By Jael G., Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid 18/19.
To get you started in teaching ESL here are some ideas of methods I use with my students that have been fun and successful for teaching English in Spain. I generally separate the activities we do into categories to improve their fluency. The categories are: to practice reading, to practice writing, and lastly, to practice speaking. All three categories also involve lots of listening to their peers speaking English, as well as myself. Let’s discover six good ESL Lessons to get you started into teaching English as an Auxiliar de Conversación.
Basic English Books
In some classes, teachers will provide you with materials to use such as books, worksheets, or flashcards. In many cases, they will give you very basic books to use with a group of children and practice reading aloud. It is good to ask the kids after they read what every sentence means and break it down with them. That way, you make sure they are actually understanding what they are reading. If the classroom doesn’t have books (which I doubt), you can get some from the school library.
Jeopardy and Other ESL Games Online
Jeopardy is a very handy game you can play with small groups or big groups as an ESL teacher. The children may become competitive so you should definitely set up some behavior rules before playing. I generally play this game with smaller groups where each child competes in pairs or by themselves. You can fill the categories with different subject matter that they are familiar with or have recently learned.
You can choose between grammar, clothing, colors, foods… This website helps build jeopardy games. There are also many other websites that you can use that are filled with various resources and games for English learners. In some class periods, you can take small groups to the computer lab to play these games. My favorite websites are ESL Games Plus and Mes Games. You only have to be sure that Adobe Flash works on the computers for these websites.
You can also have a lot of creative fun by making English based art projects during the class periods about the vocabulary they are learning. For example, with my second graders, we made a poster where each child drew some sort of plant and had to label the parts of it (stem, leaves, roots, etc), as well as, another drawing that related to the plant such as a cow eating it. Afterward, they had to write a sentence about the plants based on their knowledge, “cows eat grass, cats do not eat grass”.
Small exams on whiteboards
Another method I use is giving them small exams based on what we previously studied. I usually give them a whiteboard and I ask them questions out loud. Then, they have to write the answer quickly. For example, you can ask the following questions: “What is the translation for flor? Then they will write flower. I can also ask them other questions like “What is your name?” and the correct answer will be “My name is___”. This exercise allows them to practice writing and spelling correctly in English. You just have to be creative with the questions. It doesn’t have to be an exam either, it could be made into a game as well. You can even take turns telling the students to make the questions for their peers.
Make a list of questions and topics to converse about
Every class period, when I work with a group of children, we always start by speaking. I ask about current events or things about them, their weekend, their family, etc.
A list of things I generally ask to start topics are:
• How are you today?
• What did you do this weekend?
• Where are you from?
• What is your favorite color?
• What is your mother’s name?
• What are you doing today after school?
• What is your favorite sport?
After asking them questions, I usually turn the tables and they ask me a few questions. If I already know the student quite well, I don’t repeat questions about their favorite color or food, but rather, I ask them about current events and topics they like to talk about, like soccer or cats.
Creative interactive games (ahorcado, mímica)
Be prepared to be creative in certain games you can play with the kids depending on their age level. With my second graders, I usually make up games related to the topics we are currently learning about. For example, the other day, they were learning the names of various fruits and vegetables. I bought some large cards with pictures of the fruits and vegetables on them. In an open space, I placed the cards spread out throughout the room. In small groups of three students I would call out the name of the fruit or vegetable and they carefully had to run to each card. Whoever got to the card first won a point.
You definitely have to set some ground rules like no touching/fighting for the cards (or they would lose a point) so that they would play respectfully and safely. A few other games the children like to play is Mímica, where they have to act out a certain action and other students have to guess what the actor is doing in English. Ahorcado, the hangman in English, is another one they enjoy playing with English vocabulary.
Teaching English in Madrid has been such an amazing experience so far. I have grown so much in my personality and learning how to teach in general. It is fun to adapt your teaching methods to be creative and to find ways you enjoy teaching as much as the students love to learn.