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75 ESL Teaching Ideas


These are the ideas included in Hall Houston's Random ESL Idea Generator. If you have a JavaScript-enabled browser, you can use the generator to get a randomly-selected idea from this list. Perhaps you will find it useful to print out this list and refer to it from time to time.

The Ideas

  1. Alter the pacing of your class. If you rush through your class at full speed, slow things down and take time to ask your students personal questions based on the materials you are using. If you tend to proceed at a snail's pace, prepare some additional activities and push yourself to accomplish more than you usually do.
  2. Ask a student to demonstrate a dance, and assist the student in explaining the movements in English.
  3. Ask students to name as many objects in the classroom as they can while you write them on the board.
  4. Ask students to present to the class a gesture that is unique to their own culture.
  5. Ask students to write one question they would feel comfortable answering (without writing their name) on an index card. Collect all of the index cards, put them in a bag, have students draw cards, and then ask another student the question on that card.
  6. Ask your students if there are any songs running through their heads today. If anyone says yes, encourage the student to sing or hum a little bit, and ask the others if they can identify it.
  7. Assign students to take a conversation from their coursebook that they are familiar with and reduce each line to only one word.
  8. At the end of class, erase the board and challenge students to recall everything you wrote on the board during the class period. Write the expressions on the board once again as your students call them out.
  9. Begin by telling your students about an internal struggle between two sides of your personality (bold side vs. timid side OR hardworking side vs. lazy side), providing a brief example of what each side says to you. After a few minutes of preparation in pairs, have students present their struggles to the class.
  10. Bring a cellular phone (real or toy) to class, and pretend to receive calls throughout the class. As the students can only hear one side of the conversation, they must guess who is calling you and why. Make the initial conversation very brief, and gradually add clues with each conversation. The student who guesses correctly wins a prize.
  11. Bring a fork, knife, spoon, bowl, plate and chopsticks (if you have them) to class, and mime eating some different dishes, letting students guess what they are. Then let your students take a turn.
  12. Bring an artifact from the student's culture to class, and ask them questions about it.
  13. Bring in some snacks that you think your students haven't tried before, and invite the students to sample them and give their comments.
  14. Call on a student to draw his or her country's flag on the board, then teach him or her how to describe the flag to the class (It has three stripes...).
  15. Choose one topic (food, sports) and elicit a list of examples (food - chicken, pudding, rice). Then have your student come up with the most unusual combinations of items from that list(chocolate-beef or wrestling-golf).
  16. Collaborate with your students on a list of famous people, including movie stars, politicians, athletes, and artists. Have every student choose a famous person, and put them in pairs to interview each other.
  17. Come to class dressed differently than usual and have students comment on what's different.
  18. Copy a page from a comic book, white out the dialogue, make copies for your class, and have them supply utterances for the characters.
  19. Copy pages from various ESL textbooks (at an appropriate level for your students), put them on the walls, and have students wander around the classroom and learn a new phrase. Then have them teach each other what they learned.
  20. Copy some interesting pictures of people from magazine ads. Give a picture to each student, have the student fold up the bottom of the picture about half an inch, and write something the person might be thinking or saying. Put all the pictures up on the board, and let everyone come up and take a look.
  21. Describe something observable in the classroom (while looking down), and tell students to look in the direction of what you described.
  22. Draw a map of your country or another country that your students know well. By drawing lines, show students where you went on a trip, and tell them about it. Then call on several students to do the same. The trips can be truthful or fictional.
  23. Draw a pancake-shape on the board, and announce that the school will soon be moving to a desert island. Invite students one by one to go to the board and draw one thing they would like to have on the island.
  24. Draw a party scene on the board, and invite students to come up and draw someone they would like to have at the party.
  25. Empty a bag of coupons onto a table, and have students find a coupon for a product that they have no need for.