Warm-up Activity using For & Since

I use this activity as a warm-up when talking about the present perfect and using “for” and “since.”  This works well as a follow up review activity for lower level classes or a refresher for those who are more advanced.

Briefly explain why we use both “for” and “since” in the present perfect.

For:  a period of time in the past (5 days, 6 minutes, 20 years etc)
Since: a point in time in the past (2004, yesterday, last week, February etc)

Once they have a decent understanding of the rule write FOR and SINCE on the board. Above the word “FOR” write “STAND” and above “SINCE” write “SIT.”  Explain to them that you will call out either a period of time or a point in time and depending on what they hear they must either sit down or stand up. Go through a few practice rounds with them.

What you do from here is up to the specific class itself. If I have a lot of confident students who are good friends with each other I turn it into a race and the last person to stand or sit has to create a sentence using the period or point in time I gave.

I don’t do it this way if the class is mixed level because I don’t want to single out any one student who may not understand so I let them know that the first half of the class to sit or stand correctly is safe but anyone else could be called upon to make a sentence. That way I can control a little better who has to speak.

It’s fun to trick the students by sitting and standing with them for the first few and then doing the opposite of what they expect when I call out the period or point in time.

This activity is a lot of fun and is great as a warm up or closer activity to get the students moving around!

Survival (teaching the infinitive)

Deserted Island

Survival on a deserted island

I absolutely love this lesson because it is a great way to get students working together and having fun while getting the hang of an important grammar point. The infinitive form of verbs.

to + verb
to cut, to start, to help, to protect etc.

I also like this lesson because it’s easily adaptable to levels and you only have to change the expected outcomes between beginner and advanced students.

Materials: One worksheet (which I will upload in a couple of days)
Time: Approximately 80 minutes

Warmer:
I start this lesson by doing a simple brainstorming activity to get the students thinking about the types of items they would want with them to survive on a deserted island. How you do the warmer is up to you but I like to be a bit direct and to the point with this as other parts of the lesson will take up more time. (students will undoubtedly mention things like, tent, knife, flashlight, blanket and other items they associate with camping)
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ESL Lesson Plan: Relative Pronouns (no preparation)

This is an activity I like to use when teaching relative pronouns. It can be adapted to any age group or level just by changing the difficulty of the examples and expectations of the students. The best part is it requires NO materials or preparation and is great when you need to come up with a lesson quickly.

TARGET LANGUAGE: WHO, WHERE, WHICH, THAT

Warmer:

I usually start this lesson by walking into the classroom looking confused. I say to the students, “I FORGOT!” then, “What’s that woman called who teaches math and has three daughters and is really nice?” at which time they’ll name the teacher. Then I’ll shout again, “I FORGOT!” What’s that place called where you can quickly go inside and buy snacks or drinks but it’s not a supermarket?” (mini mart) … again, “I FORGOT!” by the third time they should be shouting “I FORGOT” with you and laughing along at your silliness. Use as many examples as you’d like to get the students excited about the lesson.

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ESL Activity: Superlative Olympics

Objective:
This is a great activity to get the students engaged through interaction and competition. Let’s face it, there is very little interesting about grammar so I’m always trying to figure out a way to get them to understand the topic with out realizing they are learning. It’s called the Superlative Olympics but you can also use the comparative to compare students with each other. The students will compete in several events to win gold, silver and bronze medals based on their performance. I’ll explain in more detail in a moment.

Superlative Olympics
Set up
After just a brief introduction to comparative and superlative adjectives it’s time to set up the activity. Divide the class into groups of about 3-4 students. Let them choose a country they are going to represent in the Olympics. Try not to be offended if no one chooses your native country. Next, hand out a prepared work sheet that should include a table with four columns. First column will have the events and the other three will be for the names of the gold, silver and bronze winners in each category. For each event each team will elect one student to participate and they will come to the front of the class and either sit or stand depending on what the event calls for.
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ESL Activity: Have you ever…? (Present Perfect)

It seems like I’m teaching the past perfect every week in at least one of my classes. Since I love to incorporate geography into my lessons it can often be interesting to find out where students have been and also get to talk about my travels with them.

Here are the rules:

Set up:

You can split the students into small teams or do this individually depending on the dynamics of the class. I write a number of categories on the whiteboard such as food, cities, shops, countries, activities etc. Have them list 5 things from each category that they can say they’ve had experience with. Encourage students to choose more unique things such as strange foods or adventurous activities.
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A look back on 2011 and ahead to 2012

The last couple of years have been some of the best of my life so far. 2010 saw the completion of my BA from University, my 30th birthday and the breaking free of a job I didn’t like but kept at for the entire decade. I managed to complete my degree in the amount of time I planned once I decided to go back in 2007.

2011 was even better but for different reasons. I set off in January around the world on an adventurous trip through the Horn of Africa and a Middle East journey that fell short due to the Arab revolutions early in the year. I got my TEFL certification in Thailand and did some volunteer work before settling down in Sumatra. I wrote a post back in 2010 trying to predict where I’d end up living this year and Medan, Indonesia wasn’t even a place I knew anything about other than it was a port city in Sumatra. Now here I am finishing my first full year abroad and just getting going!

Here is a look back at some of the things I’ve accomplished and planned to accomplish but fell short as well as an outlook for 2012. Enjoy!

Things I set out to do in 2011…and did

Learn to iron
Learn to tie a tie
Learn another language (in progress)
Learn to play the guitar (in progress)
Live abroad
Drive a motorbike
Get TEFL certified
Become a teacher
Travel to Somalia (Somaliland)
Travel to the Middle East (Lebanon)

Things I didn’t specifically set out to do but happy I did
Live somewhere that I can see mountains from my house
Have an article written about me by ABC News
Volunteer in a small village
Cut back immensely on drinking alcohol
Lost 35 lbs (15 kg)
Have a proper party week in Thailand with old friends
Motorbike road trip through Northern Sumatra

Things I wanted to do but didn’t do
Learn to cook
Live completely alone

Goals for 2012
Have a close friend or family member visit me
Learn to cook
Return to the U.S. at the end of 2012
Survive the end of the world
Get to see one of my best friends get married
Travel to a nearby country
Visit Java, Komodo or Flores

Some of my favorite photos of 2011

INDONESIA

Banda Aceh

Grand Mosque at Banda Aceh

Bukit Lawang

Orangutan in Bukit Lawang

Samosir Island

Batak children on Samosir in Lake Toba

THAILAND

TEFL Course

Getting into it during teacher practice at TEFL International

Royal Temple Bangkok

Royal Temple, Bangkok

LEBANON

Baalbek

Baalbek

MALAYSIA

Petronas Towers

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

SOMALILAND

Somaliland

Somaliland

Somaliland

Tank leftover from the Somalian civil war

Berber

Camels grazing on the beach along the Gulf of Aden

ETHIOPIA

Harar

Hand and mouth feeding of hyenas outside of Harar

North Sumatra Road Trip

Map North Sumatra Lake Toba

Blue line indicates the route with a one night stopover in Beratagi

In about 7 hours me and a couple of mates are going to head south out of Medan for Lake Toba for a week-long road trip through North Sumatra. I plan on leaving the laptop at home. The camera will be with me but it’s unlikely I’ll be making any posts before I come back.

One of the biggest reasons for moving to Medan to teach English was that there is easy access to amazing places for short holidays. Christmas break is here, classes ended last Friday and the next 8 days will be spent driving our motorbikes through the Karo highlands of north Sumatra.

We set out first for the city of Brastagi which is overlooked by Mt. Sinabung. This volcano hadn’t erupted since the year 1600 but in 2010 it woke up from its long sleep with quite the fury. It erupted several times in a few months and is now quite active. We plan on resting one night here and then on to Lake Toba on Tuesday morning.

The three of us will be taking our time meandering slowly through the mountains. The journey by bus from Medan would normally take about 5 hours but we plan on spreading that over a couple of days by stopping in small villages along the way.

Samosir

Samosir Island on Lake Toba

It’s easy to forget just why we moved to North Sumatra to begin with. Medan is a big bustling city with lots of shouting locals, traffic jams and pollution. It’s important that we make it out of town as often as we can to recharge and get up close with the locals who welcomed us when we first arrived.

Northern Sumatra already doesn’t get the tourists that other places of South East Asia get. On top of this, we’re taking a route rarely traveled by foreign tourists south through the mountains. We’ll get to come across adults who rarely have seen foreigners pass through their villages and children who may have never seen a white person before. Of course this means we might have to veer even further off the main road but we’ve all agreed that we’re going to wing it… play it by ear… and see where the road takes us.

I told myself I want to try at least 10 new things this week. Horse milk? Monitor lizard? What else? Things that are taboo back home can be quite normal in these parts but I’ll talk more about that later.

We’ll end our journey in Lake Toba on the island of Samosir. I was there earlier in 2011 but this time I’ll have my own bike giving me the freedom to move about, as well as a pretty decent handling of the Indonesian language. The lake itself is about the size of Singapore and it forms the cauldron of an ancient and massive super volcano. If you look at the map you can see how all of the North Sumatra province builds in elevation until the lake a the top. The island in the middle is Samosir which was formed after the last great eruption 75,000 years ago. There are hot springs on the island where we plan on doing some swimming. The island has since been inhabitant predominantly by ethnic Batak Tobanese people who practice Catholicism and animalism. This is in stark contrast to the roughly 86% Muslim population of Indonesia.

So, it’s off to bed now, a big day tomorrow.

ESL Game: Scattergories

This is one of my favorite games from back home. If it is fun for 20 and 30 somethings to do on a Friday night it’s sure to hold the interest of ESL students. I’m still trying to find ways to make a variant of the game myself but the version I play in the classroom is pretty much the same as the Milton Bradly game of the same name.

I’ve started out with 10 very simple categories.

1. Colors
2. Fruits
3. Drinks
4. Vegetables
5. Sports/Hobbies
6. Past tense verbs
7. Adjectives
8. Countries
9. Cities
10. Subjects in school

I have students call out a page number from the text book and use the first letter on that page as the letter for each round. So for example, the first letter is T then the students have 3 minutes to fill out the list 1-10 using words that start with the letter T. The object is to score points by using a word that no other team uses. For example: The categories is countries so team 1 writes Thailand, team 2 writes Turkmenistan and team 3 writes Thailand. Team 2 gets one point for writing Turkmenistan a word no one else used while the other 2 teams get no points. (This example just happened in class and I was impressed the students knew Turkmenistan)

Scattegories as an ESL game

Made for adults but fun for students

The good thing about this game is that it encourages students to think of uncommon vocabulary rather than the easy stuff. I usually play 3 rounds with 3 different letters and then the team with the most points wins. It’s a good go to game if you need to fill time at the end of a lesson after going through the material. The first few classes I played this with really to enjoyed it. It seems to work best with the older students and they have a fun time trying to figure out the tougher ones. The best part about the game is that with one list of categories you can play many times and not have the same letter so it doesn’t get boring.

Eventually I’ll make up lists with more complicated categories and will probably steal from the board game itself. Other examples include:

Intermediate
Things found in the classroom
Things at a picnic
Things found at the beach
Things that use a motor
Past continuous verbs- ex: “was reading” for “R”

Even more difficult
Prepositions
Names of athletes
Capital cities
Bodies of water
Western musicians

Halloween activity for ESL classrooms

The Horror: Scary Movie Night
Halloween is my first major holiday as an ESL teacher. The student’s knowledge of the holiday is limited as Indonesia doesn’t celebrate it and only English language schools hold any sort of activity for the holiday. My school did a horror movie night for the students. I was quite surprised at the choice in movies. It was a Thai movie rated PG-13 and we had some students that were quite young. My more conservative, U.S. raised self kept thinking how stupid it was to show the kids this movie but then when I looked around the room at the young children closing their eyes and then bursting out in laughter when they get spooked, I thought to myself, no this is what Halloween is about… getting scared. If they watch some corny children’s Halloween movie that isn’t going to leave any lasting impression. Some my most vivid memories from childhood are from watching scary movies that were meant for people much older. The only bad part about this movie was that the subtitles were translated from Thai into Indonesian and then into English. This made for terrible grammar at the bottom of the screen. Even my students recognized how bad it was, which is a good sign that they have a pretty good grasp of grammar and the arrangement of the words to make coherent sentences.

Scary Horror Movie ESL Activity

Said scary movie. The Thai writing makes it even that much scarier.

Halloween Crossword
On to my quick ESL activity. This doesn’t have to be for Halloween but you can use a theme anytime you want. At my school there are guidelines to follow for lessons that must be completed by the end of the term. Depending on how far along I was in the class dictated whether or not I did some of the regular lesson or not. Some of my classes have very little to do by the middle of December so I was free to take up the entire class time with fun stuff. This isn’t a very complicated activity as it was my first attempt at putting something together for a holiday. For my younger students I printed out a pretty simple Halloween crossword puzzle to take up about 10 minutes of time and then we went through it together and I elicited the answers and explained some of them in more detail. They understood most of it but words like, “tombstone” and “mummy” needed more explanation.

Halloween Crossword ESL

We talked a bit about trick or treating and some of the students already knew what it was and a few were in shock as another student explained the wonder that is dressing up in a costume and going door to door collecting candy. I really feel bad telling them about Halloween and seeing how disappointed they feel when they can’t enjoy the same thing here.

Halloween Word Find Game
While the students were doing their crossword I was busy setting up the whiteboard for the Word Find game. I drew a few Halloween pictures on the board, including a jack-o-lantern. Then I wrote some of the rules to the game on the board.

We’ve all played the Word Find game at some point in our childhood but this is my variation. You write a word on the board like, “FRANKENSTEIN.” The students then have 2 minutes to write as many words as they can make out of that word. The students get a point for each word with 3 or more letters. If they find a word that is 5 letters or more long then they get 2 points. 2 letter words are not worth any points. This works best in groups of 2-3 students. I have each team get out one sheet of paper and pen and have them share the list and add to it as they go along. I then go around and check the lists for points and leave a check mark next to the ones worth 2 points. I leave it up to the honor system for students to keep track of their points from round to round and report after each round how many points they’ve earned.

After about 2 rounds I then add an extra element to the game called, Joe’s Secret Word. I pick out a word that is at least 4-5 letters long that if they find it they get bonus points ranging from 5-10 points. This is a good way to even up the scores if one team is way ahead. It’s up to you if you want to be an honest teacher and think of the secret word before and not change it or pretend a word on the losing team’s sheet is the secret word. This works OK for the younger students as it keeps things close if one team is too dominant. The older students may catch on to your scheme. You don’t want to get caught cheating!

These are some of the words I used for the game.

FRANKENSTEIN
JACK-O-LANTERN
DRACULA (very difficult, only about 2 easy words: card, card)
MONSTER MASH! (secret word: MOTHER)
WITCH’S BREW (secret word: PINE)
HAPPY HALLOWEEN