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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Interactive Games

When choosing games to play in the ESL classroom, it’s important to look for games that promote real interaction between the students. 
Yet, students sometimes enjoy playing games that focus on vocabulary and not discourse.  It’s possible to allow students to play the word games while also promoting interaction in the classroom. 
For example, one very popular word game has students think of a word that ends with the last letter of the previous word.  So if the game starts with the word “BEGIN”, the next player must think of a word that begins with the letter “N”.  That student could choose the word “NEVER”, then the next student must choose a word that begins with the letter “R”, etc. 
Instead of having students work alone, have them work in pairs.  Each pair must discuss which word to select, but if a pair selects the same word as another pair, both of the pairs are eliminated.  This version promotes discussion in each pair, and should also encourage students not to choose the most obvious words, such as “THE”, “THEN” and “TOO” etc.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 11:45 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Monday, January 14, 2008

What's the Answer?

Teaching English isn’t like teaching other subjects.  In math and science, for example, there is a definite answer to each question.  The same can’t be said for teaching English. 
There are some situations when an exact answer can be given, for example when a student asks for the English word for a specific thing.  “How do you say chien (French for dog) in English?”   In this case the answer is definitely 'dog'.  But other than exact translations, there are not many situations in which there is only one answer.
As students become more advanced, they ask how to express more detailed information.  “How do you ask someone out on a date?”,  “What do you say when someone in your classmate’s family dies?”, “Is it okay to say bucks instead of dollars?”  Think of all the possible answers you as an ESL teacher can give your students. 
It’s important to make students aware of various expressions that can be used in any given situation.  It’s also important to point out that the answers will vary depending on the speaker’s relationship to the student, the place where the conversation is taking place, and in some cases the age, sex, or occupation of the speaker.
Students like to have one answer; it makes them feel secure and confident when speaking English.  But as students become more advanced, the language becomes more complex.  There is not always one answer.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:31 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Teaching numbers is not the most exciting lesson in the world.  Yet, it is an area that students frequently need extra practice in. 
Even higher-level students may hesitate when trying to read multi-digit numbers.  After reviewing single digit numbers, continue reviewing numbers in the tens, hundreds, thousands, hundred thousands, millions, etc. 
Work on any pronunciation issues as needed.  The “th” sound is sometimes problematic.  Practice reading multi-digit numbers as a group.  Have students work in pairs, give the A students a pair work sheet listing a variety of numbers.  The A students should read the numbers to the B students.  The B students should listen and write down the number they hear.  Have students compare answers.  Reverse roles and give the B students a pair work sheet listing a different variety of numbers.  Repeat the process. 
For a more challenging exercise write the following on the board.
Lunch costs $13.51.  You pay with $15.00.  How much is your change?
Have students work out the change, and if you’d like to review coins in the lesson have the students also work out which coins should be given as change.  The answer in this case would be $1.49.  The coins (in Canadian currency) would be one loonie, one quarter, two dimes, and four pennies.
Modify the answer to suit the currency your lesson is focusing on.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:50 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Jokes are difficult to understand for most ESL students.  Jokes are funny for many different reasons, and it’s not always easy to explain to students why a joke is funny.
Jokes are funny because of the language used in them, and because of the unique meanings the language has in our culture.  Children around age 6 or 7 often become very interested in jokes. They’ve reached a point in their lives when their knowledge of language and culture allows them to appreciate humour.
Advanced adult ESL students who speak English extremely well, may not understand jokes as well as a native speaking child, or find them funny because they lack cultural knowledge.  If ESL students reach the point when they can understand the jokes a 6 year old tells, they have made enormous progress. 
Look at the following joke:
Q:  What did Mrs. Claus say when she looked out the window?
A:  Looks like rain, dear.
Students have to understand the culture to think this joke is funny.  To get this joke students must know that:
1. “Mrs. Claus” is Santa Claus’ wife
2. Santa Claus uses “reindeer” to deliver presents
3. married spouses sometimes refer to each other as “dear”
4. the pronunciation of “reindeer” and “rain, dear” is the same
A six year old will laugh at this joke, but an ESL student might not.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 6:22 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Interactive Games
What's the Answer?

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