Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Physical Activity in the ESL Classroom

physical activity
Physical Activity in the ESL Classroom

One of my favorite things to do is make my ESL students stand up and walk around, talking to their classmates. I get them to do surveys, or something along the lines of, "Find someone who can drive a car." Then they have to ask a "W" follow-up question. With the better classes, I'll usually let them pick who they want to talk to. With some of the bad classes who are resistant to speaking in English, I'll often make 2 lines opposing each other and then call "switch" when most of the students are done what they're supposed to do. I do this at least every other class for the following reason:

1. Students will usually pick the same partners every class. Making your students get up out of their seats forces them to interact with some different people and hear different accents, grammar and vocabulary when they're doing ESL speaking activities. People who don't necessarily know each other that well will more likely speak English to each other because it would just be awkward to gang together and go against the teacher's wishes with someone you don't know!

2. It helps out the sleepy people. Standing up and walking around breaks up the tedium of the sitting and is a good way to have a mini-break in class but still get your EFL students to speak English.

3. It's fun. Try it, you'll see! When students have to walk around, asking their classmates questions and stuff, they get excited about it for some reason. I'm not really sure why but I see a lot of smiles and laughs. Maybe it's the novelty of actually speaking English to each other in a way that is non-threatening and pretty chilled out. And finding out a few random bits of information about their classmates.

4. I can walk around, give some feedback and supervise in a less obvious way.

Usually at the end of the activity, I'll give some group feedback. I noticed by the end of the semester all my classes were much better at this type of thing because I gave them feedback each time (or maybe it was just that they had practiced it!) For example, I would say:

1. You were very good at talking to everybody, but I heard a lot of you speaking Korean!

2. Your speaking was very good but why did you write your answers in Korean? It's time for practicing English, writing and speaking!

3. I saw many people that looked like they were having a good time, making jokes in English. Very good! But a few of you were only speaking Korean I think.

4. I heard lots of English but pay attention to the grammar a little more. Here is one of the biggest mistakes I heard:

Anyway, try it out in your next class. It's a good way to get your students learning and speaking English.

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