“Paper or plastic?” is the question supermarket shoppers have been asked for years, and though there is still much debate on which is the most environmentally friendly choice, ESL teachers should definitely go for paper bags – they can be reused in the classroom for lots of fun, creative activities. Like these, for example:
10 ESL Activities With Paper Bags
Take egg-shaped pieces of paper and write one word in a sentence in each piece of paper. Place the words in a paper bag. Prepare one bag for each team of 2-3 students. Give each of your teams one bag. Students take out the “eggs” and try to form a sentence with the words. The first team to complete theirs wins. This is a fun activity for Easter, but you can adapt it to any holiday or special lesson – use pumpkins for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and stars for Christmas.
Your class can make puppets of virtually any animal they like out of paper lunch bags – lions, zebras, cats, dogs, or even birds. All you have to do is instruct them to use the bottom, folded part of the bag for the face – this is where their hand will go. For example, try the octopus, turtle, or fish templates for puppets – or create your own!
Back to School Backpacks
One of the activities suggested in this wonderful Back to School Arts and Crafts worksheet is making a backpack out of a paper bag. Give each of your students a large paper bag and have them follow the instructions on the worksheet to create and decorate their backpacks. Students take them home and fill them with things they want to share with the class: photos, small toys, books, a card collection, etc…they bring their backpacks to class and take turns sharing.
This works particularly well for Halloween, but you can make masks for any holiday or special lesson. Students take large paper bags and cut out holes for the eyes and mouth. They can then decorate the bags to create their own monster: Frankenstein, Dracula, an alien, even a one-eyed Cyclops. No need to bring a costume for the class Halloween party – they’ll have their masks!
Kings and Queens of ESL Land
Wouldn’t your students love to be queen or king for the day? Take a large paper bag and draw zigzags about 2 ½ inches from the top of the bag. Cut it out and you’ll have a crown for your students to decorate. You can make several from one paper bag. These go great with a fairy tale lesson.
What’s in the Bag?
How about a different way for your students to practice describing things? Put an object inside a large paper bag. A student puts his/her hand inside the bag and feels the object. He/she must describe it: It’s large/small, rough/soft, made of metal/plastic, etc… Take the object out of the bag and confirm if your student was right.
What happens if you want to use a ball in your ESL class, but you forgot the ball? Make one out of a paper bag! All you have to do is stuff the bag with newspaper or any scrap pieces of paper, then either close the top with a rubber band or tape it closed with packing tape. It’s not exactly the same as a real ball, but it’ll get you out of a bind. Make small balls with lunch bags or large ones with grocery bags.
Have your students write letters – and have a postman deliver them! There is a very simple way to make a postman’s bag out of a large paper bag. Just punch one hole one either side – reinforce the holes by sticking some masking tape over them before you punch through so they won’t tear. Tie a long ribbon or string from one side to the other, and the bag’s ready to be filled with letters.
Students must write a letter to another classmate about what they did over the weekend or a special holiday – Student A writes to B; B to C and so on, so everyone gets a letter. They place their letters in an envelope and address them. The student who finishes his/her letter first gets to be the postman, collects the letters in the bag and delivers them.
Brown Paper Cards
Students cut out cards out of a large paper bag with pinking shears. They may choose to cut out simple rectangles, heart-shaped cards, or stars depending on the holiday or celebration you’ll be making the cards for. Students punch holes around the edges of the card and then thread ribbon, string, or yarn around it. They tie the ends into a ribbon and decorate the card. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas – these make great cards for any holiday.
If you take your groceries home in paper bags, make good use of them. By using them for crafts, you will save on other forms of paper, like poster board or construction paper.
And that’s not only great for the environment. It’s great for your students, as you’ll be teaching them the value of reusing materials.
For more of our popular “What You Can Do with…” articles go to our ESL Essentials section. You’ll never run out of ideas again!