Monday, March 28, 2011

The Three Rs

Purpose: to help learners understand what recycling is and why it’s important, as well as to provide listening practice

Prep Time: time needed to view the video and think about how you’ll explain vocabulary

Materials: index cards, copies of worksheet, equipment needed to show video, realia needed to clarify examples of reducing, reusing and recycling

Prep: gather realia, locate index cards, make copies of worksheet


1) Setting the Context and Introducing New Vocabulary:

Start by giving students some examples of reducing, reusing and recycling and ask students if they have done any of these things or anything similar and why. It is not necessary at this point to use the terms reduce, reuse, or recycle. See below for some possible examples you could tell students.

Examples of reducing: using cloth grocery bags, using plastic containers to store food, use your own water bottle, write on both sides of a piece of paper, turn lights off when no one is in the room

Examples of reusing: giving clothing to a younger brother or sister, buying something that is used (a car, books, appliances), new uses for boxes or jars

Examples of recycling: using paper, plastic, glass, cans to make more of the same thing

Teach students the terms reduce, reuse, and recycle, referring to the examples that you discussed. Then elicit/discuss reasons why doing these actions are important.

Please note: If students aren’t familiar with recycling, avoid turning the lesson into the topic of how to recycle; this would make a good follow up lesson. Instead, focus on what it is and why it is important.

2) Practicing the New Language

For this portion of the lesson you will need access to the Three Rs video found here:

You’ll also need copies of this fill-in-the-blanks worksheet.

Introduce the Three Rs video by telling students that they will be doing a listening activity called the Three Rs. Ask students to guess what the Three Rs are.

Play the video once and ask students what they remember.

Pass out the fill-in-the-blanks worksheet and, if necessary, watch the first part of the video and do a couple examples as a class. Then play the whole video a couple times while students fill in the rest of the blanks.

Check the answers for a couple of students and then refer other students to the ones who have the correct answers until every student has the answers. If there is interest, play the video again while students compare their answers to what they hear in the video.

3) Follow-Up Discussion

Students can work with partners or in small groups to come up with some more ideas about ways that people can reduce, reuse and recycle and then report their ideas to the rest of the class.

4) Wrap Up

Pass out an index card to each student. Write the following questions on the board for students to answer on their index cards.

1. Write your name

2. What are three things that you learned today?

3. What questions do you have about the Three Rs?

Read the cards and choose some questions from the cards to discuss/answer as a class.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What is it?

Purpose: To practice vocabulary, descriptions and sentence formation

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Materials: Index cards

Preparation: Choose nouns that your students know and that relate to their goals. Write each noun on a separate index card or piece of paper. Lower-level learners can be given pictures.


  1. Give each student a card with a word on it. They should write or say three sentences that describe the word. For example: It is yellow. It has a peel. You take the skin off it before you eat it. Encourage students to use complete sentences.
  2. After writing the sentences, each student should read them out loud. The other students in the class should try to guess what the word is.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Best Practice: Activating Learners' Prior Knowledge

All students bring knowledge and experiences from the world and their lives into the language classroom. A reading passage or a spoken message means something different to each person, based on the individual’s experiences, education, and culture.

One of the challenges in teaching a diverse group of learners is that everyone comes to class with different life experiences and expectations! As you prepare to do an activity, think about how you might prepare your student or students. How can you link the material to what they already know? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Introduce the topic. “Today we’re going to talk about making a doctor’s appointment.”
  • Ask questions. The kinds of questions you ask are dependent on the level, of course. If possible, find out what they do in this country to make a doctor’s appointment. Ask them to compare it to practices in their home countries.
  • Assess language. What language do they already have to talk about the topic?
  • Use visuals and props to help pre-teach new vocabulary. Model and demonstrate as much as possible.
  • Explain the purpose of the activity.
  • Make sure students understand their task or tasks. Consider asking them to repeat your instructions back to you or demonstrate them to you.

Now, let’s put you in the role of the student. The following video demonstrates clearly, and with humor, the value of activating prior knowledge or schema. If the two men in the video were ESL teachers, what suggestions would you have for them, besides the importance of revealing the topic to you before they start? What questions could they ask to assess your knowledge before the presentation? What vocabulary might they pre-teach? What props or visuals might be helpful? What tasks or activities might they give you to complete during and after this listening exercise? Now watch the video and replay it as many times as you need to.