Teaching English language to Slovenian students is quite an experience. Though it’s not their native language, they feel really close to it. Being surrounded by it daily via Internet, movies, songs, TV shows etc., many of them are convinced there’s nothing more to be done to improve their knowledge of English language. Therefore it’s quite daunting for an English teacher to get their students’ attention. However, using new teaching methods can bring a teacher and students together. Especially when it comes to using soft skills in an EFL class, where skills such as communication, teamwork, flexibility, cooperation are among the ones to change the EFL class to become more versatile, resulting in students to be more attentive and motivated. Here are some of the activities, used in my classes, which have proven to be welcomed and successful with my students.
1. Using props in a classroom
At the beginning of a new school year, students are asked to bring one of their mementos with them (or one of their photos). The photo/memento should be related to some story they are ready to share with the rest of the class. Students sit in a circle, so that everyone can see each other. It is advisable for the teacher to start with the presentation by showing a memento or a photo of his own, explaining its background. Then students can ask questions, but no more than three. The person describing his picture/memento chooses the next one in a row.
Using songs in an EFL class is, no doubt, a victory. Students love music and feel highly motivated when it comes to it. One of my all-time favourite songs is The River by Bruce Springsteen. Students are advised to write a word or a sentence (on a piece of post-it) that comes to their minds when they think of a word river and stick it to a whiteboard. When everybody is finished, their writings are read aloud and added to the chart (e.g. positive/negative thoughts). Then the song by Bruce Springsteen is introduced (could be a gap –fill). Students are asked to discuss the message of the song and later on compare it to the words they have written at the beginning. There are many exercises the teacher can use for the rest of the lesson such as discussing the future of the characters involved in the original song, writing a song/story of their own, discussing the differences between living in the city vs. the countryside, etc.
Students are given some time to draw a picture. Leave them to express themselves for at least 5 minutes. After that period, they are asked to sell their picture by making a commercial. They have to think of different ways to present their masterpiece in a way that would be attractive for possible buyers. They are asked to use passive voice. When everybody is finished, students can choose three of the presentations. The teacher evaluates their use of grammatical structure.
4. The last man standing
Students work in groups. The teacher explains that they have survived a shipwreck (a plane crash) and are now on a deserted island. Their only hope is a message in a bottle where they describe their location, their everyday routine and their emotions, hopes, plans … for any would-be rescuers. Students love making up stories, some of them will want to stay on the island, the rest will want to get away ASAP. Students vote for the best message.
5. Being a reporter
Students need to write down three facts about themselves, two of which are true and one is a lie. Then they are asked to walk around the class and interview as many people as possible. They should talk about their facts, trying not to reveal the fake information. They are allowed to talk about other people, they have already interviewed, but they aren’t allowed to lie about anyone else but themselves. They have about 20 minutes to obtain as much information as possible. Then the teacher analyses and evaluates the exercise together with the students.
6. Playing a game – Alibi
A few years ago I came across one of my favourite games, I use in a classroom whenever I teach past tenses. It’s called the Alibi. Using a picture of a crime (could be a newspaper pic) can help a teacher tell a story of a robbery (or any other crime), that was committed by a group of criminals. Make the story as interesting as possible. Then choose 4 – 5 students to be “bad guys” or suspects. They will go outside the class to prepare for the interrogation, while the rest of the class will form groups to be policemen or detectives. (If you have 4 suspects, you’ll need 4 groups of policemen) who will prepare questions for the interrogation. The suspects and the policemen have a basic outline of the crime (they know the times and the locations of the alibi: e.g. suspects were in the cinema at 8PM aka at the time of the crime, think of at least two more locations/times). The suspects prepare a perfect alibi, whereas the police officers work on their questions. When the suspects return to the class each one sits next to a group of detectives, after five minutes the suspects switch groups until every group has had a chance to talk to the »criminals«. In the end, the s decide if the suspects are guilty or innocent. Be prepare for the students to have a blast while the lesson is on.
These are some of the ways to get your students speaking and learning English while having fun at the same time. Hope you find them interesting.