at
Examples of webquests for elementary and secondary aged students.
Additional examples for ESL/EFL are available:
International AIDS Awareness Day
U.S. Thanksgiving, Sites to be Thankful For
Quick and Easy English Teaching for Guatemalan Teachers
A Gift from the People of the United States of America
United States Embassy in Guatemala
Published by Instituto Guatemalteco Americano in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala
Written by Mark Dorr
Senior English Language Fellow
U.S. Department of State
Michael Rudder, U. S. Department of State Regional English Language Officer
Brenda de Arreaga, Director, Instituto Guatemalteco Americano (Quetzaltenango)
Carlos Perez-Brita, United States Agency for International Development
as well as Guatemalan and U.S. English teachers from a variety of backgrounds.
You may make copies of this booklet. It is free and not for sale.
Learning any language is an empowering skill. With it, you are able to express yourself to more people, understand others better, describe your culture, and have more job opportunities.
So, just like learning Spanish, K’Iche, Mam, or any other language, learning English is a skill that helps you do more, know more, and have better opportunities.
This book was designed to provide some help for English teachers in Guatemala who would like simple, straightforward, effective ideas for their classes. It is divided into two parts: methodology and activities. By reading both, you will be able to improve your teaching and raise your students’ abilities. These are only a few ideas about what you can do. There are many more ideas in other books or at teachers’ workshops.
Many of these activities involve more than one skill. That’s ok! Exercising several skills with the same activity is very good.
Remember that, as a language teacher, your job is to give them as much language as is useful in as many ways as possible. Turn on their minds and abilities to work independently because they won’t always have you to help them.
There’s a bonus! If you wish, you could use these same activities and methods to teach your native language, too!
We would have liked to have provided copies of this booklet in all Guatemalan languages. However, that is not possible for this printing. Please feel free to translate this into any other language.
There are many ways to learn more about your work. The concepts found in this booklet came from graduate school training (especially Drs. Krahnke and Reid), working with various programs around the world, participation in conferences, and talking with other teachers. Similarly, you can find many more ideas at schools, universities, workshops, or talking with other teachers, too.
Thanks to my wife, Sherri, for her continued support.
Thanks to PAO David Young and CAO Erica Thibault of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and Director Brenda de Arreaga of the Instituto Guatemalteco Americano (IGA) in Quetzaltenango. Thanks, too, to the teachers of IGA, cooperating institutions and agencies, collaborating readers, and the many teachers in the country of Guatemala who, day after day, continue to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Some Suggestions on How to Teach English
1. Different students learn in different ways. So, try to present lessons in different ways.
>>> A weaver who only tells her children how to weave doesn’t provide the same experience as a weaver who tells the children, shows the children examples, lets the children touch and smell the work, and introduces the children to other weavers. <<<
Some students learn better by reading, others by doing something physically active, others by listening, others by touching something, etc. Some students learn best with games, others with exercises. Try to vary the way you present lessons in order to have a better and more interesting learning experience.
For example, one lesson, lecture to the class and use the chalkboard. The next, have the students moving around as part of the lesson. After that, try doing something that requires the students to speak. Then, use things the students can touch. Another lesson might involve colorful textiles.
2. Try to make the language your students use, and their lessons, meaningful.
>>> If your mother is teaching you how to sell vegetables, and she just gives you a list of words you’ve never seen before like “avocado”, “change”, “sale”, and “bargain” without any context and tells you to go sell, it doesn’t help you as much as watching her sell vegetables and seeing how it all works. <<<
For example, word lists might not help as much as using the words in a game of 20 Questions about things in your classroom. Lots of discussion about rules might not be as helpful as examples.
3. Students learn more when they are involved in their lessons.
>>> “Listen to me speak in English about accounting,” said the teacher. The students learned a little. “Find articles about accounting, make a little story about it, etc. The students learned a lot. <<<
Lecturing is ok sometimes, but students can answer questions, work in pairs, talk together in English, answer other students’ questions, try to find readings in English, or anything else to make the students active learners and not just passive listeners. Another idea is to use students’ names in stories, tests, etc. Remember that, the more you have them do with the language, the better.
4. Try to keep the classroom a positive experience.
>>> Which pilot will want to learn more: the one who doesn’t have a pleasant experience, or the one who does?” <<<
Students learn better if they are happy and interested. When possible, use things/examples/stories that children like. Try to make it a positive experience in any way you can imagine.
Do you remember when you were first learning something? It was, probably, scary to try it yourself after someone showed you. Help students understand their errors, but try to do it in a positive way so that you encourage them to try again.
5. Students learn better if they know how they are doing.
>>> One woman worked for a month practicing to be a dentist before her professor told her how she was doing. Another woman worked for a day, her professor told her how she was doing, and the woman worked 29 days on more advanced procedures. Which woman will be a better dentist in two months?<<<
You don’t need to wait until a test to tell a student how he or she is doing. By telling students about their progress regularly and often, you help them feel more involved in their own learning and able to improve themselves.
6. Give them a little time.
>>> A boy watched his father fish. The next day, he watched him fish and knew how the father would fish. On the third day, the boy fished.<<<
It’s well-known that most people understand more in a second language than they produce.
So, if you have beginners, you can have them follow commands, read instructions or stories or do similar activities that don’t require them to speak or write immediately. This builds their confidence. As soon as they are ready, start adding more and more opportunities for them to speak or write.
More advanced students can be treated the same way. If you are introducing vocabulary, for example, you might introduce it through reading a passage with the new vocabulary before requiring them to use the words in writing.
7. Grammar is useful….sort of.
>>> If someone asked you what time it is, would you tell that person how to make a watch?<<<
Think about when you first learned to use a tool, drive a car, or cook a meal. If someone had given you rules and definitions for the procedure, it might have filled 100 pages, and you might not ever have done it! But, probably, someone simply showed you how to use the tool, drive, or cook the meal. The same is true of learning a language. Use grammar explanations sparingly. Instead, try to teach them the rules of language through examples, stories, or other meaningful activities that are often part of other skills’ activities.
8. Give the students a framework.
>>>”Learn something about medicine,” the professor said, and the medical students were aimless. “Learn this subject, only this subject, only this way, exactly,” and the students were frustrated. “ Explore this area of medicine,” and the students learned.
If you don’t know what’s expected of you, it’s hard to do the right thing. On the other hand, if you have too many rules, it’s hard, too. Give the students a basic framework within which they have some freedom to work. Using this for any activity or lesson will improve their learning and make your job easier and more effective.
9. The more English that they are around every day, the better the students will learn.
>>> Who is better at planting corn: a child who is around farmers a lot or a child who is around farmers only one hour a day? The first child, of course! Who is better at English: a child who is around English a lot, or a child who is around English a little? The first child, of course! <<<
Students can have English in their day not only from your lessons but by reading advertisements, magazines, stories, news; watching TV with English; listening to the radio with English songs or news; or talking with people who speak English.
10. Each lesson is important
>>>An old carpenter who was about to retire was given one last job. His boss told him to build a house and do the best work he could because it was a surprise. But, because it was his last house, he decided to do a bad job just to finish it. When the carpenter went to his boss for the last time, his boss congratulated him and told him the surprise was that he was giving him that house.<<<
Be prepared for class, and try to plan for every lesson even if it’s a simple plan. Remember that your lessons make a difference in your students’ lives. It might be hard to see now, but the students will remember your classes years later, and you want them to have learned some good lessons.
Reading and Vocabulary
Reading almost anything will improve students’ vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. They can read cartoons, stories, advertisements, instructions, and many other things.
TPR (Total Physical Response): Give the students written instructions on the board, sheets of paper, or from a book. Have them physically follow the instructions either as a group or one-by-one. There are many different ways to do this; feel free to be creative.
Example: (On the blackboard) “Stand up.” The students stand up. “Walk to the door.” The students walk to the door. “Go back to your seats.” The students do this. “Pick up your pencil and hold it over your head.” Etc. Watch to see if the students understand and are following your instructions. Repeat your instructions if students are not following your commands.
Example: Give the students some bits of blue, white, and brown paper. (On a sheet of paper) “Follow these instructions: 1. Find someone who is wearing glasses and give that student a piece of blue paper. 2. Find someone with long hair and give that student a piece of white paper. 3. Find someone who is smiling and give that student a piece of brown paper.” Watch to see if the students understand and are following your instructions.
Word Search: Young students and adolescents love games, and they can be useful learning tools, so try to include some in your lessons. One easy way to make a reading and vocabulary game is a Word Search. You can use words they’ve learned already. Just get to class early, write the words you want to use on the board in various positions of a grid then fill in the rest with other letters. Students then take turns finding words and circling them. This can be done in teams or individually. Of course, if you have access to a copier, you can make copies ahead of time and use those instead of the board.
Example: short, tall, big, small
Step 1 Step 2
big small bigtmnsmallpqw
r mqodi rakjnbuto
Predicting Content from the Title or First Sentences: Before having the students read a story, tell them (or, write on the blackboard) the story title or the first sentence of each paragraph. Have them guess, either by writing or speaking their answers, what the story will be about, what will happen, etc. They can answer individually, in pairs, or in small groups.
Example: “Class, we are going to read a story called ‘My Brother Won a Prize’. What do you think this will be about?” (The students respond.) “Why do you think he might have won a prize?” “Have any of you ever won a prize?” “How did it feel?” “How do you think he might feel?” “What would you do if you won Q30?” Etc.
Guessing Meaning from Context: Sometimes, students will read a word that they don’t know. You can make them much better English readers if you teach them how to figure out a word’s meaning by themselves. It’s not always possible but, often, it can be done. This will make them faster readers, too. Using their knowledge of English, have the students try to guess the meaning of a word they don’t know. To check it, they can try replacing the unknown word with their definition.
Example: “After years of being a pugilist, his nose was broken, and his face was scarred. However, he still liked going to the gym to box.” Student: Excuse me, teacher, but I don’t understand “pugilist”. Teacher: “Can you guess what it means? What kind of person who goes to the gym often has a battered face?” Student: “A boxer?” Teacher: “That’s a good guess. Plus, look at the end of the sentence; it says he likes to box. Now, try putting ‘boxer’ there instead of ‘pugilist’.” Student: “’After years of being a boxer, his nose was broken and his face was scarred. However, he still liked going to the gym to box.’ That sounds right.” Teacher: “Good. Now, read on just to make sure you’re right about that.”
Cloze (fill-in-the-blank): You can remove a word or two from a sentence and have the students decide what should go in the space. This helps students to work on their reading, grammar and vocabulary skills. You can provide a word list, or they can figure out a word on their own. Students may give their answers orally or in written form.
Example: In this lesson, the teacher is working with adjectives.
The dog was so_____________ that it jumped over the tall fence.
Teacher: “Hmm. Do you think being charming would help a dog jump over a tall fence?”
Student: “Oh. Strong.”
Teacher: “That’s right!”
Students can listen and understand at least some of a language even before they can speak it.
Word Identification: Students indicate (raise their hands, point, or etc.) which word the teacher said. You can mix this with reading and write the words, as well.
Example: Teacher: “I’m going to hold up two pictures. You point to the one I’m saying.”
The teacher holds up a picture of a bat in his left hand and a cat in his right hand. Teacher: “Cat……Cat.” The students point to his right hand. Teacher: “Good!”
Example: Teacher: “Raise your hand when you hear me say ‘dog.’ Fog. Log. Dog. (Students raise their hands) Good! Cog. Hog. Fog. Dog. (Students raise their hands.) Good! Now, raise your hands when you hear me say…etc.”
Total Physical Response : Do you remember this from the “Reading” activities? Instead of using written instructions, you can do TPR by speaking the instructions.
Cloze (fill-in-the-gap): Combine reading, grammar and listening with this activity.
Example: Find some music with English lyrics. Many tapes or CDs have the lyrics printed inside the cover. Or, you can find lyrics on the Internet. Type them up, and remove some of the words. Hand out the copies, tell the students that they will listen to the song first to get a general idea. Then, have the students listen again and try to fill in the missing words. They can work individually or in pairs.
Example: Play a videotape of someone speaking English. Write down the sentences, and remove some of the words. Have the students listen and fill in the missing words. You might theme it based on work you’ve been doing such as verb tenses, nouns, etc. For instance: Person on the video: “I am very happy to be in Guatemala. Your country is fascinating. The natural wonders here are very nice, the people are friendly, and the cultures are amazing!” Type it up and remove words to create this: “I __ very happy to be in Guatemala. Your country __ fascinating. The natural wonders here ___ very nice, the people ___ friendly, and the cultures ___ amazing!”
If you do not have a copier, you could play each section, stop it, ask a question like “How happy is he?” or “What does he think about the people?” and continue to the next section.
Information Gap: Whenever you have two or more students working together, and each student has only part of the information, it’s an information gap activity.
Example (this is a reading, speaking and listening activity): In groups of three, the students are each given different words describing someone. They have to tell each other their words and try to draw the whole person from all of the descriptions. Student 1: “My list says that this man is short, thin, and has hair.” Student 2. “Mine says he has muscular arms, long pants, and short hair.” Student 3: “Mine says he wears a hat, carries a shovel, and has a little mustache.” Then, they create a picture of a short, thin, short-haired, muscle-armed man with a hat, shovel, and mustache.
Dictation: Most teachers know what dictation is: the teacher reads something aloud, and the students write what they hear. Students might write on paper or the blackboard.
Example (this is a listening and writing activity): Teacher: “Ok, class. Now, we’ll do a dictation. Please write exactly what I say. Are you ready? Ok. Number one. ‘Ingrid goes to the store every day.’” (The students write this.) “Number two. ‘Carlito likes to eat tamales.’” Etc. After this, the teacher either gathers the papers or checks the work that was done on the blackboard.
Directed Dictation: This is a variation of the dictation shown above and has been used with much success in many schools because it gives the students immediate feedback about how they are doing. The students are each given a piece of paper with the dictation sentences on it already and a line above each one. After each dictation is over, the students can look down to check their work. It can be made many ways but, often, teachers start with an easy one and move gradually to more difficult sentences. Also, they are usually based on work the students are/will be doing. Normally, this is not graded or is given simply a “participation” grade because they are encouraged to check their work and correct any errors.
Example: Teacher: “It’s time for a directed dictation. Remember to cover most of it with a book or several papers and not look at the answer until I tell you it’s ok. Move the paper down so that you can just see the first line. I’ll read each line twice. Ready?
Today is Wednesday.
Claudia will go to Xela on Thursday.
How many of you were in class on Tuesday last week?
Once, when Brenda was seven, she went to Guatemala City on a Sunday night.
If you can’t copy all of those papers, you can dictate each sentence and write the answer on the board immediately after the students have finished writing on their papers.
Writing practice can include the alphabet, forms for jobs, stories, letters or many other things.
Sentence Combining: This helps both writing and grammar. Have the students put two smaller sentences together to create a larger one. They can do this on the blackboard, on paper, or speaking.
Example: List A List B
Eugenio likes music. He listens to his stereo.
Patty studies a lot. She plays on Saturdays.
Eugenio likes music, so he listens to his stereo.
Patty studies a lot, but she plays on Saturdays.
Writing Guided by a Sequence of Pictures: Place a series of objects, pictures, or photographs in line across the front of the room. Have the students write a story about all of them in succession. This can be done individually or in pairs. You might be surprised how creative your students are!
Example: The teacher places a clock, a shoe, some corn, and a picture of a bus in front of the class. The teacher explains that the students are supposed to come up with a story in order from left to right. They can write what they want, but it must have at least one sentence for each object. They can hand in the written work, read it to the class, or both.
One sample: “My clock is ugly. So, I put my shoe on it. Then, I ate corn. Then, I rode the bus.”
Another sample:“My clock woke me up late this morning. I was so upset that I pulled too hard on my shoe and ripped it. I didn’t have time to eat the corn my family had for breakfast, and I ran out of the house. Because one of my shoes was torn, I couldn’t run very fast, and I missed the bus. So, I was late to school!”
Another sample: “My friend has a few things she treasures. She has a clock that was given to her by her grandmother. Also, she loves shoes, and one blue shoe makes her particularly happy. One day, she took both of them to her family’s corn field and lost them. She was very sad. But, happily, her sister returned on a bus and found them.”
Journal Writing: Many assignments that we give in class are very confining: they do not allow the students to start taking control of the language for themselves. Having students write little journals with their own thoughts can be helpful. Usually, these are not graded the same as other assignments. The teacher just checks to see that it was done and might comment on some of the content but not errors.
Sometimes, speaking is scary for students. If you help them succeed early on, they will speak more.
Games: There are many games that involve the students and help improve their speaking ability. One is 20 Questions. It helps students learn how they need to change the word order when they make questions. Also, it teaches them the language strategy of working from bigger ideas to smaller ones when they are trying to figure out what someone is saying.
It is simple to play: first, you choose some object that everyone in the class can see: for example, the light switch on the wall. Tell them that you are thinking about something in the room, and they can ask you only yes/no questions to find out what it is. Give them a limit such as 20 questions, twice around the room, or etc. If one of them can guess the thing before the limit is reached, they win. Start at one side, and let each student have his or her turn.
Example: “I’m thinking of something in this room. The class will get two chances for each student. Marta, you start.” “Is it in the front half of the room?” “No. Avilio, you’re next.” “Is it on a wall?” “Yes. Maria.””Is it on the back wall?” “Yes. Jorge.””Is it round?” “No. Emilio.””Is it a rectangle?””Yes. Carlitos.””Is it the light switch?” “Yes! Congratulations, class!”
After they are comfortable with the game, try having individual students pick the objects and the other students ask him or her.
Personal Narrative: Tell the students that they will each tell the class something about themselves. This might be describing their family members, a little story about what happened on the weekend, talking about what they did during a holiday, or etc.
You can have them speak without preparation, with a few minutes to prepare, or with a day or more to prepare. They could speak without notes, or they could read from notes they prepared.
Role Play: After having learned enough words and phrases to be able to do this, students are asked to pretend to be different people. Tell them that they have to talk for a certain amount of time or things said: for example, one minute or finish doing a task such as buying something. Have them talk for only a short time: possibly 30 seconds to two minutes. Give them each their role and what they are trying to do. Students can have fun playing these roles, and they get to practice their English.
Example: “Ok, class. Next, we’re going to practice what we’ve learned by role playing. Otto, you will be a person at a store trying to buy a shirt. Ixim, you will pretend to be the store clerk. Ixim, I’ll give you a piece of paper with two prices on it.”Otto: “Hi.” Ixim: “Hi.” Otto:”I want to buy a shirt. How much is it?”Ishim: ”What kind do you want? We have dress shirts, and work shirts.”Otto: “I want a work shirt.” Ishim: “That will be Q10.” Otto: “Here you go. Thank you.” Ixim: “Thank you.”
Your students can learn grammar by doing speaking, reading, and other exercises. By doing this, teachers can teach their students most grammar in meaningful ways without actually using grammar activities. But, if you feel that you need to approach the teaching by specifically using grammar activities, here are some options below. These can be written on the board, on paper, or given in the form of spoken questions and answers.
Q & A (Question and Answer): The students are asked to respond to questions.
Example: Answer the following question using the future progressive.
What’s happening on Wednesday?
Answer: We will be driving to Chichicastenango.
Transformation: The students are asked to change verbs.
Example: Change the sentence from simple past to the simple present tense.
The girl walked to school.
Answer: The girl walks to school.
Sentence and Phrase Combination: The students are asked to put two sentences or phrases together.
Combine the following pair of sentences into one sentence with a relative clause.
Example: They asked a mayor.
He waved at them.
Answer: They asked the mayor who waved at them. .
Replacement: The students are asked to change both verbs and other words.
Example: Replace the underlined word with the word in parentheses. Make any other necessary changes.
The man was eating tamales by the side of the road. (women)
Answer: The women were eating tamales by the side of the road.
Categorizing: The students are asked to place words into their corresponding categories.
Example: From this list, put the nouns all together in one group. Then, put the verbs in one group.
Answer: apartment, bus, horse, computer play, talk, eat, swim
Fill-in-the-Blank (Cloze): The students are asked to put the appropriate word in the space.
Example: A student who __________________ often can get good grades.
(simple present: study)
Answer: The student who studies often can get good grades.
Expansions: The students are asked to add a specific grammatical item to a sentence.
Example: Add agents to the following sentences.
The cart was repaired.
Answer: The cart was repaired by Jaime.
Thank you! Please enjoy trying all of these ideas, changing them for your situations, and learning more about the many other resources available to help you. Here are a few suggestions:
The Splendid ESOL Web http://cc.pima.edu/~slundquist/links.htm
Dave`s ESL Café http://www.eslcafe.com/
Try to get a variety of books, if you can, and choose the ideas that work best for you. Remember that there is not one book that will answer all of your questions. Each will provide a little more information or different perspective.
There are many differences between teachers and teaching situations, and many books, so a comprehensive list is not included here. Just remember that the more you read, the more options you will have.
Workshops and Conferences
There are English teaching workshops and conferences in Guatemala every year. These can be some of the best opportunities to get new ideas and help with problems.
Every student you help is another life made better.
Thank you for teaching.