When it comes to teaching ESL, whether you’ve taught before or are new to it, you need to make it fun. Kids from young to their teen years that are trying to learn English won’t find it interesting if you simply drone on and on from a book.
Sure, your school might require you to use certain textbooks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t extend the lesson out to incorporate interesting topics. They need to learn the basics, but in order to teach them that, you have to capture their attention.
Not sure what ESL topics will interest your class? Here are some suggestions for all kids from small to big!
In China, family is such an important aspect of the culture. While older kids will find this snooze-worthy, little ones find great excitement in telling you all about their parents, grandparents, if they have any siblings, or if they have pets too.
- How big is your family?
- How many people are in your family?
- How old are your parents?
- What is the best memory you have of your family doing something together?
- What kind of things do you do with your family?
Food is likely a universal love all around the globe. And in China, food is such an important element. People don’t ask you how are…they ask if you’ve eaten. This topic can be used for all age groups of children, though you should tailor your lessons to be more detailed for older ones. For example, having them write the recipe of their favorite dish in English would be a fun lesson.
For all age groups, you can also see if your school will allow you to do a cooking demonstration. It could even involve a no-bake or no-cook recipe. This hands-on approach is a delicious way to capture their attention.
- Did you eat lunch today?
- Do you always eat dinner with your family?
- Do you cook? If yes, what food do you cook the most often?
- Do you like pizza?
- What foods do you love?
- What food do you hate? Why do you hate it?
We all have our own tastes in music. While children are often encouraged to take up a musical instrument at a young age, making it a captivating subject to teach the English names for these, older children and teens have groups they like. Pop music, rock, classical, and more are fun ways to engage your ESL students.
For younger children, you can teach them what each instrument is called and teach them to sing easy kids songs in English. Older kids and teens will love hearing American music that is age-appropriate. Pick songs they can understand and have them interpret the meaning of the lyrics for a bigger challenge.
- What kind of music do you like?
- Are you a good singer?
- Can you concentrate on other things when you are listening to music?
- Can you play a musical instrument?
- If so, what do you play?
- How long have you been playing?
- Are you good at it?
In China, you can find major common ground with your students if you talk about sports. Particularly basketball and soccer. If you’re able to do so, you can even take them outside to play a quick game. Perhaps there’s a ping pong table at your school or even a badminton net, also opening up the chance to get the kids to play and have fun while learning English.
- Do you play any sports?
- How often do you exercise?
- What sports do you watch?
- When was the last time you went to a baseball game?
- Which do you prefer, baseball or volleyball?
Remember when you were a kid in school and you got to class to discover your teacher was going to let you watch a movie? Those were the days! Students of all ages love watching a movie in English. This is a trick you can employ several times per semester as you can correlate it to whatever you’ve been talking about in class.
With young kids, anything Disney will work. Older kids may not stay as interested with those types of movies but there are plenty more that can capture their attention that are appropriate for their age group.
- What is your all-time favorite movie?
- What is your favorite movie?
- Are there any kinds of movies you dislike?
- If so, what kinds?
- Why do you dislike them?
- Do you like to watch horror movies?
6. Video Games
Can’t seem to get any of the kids in any age group engaged with your English lesson? Bring up the topic of video games and they won’t stop talking!
In China, video games are extremely popular. It helps to look up what games are currently the most buzzworthy like Honor of Kings or League of Legends, the latter of which is abbreviated as ‘LOL’ which can confuse kids that text if you try to use it to stand for that dreaded ‘laugh out loud.’
- What is your favorite video games?
- Do you play video games?
- How often do you play video games?
- Who you usually play video games with?
- Which do you list the best, Honor of Kings or League of Legends?
You’ll definitely have all the kids talking once you bring up your superheroes. Show up in a cape, act out a scene from one of the Marvel movies, heck, SHOW them the movie. Ask them what superpower they wish they had and why. You’ll have lots of avid learners during this lesson!
- If you knew where the Batcave was, would you go to it?
- If you woke up in the middle in the night and you saw Batman in the corner of your room, what would you do?
- If the Joker was holding one of your loved ones hostage, and was asking you to do something that you don’t want to do (E.G. kill your next door neighbor), would you do what he says, or would you count on Batman to save your loved one?
- Who is your favorite female superhero? (super heroes)
China has many important holidays, and Chinese New Year tops the list. This is a great lesson to pull out before the holiday break. You’ll have a chance to learn more about Chinese culture while getting them to tell you about it. You can also share about the holidays celebrated in the West, like Christmas, and do fun activities based around them. Little kids love doing holiday crafts and seeing Santa, if you can arrange it.
- Do you think holidays are important? Why?
- What kinds of thing do you like to do on the holidays?
- What is your favorite holiday food?
- What is your favorite holiday song?
- When is the holiday celebrated?
And while all kids love the holidays, they also love their homeland. Asking older children what they love about China will certainly get them talking. You can also try to work in history about the country and then share some tidbits from your home country.
- What do you like about China?
- Which is the most interesting city you ever visited in China?
- What’s your favorite Chinese food?
- Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
10. Places to Go
And finally, there is a whole great big world out there to see. Teaching geographical locations in English can only be boring if you let it. Ask your students where they would like to go someday. Show them photos and videos from other places around the world. Give them a glimpse into the culture of another place and see what they think. Keep it more basic for younger learners while going more in depth for the older ones.
- Have you ever been to a foreign country?
- What was the most interesting place you have ever visited?
- Which countries have you travelled to?
- What countries would you like to visit? Why?
- What do you need before you can travel to another country?
Have some fun!
Put the fun back in learning and explore these interesting ESL topics with your students. You just might be surprised at how much better they become when they come to your class for lesson time!
If you are also interested in learning new games to make your class fun, check out this article of 12 best ESL games.