Friday, July 30, 2010

Scramble Relay

Purpose: This is a warm-up activity that can be adapted for all levels and used to review any situational dialogue or grammar point previously covered in class.

Preparation Time: 10+ minutes

Paper or index cards, pen or marker

Make 2 complete sets of sentences, one for each of two groups. Limit the number of sentences, based on the level of the group and what can be accomplished in 15 minutes. For higher level students, a whole dialogue, poem or story could be put onto cards. Write each word from each sentence on a separate card. Scramble the words in each sentence and clip them together with a paper clip.


  1. Divide the group into two teams, each team standing around a table.
  2. Place each team’s pile of scrambled sentences in front of the room.
  3. A runner from each team takes one scrambled sentence back to its team.
  4. The team works together to unscramble the sentence. When they think the sentence is in correct order, they send a different runner back to the teacher to whisper the solution.
  5. If the sentence is correct, the runner takes another sentence for his or her team to unscramble.
  6. If the sentence is not correct, the runner returns to the team to try again.
  7. When one team has unscrambled all the sentences, the game is over.


When working with a dialogue, poem or story, ask the teams to put the sentences in the proper order after unscrambling them.

Note: This activity can be done with an individual learner. If your student is open to adding an element of competition, time him/her to see how long it takes to unscramble each sentence or to complete the whole task. Sitting next to the student makes it easy to confirm the correct order, but the student must still get up and go get the next set of cards. The physical movement will help keep them alert and make the activity more interesting.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Using a Written Text to Practice Multiple Skills

Purpose: To use listening, speaking, reading and writing in working with a written text

Preparation Time: depends on time needed to gather materials for pre-teaching vocabulary (see below)

Materials: Selected text, plus copies for learners, markers, white board

Preparation: Plan to spend a little time thinking about how you will create context for the reading. What questions can you ask to elicit vocabulary and student knowledge about the subject? Decide which vocabulary words you need to pre-teach. What pictures, definitions, or examples do you need?


I do it:

1) Create context related to the story.

2) Teacher/tutor reads out loud while students listen. At this point, students do not have a copy of the text.

3) Go back to the beginning and read the first sentence. Ask students to name a key word from the sentence. Write that word on the board. Continue until you have one key word from each sentence on the board.

Note: Be sure to write the words in sequence on the board.

We do it:

1) Ask the class to refer to the key words on the board and retell the story.

2) After the retell, depending on the content of the story, ask students to express an opinion about it, share additional information they may have, infer meaning, suggest solutions to a problem, etc.

3) Encourage students to ask questions about the topic or story.

You do it:

1) Now pass out the story. Students read independently.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Making a Bar Graph with Post-It Notes

Purpose: To help students create and interpret a simple bar graph

Preparation Time: none

Materials: white board or flip chart, markers, post-it notes, pens or pencils

Preparation: Choose a question related to the unit or theme you are working on. This will be the basis of a survey that the students will conduct in class.

For a housing unit, the question might be:
Do you live in an apartment, duplex, townhouse, mobile home, or house?

For a transportation unit, ask:
Do you come to school by bus, by car, by bike, on foot, or by train?


I do it:

1) Write columns across the top of the whiteboard. For example, make 5 columns, one each for apartment, duplex, townhouse, mobile home, and house.

2) Model the activity by asking 2-3 students the question regarding housing. As each student answers, write the response on a post-it note and place it in the correct column.

We do it:

1) Ask a student to take your place and ask the question of several more students.

2) Ask another student to write the responses on post-it notes.

3) Ask the group in which column you should place the post-it note.

You do it:

1) Ask the students to find a partner, preferably someone who speaks a different first language.

2) Students take turns asking each other the question and recording the partner’s response on a post-it.

3) Each pair then goes to the whiteboard and places the post-its in the correct columns.

Note: The teacher/tutor may need to assist learners to make sure columns are clearly separated, so that the final result looks like a bar graph.


1) Ask questions about the bar graph to practice “reading” the information. How many people live in apartments? Do more people live in apartments or houses?

2) Ask students to write sentences about the information on the bar graph.

3) Practice summarizing the information on the graph. For example: Four people live in houses, one lives in a townhouse, and six live in apartments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Best Practice: What is Teacher Talk?

Teacher talk” is everything you say when you're in the classroom. If you are someone who habitually thinks out loud, pay a lot of attention to your “teacher talk”!

Focused, deliberate speaking is most critical in Beginning and Intermediate ESL settings, but even Advanced and GED instruction can benefit from it.

Here are a few points to ponder:

Which do you think is easier for ESL students to understand?
A. "I'm gonna go ahead and ask you all to turn to page 34."
B. "Please go to page 34."

Which statement is the most authentic?
A. "I'm going to introduce myself to you now. 'Hello, my name is Emily.'"
B. "Hello, my name is Emily."

Which definition is most useful to your students during a lesson on the American K-12 education system?
A. "The word Kindergarten comes from the German, meaning 'a garden of children.'"
B. "Kindergarten is school for young children. It's the level before first grade. There is a lot of reading, art, and play."

The answers are all B because they are comparatively clutter-free, authentic, and relevant.

Try tackling a section of your next lesson with your teacher talk in mind.