Teaching is more than just communicating ideas. It’s just as important to make learning fun. While some teachers do this naturally, others need some help keeping the class engaging and interesting. Whichever type of teacher you are, here are some ideas that are sure to take your teaching to the next level.
Make learning fun! When most people think of a classroom and learning, the first word or thought that might come to mind is boring. That is one thing a teacher never wants his or her class to be, or how the students should remember a lesson or the whole learning process.
Sure, some lessons might be boring; we all find different things interesting and not interesting. For the most part, however, you want your students to enjoy your class, to have fun while learning, and hopefully think of it as their favourite class. That might not happen every time, but it is something to aspire to and keep in mind when planning your lessons.
In this article, we will look at 5 ways to make learning, especially for English as a Second Language (EFL), fun and interesting. Not all of them will suit your students, or the facilities where you teach, but there’s bound to be something you can add to your lessons to really engage your students.
First, though, let’s look at how to use a movie in your ESL lesson.
Tip #1: Including a Movie in Your Lesson
Many teachers, or should I rather say, teacher supervisors, might think that showing your students a movie in class is you choosing the easy way out when you might not have prepared for a lesson in advance. This could certainly be true, but you can use a movie or scenes from a movie as a valuable teaching tool.
- Focus on a grammar point (and help put it in context for the learners).
- Help the students practice gist listening skills.
- Practice vocabulary (and again, in context).
- Discuss and debate by using the topic in the movie as inspiration.
Further to the above-mentioned points on how you can use movies constructively and how it can augment a lesson on a specific topic, movies allow your students to be exposed to a variety of accents – and that can even inspire a role-playing activity – and listen to authentic speech. You can even decide to turn off the sound, have your students watch the movie in silence and work in pairs or a group to put their own dialogue to what they see.
Tip #2: TED Talks
TED Talks has partnered with National Geographic and Cengage Curricula and rolled out three English curriculums:
- World English, which teaches basic reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills.
- 21st-Century Reading, which is aimed at improving reading comprehension skills, from graphs and charts, to inspire community action.
- Business English, which tackles grammar, vocabulary, writing and reading through a business perspective.
You can easily find inspiration from these TED Talks and also the “Ideas Worth Spreading” videos on www.ted.com to add something extra to your lesson, either in the form of basing your lesson around one of the topics in one of the curricula or using some of the activities are extra-credit for students to complete in addition to their normal classroom work.
Tip #3: Including Social Media
According to Pearson, social media is ‘a global phenomenon that touches all countries and languages – so use it when you teach English.’ You can use social media, in all its forms, to bring the real world (and context) to your classroom.
One way is to create an online community where you can share interesting topics, facts about English, and tips for making learning easier. Another way is to teach Internet slang and acronyms that are commonplace on social media (and instant messages) to further expand your students’ knowledge of English. This could also inspire an activity whereby they have to communicate on a social media platform and practice what they have learned. Whoever uses the most acronyms, wins a prize. Or, for homework, they have to find 5 other acronyms (not taught in class) and the meaning thereof.
Tip #4: Smartboards are not a Choice
Studies by Harvard and Columbia Universities have found that the use of a smartboard in a classroom increases retention by up to 38% and it can certainly add a bit more fun to the lesson, too. The use of a smartboard in your classroom can open up lesson possibilities as you can:
- Include multimedia lessons and presentations with audio, video and animations,
- Show projects and presentations
- Have a virtual field trip
- Display real-life language scenarios
Should your students ask you a question and you might not know how to respond, quickly bringing up a YouTube video or image could be a lifesaver!
Tip #5: Add Different Activities or Games
For new teachers, it is easy to always rely on the few games and activities that they know and that work in the classroom. Students, however, will get bored if you use the same types of activities over and over again, so don’t hesitate to try new ones. If they don’t work, reflect on the why after class. Were the instructions clear enough? Could they have been even clearer? Did you forget to ICQ? Did you demonstrate or model how the game works and what you want your students to do?
There are an abundance of resources for games for younger learners and even the not-so-young learners; don’t think that adults would be averse to playing a game or two. You might find that you avoid bringing games to an adult classroom, but even our older students need to have fun while learning. The British Council has a bunch of ideas for activities for different age groups and also games across the different English proficiency levels that might prove useful.
These are just 5 ways in which you can make learning fun and interesting for your ESL students, and there are many, many more of course. What methods do you incorporate into your lessons and planning to make your students enjoy your class?
About the Author
Denine is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel. For her educational background, she has an MA in Politics, with a dissertation written on post-conflict peacebuilding, a BA Journalism degree, a TEFL and CELTA certificate, and also a few certificates in various other short courses.
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