How to teach full day English lessons
EFL Teachers often ask me how they can "fill up" a whole day of English. The idea of teaching students in a stimulating way for hours on end is daunting! Let's hear from this EFL teacher:
"Your games book is wonderful but my assignment is unique: I am teaching an intense ESL program to two sisters from Italy. Help! I have a certificate in ESL but have not had this scenario. One girl is 12 and the other 14. We are doing 4 hrs. a day, 5 days a week, for 2 weeks. This will require a lot of material to fill that many hours. Your book offers me a lot of games and activities, but any other suggestions would be appreciated.
A full day of English?
4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 2 weeks...That's 40 hours of English lessons. Luckily I have just the thing! And not just to "fill" the hours, but to have the kids speak English and enjoy the learning process. But let's make these 40 hours seem less daunting.
Break the day down into separate lessons
Take the first 4-hour slot and break it down into 4 separate lessons of 50 minutes, with a 10-minute break. That seems immediately much more manageable. Each session of 50 minutes should be completely different.
Don't waste time preparing lessons for students you don't know
Don't plan the full course of English lessons since you do not know how the students will progress. This is particularly true if you do not know the students. Prepare the first lesson and see what the students' level is and how fast they go through your material. That will allow you to tailor the second lesson more accurately. After that you will have an overall plan for the two weeks, but tweak the content for each day as you go along.
Take 10-minute breaks every 50 minutes. When you break, have a real break! No English! Leave students alone and take a break too. Ten minutes on your own will be heaven, to have a drink and collect your thoughts for the next session.
The first session
In the first hour I use intensive language games, presenting and drilling new language that you will use later in a skit. This requires full concentration and is intense for the students. Make sure students are on the move, not sitting passively. My language games books are perfect for varied, fun ideas. After 50 minutes, take a break!
The second session
Continue with a song.
- Print the lyrics and have students chop them up into sentences. Each small group works on either a verse, or the whole song.
- Students listen to the song repeatedly and piece them together.
- Then do treasure hunting for grammar in the text.
- Discuss the meaning and put some actions to the song - your students decide what these should be.
- Put together a choreography. This might include some dance steps if your pupils enjoy that, and combine with meaningful actions, or role-playing any action in the song.
- Country music is useful or rap, since these songs often have rich texts that tell stories.
- If your students are beginners take slower songs, such as the House of the Rising Sun.
- Have students on percussion using saucepans as drums, bottles and shakers (containers with sand or stones). Everything happens in English, even with beginners, using demonstration, gestures and repeating key commands and words frequently.
- If anyone has musical talent consider writing a song together.
Take a break. Students should have a drink and perhaps a piece of fruit or a healthy snack. Again, no laborious English during the break, it's a proper rest. Give them a break from you too! (And you from them.)
The third session
Start work on a skit. In the first session you will have started the groundwork. Now it's time to put this target language into a context.
- Present the whole skit to your students. Perhaps have them read it with you.
- Ask questions or translate anything they don't understand.
- Next, take a mini-dialogue from the skit and rehearse it five or six times. Never use the script for this. That's a recipe for disaster. Take just four lines and drill them from memory. Bear in mind you will have been drilling this language for 50 minutes in the first session.
- How far you go in the skit depends totally on the level of your students, so you will have to tailor the ideas here to your particular requirements.
- Once you have drilled 2-4 lines several times, ask students for ideas for actions or staging for that part of the skit. Take 2-4 different lines and drill those.
- Play listening games with the script. For example, have students cut up the script and place pieces around the room. Play Musical vocabulary with those chunks of text. Pin chunks of text onto a sheet, (using safety pins), or better still, write them onto an old sheet you don't need. Your students help you. Then play Twister with your sheet!
All the while you are drilling the language, yet students are moving, active, relaxed. in this alert state they are so much more likely to learn than sitting looking at a book or copying lines. There simply is no comparison.
The fourth session
- In the final session I would do some calm writing activities, some word searches, quiz questions, crafts or playful worksheets.
- Create a giant quiz that you add to gradually over the lessons. Putting on a quiz as part of the show at the end of the course is a good way to show off everyone’s English.
- Alternate with a board game or big game activity that takes up an entire lesson.
- Making props for the skit or a programme to invite parents at the end of the course would be appropriate.
- On the other hand, it's good to change topics completely. If every session is about the same skit or topic, things can get stale.
- Oh yes, and of course the last session would be the time to tell a story.
I could go on and on, but this blog post is now long enough!
Towards the end of the day stick to relaxing activities such as cooking together, making something, playing language games outside such as Blindfold Directions, Stuck in the Mud...it all depends on the age and level of your pupils, but chose something they enjoy.
Plays and skits for teens and adults. I'm writing them now! Drop me a line if you are interested and I'll contact you when they are finished to send you a sample. The level is A2 for the European CEFR.
Ask me questions in the comments box, I'll be glad to help.
All the best
Shelley Ann Vernon