Assistant Assistance #4: 8 (Relatively) Low-Effort But Successful ESL Activities

Part of being a language assistant is running lessons and activities. But since you’re not a full teacher and you probably aren’t in the same classes regularly, it is good to have some lessons up for sleeve that you can use, and re-use.  So here are some of the activities that went well for me, and didn’t require too much prep work!

Note: These are activities I used with collège  students, or French middle schoolers. Unlike in other parts of France, students in Strasbourg take German class first, so their first year of English is 6e, their first year of middle school.

Self Introductions: Having students prepare self-introductions is a great first lesson for a) any class you are meeting for the first time or b) first year English students who are working on “I like…”/” I hate”/etc. vocabulary. What I did is I gave students time on their own to prepare little speeches to tell me about themselves, giving them an example first, then once they were done, had them stand up and tell me! Pretty easy, right?

Two Truths and a Lie: Now, this is an ice-breaker most Americans will know, but in my experience most French students (young ones at least) won’t! This is a fun game that can be used at any virtually any level! Just in case anyone is unfamiliar with it, Two Truths and a Lie is a game in which someone states Two things about themselves that are true, and one a lie, and the rest of the people have to try and guess which one is the lie.

Never Have I Ever: Yes, I am aware that this is a drinking game. But it doesn’t have to be! This is a lesson I used with students that had  just learned “I never/I have never”. I first gave students about five to 10 minutes to make a list of things they have never done (as many as possible). Then I explained that the had to hold up five fingers, and put one down every time someone says something they’ve done. The person left is the winner! Now, if you do this you may want to set some ground rules first (i.e. no targeting members of the class, or being mean to anyone in the class).

Celebrity Resolutions: This is a New Year’s lesson that worked out great for my 3e (9th graders).  First ask students for celebrities they know/like, and pick out a few to write on the board. Then have them come up with New Year’s Resolutions for each celebrity! If you end too soon, just add new celebrities! My students had a great time making up resolutions for Donald Trump.

Pet Elections: This is a lesson that works out especially well if there is a small group that will join the rest of the class later in the week. It’s fairly simple. The students have to prepare a speech and explain why their pet (real or imaginary) is the best pet in the world. I did this with students who had just learned superlatives, so I added in that superlatives must be used. Depending on the students’ levels, you may want to make sure the students know what a pet is.

Picture Stories: This is an activity where you choose a photo (or photos) and have students tell you what they see. Then, they must make up a story about the people in the photos. Who are they? How did they meet? What are they doing? What are their jobs? Are they married? etc.

My Life in 10 Years: This is a fun activity to work on the future. Have students prepare what they will be doing in 10 years. Will they be married? Have Children? Have a job? A House? If there is extra time after each student talks, have them make up what a friend in the class will be doing (and mention that it doesn’t have to be realistic! This makes it more fun, as you can get sentences like, “Baptiste will become a computer.”) and ask questions like Who in the class will be President? An actor?  etc.

Murder Mystery: This is an activity I did with my older students, as they were learning about Sherlock Holmes, and involves working with the main teacher. In this activity, The main teacher and I each took half of the class. We then had each half prepare a murder mystery that the other class would have to solve. To explain further, they had to decide on a crime, who was killed, when, where, why and how. They then had to prepare alibis (and one fake alibi for the  murderer). This would be given to the teacher, who would type everything and prepare slips of paper to give to the student with each alibi, and the students have to answer questions such as “Where were you the night of the murder” and the class has to try to figure out who the killer is.  Each half of the class will find out at the end if they chose the correct murderer. Be aware, this is an activity that will last a couple of classes.

So there are some of my favorite activities! What are your favorite activities or lessons to do? Let me know in the comments below!


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