When teaching English, it’s important to keep your students (and yourself) engaged in the subject and one of the best ways to do that is through little activities that you can complete, whether it be solo, group, in-class, or as homework.
Most teachers will use the typical vocabulary and grammar exercises associated with English lessons, but there are some more original and more effective ways to teach English and ensure your students are having fun. (As a bonus, you’re also likely to have more fun.) These activities will help to cement your student’s English knowledge without them even realising because they’ll be applying what they already know to an exciting activity.
Why is that important?
Most people learn better through doing, which means practically applying the knowledge in the real world. It’s similar to learning to drive. You have a workbook packed with important information that you need to study before you get behind the wheel. However, this alone isn’t enough to help you pass your test; you actually need some practical driving experience.
Plus, using English in non-classroom settings will force the brain to work in new ways, creating new pathways, and increasing the brain capacity of the individual. (For those of you interested in the specifics, here’s the scientific explaination.) Basically, it’s a win all-round.
Now, you still will often want to use your more traditional activities - so don’t throw out that course book just yet – but some creative exercises can really help to complement them. Don’t worry, if you’re unsure what activities to choose or how to get your students involved; we’ve rounded up some of the best for you below and we’ve gone over how to use them in class.
This is actually a brilliant way to put your students’ English skills into practice because it relies on the student reacting to what someone else has said or done, just like in real life, and there’s a huge emphasis on reacting in the moment.
Students will have fun acting out silly skits, particularly if you can find some funny premises and props for them, and you’ll have fun watching. You could even make it harder by making certain words off limits, so students will have to think up synonyms.
Top tip: You can also use this as a spoken English exam at the end of the term.
This is perhaps the best activity on the list because you actually get to eat some delicious food at the end of it and the promise of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies would inspire anyone.
You might wonder how this will help you teach English to your students, but it’s a really fantastic way to get them used to saying the English names for utensils and ingredients, encompasses reading in English by following the recipe, and students can practice speaking in English when giving instructions to their fellow students about what needs doing next. You can also test them by asking if the recipe calls for butter or margarine by holding up both from the fridge and asking your student to pick which one you need.
Just as sugar, eggs, flour, and chocolate turn into cookies, the basic ingredients of the English language turn into fluency.
Every student has a favourite subject that they cannot step away from. For some, this might be a school lesson, like the Kings and Queens of France or Dinosaurs, but for others, it may be something completely different, like Arianna Grande or your hometown football team.
Get them to do a research project on a topic of their choosing that they can present to the class. Not only will they love the assignment because they get to learn more about their favourite subject and call it homework, but it will also improve their reading, writing, and speaking English skills. Depending on the subject, they may even learn English words that they’d never have heard in the classroom, i.e. brontosaurus.
Reading is a naturally immersive experience because the reader will delve into the fictional world. This makes it the perfect activity for helping to teach English as your students will be so eager to find out what happens next that they’ll forget they’re supposed to be learning and it will all sink in unknown.
A great idea for a homework assignment is to choose a book for your students and get them all to read it (or a chapter) in their own time. Tell them to prepare to discuss their thoughts on what they read and then, in the next lesson, you hold a sort of proto book club, where everybody can discuss (in English!) their thoughts on the book. This will combine learning written and spoken English.
This is a fun and unique way of practising English that can also serve as a record of how far students have come. Students will love it because they get to be creative, cut and stick images, and express themselves. Don’t get too caught up in getting the “right” supplies. All you need is a notebook, pens, glue, and photos or magazines.
Don’t be afraid to make these personal. You can have your students write about their favourite bands, their family, a typical day in their lives, and even their hopes for the future. This will also make a great keepsake for the student or their parents.
We know that it can be difficult to start teaching outside-of-the-box as it were. So, if you’re interested, but don’t know where to begin, here are some tips.
Take five minutes during your lesson to have your students complete a short task, i.e. read a magazine article and then discuss it.
Talk to your students
Ask what exercises they’d be interested in trying and for feedback on the exercises you’ve completed. Starting a dialogue on this will only get your students more invested and could help you find some awesome new exercises you didn’t even think about.
Hand out responsibility
This could be assigning a homework assignment (read the blog for more information on making homework fun), i.e. going to an English shop and talking to the clerk while making a purchase, or it could be giving them roles in the exercises. For instance, one student could be responsible for picking out the reading assignment and another could pick discussion questions.
Incorporate the five senses
Most English teachers will only rely on sight and sound for their lessons, but incorporating touch, taste, and smell can be a massive boost. This is because the majority of people learn through doing rather than seeing or hearing. Here are some ideas about doing that:
- Use “touch and feel” books (or have the students make their own)
- Have a blindfolded taste test of popular snacks and get your students to describe the taste. (Check for food allergies first!)
- Place different smelling objects (i.e. flowers, popcorn, mints) into paper bags and have the students describe the smell
Hopefully, this has helped you figure out some new and exciting ways to teach English to your students. Remember, the only limit is your imagination.