At the Top of Their Game: How To Teach an ESL Lesson with the Guinness Book of World Records

At the Top of Their Game
How To Teach an ESL Lesson with the Guinness Book of World Records

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 19,054 views |

People are fascinated by extremes, and there is no better place to see the extreme behavior of humans than the Guinness Book of World Records.

Within its pages are short, easily understood articles that describe the outrageous things that people do. Take your class on an in house adventure that include a range of language games with these fun-filled activities based on this fascinating book, and expect your students to be amazed.

How to Proceed

  1. 1

    Reading

    Make a few copies of the Guinness Book of World Records available to your students to peruse. Ask them what their impressions are, and then present them with the following questions as well as any others that come to your mind.

    • How is the book organized?
    • What types of things do people hold records for?
    • Which articles do you see that seem outrageous?
    • Which ones impress you most?
    • Are there any records that you might want to attempt to break?
    • Is it positive or negative to compile these records in one place? Why do you feel that way?
    • What changes would you make to the book?

    Give your students some time to discuss these questions in groups, and then open the discussion to the class as a whole. Ask your students if there are similar publications in their native countries and what they know about them.

  2. 2

    Grammar

    Talking about world records is an opportune time to review comparative and superlative adjectives. Comparative adjectives are those that compare two or more items, stating that one is superior or inferior to the other(s) mentioned. Generally, these adjectives are formed by adding the suffix –er to the end of the adjective. He is bigger than his brother. She is happier today than she was yesterday.
    However, when the adjective is three or more syllables, instead of using the suffix –er, your students should use the word “more” with the base form of the adjective. That woman is more beautiful than a movie star. Albert Einstein was more intelligent than John Wayne.
    Review this structure with your students and then brainstorm a list of about twenty adjectives. Then give your students five to ten minutes to write comparative statements about themselves and their classmates. Follow with an opportunity for them to share their creative comparisons with the class.

    Superlative adjectives follow a pattern similar to comparative adjectives. Rather than –er as a suffix, superlative adjectives take the suffix –est. Instead of using the word “more,” superlative adjectives use “most.” As you are reviewing these forms, make sure your students are clear that while a comparative adjective compares two or more items, a superlative adjective is used to describe the one object that surpasses all others. For example, rather than saying Jack is smarter than Jill (comparing the two children) a superlative adjective would be used to say that Jack is the smartest boy in the world. In this case, there are no others in the world who rate above Jack in intelligence. Give your students a chance to practice using superlative adjectives by making superlative statements about the students in your class using the list of adjectives you already generated. Again, give them a chance to share with the class.

  3. 3

    Speaking

    After your students have had some time to become familiar with the book, ask them why they think these people were able to set these records. Was it because of a special skill? Was it luck? Were any of the records simple trickery? On the board, write the words talent, skill, trick and luck. Review the meaning of these words if necessary, then have your students discuss in small groups which of these four qualities is most important. Make sure your students are able to give support for their opinions. Then have each group present to the class what they agreed was most important or where their opinions differed.

    After the discussion, ask each of your students to share with the class what they would do to set a record for the Guinness Book of World Records. Make sure each student explains whether this achievement would be because of talent, skill, trickery or luck.

  4. 4

    Writing

    As a final activity with the book, have your students each choose one person who holds a record in the book. Tell your students to imagine that they could have a conversation with this person, and explain that an interview is a conversation where one person asks questions and the other person answers them. Many people give interviews including movie stars, politicians and sports figures. Ask your students to write a ten-question interview that they would like to give to the record holder. They can ask questions like, “Why did you want to break this record? What do people think about you because of it? Has your life changed at all since you made it into the book?” If you have advanced students, you may want to challenge their listening as well as interview skills by playing this segment from Katie Couric on how to conduct a good interview, available on YouTube. Check their comprehension skills by reviewing the points that Couric says make a good interviewer. If you like, you can have your students partner and role-play the interview that they have written in front of the class – one student asking the questions and another pretending to be the record holder and answering the questions.

Whether you have a class full of future record holders or not, your students are sure to find the information presented in the Guinness Book of World Records fascinating, especially if they have never actually looked inside its pages.

While your students are imagining their fantasy record placements, they will be practicing their language skills and becoming better students of English without even knowing it.

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