7 ESL beginner lessons + activity ideas
No matter the age of your students, follow these steps to teach English to beginners.
Ready to get the ball rolling? Here are some awesome ideas to get you up and running regarding how to teach English to beginners!
Lesson idea #1: Show (But Don’t Tell)
Teaching English to beginners material doesn’t have to be uncool! This game is similar to the party game, Charades. It can be used as a warm-up or to practice the target language structure (s) with any age group. It’s a gesture and speaking activity.
Students get into pairs. One student gets a flashcard with the vocabulary word but he or she cannot show it to the other student. This student must act out the word with gestures and without using words. For instance, if the flashcard says “ball” the student has to act out “ball” and the other student has to guess the word before time runs out (1-2 minutes). The students then switch roles so that the first student gets to guess and the second student has to act.
This activity can be graded informally regarding the number of students who guess the right answer within the time frame.
Materials needed: timer, vocabulary flashcards
Lesson idea #2: Find someone who
Want to know how to teach English to beginners? Try this survey game that works best with teenagers and adults. They’re speaking, listening, reading, and writing activity. Prepare worksheets with a grid with 6 squares. In each square, write a category with the language structure you’d like them to practice. For example:
|Someone who likes dogs:||Someone who doesn’t like school:|
|Someone who likes ice cream:||Someone who doesn’t like cake:|
|Someone who likes the color red:||Someone who doesn’t like to read:|
Students walk around the class and find peers who fall into each category and write their names. How can you assess this? The first person to complete the entire activity is the winner or the person with the most points at the end of the time period (one point for each name) is the winner.
Materials needed: worksheets, timer
Lesson idea #3: Shiritori
Teaching beginners English? Try Shiritori, a traditional Japanese game that literally translates “taking the butt.” The class gets into a circle and the teacher starts with a category like animals. He or she then says two animal words like “cat, dog” while clapping to keep time. Everyone also claps to keep the rhythm.
The next person must say “dog” (the teacher’s last word) and a new animal word like “elephant.” If someone can’t think of a new word, repeats a word that’s already said, or doesn’t say the words in time, he or she is out. This game can work with almost any age group and is a listening and speaking game. It’s not really great for formal assessment but works as an awesome warm-up!
Materials needed: nothing!
Lesson idea #4: Talk to Three
Confused about how to teach basic English? This speaking activity can be used with any age group. It can be used to practice any language structure you teach or as a warm-up. The teacher models the activity with three volunteers. He or she approaches the first volunteer and it goes something like this:
Teacher: I’m sleepy. How are you?
Student: I’m happy.
Teacher: Super! Goodbye!
The teacher then demonstrates the same activity with the other two volunteers and once he’s done, he can sit down. The first students to sit down are the winners!
Materials needed: timer
Lesson idea #5: Crossfire
Doing English teaching for beginners? This a great warm-up for younger teenagers and kids and can be used to practice previous knowledge. All students stand up. The teacher picks a student at random and asks him or her a question that tests the language structure the class has already learned. If the students get it right, he or she can choose to:
- Sit down by himself/herself
- Let his/her row across sit down
- Let his/her row down sit down
The teacher continues asking questions until the entire class is seated.
Lesson idea #6: Rock, paper, scissors train
This is a good listening and speaking activity for young kids and you need a lot of space to play this game. It’s a great warm-up too. All students stand up. Each student is a train engine. Each student meets another student and says the target sentence (s).
Student 1: I like soccer.
Student 2: I like volleyball.
Then, they play rock, paper, scissors. The loser becomes a car behind the winner. When two trains meet, the entire train that loses goes behind the train that wins. The class plays until there is only one train, the winner!
Materials needed: timer
Lesson #7: Simon Says
This is for very young kids and it’s primarily a listening activity. It’s great for warm-ups. The teachers act as Simon and the other students must do whatever Simon says, as long as the phrase “Simon says” comes before the command.
If Simon does not say “Simon says” before the command, students are not supposed to follow it. If a student follows a command without a “Simon Says,” he or she is out of the game. You can add your own variations to the game. For higher grades, you can add different actions such as “Simon says play baseball.”
Get those beginners on the path to fluency!
Teaching English to complete beginners is a fun challenge for new and old ESL teachers. Although planning to teach English to beginners material may seem like a royal pain for the first time, you’ll soon get the hang of it. It’s also super rewarding when your learners get it. It’s amazing to see them move from having absolutely no knowledge of being able to speak basic English!
If you practice these tips, you’ll soon become an expert at your first English lesson for beginners, adults, teenagers, or kids. Always keep praising your students so they don’t feel discouraged when they mess up. Praise will help them become confident learners who aren’t afraid of a foreign language. Who knows, maybe one day, they’ll thank you for being the best English teacher they ever had!