Now that spring is in full swing, it’s time for a new set of language building activities.
Try some of the following with your ESL students.
Try These 10 Language Activities in April
Are you a prankster? Are your students? If your students don’t know about it already, explain the tradition of playing practical jokes on friends and family April 1st. Then as a reading exercise, have your students do some internet research on popular practical jokes. Have each person choose one practical joke they find amusing and write a paragraph, using the conditional tense, to explain what he or she would do to play the joke on someone else. Then put students in pairs. Each person should pretend to have played the practical joke on his partner. The partner should then use the conditional to explain his or her reaction to the joke.
If your students are not ready to use the conditional when talking about practical jokes, they can still think about how to pull off the perfect April 1st prank. Rather than writing in the conditional, have your students write a paragraph or essay explaining the following: How to Pull Off the Perfect Practical Joke. To keep is simple, have students write, in numbered steps, how to accomplish their goal. For students at the intermediate level, talk about transitional phrases between ideas and paragraphs. Have students use these transitional phrases (first, next, then, after that, etc.) to write a coherent composition on how to perfectly pull off a practical joke.
International Children’s Book Day
April 2, 2014 is International Children’s Book Day. It commemorates the birthday of legendary children’s author Hans Christian Anderson. All over the world events are held in celebration of this day, each aimed to encourage children to read. To celebrate in your ESL classroom, invite someone from the community to read their favorite children’s book to your class. Then ask the members of your class to bring in a favorite book (or picture of their favorite book if the original is not available) and introduce the class to it through a short presentation or show and tell session. Each person should say why the book means so much to them and why they recommend others read it. Make sure you talk about one of your own favorites as well to get the discussion started. If you like, create a display of some of your favorite children’s books for your students to read during free learning periods.
Writing for Children
Though you can spend a lifetime learning how to write books for children, you don’t have to. Start with an idea and a few pictures and your students will be able to write and illustrate a simple story for the children in their lives. Before they put pen to paper, have a brief discussion about what makes a good story (character, plot, setting, and conflict) teaching your students the appropriate vocabulary, and then challenge your class to write their own books. If possible, have students type and format their story before illustrating it on the printed pages. When everyone’s books are complete, read them to the class and hold a vote to see whose book is most popular among your students.
April 22, 2014 is Earth day, and all over the world people will be talking about environmental protection. Introduce your students to some environment related vocabulary (recycle, reduce, reuse, pollution, carbon footprint, conserve, resource, landfill, global, etc.). Then have pairs of students discuss things they should/could/may/might do to help the environment using these modal verbs. If necessary, review how to use modal verbs before the discussions.
How Does Your Garden Grow
April is garden month, and the second full week is garden week. It’s the perfect time for your students to plan their imaginary garden. Start the activity with a brainstorm session in which you list plants a person might grow in their garden. Depending on where your students are from, their answers might vary greatly. Be sure to offer up your own thoughts, too, and you’ll have come up with a great list of plant vocabulary. Then have students plan a garden for themselves. Give each person a large piece of brown construction paper. Gather several seed catalogues (try Burpee, Park Seed, or other free catalogs) and have students cut and paste their gardens on the paper. Have each student present his or her garden to the class pointing out what plants they chose to plant, and then post all the gardens on a bulletin board. Then in small groups or as a class, you can then discuss community gardens, what purpose they serve, and whether they are a good or bad idea either.
Plant Your Own
If your school has the available land, see if you can plant a class garden in an undesignated spot on the school’s property. If you can’t plant a garden outside, have students start a container garden in your classroom. Have each student choose one plant they will try to grow. As a reading exercise, have students research the best ways to cultivate their plants and then have them apply that knowledge to the class garden. You might also want students to keep a gardening journal. Their journals should contain any information about their plants – when they planted the seed or seedling, when it first grew, measurements as it progressed, changes in growth, and when flowers or vegetables were harvested. Once you start getting flowers or crops, share them with the class or the rest of the school. You might even have your students talk to another class about how they grew their items!
April showers bring May flowers, or so they say. Do your students agree? Divide your class into groups of three or four to discuss whether this saying is true in their experience. What other changes have they noticed in the environment as we have gotten further into spring? Then have groups talk about what weather generally goes along with each season. This is a good opportunity to review weather words. Give each group a list or have them brainstorm their own lists of weather words. Then have each person tell his group which season is his favorite and why. If you like, divide your class according to their favorite season and have each of the four groups create a collage depicting that season. Have the groups present their collages to the class before posting them in your room.
Time for Spring Cleaning
Do you embrace spring cleaning each year? Explain to your students that many people use the spring weather as an excuse to clean their houses from top to bottom. This time of year they may clean items that they do not touch the rest of the year. Have your students work in groups of three or four, not to clean but to brainstorm as many items as they can that a person might use when cleaning their house. The list should include things like a broom, vacuum, sponge, paper towels, bleach, and feather duster. To make the activity even more fun, time your students. Give them five minutes to come up with as many items as they can. At the end of the five minutes, have groups share their lists. If more than one group has the same item on their list, they must all cross it out. After every group has shared the items on their lists, teams score five points for each item that remains on their list. The team with the most points wins.
Classroom Egg Hunt
April 20, 2014 is Easter, and this egg hunt is perfect for beginning level students. Start by writing your current vocabulary words on plastic Easter eggs (available at your local dollar store). You will probably want to have more than one egg with the same word on it. You will need between five and ten eggs for each student. Then, write up three to four different sets of fill in the blank sentences, each using a different selection of the vocabulary words. The words on the eggs will complete the sentences, so pay attention to how many sentences use each of the target vocabulary words. Hide the eggs in your classroom or at another suitable location. When it’s time for the egg hunt, give each student a set of fill in the blank sentences. They will have to find the correct vocabulary word (egg) to complete each sentence in their set. When a student thinks she has all the correct eggs to complete her sentences, have her bring them to you to check.