Flowers are blooming, and summer is just around the corner.
It must be May. Here are some language building activities that celebrate this sunny month and also build language skills in your ESL students.
Enjoy the End of Spring with These Inspiring Activities
Our Favorite Teachers
The first week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week. We all have teachers who have made a big impact on us at different points in our lives. Ask your students to think of a teacher who has had an impact on them. Then lead a class discussion on different ways you can describe a person. You might want to have half your class brainstorm vocabulary for physical descriptions (lanky, barrel chested, blond, etc.) while the other half of the class brainstorms vocabulary to describe personality (easy going, generous, patient, etc.). Make copies of each list for the members of your class, and then ask each person to write a three paragraph description of a special teacher from their past. The first paragraph should be a physical description. The second paragraph should describe the teacher’s personality. The final paragraph should explain how that teacher had an impact on the writer. Display the compositions along with hand drawn portraits of the teachers for your students to read.
Post Card Collection
Did you know that the first week in May is National Postcard Week? Perhaps it’s because in May 1872 the first U.S. postcard was introduced. Postcards are a great, simple writing assignment for ESL students that also has practical applications. In honor of postcard week, start a class collection of postcards from all around the world. Purchase several postcards or make your own to put in a learning center. Encourage students to write postcards to friends and family all over the world. Their notes should explain that your class is forming a postcard collection, and students can ask their friends and family to send a postcard to your class. As postcards come in, read them to your class and then display them on a free bulletin board. You will be surprised at how quickly the space will fill with pictures from around the globe.
Cartoons are a classic part of childhood, and ESL students are no exception when it comes to loving cartoon characters. In honor of cartoon appreciation week, the first week of May, invite your students to bring in pictures of their favorite cartoon characters. If you can, make copies of the pictures so you can give a set to each group of three students in class. Have students discuss the different emotions they see on the cartoon characters. How do artists communicate different emotions through their characters? Have groups brainstorm a list of as many different emotions as they can and note how cartoon artists communicate these feelings through their drawings. Follow up by having students draw their own cartoon characters displaying one of the emotions on their lists.
May is Better Sleep Month, and wouldn’t we all like to catch a few more Zs at night? If you teach adult ESL students, odds are that many of them struggle to balance getting enough sleep with meeting the rest of their daily obligations. Have your students do some internet research as to why sleep is important. Then have each person give a three to five minute presentation about how to maintain a good sleep routine.
In 2014, Mother’s Day is Sunday May 11th in the United States. For most people, it’s a time to show their mothers how important they are and how much they appreciate them. Unfortunately, most people can’t do for their mothers everything they might like to. Put your students in pairs and ask them the following question: if money and time (as well as time travel) were no object, what would you do for your mother? How would you show her you appreciated her? Have your students use the conditional structure to talk about what they would like to do for dear old mom. At the end of the discussion, have each pair share their top two ideas with the class.
May is hamburger month, and these days the American classic can take on countless variations. Print off the burger section of several restaurants’ online menus, and have groups of two to three students look over the menu and note all the different words used to describe the burgers, what is on them, and how they taste. Then have these same groups come up with four or five original burger recipes of their own and write an burger menu for them. Make copies for everyone in your class and have them vote on their favorite burger (no fair voting for one from your own group). If you have the resources and the weather is right, celebrate with a cookout and a burger bar.
Pickle Taste Test
The third week of May is international pickle week, and there’s no better reason than that to have a pickle taste test! Bring in several types of pickles (dill, kosher dill, gherkins, bread and butter pickles, etc.) and label each jar with a letter from the alphabet. Have students sample each pickle and write a short description of how it tastes. As you do, talk about different words you can use to describe how something tastes. Then take a class vote to see which pickle is most popular.
The last full week before Memorial Day is National Backyard Games Week. Have your students plan their own backyard game celebration by inventing original games that can be played in your school yard. Have groups of three or four invent a game that can be played at your school with the resources you have available and write out the instructions on how to play. Have each group share their game with the class, and then go outside to give each new game a try.
The Kentucky Derby
What are the greatest two minutes in sports? According to race fans, it’s the Kentucky Derby, which will be held on Saturday, May 3, 2014. Have your students heard of the Kentucky Derby? What do they know about it? If you know a racing fan, invite him or her to your classroom to talk about the popular event. Before your guest speaker comes, have each student write five questions about the Kentucky Derby. After the presentation invite students to ask any questions that your guest speaker has not already answered. Close out the activity with a discussion of what your students learned from the speaker.
Monday May 26, 2014, is Memorial Day. This day commemorates those who have died in service in the U.S. military. If you teach adult ESL students, many of them may have done military service in their home cultures. Several countries have mandatory military service for both men and women. Have your students discuss the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory military service. If you have veterans in your class, ask them to share what they learned during their military service time. You may choose to hold a debate arguing for and against required military service if you teach advanced students.