One of the first things ESL students, particularly adults, want to learn is the vocabulary for everyday routines.
This pertains especially to routines in which they may encounter others who only speak English. One of these routines is doing laundry. Some people may do theirs in a laundromat, where it is likely they will meet others who speak English and will need this vocabulary to communicate. Even those who do their laundry at home need to buy the supplies, and need to be able to ask for help with them when necessary. The following activities will help teach and reinforce vocabulary for doing laundry.
Teach Your Students about Laundry Using New Ideas
Show Me the Laundry!
The best way to teach laundry vocabulary is to set up a laundromat in your classroom—and don’t worry, you don’t have to actually go out and get a Maytag! You’d be surprised what a big piece of cardboard decorated to look like a washing machine and another decorated to look like a dryer can do. You’ll have to do that ahead of time, of course. In addition, have friends and neighbors save empty laundry detergent and fabric softener containers for you so that you have enough for everyone in the class. The multisensory experience of having the bottle and then pretending to pour the detergent in while using the vocabulary is going to help the students retain these words. You’re also going to want some fake debit cards. You can even cut them out of card stock and label them debit cards. Finally, you’ll want some clothing and laundry baskets.
You may ask students to bring in two articles of clothing and have some of your own as a backup, and you may want to ask friends and neighbors to loan you their laundry baskets for the day as well. Have pictures with labels to teach everyone this vocabulary to start. Show them the picture and have them repeat your pronunciation. Include all nouns such as the detergents, the machines and forms of payment. Include verbs such as “fold,” “pour” and “measure,” and adjectives such as “wrinkled” and “clean.” With a student or a volunteer, begin to go through the motions of doing laundry, using the vocabulary as you do it. Have the students take turns doing the same. This activity will be enjoyable and will likely get some laughs, as well as instill the vocabulary for doing laundry in their memory.
As we all know, bad things sometimes happen to good laundry. You may get bleach stains, shrink something in the dryer, or turn your white t-shirt pink. English learners want and need to know how to express these issues as well. Laundry Emergency is an activity you can do with them to teach the vocabulary for these cases. Again, it is key to bring in actual items that have these problems. If you or your friends do not have any of these items on hand, it may be worth it to make them so ahead of time for the class’s sake. Bringing in a shirt with bleach stains all over it and then giving them the printed and oral vocabulary for it is much more effective than just looking at the words on a page. Show your examples and teach the vocabulary first. When it is fairly clear that most students are able to use the vocabulary with some prompting, hand out “emergency” cards face down to each student. Depending on the number of students in your class, you may give them one or two cards each. When it is their turn, the student must act out (using the props you have brought) what the laundry emergency is. The other students will take turns guessing what the term is. It is similar to charades, but you are using the props to aid in understanding. Again, students will enjoy themselves as this activity is bound to cause some laughter along the way.
Role playing is very important when anyone is learning a new language. It allows them to practice without the pressure of actually being out in public and using English. There are a couple of different levels of role playing. The first one involves actually giving the script to the students so that they can practice it. They do not have to come up with the wording on their own, but they are using the target vocabulary. When first starting this, you may want to put the short script up on the board and have the whole class practice in unison. Then you can pick volunteers to act out that script using possible scenarios in a laundromat or purchasing laundry supplies. A higher level would be to give out the scripts and not go over them first, but allow the students to read from the scripts as they act out the scene. Finally, for a more advanced group, it may be possible to just give them a scenario and have them act it out, similar to improvisation techniques. All of these role playing ideas will certainly help to reinforce your students’ laundry vocabulary.
For a more advanced class on laundry, it would be great to include English idioms that use the words “wash” or “laundry.” Some examples would be “airing your dirty laundry,” or “washing your hands of the situation.” Knowing idioms always helps the advanced learner to sound more like a native speaker. Understanding the literal meaning of the idiom is, of course, important. That is why you would first teach (or just review, depending on the ability level of the class) the basic laundry vocabulary and scenarios. Once those are understood, it is fun to include some of these English idioms. More advanced learners will appreciate knowing them and being able to use them in various everyday situations.
Visiting a Laundromat
Optimally, you and your class could take a trip to a local laundromat and put your vocabulary skills to use. Depending on your situation, that may actually be possible. If it is, be sure to do it as a follow-up to an initial class on laundry terms. Do not try to teach the terms as you are there, as that would probably be challenging for many students and somewhat waste your time on the trip. If the students take a trip and already have the vocabulary down, they can put it into practice. It would be great if you could communicate ahead of time with the supervisor there so that some of the employees there could talk to the students and help them use their vocabulary while on –site. Taking a trip to the laundromat and putting that vocabulary to use would be the best way to ingrain it in their minds. All of the students who took the trip will definitely remember it, and therefore remember the related vocabulary.
Teaching about everyday chores such as laundry can be tedious, but as you can see in this article it can also be fun.
It certainly is an important part of learning English. Remember to include as many hands-on activities as possible, and have fun teaching laundry!