Being able to talk about jobs is very important to ESL students, no matter what their level or situation.
Younger children will need the vocabulary to have conversations and be able to express their interest. Older children and adults will need to actually use these terms in the workplace. They may need to use it as they go on job interviews and go out into the workforce. Whatever the case, all ESL students will need to be able to discuss occupations. The following activities will help your students learn these terms and use them well.
Teach about Occupations Using Practical Ideas
Start at the Beginning
First, you will need to teach your students the names of various common occupations. How in-depth you go with types of jobs will be determined by the level and interests of your students. If you are teaching a group of business people who have a working knowledge of English, you may want to review the basic occupations they will need for everyday conversation (teacher, mail carrier), but you may also want to focus on more specialized positions that commonly occur in their field(s). If you are teaching younger children, you may want to stick with community helpers (firefighter, police officer). If you are teaching beginner adults who tend to work in certain fields where they live, you may want to cover the basic community helpers and branch out into the popular local jobs to help them as they go out into the work force. Regardless of the population, begin with large pictures clearly labeled with the name of the occupation. Review as you go, making sure the class is picking up on proper pronunciation.
Bring on the Action
After your students have a good handle on the basic occupations you want to cover, you will want them to be able to describe what it is that the job entails. In other words, you will need to cover the verbs that pair with each occupation. To do this, review the jobs you have just covered. Now introduce the verbs. If it is a beginner’s class, you will want to keep it to third person singular, for example: “A teacher teaches.” If it is a more advanced class, you can use this to review conjugation of verbs, such as “I teach, you teach, he/she teaches,” and so on. By the same token, depending on your class, you may take this as an opportunity to actually teach conjugation of verbs.
The next idea you will want to teach is where these people work. To do this, you will need to have large pictures of the typical settings of each job. Teach the names of the settings, if necessary. For example, you would have a picture of a classroom for a teacher. You also need cut outs of the various occupations you have covered. To introduce the concept, show the workers (the cut outs) in their correct settings. Then remove them from their settings and have students come up and put them in their right places. When holding up a new worker, you can ask, “Where does a doctor work?” The student who puts the worker in the right setting should respond, “A doctor works in a hospital.” Repeat this exercise as necessary as long as it holds their interest. You can also have a matching worksheet with these pictures for them to do in pairs for reinforcement. Make sure they are verbalizing the sentences as they make the matches.
The Right Direction
You may use this activity as a follow-up to a lesson on cardinal directions or you may use it to teach cardinal directions in this context. You will need a simple map with a grid of city blocks which are labeled. This map needs to have at least five of the settings you introduced in the last activity, for example a hospital or a school on it. You will need a map key to tell what each of the settings is. You can start by asking students to point to the place where a doctor works. Do this several times with several occupations. Next, have the students start at a certain place on the map, like the school. Tell them to go three blocks east and tell you who works there. Then have them go two blocks north and do the same, and so on. Make sure they are verbalizing what they find and not just pointing as they did to start. Students may then break into pairs and do a worksheet you have prepared to continue with the same activity. If you have volunteers in your class, now would be a good time to use them.
This activity should be a follow-up to the basic occupation activities or be used for a more advanced class, as it requires some writing. Start the activity by telling the students what your dream job is. Explain why, where you would like to work, and so on. Letting the students know a bit about you personally strengthens your relationship with them which helps them be more confident in speaking aloud and sharing their own thoughts. After you have done this, have them name some dream jobs: actor, doctor, astronaut and so on. Talk about why some people want those jobs. Next, tell the students to pick their dream job. Give them a worksheet to fill in which talks about why they would want that job, where they would work, what would be the best part of that job and so on. Tell them they may draw a picture of themselves doing that job if they would like on the paper. Have the students share their dream jobs. If feasible, talk about some steps a student could take to get their dream job.
Learning about occupations is very important because regardless of age or level, students will use these terms in everyday life.
Occupations are often what allow us to go further in life, so it is a great topic to address with your students as they continue to improve their English.