Whether it is winter and the snow and ice are all around or whether it is summer and you and your students would relish some way to cool off a bit, ice is always close at hand. The thematic unit that follows explores ice in four significantly different ways.
You can do all of these activities or just choose those that tie in to what your class is already studying. Either way, your students will be shivering with excitement.
I: How To Teach A Thematic ESL Unit About Ice
Break the Ice
An icebreaker is a fun activity to do with your class. Here is one you can do with either a new class or a group that has been together for a longer time, the more students in the group the better. Make a list of twenty to thirty questions for your students to ask one another. They can be Present Perfect questions like “Have you ever ridden a motorcycle? Have you ever been to Europe? Have you ever taken a spin class?” The more your class knows each other, the more specific or unusual your questions should be. Then give each student a blank bingo board (five by five empty grid) with boxes big enough to write the questions in. Ask each student to write some of the questions in random order on the bingo board. They can also make up their own questions and use them in the blanks. Then tell your students to exchange their boards with someone else in the classroom. All at one time, send your students to mingle among the class to ask one another the questions. When someone answers in the affirmative, the student can mark that square. If a student marks five squares in a row, up and down, across or diagonally, he should shout, “Bingo!” and he wins that round. Play as many rounds as you like changing the cards that students use and/or changing the questions in the squares. Your class will learn many fun and interesting facts about each other while practicing their speaking skills. See more icebreaker ideas here: Warmers, Fillers and Icebreakers.
Ice to Eat
Making ice cream is an easy cooking project for your class to do, and it does not require any special equipment. In a small, heavyweight zip lock bag, add ½ c. milk, ½ teaspoon vanilla and 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar (or to taste). Seal the bag tightly. In a large, heavyweight zip lock bag, put 6 Tablespoons of salt with a lot of ice. Place the smaller bag (the one with the milk mixture) into the larger bag (the one with the ice and salt) and shake it about ten minutes until the ice cream thickens. It is a very simple process that almost anyone can do.
One way to integrate this activity into an ESL class would be to orally give the directions for making the ice cream to your students and have each of them follow those directions to make his own bag of ice cream. If your goal is a speaking activity rather than listening, make one batch of ice cream for the class. Ask a discussion question, and whoever is shaking the ice cream is the only one allowed to speak. After she has answered, have her pass the bag to another student who will then answer the question. Either way, once your ice cream has thickened enjoy it together as a class.
Just one note of warning: make sure no one in your class has a milk allergy before attempting this activity.
If you are responsible for adding science activities into your curriculum, this activity will do just that. Stage an experiment to examine the speed at which ice will melt. You will need five ice cubes, some plastic bags, salt and other granulated materials. In this activity, your students will make predictions about which ice cube with melt the fastest. The control cube will be unaltered and placed on a desk to melt. Each of the other four cubes will have a granulated substance applied to it. Students should predict which ice cubes will melt the fastest. You can have your students discuss their predictions in pairs or have them write the predictions down. In each of four zip lock bags, place one of the granulated materials. Use salt in one, soil in another, sand in a third, and a fourth material in the last such as breadcrumbs, ground spices or baby powder. After sprinkling cubes two through five with the granulated substances, place each of the five ice cubes on a desk and have your students observe which ice cubes melt the fastest and which take the longest. Your students should take notes and measure the amount of time each cube takes to melt. Then have your students compare the actual results to their predictions. Were they right? What was the order that the cubes melted in? If you like, have them write a report that discusses their predictions and the actual results of the experiment.
Ice hockey is a sport popular in different areas of the world, but that is not the only icy sport colder weather has to offer. Give your students some independent research time to learn more about one of the following icy sports: ice hockey, ice surfing, ice-skating, curling, ice climbing, broomball, and bobsledding. Then have them present the information they have learned to the class. Each person should take notes on their classmates’ presentations in preparation for an ice sport quiz. After the presentations, you should compile a list of ten to fifteen true/false questions about ice sports and see how well your students listened and how much they understood.
If it is winter and the ground is snow covered, you can take your students outside for an Easter egg style hunt. For an easier game, the day before you play, freeze water tinted with food coloring in ice trays. Then the day of the hunt, hide the ice cubes in the snow for your students to find. To make a more challenging game, hide raw white eggs among the snow and see how many your students can find. Be careful to get them all before you go inside or you’ll have a mess once the snow melts.
Ice can be fun for your class any time of the year.
Use these activities either together or selectively to bring a little chill into your ESL classroom and practice language while you do.