One advantage to teaching ESL in a school setting is, no matter what age your students are, you probably have a library at your school. A library is always convenient for research and reading material, but there are many more activities you can do in a library to help your students improve their language skills. Here are some ideas you can try with your class the next time you take a mini-field trip to break up your regular class routine.
Try These ESL Activities... in a Library!
Books are not the only resource your library has to offer. Most library collections boast subscriptions to several magazines, and these magazines offer a far greater subject range than the magazines you bring into the classroom from your own limited mailbox. You can give your class several activities centered around the magazines they find on the library shelves. Start by having your students each choose a magazine that interests them. Their choices may be business related, hobby or crafts themed, social and celebrity magazines, news magazines or any other that grabs their interests. Have each student browse the articles and headlines and choose one article to read in depth. Using the information from that one article, have your students distill the information. You may want them to write an outline which focuses on the structure and organization of the article. You may have them write a summary of the piece in which they must decide which information is most important and which details can be left out. You may have your students write an opinion piece in which they agree or disagree with what the author has written. You may simply want your students to select unfamiliar vocabulary words and try to define them from the context of the article. Any of these activities will help your students improve their English writing skills. At the same time, they will be engaging with the subject matter since it was of their own choosing. You can even have your students check the magazine out for further use throughout the week.
In a section of the library perhaps near the magazines or maybe on another floor, most libraries also have a collection of videos available to patrons. If you are lucky enough to have a library that also has audiovisual equipment you and your students can use, you can assign numerous video activities to your students while your class is at the library. You may encourage students to view a play or movie which corresponds to something you have read as a class. If so, challenge your students to come up with 5 or more ways the written material and the video material differ. Also list 5 ways they are the same. You can ask your students to view a documentary and relay the information from that video to the class in a presentation. If you decide to do this, giving your students some time to do further research on the project will also be a benefit to the presentation. Your library may have instructional videos or lectures that your class can watch. If so, those videos are useful for teaching your students how to take notes during a lecture. Give the class some instruction in note taking before heading to the library, and then let them watch a video and take notes on it at their own paces.
Your school may have an independent computer lab, but if it does not, the library often has several computers available for students. With internet access, your students can do countless activities on computers! Have your students watch videos on YouTube and react to them in a written piece, answer comprehension questions, or write their own skits modeled after the one they viewed. You can assign specific videos, perhaps from a local television channel’s newsroom, and give your students comprehension tests. Teach your students how to do effective online searches by choosing the right keywords, and then have them practice choosing the web pages that will best meet their research needs. You can even show your students how to use an interlibrary loan system if it would benefit their future studies! There are also many sites that offer interactive grammar quizzes that would benefit your ESL students.
Have you ever thought to yourself that the librarian is your best friend? If not, you might want to consider the possibility. The folks that run the library are a great resource for you and your students. Ask one of the library workers to give some instruction to your students about the resources that the library has to offer. This will challenge their listening comprehension and also give them tools for further study. If your students are too young for library research, ask a children’s librarian to read one or more selections to your students to practice their listening comprehension. You may want to ask them to summarize what they learned from the librarian or discuss the information he or she presented in small groups once you return to class. You may even want your librarian to explain to your class how to apply for a library card and then have them fill out the applications!
There are limitless activities you can do with your ESL students in your school library, and the ones here are only a place to get you started.
Of course, the activities you choose to do will depend upon the resources your library has to offer, the ages of your students and what language skills you want to reinforce. No matter what you choose, the change of scenery from the classroom can be just the spark your students need to get them even more excited about learning English, and the library will give them the tools they need.