Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Describing Houses with ESL Students

It's always fun and interesting teaching your ESL students how to talk about houses. There are just so many possibilities for what to do. One way to start is to introduce a place you have lived. If you are working on the other side of the world (like me), then this glimpse into your own culture will be exciting for the students.

So I like to start by showing a photo of my parents' house, and then talk a little about it. I talk very slowly and put emphasis on any vocabulary I will highlight later - livingroom, bedroom, etc.

After that, I like to teach this house vocabulary PPT:



The house vocabulary from joseklo

I usually make my own vocabulary PPTs but this one is just too perfect to change. It's so packed full of useful words that I certainly wouldn't add anything else, and instead would only maybe remove an item here or there for lower-level students, or to speed things up.

In this sort of class, I like to show a video, too. One fun thing to do is to show clips from MTV Cribs. If you can find them on YouTube, that works very well. I also like using professionally made realtor videos where they show off houses for sale. Typically these are pretty easy to follow and if your students come from a different culture, it will be a very surprising and interesting insight into another world.

In the past, I've used this one:



After that, you'll want to have your students describe the house, or describe their own house, depending on their abilities. If they're quite low-level you'll probably be best having them just point out the rooms and features they saw in the video. If they're higher-level, you can have them use it as a model to present their own house for sale.

Friday, 30 December 2016

ESL Fashion Lesson Plan

This lesson was designed around the Let's Talk 1 chapter, 15B: "Fads and Fashions."

Firstly, I show my students this amusing skit from Key and Peele:



We discuss what is happening, pointing out any useful vocabulary. I try to correct "hat" to "cap" where necessary. Useful vocabulary here is: "jealous," "fashion," and so on.

I tell them that we will now look at fashion in relation to clothes, and that they need to practice the vocabulary for clothing. So I show them this video, which is a bit slow and silly. You might want to make your own PPT instead. I will do that in future.



You can then demonstrate on the board how to add details to clothing by adding adjectives. I point out what I'm wearing and elicit details. For example: "black coat," "smart trousers," "warm scarf," and so on.

I'll then have the students talk about changing fashion over the decades (maybe pre-teach "decade," which will appear again in the book). I show them this video, which always amuses my students. Chinese fashion is pretty conservative even today and it's unimaginable for my students to think of a girl showing so much skin in the 1950s!




This usually gets them interested and sparks their imaginations, so I'll have them work in pairs or small groups to talk about changing fashions in China over the past few decades.

After that, I'll go through the textbook p.68-69 and try to make a point whenever words or ideas are repeated from the videos.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

ESL Teaching Tip: Avoiding L1

I know this blog is normally a collection of teaching resources, but today I want to give you something just as valuable: a piece of advice that will help you produce better English learners.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really is important not to use L1 (the learner’s native language) in class. Many teachers attempt to do so, and they are proud of themselves if they succeed. However, it really is detrimental to the learning process, so please avoid doing it.

Almost ten years ago, when I was first teaching in South Korea, I learned to speak Korean and was eager to show that I knew how to do so. Almost every Korean I met just assumed I couldn’t speak the language, and I wanted to counteract that prejudice and put forth a good impression. Moreover, in class I was desperate to do a good job a teacher, and so I would occasionally use my Korean in spite of the fact that it was supposedly an “English immersion” environment.

I didn’t use much Korean, but you don’t need to in order to derail the language learning process. What I found was that as soon as the students knew I could speak their language – even a little bit – they would stop trying so hard to speak my language. At the time, I was teaching very young children and they were keen to tell me everything they did at the weekend, or all about their favourite TV show. But as soon as they thought I could speak a little Korean, they’d try using a Korean word for some difficult part of the communication process instead of searching for the English equivalent.

When I came to China, I found that the language here is far harder to learn, and it took me some time to get any level of Chinese proficiency. However, by this time I was a bit more savvy, and even when I learned Chinese I would avoid letting my students know that fact. Of course, it stings when you’re students think you can’t speak their language… it suggests that a) you’re too stupid to learn, or b) you don’t care enough to learn.

However, it really is important not to allow L1 interfere with communication. A few times in recent years my students have stumbled upon my Chinese social media profiles and seen that I can use Chinese, and immediately their efforts at communicating in English diminish as they start slipping words of Chinese into our conversations.

I try to put myself into my students’ shoes, and honestly, if I had Chinese lessons and knew my teacher spoke English, I would probably get frustrated with my lack of fluency and resort to using a few words of English here and there. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it would severely impact my language acquisition.


Sometimes people question the value of having native English teachers, but I believe that immersion learning is incredibly valuable. However, as soon as you allow the students to use L1 the benefits start to disappear.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ESL Airport Vocabulary

This PPT offers some great ESL airport vocabulary for intermediate English learners. It works very well for introducing important language in the following areas:

  • at the airport
  • on the airplane
  • people who work there
  • what you must remember (ie passport and boarding pass)

For a more advanced lesson, see here.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Gap-fill Exercise

Here's a fun ESL activity for Christmas - a gap-fill exercise based upon a song that your students are guaranteed to find funny: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

This worked really well for me because I'd just been teaching my students about house vocabulary (lesson coming soon) and so they were tested on "stairs" and "bedroom." I also prefaced this activity with a Christmas vocabulary PPT so they knew "santa" and so forth.

The worksheet is pretty self-explanatory. Just play the song (I like the Jackson 5 version because, in China, people are crazy about Michael Jackson) and get them to fill in the blanks.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Song Lyrics Correction - An ESL Activity

There are just a few more days until Christmas and here's another great activity for you to try with your students.

When I was on my CELTA course, the instructor taught us how to use music in class by giving out song lyrics that were riddled with errors. We had to listen to the song in order to correct the lyrics. It was great fun!

I picked perhaps the most famous Christmas song - Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" - and fiddled about with the lyrics. The point is to make it manageable but challenging. Don't expect your students to know the word "glisten"!

Perhaps pre-teach blocking vocabulary for the song prior to beginning this activity.


ESL City Vocabulary

This Powerpoint presentation gives useful words and phrases for describing an urban environment. It is intended for intermediate level students, as the words are a bit more advanced than the usual "supermarket," "post office," etc., and some of the concepts are slightly abstract.

I have sourced images and definitions from Google which I think illustrate the meaning of the words quite well.

I began my lesson with a discussion on the differences between living in the city and living in the country, and finished by talking about the future of cities. This PPT came in really useful for the vocabulary section in the middle.