Developing effective ESL classroom activities for college students and adults is fun because you have a lot more freedom to choose topics and activities than you do with kids. Depending on your employer and required curriculum, you can select more materials based on your own interests and the interests of your students, which will make your lessons more engaging and your activities more fun. When you are interested in what you’re teaching, it’s much easier to capture your students’ attention.
The problem many teachers encounter is that the Internet abounds with materials and classroom activity ideas for teachers of young children, but as students get older, materials become more scarce and more boring. The good news, however, is that developing effective ESL activities for older students is not that hard, and you can have more fun with it once you have a good starting point.
If you love grammar, this is a good place to start. You can develop an infinite number of activities based on any grammatical structure you teach.
Once students have a firm grasp on how to form and when to use a particular structure, you can give them exercises or activities to practice using it.
Don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel here. Once you know what you’re teaching, it becomes much easier to find activities to support your lesson. There are countless books available, and the Internet is full of information, games, exercises and activities.
Sometimes referred to as "skill," function is what you want your students to be able to do with the language. They need specific language abilities for all these skills:
If you start with one of these language functions in preparing your lessons, you will also teach grammar and vocabulary, but you will do it within a specific context. For example, for grocery shopping, think about the kinds of conversations you have when you go grocery shopping.
As you plan a language function lesson:
After all of that, you’ll have plenty of lesson material.
Content-based instruction starts with a text or subject area and teaches vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, listening and speaking through it.
To many ESL teachers, this is the really fun stuff. For example, if your students are interested in science and technology, you can find a million different articles in magazines like Scientific American and Popular Science. You can also find scientific articles written in simplified English on the website English Online.
Say you find a story in the news about music and the human brain. You’ve automatically got:
But don’t stop there! What else can you find on the subject? How else can you add to and stretch the topic? Is there anything the students can further research and present to the class? Are there projects, experiments or surveys they can conduct to use their language skills and learn more about music and the human brain?
You don’t have to use legitimate news sources for content-based instruction. Pick up a celebrity gossip magazine, and you have a hundred lessons at your fingertips – reported speech, cultural standards of beauty, gossip, vocabulary, family trees/relationships, dating/marriage, you name it!
YourDictionary ESL experts have prepared a printable lesson plan on the topic Music and the Human Brain to give you more ideas for activities and to illustrate the teaching flow. It is shown at the beginning of this article.
No matter where you start – grammar, function or content – developing effective ESL classroom activities for older students should be fun. It will take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find lesson materials everywhere!