A Comprehensive Guide to ESL Activities [Solo and Group Lessons]

10 May 2021
SpellQuiz

Students often view ESL activities as nothing but boring chores. The common English learning activities, such as — reading comprehension, writing essays, grammar studies — don’t work too well. Whenever students feel that they are learning actively, their brains automatically view the processes as daunting challenges.

In the worst-case scenario, students fall back to scrolling through their smartphones!

But if an ESL student takes unique approaches and introduces “fun” ESL activities, things change entirely. In that case, the learning process becomes intuitive and engaging.

Now, the question is — what are some fun and intuitive ESL activities? Do they even exist?

There are tons of engaging ESL activities but a good teacher will incorporate the appropriate activities to particular learners.

For example, if you ask an older ESL learner, let’s say, a 50-year-old woman to participate in a debate with a 17-year-old, she would most likely not enjoy the process. The same issue can be said about teaching English to a group of introverts.

Does it mean that a debate is a bad example of an ESL activity?

NO!   

It means that the teacher has failed to identify the insecurity of the student and followed a wrong path of action.

Today, we would take a look at some of the best ESL activities that are suitable for different age groups and personalities.

Read More: How to Learn English as an ESL Learner?

 

How to Come up with Different ESL Activities? (With Example!)

A typical ESL lesson plan aims at making the learners ready to handle different social scenarios. Generally, these plans only include some common set of statements related to those scenarios. Here, the lessons almost force the learners to memorize some preset statements!

It’s true that these activities bring in results, but at the same time, they are flawed because of using cookie-cutter strategies.

As a result, students get demotivated and uninspired from day one!

So, a good teacher should always have a conversation with the eager learners individually before beginning the lessons. Also, they must converse in the native language of the learners so that they could truly open up themselves.

Then, the teacher should create individual profiles mainly giving up hints about their personalities and experience level.

Let’s consider that Mr Kevin, the ESL trainer, has four students — Sasha, Karim, Rahul, and Hea. They all come from different countries having native languages.

Sasha and Rahul are both outgoing, extrovert, and more engaging. While Karim and Hea are reserved and introvert.

Now, Mr Kevin could ask Sasha and Rahul to teach the class. Being extroverts and outgoing, Sasha and Rahul would love to take part in this activity.

On the other hand, Mr Kevin could ask Karim and Hea to solve a fictional murder mystery by solving the clues through a long comprehension.

Sasha and Rahul are basically practicing English speaking skills while Karim and Hea are practicing English reading skills.

Once all four of them are confident with their respective skills, they can move on to mastering the next skill.

The trainer has to take responsibility for the students and set teaching plans for learning languages according to the strengths and weaknesses of his students.

 

Using ESL Activities for Improving English Skills

We all know that to become fluent in English, one has to master four individual skills —

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

That means one has to first be able to understand what the other person is saying through listening. Then, he should be able to reply to that by speaking. Reading and writing are advanced skills that require proper knowledge of grammar.

So, how could anyone incorporate different ESL activities to master these four skills?

Learners of all age groups can sharper their skills using these activities —

 

Listening Activities for ESL Learners

Whenever someone is trying to learn a new language, listening skill is the first linguistic skill he/she should master. In this phase, the goal should be learning as many new words as possible.

Vocabulary is the key here.

Of course, the learner should first focus on acquiring the sight words. These words are shorter and simple to remember. Yet they count for about 90% of all the common written words in English.

So, first, they would learn the Dolch sight words and then go through the extended list of Fry sight words.

In this case, the learners could the good old flashcards.

After that, they should start picking up new words quickly. To do so, they could listen to —

  • Songs with lyrics
  • Podcasts
  • Watch movies or foreign TV shows

The idea is to acquire as many words as possible and throw oneself completely merged in English. Make sure to get your hands on a great vocabulary app to develop a strong vocabulary base. A better listening skill also helps with improved phonemic awareness. What is phonemic awareness?

 

Speaking Activities for ESL Learners

The practice of speaking English has three key benefits —

  • Using the freshly learned English words through listening in use
  • Learning proper pronunciation
  • Passively using spaced repetition learning process that strengthens one’s vocabulary

On top of everything, obviously, one would become adept enough to have a proper conversation in English. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of doing speaking practice in English.

However, this stage is quite challenging for shy and introverts. Being a new user, one would definitely make a lot of mistakes. So, they become very conscious about what others are thinking and refrain from taking part in English speaking practices.

If that’s the case for you, you need to overcome your fears as none can master speaking skills without having conversations with others.

And, let’s face it, you’re going to make mistakes!

Follow this simple strategy —

First, try to read different texts aloud alone in a room. This way, none can judge you. Just take any blog online and read it aloud.

Once you’re confident enough, use your phone’s recorder. Record yourself reading aloud the texts. Then, listen to the recordings and try to figure out the mistakes that you’ve been making.

Continue these sessions until you become confident enough.

Finally, you need to make real conversations with real people. You can ask one of your English-speaking friends and ask him to help with your practices. The more you have actual conversations in English, the better you’d get at speaking skills.

 

Reading Activities for ESL Learners

The reading activities are quite straightforward. All you need to do is — READ!

However, one can master reading skills only if one can completely understand the meaning of a text. Often writers will not use exact words to express certain meanings. That’s why understanding comprehensions require advanced knowledge of English literature.

For example, one might say, “I’m feeling blue.” For an ESL learner, this statement could be confusing.

After all, blue is a color and it’s not possible to feel colors, right?

True, but in this sentence, blue refers to — sadness, depression, or melancholy. So, the person saying, “I’m feeling blue,” is basically trying to say that he is feeling sad in an artistic way.

To master reading skills, you should read (in ascending difficulty order) —

  • Blogs
  • Magazines
  • Fictional short stories
  • Novellas
  • Novels

There are tons of great educational websites that help students with reading skills. 

Writing Activities for ESL Learners

Writing skill is perhaps one of the toughest English language skills to master. It requires perfect knowledge of grammar and syntax. At the same time, the writer has to master the art of euphonizing.

Also, the tone and style completely change depending on — formal, informal, fiction, and non-fiction writing styles.

Think about it, you rarely think of grammar or vocabulary while chatting on Facebook with your best friend. But you spend a lot of time writing a simple 3-line e-mail for formal occasions.

This is why having a strong command of writing skill needs an immense amount of time and practice.

To sharpen your writing skills, you should —

  • Read (a lot!)
  • Try to have a strong command of English grammar
  • Have a strong vocabulary base
  • Ability to change tone and style based on the readers

 

5 Best ESL Activities for Beginners and Adults

Now, let’s focus on some of the popular ESL activities that teacher could use in the classrooms. Remember, all of these ESL activities for beginners are suited for groups only. If you’re looking for solo practice, the strategies in the previous section are better options.

Here is short list of ESL activities for group lessons. You can also find other ESL activities online.  

 

Group Debates

Group debates are perhaps one of the best ESL activities for adults. Here, the class is divided into two groups or more. The teacher chooses a topic and teams either speak for or against the topic. The teacher should allocate a fixed time to strategizing and argument presentation.

 

Teach the Class!

This is another classic ESL activity. Here, the teacher would ask the students to prepare lessons on different topics that they would present in the next class.

For example, student 1 could teach about the past tense, student 2 would take charge of the present tense, and student 3 will teach about the future tense.

 

Group Charades

This is one of the great ESL games for adults. Charades will also lighten the mood for all the students as the game very fun to play.

Here, the teacher will give the students keywords (fishing, throwing, running). One member from each group will act that verb out and their respective group members have to guess the verb.

Curious to find more fun vocabulary activities for ESL students? Here's a detailed guide with a curated list. 

 

Yes, No!

While the game is called the Yes, No game, the only rule of this game is that students can’t answer a question asked with yes or no.

So, to answer a specific question, they will have to use elaborated sentences. As they use to come up with longer sentences as answers, their vocabulary and sentence making capabilities will increase naturally.

 

Guess the Person

Again, Guess the Person is a common party game that teachers can use in the classroom. Here, a student will have to pick a card that will have the name of a renowned person, like — Albert Einstein.

The rest of the class will have 20 chances to guess the name of that person with questions. The questions would be like — Is the person male or female or is the person a film star?  

Guess the Person can strengthen the general knowledge of the students too.

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