In an ESL classroom, a pile of old magazines can be a godsend. Magazines are highly versatile resources and offer amazing potential not only for classic clipping, collage and art projects, but also speaking activities.
And to prove it to you, here we present 10 creative ESL speaking activities that only require the use of a few magazines and great deal of your imagination:
How to Use Magazines in Your ESL Classroom
Current Events Reading and Speaking
Particularly with advanced adult students, magazine articles from magazines like Time and Newsweek spark discussion and debate. Choose an article that suits your students' level, make enough copies for all, introduce vocabulary, present the topic through an engaging warm up activity, then read. End the lesson with a debate or discussion on the topic: try to present specific thought-provoking questions, rather than a simple, “Discuss!” See our other article ‘How To Teach Current Events to ESL Students’ for more on teaching current events.
This is a great activity for teens or beginners who are into celebrities. Magazines like People will work best in this case: the more celebrity pics, the better! Use celebrity photos to spark comparisons: Arnold Swatznegger is taller than Tom Cruise. He's also bigger. But Tom is a better actor. Who's the most talented actor of them all? Or songwriter? See what your students have to say!
A Search for Words
Little ones LOVE cutting up magazines. Ask them to look through a pile of magazines and cut out all of the fruits and vegetables they can find, or people playing sports, or clothes - you choose the set of vocabulary you want them to practice. Once you have all of their cutouts, prompt them to say whatever comes to mind about each: Apples are red. I love apples. I don’t like tomatoes. I hate lettuce. I eat bananas every day for breakfast, etc…
This a wonderful way to practice tenses like the present continuous and not have to resort to the same illustrations your students have already seen countless times before. Choose a photo from a magazine - make sure it's a scene where there's a lot going on, like an airport, restaurant, a family doing things outdoors. Simply show them the picture and ask: What’s happening in this picture?; What’s the father doing?; What’s the mother doing?; etc.
On the Cover
Magazines are also excellent authentic materials that provide a great deal of information about more cultural aspects. Choose magazines that cater to specific audiences or shed some light into the American culture. Show your students the cover and ask them what they think this magazine is about: is it an entertainment, fashion, or news magazine? Who or what is on the cover and why? Ask them to guess what each story is about based on the headline.
Focusing on Headlines
The headlines themselves may spark great speaking activities, as well as a glimpse into newspaper and magazine headline language. Before asking students to open the magazine, list some of the headlines featured in the magazine and ask them to say what they think each article is about. Write a list of topics that correspond to those headlines. Ask students to match the right topic to the right headline.
Where Would You Find Information on…?
Bring several different types of magazines to class, the greater the variety, the better. Give your students a few minutes to browse through each and get a feel for the content. Then ask them: where would you find information on the latest iPhone apps? Where would you find information on dog breeds? What kind of person would buy Rolling Stone? What kind of person would buy Car and Driver? What interests do they have?
Topic of Interest
Ask students to browse several magazines and choose one article or topic that interests them. Tell them that they can read the article, but they must be prepared to tell the class about it in their own words.
What Was That Question Again?
Choose a magazine article that features an interview or information on a celebrity. Ask students to think of what questions the interviewer asked to get this information. Ask students to supply any other questions they may want to ask.
Find the Differences
Show students two magazine pictures that present a similar situation: people in an office, people playing sports, people showing different emotions. Show students each set and ask them to tell the class what these pictures have in common and how they differ.
Choose unusual, abstract magazine photos and let your students’ imagination run wild. Choose magazine ads for a variety of products and discuss marketing or advertising strategies. There are as many ways to use magazines in an ESL classroom as there are magazines in a newsstand. But no matter which activity you choose, make sure you give your students a chance to speak up!