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Nothing helps an ESL class relax more than some good old-fashioned laughter. And isn't that what April Fool's Day is all about?
On this day when so many take the time to play pranks and practical jokes, give your ESL students the chance to join in the fun, and who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire them to play some pranks of their own. Here are some ideas for April Fool’s activities for your ESL class.
Fun April Fool's Day Activities
A Prank with Appeal
There’s no better way to illustrate the meaning of a prank than to simply play one. You will need a ripe banana and a toothpick. Stick the toothpick into the banana, preferably where there's already a spot. Move the toothpick left and right inside the banana, and cut through the fruit - make sure you don't cut through the peel. Take out the toothpick and repeat five to six times on different spots on the banana.
Now in class, tell you’re students you’re in the mood for a snack. Give the banana to one of your students and ask him or her to peel it for you – you can pretend you’re busy doing something else, like erasing the board. Witness your students’ looks of surprise and bafflement as they see the banana has been sliced inside the peel!
Briefly explain to your students the tradition of playing pranks for April Fool’s Day. Tell them they can play this prank at home, and show them how to prep the banana. Other pranks your students can try at home include switching sugar for salt or replacing fresh eggs with hard-boiled ones.
Fool Me Once…
There are a great deal of expressions and phrases with the word “fool”. Some of the most common are:
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
A fool and his money are soon parted.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
Introduce these, or others, to your students and ask them to explain the message the phrase is trying to convey and to which situations these phrases may apply. Recommended for upper-intermediate to advanced students; however, there are plenty of other shorter expressions that you may use with students in lower levels, like “a fool’s paradise” or “fool’s gold”. You will find these and more at PhraseFinder.com.
April Fool’s Reading
Here are two great options for April Fool’s reading activities:
The Very Bad Yorkshire Joke – This worksheet comes complete with introduction and follow-up activities. See if your students get the joke!
April Fool’s Day – HeadsUpEnglish provides this great reading task, which also comes with audio you can download (simply right click where it says Listen Now and go to the Save Link As option to download the audio file to your computer), plus a worksheet you can use in class.
For this writing assignment, ask students to come up with their own practical joke or prank. Make sure they write the materials that will be needed first, then, the steps for the setup, and finally the execution of the prank itself. Walk around and supply hints or ideas as needed. Students share their pranks with the class, then, vote for the best one!
A Fool’s Debate?
This is a great speaking task for intermediate to advanced students, whether they are teens or adults. Discuss what makes a practical joke appropriate or inappropriate? Where should they be played? What lines should never be crossed? When does good old-fashioned fun become a painful embarrassment? Now’s a good time to review the real meaning behind April Fool’s – that it should be a day of fun for everyone, rather than simply a good opportunity to have fun at someone else's expense.
Watch Videos - Just for Laughs!
Just for Laughs is a hidden camera show that best illustrates the true spirit of practical jokes. Watch some of these pranks on VideoBash with your students and you will have a classroom full of roaring laughter. Discuss people’s reactions: how do they react when they realize they’ve been fooled? Make sure you choose videos that are appropriate to your students' ages.
So, if you’ve been focusing too much on grammar lately, or giving your students way too much homework, lighten up! Laughter is the best medicine, right? Forget about reported speech for one day and try these fun April Fool's activities instead.