Whether school started in August or September marks the beginning of the semester, school is now back in full swing.
It’s the start of new classes, new students, new challenges, and new joys. Here are some activities just perfect for the onset of fall, and they will also help your ESL students learn and improve their English language abilities.
Make Good Use of These Fresh September Activities
It’s All in the News
The first week of September is American Newspaper Week. Though not as popular as it was in past decades, the newspaper still holds lots of information, and it has many practical uses in the ESL classroom, too. Even beginning level students can read certain sections of the paper including weather maps and theater schedules. Advanced students will find feature articles a challenge for their reading abilities. To celebrate American Newspaper Week, bring in a newspaper and make copies for your class to read. You can copy articles, classifieds, maps and weather, schedules, or headlines. Your students will not only challenge their reading abilities, they will see that no matter what their level, their English skills can be put to practical and real life use.
Then and NowDo your students know what the world was like when their grandparents were young?
September 7, 2014 is National Grandparents Day. Do your students know what the world was like when their grandparents were young? How has the world changed since then? Using online or print resources, have your students look up information about the year their grandparents were born. Then, have them write two paragraphs comparing those times to times today. The first paragraph should be about the similarities between then and now. The second paragraph should be about the differences. This is a good opportunity to review past and present tenses.
Get Your Chicken On
September is national chicken month. It’s designated to help promote the sales of chicken, but it’s a good time to eat the tasty meat, too. Almost everyone has a favorite chicken recipe. Whether it’s pot pie or finger licking fried, the versatile meat can be full of many different flavors. Have your students think about their favorite way to have chicken. Give students some time to jot down notes about how that dish tastes and why they like it. Then have a class discussion about different ways someone could describe how a food tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. End your discussion by giving each person a chance to describe their favorite chicken dish, how it tastes, and why they like it.
This Is How You Cook It
Take your chicken celebration one step further with cooking demonstrations. Would it be exaggerating to say there are millions of chicken recipes available for those who are willing to look? Maybe, but there is no question that your students will find some chicken recipe they are eager to share with the class if they take the time to look. Using the resources on nationalchickenmonth.com, another cooking site, or personal experience, have individuals or pairs of students choose a chicken recipe to demonstrate for the class. Not every classroom is equipped, however, to do cooking demonstrations in class. If your classroom is a go for cooking, invite your students to bring in food and cook for the class. Be sure to include sampling as part of each presentation. If your room isn’t equipped for cooking, however, don’t skip the demos. Just have students pantomime as they instruct the class on how to make their favorite chicken dish. As students present, you can do a pronunciation and fluency evaluations as well.
September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, and it might be the right time to take your ESL students on a trip to the local library. Though your school probably has a library, getting a card for the nearest public library can be a good reading experience for your students. Most libraries require patrons to fill out a simple application to register for a library card. Taking your students to the library and helping them read and fill out the application will give them experience completing an application, a skill they are sure to need for the future.
World Gratitude Day
This year, World Gratitude Day is September 21. The day was originally designed to help people be thankful for all the things they have. In the spirit of this day, have your students make a list of all the things they are thankful for. Their list should be written in full sentences that start, “I am thankful for _______ because…” Not only will this activity improve your students’ vocabulary, it’s also a good time to talk about complex sentences and dependent clauses. For little bit more of a challenge, have students start their sentences with “because” (the dependent clause) and make sure they punctuate the sentence correctly.
I’m Thankful For…
In the U.S. we often use Thanksgiving as a motivator to appreciate what we have, but why wait till November to do what you can in September. Have your students choose one person in their lives for whom they are thankful. Then, show students examples of thank you cards. Set out a collection of inexpensive thank you cards (you can often find these in the dollar store) and encourage your students to write their own thank you cards to the person they appreciate. In addition, you can do double duty with the project and teach your students how to properly address an envelope. Encourage your students to mail the cards to their friends and family once they are complete.
National Book Month
September is National Book Month, and it’s a great opportunity to challenge your ESL students to read a book in English. Depending on the age and English level of your students, you may want to have several picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, or abridged novels on hand and let your students choose one to read independently. If you are not sure what books would be best for your students, ask your local librarian for suggestions. After reading their books, have your class members give a short presentation on their book, telling their classmates the major plot points as well as whether they liked it or not. If you like, have students create a visual aid to use during their presentation.
Paper or Electronic?
These days, the e-book is becoming more and more popular. Your students may even be able to get their text books in e format. Put your students in groups of two or three to discuss the differences and similarities between traditional books and e-books as well as the advantages of each. After discussing the advantages and drawbacks, have each person share which they would rather read. Take a class vote, and invite willing students to share with the class why they prefer the type of book they do.
National Dog Week
The last full week of September is National Dog Week. Most people tend to prefer either dogs or cats as pets. The two types are both loveable but are very different in personality. Have your students discuss with a group of three or four students whether they like dogs or cats better. Before the discussion, you might want to brainstorm a list of ways to describe a person’s (or animal’s) personality. Then encourage your students to use these words in their discussions.