Good ESL teaching goes hand in hand with creativity in the classroom. Nothing is more boring for students than having someone stood at the front of class flicking through flashcards for 30 minutes whilst they call out the vocabulary in a robotic manner. Most schools in the industry have recognised the need to integrate gimmicks into vocabulary drilling activities to distract students from the fact that they are continuously repeating the same set of words. During my time as an ESL teacher I have experimented with tonnes of different gadgets and gimmicks to spice up my classes. I can’t stress enough how useful it is to throw in something different with any age group you teach. Here are some things you can use:
- Sticky balls: A classic must have item for ESL teachers. Stick flashcards to the board, get the students into teams and have them try to throw the sticky ball at the vocabulary whilst performing some kind of drilling activity.
- Mirrors: You can use mirrors to do all kinds of things, with written English in particular.
- Fake money: For teenagers, team points can seem a little bit immature and pointless. Bring out the fake cash and give them something they can relate to.
- Puppets: Kindergarten aged children love puppets and even with juniors it can be a great way to make role-play activities more interesting.
- Ping pong balls: If you want a quick and easy repetition exercise, throw a ping pong ball into the air and have students shout out the word every time it hits the floor.
- Chopsticks: If teaching in Asia, you won’t run out of supply. I saw a colleague recently use chopsticks and a pile of small elastic bands to create a great language activity. Get students into small groups, equipped with a pair of chopsticks and a plastic cup each. Put a pile of bands in the middle and tell them to race to get as many bands into their cups as they can- each time saying a relevant piece of vocabulary.
- Flashlights: Another great activity someone told me about recently involved flashlights. Stick your flashcards on the board, turn off the lights, shine your light on the vocabulary and have your students call them out.
Always remember when teaching young children that a minor addition to the class will feel like a completely new adventure for your students!