Are you a soccer fan?
I’ll admit I’m not a big follower of professional sports. I know especially little about professional soccer, and perhaps it’s to my shame I’d never heard of the world cup until I taught internationals. (Believe me when I tell you I’ve come a long way in that area.) But in my experience, professional soccer is a popular passion among ESL students. Of course not everyone is a fan, but a great many are. And I always like to tie my students’ passions into my language lessons when possible. So if your students are frequently talking about football and you want to piggyback on their interest, here is a language unit you can in class which is inspired by the world cup. Score!
6 Steps for an ESL Lesson Inspired by the World Cup
Start your world cup unit with a bit of conversation. It will get students thinking about the topic and remembering vocabulary they already know when it comes to soccer and professional sports.
- Are you a sports fan?
- What types of sports do you like to watch? Play?
- What does it mean to be a champion?
- Does your home city/country have a professional soccer team?
- What do you know about the World Cup?
Sports are rife with idioms. How many do your students know? Give students a list of sports idioms and have them work with a partner to guess the meaning of each idiom. Once students have made their guesses, give them a randomized list of the meanings of the idioms on the original list and see if students can match each idiom to the correct meaning. Finally, explain each idiom to your students and see how many they knew or were able to guess.
If I have heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times- my students using the word football when they mean soccer. I’m used to it now. In fact, I look at it as an opportunity to talk about the differences in different dialects of English, particularly American English and British English. If you are teaching American English, you might want to take inspiration from “football” to talk about some of the differences between the two dialects of English. You can do something as simple as point out certain words that the dialects use differently, or you might do an entire lesson on the differences. You can look at the resources on One Stop English for ideas of how to talk about the differences.
Do you know how to play soccer? What are the rules? When giving directions on how to play a game, most of the time you will use the imperative form in English. You can give your students a chance to use the imperative by teaching the rest of the class how to play a game from their own imaginations.
Have students work in groups of three or four to come up with their own game. Tell them they can use any items in the classroom. It can be a sport or a board game and the possibilities are endless, but it must be original.
In a short presentation, have each group teach the class how to play their game using the imperative form in English. Include any visuals or supplies (such as a game board) that are necessary for play.
After all of the presentations, have the class vote on which game they want to learn how to play. As a class, learn the rules and then test play the game. Have each person write a review – what was good, what was bad, what they think should be changed.
How good at sports commentary are your students? Find out by playing a short segment of a soccer game without the volume turned on. (You can find plenty on YouTube.) Let pairs of students take turns as commentators for the segment in front of the rest of the class, and let the rest of the class vote on who gives the best commentary. Then play the clip again, this time with sound, and see whose commentary was most like the commentators in the video segment.
Did you score the winning goal in your high school soccer championship? Were you the one who spurred your teammates on to achieve greatness in the name of a fallen comrade? We all like to tell stories of our great achievements, “fish stories” if you will. Give your students the chance to show off with their own fish story in the realm of sports. Give them a list of twenty or so words associated with soccer. Then challenge each person to write a story of their own amazing achievements (true or fabricated) using as many of the target words a possible in their stories. If you like, make copies of the stories for the entire class to read or have your students tell their stories from the front of the room and let the rest of the class guess whether each story is true or just in someone’s dreams.
Making predictions is half the fun of following sports: who will win, how many goals they will score, how many penalties a team will take, who will make the championships, etc. Give your students a chance to practice mixed future tenses by making predictions about the run for the world cup. Then periodically, have students practice their mixed past tenses by evaluating how many of their predictions came true as the best teams make their run for the championship.
Who doesn’t love to coach from the stands? It is generally true that sports spectators often think they know better than the coach when it comes to winning games and how to best play to the team’s strengths. Give your students a chance to practice their modal verbs by giving advice to the coaches of their favorite team. Have each person write ten statements using modal verbs such as should, ought to, might, could, had better, and must telling the coach how to lead their favorite team to a win. If you like, display students’ advice and have the class vote on who would be the best coach among them.
If you didn’t get called for a penalty in a championship game, would you admit the fact afterward? If you lost the game for your team, what would you admit to them? Questions like these are great for using the second conditional in English. Review with your students how to use the second conditional in English and then give them some questions like these to answer with a partner or to write out answers to turn in. You’ll get to know more about your students’ personalities as well as their grammar skills.
Have your students get up and get moving and test their reading comprehension at the same time by having them read highlights of a game from an online or print newspaper. After students read the highlights, they should work with a group of three or four to reenact those events for the rest of the class. You will know how well they understood what they read through their actions, and your class will enjoy watching their classmates letting out their inner soccer stars.
Whether your country’s team is headed to the world cup or not, it’s a good time to celebrate with a soccer themed language unit.
Take your best shot, and see if you don’t end up champion of the classroom.