Getting from one place to another is not always easy. Very rarely can a person travel on a straight path from one point to another, so it is important for ESL students to learn how to give directions.
In this activity your students will gain the tools they need to successfully direct someone from point A to point B and maybe enjoy the scenery along the way.
How To Teach Directions In Your ESL Classroom
Where Would You Go?
Most international students take special pride when talking about their home countries. Ask your students to suggest some points of interest to a visitor to their home countries. Make sure your students know the grammatical structure for giving advice. “If you go to [my home country], you should see [point of interest].” Students can suggest locations tied to sports, history or entertainment. Encourage your students to give whatever details they can about the locations.
To further the idea of visiting a new place, provide some travel brochures for your students to look at. You can find these types of brochures at rest stops along the highway or at visitor centers for cities. Give your students time to look through the brochures and think about what they would say about one point of interest in their country. Have your students make some notes on information they would give to visitors using the brochures as an example.
How Would You Get There?
Once your students are thinking about interesting places to visit, start a conversation about the different modes of travel. As a class, brainstorm as many different modes of travel as possible. Note that this activity will likely leave your students in need of specific vocabulary, so you may want to allow dictionaries during the discussion. Make the list as detailed as possible. Do not forget less popular modes of travel including burrow, submarine, roller skates, dune buggy and any others you can think of. To elicit these travel modes from your students, you may want to mention settings in which those types of travel would be most appropriate, the Grand Canyon for example. After you have exhausted your list, pair your students and have each person tell the other what means of transportation he would use to get to that point of interest in his home country. Encourage your students that a one-word answer is not enough. Before you take the plane overseas, what mode would you use to get to the airport? After the plane landed what mode of transportation would you use?
Can You Give Me Directions?
Finally, have your students give specific directions from your classroom to their place of residence. Before starting the directions, compile a list of vocabulary words that are necessary when giving directions. Include right, left, go straight, turn and stop. Then have each student write out very detailed and specific directions how to get from your classroom to the place that he lives. It should be so specific as to include instructions like, “Stand up from the desk. Turn right and walk around the desks to the classroom door. Turn the doorknob…” Pair your students together and let them read each other’s directions. If a student has questions or is unclear about the directions, the writer should clarify or revise his directions.
As a final project, have each student write directions from your classroom to the school library, cafeteria or other location nearby. Again, have your students write the directions, but this time they should not write the final destination on the paper. The final sentence in each set of directions should be, “You have arrived.” Then collect and redistribute the papers to your class. Take some time and allow each student to follow the directions on the paper exactly. When each student has finished following the directions, have him write down his location on the bottom of the paper and then return to the classroom. The writer of the directions should then look to see if the person following his directions ended up in the correct location. If all goes well, the intended destination will be the actual destination.
For more activities on giving and asking directions, visit BusyTeacher’s section ‘Directions: Giving And Asking’
Did I Hear You Correctly?
If you are feeling especially adventurous and your students are willing to accompany you, you can make a game out of giving directions. Once again, pair your students together. Have one student stand at one end of a playing field or the classroom (though a larger area is better in which to play). The other member of the pair should stand at the other end of the location with a blindfold on. Once all the teams are ready, you should place an item somewhere in the playing area between the team members, just be sure it is not too close to any one player. Each seeing player should then shout directions to his teammate across the field leading that person to the item you left for them. The first player should remain stationary throughout the game. The first player to reach the item and his direction-giving partner are the winners. You can then repeat the game with the players’ roles reversed. This time move the object to a new location. This activity will challenge your students’ ability to both give and understand directions.
What would we do if we had to figure out on our own how to get from place A to place B? Most people would probably stay in one location for their entire lives.
Empower your students to give and follow directions by teaching them the necessary vocabulary and then giving them practice with directions. You never know where they may end up if you don’t.
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