Making Lessons: Five Interesting Ideas

by Erica Brown

Making lessons can sometimes be the hardest part about teaching abroad. Finding ways to engage your students, get them excited to learn, and make it a fun experience is frequently quite a challenge. Try to think outside the box, pick your brain for unique ways of approaching a subject, look at online resources or lesson plans, and learn from your fellow teachers mistakes, and more importantly their successes.

Erica with her Elementary Students in the Philippines
Erica with her Elementary Students in the Philippines. Photo by Elsa Thomasma

Writing Activity. Teaching an English course? Try this activity. Imagine a character, it can be a person, an animal, a superhero – anything. Then choose an occupation for that character, such as “The frog, Mr. Giggles, is a train conductor.” Using this information, ask the students to write a 100-word essay about this character. (When working with younger children it is more helpful to request a specific number of words, versus pages, paragraphs... the exact number serves as a well-defined goal to reach). This activity will exercise writing skills, while giving the students an opportunity to showcase their creativity.

Verb Lesson Idea. Explain what a verb is a provide examples to your students. Then, as a group you could have the children come up with a list of verbs. Talk about those verbs as a class and then have the students write sentences individually. After completing their sentences ask the children to read a sentence aloud. Having the children speak in class gets them involved and will help them to build confidence with their English.

Vocabulary and Spelling Game. Create a word bingo for the students. The students can create their own bingo boards, by drawing a grid on a piece of paper and writing a vocabulary word learned in class in each of the boxes. The teacher will read the definition to a word and if the student can correctly identify that definition with a word on their board they will mark off that spot. Five in a row, and that’s bingo! This encourages the students to associate the vocab words with their definitions, and they’ll be having fun doing it.

Race to The Finish. Children love a little competition, so much so that they will probably be too excited to recognize a lesson in the disguise of a competition. For learners new to a language, learning verbs and their meanings, an endless list of synonyms, singular versus plurals, AND the three verb tenses is overwhelming. Soothe anxieties with a competition. Select two students from the class and supply each of them with something to write with and something to write on. When the competitors are ready, call out a tense. Have students race to write a sentence in that tense, the first one to answer correctly wins. Remember to emphasize correct punctuation too! Let the winner remain in front of the class to await their next challenger and your students will soon be shouting encouragements with thrill and intensity as their classmates battle for the victory.

Teach through images. You’ve heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”, try applying that idea to teaching. Want to go over adjectives, comparatives, and superlatives? Begin by drawing three characters or objects on the board. Create obvious differences between the three subjects, for example make one noticeably shorter or one fatter, then invite the students to describe the differences between the images. The children will state numerous descriptive words without realizing it. Supplement that activity by drawing a grid on the board with three columns, adjective, comparative, superlative. Let the children fill out the grid and demonstrate how the three forms differ.