Monday, December 27, 2010

Starting Class on Time

Purpose: It’s important to start class on time, even if only half of your students are there! Starting on time sets expectations about when students should arrive. Students who arrive early or on time can work independently, or in pairs, on review activities, and verify their answers on their own.

Preparation time: This depends on which activity you’re planning, but remember that once you prepare the materials, they can be used over and over again. Also, think about asking students to help with some of the preparation. This can be a learning activity in itself.

Materials: 3 X 5 or 4 X 6 index cards, markers, pens, pencils

I. Practicing Spelling and Vocabulary

  • Pair dictations from flash cards or spelling lists
  • Put word cards in alphabetical order
  • Sort vocabulary cards
    • Into word groups - words related to weather, words related to jobs, words that are nouns, etc.
    • Sort adjective cards into 1 or 2 syllable words (great for teaching comparative and superlative).
  • Write two statements on the board.
Minnesota is ___________________.(adjective)

Minnesota has __________________. (noun)

Give one student (the “teacher”) 5-8 flash cards that are all true about Minnesota.

The other students use the flash cards to make a sentence, using the models on the board. Write the correct sentence on the back of each flash card. The “teacher” affirms or corrects his/her students. As students advance, make a new set of cards and change the model, for example, making the statement negative or using the question form.

II. Drilling

  • Preposition Cards - Write sentences on the fronts of the cards with a blank where the preposition should be. For example, “He works ___ night”. On the backs of the cards, write the appropriate preposition, in this case, “at”. One student takes the role of teacher, shows the front of the card to the student(s) and affirms or corrects the response.
  • Verb Cards - Make a set of verb phrase cards: work at Pizza Hut, sit in the chair, drive a car, etc. Write a model on the board: He is working at Pizza Hut. Students work through the cards, following the model.


· Change “he” to “they, I, we”, etc.

· Change the model to practice present tense, the negative, a question, or past tense.

· Regular present and past tense pronunciation:

On the back of each card, write the final sound of the present tense, third person singular: -s, -z, or -ez. For regular verbs, write the final sound of the past tense: -d, -t, or -id.

wash the clothes

-ez -t

play with children

-z -d

· Drill irregular past tense with flash cards. Write the present tense on the front and the past form on the back. One partner says the verb in the present tense and the other writes it in the past. The student with the cards checks the other’s work.

· Add in irregular verb phrases as in model above.

III. Checking Homework

Make a transparency of the homework page. Have it projected on the board or wall when students arrive. Alternatively, write sentences on the board. Ask each student as they come in to choose one that they are confident of, and write it on the board or the transparency. Those who haven’t finished, use the time to finish. Ask those who have finished to edit the work on the board, checking for capitalization, punctuation, etc.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pro Con Improv

Purpose: To encourage advanced-level ESL and GED students to use transition phrases in conversation. This activity will help students use more academic language in speaking and in writing.

Prep Time: 10 – 15 minutes

Materials: none

Preparation: Based on the content of past lessons and learner interest, choose a number of subjects that students may choose from. Think about a topic you would like to speak about as you model the activity. Write down examples to illustrate the transition words you’ll introduce at the beginning of the lesson.


I do it:

1. Introduce the idea of transition phrases in speaking (and writing). For this activity, you will focus on connective words used to express thoughts in opposition to each other. Most of us tend to use the word “but” a lot, but there are other options to choose from which are more academic. These include “however”, “on the other hand”, and “then again”. Provide examples of each used in a pair of sentences.

2. On one side of the board, write a list of topics. For example: TV, travel, cell phones, computers, cars, fast food, etc.

3. On the other side of the board, write the transition phrases.

4. Check for comprehension of the terms “pro” and “con”. If necessary, pick a topic, make two columns, one with a (+) at the top and the other with a (-), and ask the students to help you outline the pros and cons of the topic.

We do it:

1. Now elicit sample sentences from the students, using the information you’ve generated and a transition phrase.

2. Ask a student to model the activity with you.

3. Tell the student your topic and explain that you will begin talking about the pros. When they clap their hands, you have to use a transition phrase and begin talking about the cons. Every time they clap, you have to switch course, using a transition phrase before you continue.

You do it:

1. Students pair up.

2. Give them a few minutes to reflect on their topic of choice.

3. Each student has a turn to speak and a turn to listen (and clap!)

“All learning involves conversation. The ongoing dialogue, internal and external, that occurs as we read, write, listen, compose, observe, refine, interpret, and analyze IS how we learn.” – Regie Routman

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sentence Games

Purpose: To explore and discover the “rules” of sentence formation.

Prep time: none

Materials: white board and markers

Prep: none


1) Write a simple sentence on the board, such as “It’s a book”. One by one, students suggest one or two words, or a phrase, which can be added to the sentence.

2) Each student writes in the new word or words and then reads the new sentence aloud. The class then decides if it is grammatically correct.

3) The level of the students will determine the complexity of the sentence. Beginning level might be: It’s a book.

It’s a big book.

It’s a big, red book.

It’s Maria’s big, red book.

It’s not Maria’s big, red book. Etc.

Start with a longer sentence and students remove a word or words to make the sentence shorter. Continue until you can’t reduce the sentence any more.

Replace words in the original sentence to change the sentence completely. The meaning of the sentence can change, but it must remain grammatically correct. As above, each time the sentence is changed, the student reads it aloud and the class decides if it is correct.