Thursday, March 1, 2007

Activities for the oral English class

By Ryan Schreck - Beijing Normal University, China

Here are some ideas that worked for me (they are not all original):

This worked well because I have large classes which makes full class discussions difficult. I wrote six or seven "debate cards" and then split the class into groups of four or six. Each group gets a different card and has about fifteen minutes to choose sides, formulate arguments, and debate. Then the groups switch cards. There is (usually) not enough time for the topics to get boring, and by the end of class they are very aware of the time limit so they try to say as much as they can in that time frame, which is good. Some topic ideas: - is true love possible on the internet - is it better to live in the country or the city - who is more important to a family, mother or father - should Chinese marry foreigners - which is better, married or single - obey your parents or follow own ideas.

Eternal Mingle
I found this somewhere on the net and it worked very well. Each student writes down one question. Any kind of question at all. Then they get up and mingle, asking their questions and each time exchanging questions. So they are constantly asking different people different questions. I thought this would be a 10 or 15 minute warm up, but they liked it so much, and the room was so full of English, that I let it go the whole period.

Alibi for Murder
The rules for this game can be found at Dave's ESL Cafe. It really is a lot of fun, especially if you urge them to ham it up and really get into character. If you introduce it well it should work even with lower level students.

Rocket Ship (I'm looking for a better name for this one)
The earth is going to explode but there is a rocket ship that can take ten people to the moon where they will start a new civilization. It is up to them to choose the best assortment of people. If you want, allow them to take people living or dead, but I always stress the importance of teachers! (and don't be surprised if somebody chooses Hitler or bin Laden - they usually have some pretty creative reasons.)

A warm up activity that works well is competitive brainstorming. Get them into groups and announce a topic (things that are round, things that fly, etc.) and let them go for about three or four minutes, with one person acting as secretary. Do two or three of these at the beginning of early morning classes or after lunch and it will wake them right up.

And finally, I just found a good website. It is Weekly Web Poll I'm not sure exactly how I am going to use these, but there are plenty of possibilities. And the variety of polls is very wide, from superficial stuff about friendship and birthday celebrations to cloning and time travel. I think a few of these can be put together to make an interesting and fun two hour lesson.

So, hopefully some of these ideas will come in handy as the term winds to a close. And I especially hope that many, many more of you will take the time to share just one lesson plan with the rest of us, be it oral, reading, writing, listening, or other. We (or at least I) can always use the help.


Alan Boyd - Tokyo said...

This "mingle" thing is wonderful. It really makes my students talk and they have so much fun doing it. Thanks a lot for this idea.

C Fielder said...

A little extension to the "eternal mingle"... a time limit. I know this takes away the "eternal" element but bear with me. I tell students that they are going to get 30 seconds only to speak to one fellow student, and then they'll have to move on to another fellow student. I mention that at the end of the class, we are all going to come together and share all the information we have managed to gather about individual students in our 30 second slots. This means that it's useless for them all to ask the same basic questions (name, age, etc) and so they need to be creative. This also serves as a good way to get them to practise reported speech (when they tell the rest of the class what they have found out). It always works well in my classes, and there are often over 25 people! Try it.. you might like it! :-)

Kaer said...

Thanks for this post, I'm planning on using Rocket Ship and the investigation type activity. I'll let you know how it turns out.