(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)
I went to MD TESOL earlier this month and came away with some great warm-up ideas.
What I like about this one is that the students provide the input, but it gets randomized so nobody has to be put on the spot. It’s a particularly great way to review examples of grammar, writing, etc. anonymously, but can also be used for get-to-know-you activities.
- Write a prompt on the board. (A question, several questions, an instruction to write a type of grammar construction, etc.)
- Students each write their answers on a piece of paper.
- Students crumple up their paper (“snowball”) and toss it into the middle of the room.
- Everyone takes half a minute or so to pick up the crumpled papers and toss them toward the center again, which really mixes them up.
- Each student picks up a random crumpled paper and unfolds it.
- The students complete the activity with the random paper (i.e. read the example on the paper and correct it)
Let’s say I want to review Present Continuous with a fairly advanced grammar class.
I might put a picture up on the projector that shows people doing several different activities. Perhaps children on a playground.
I’d write the prompt, “Write three sentences describing what the children are doing. Please use Present Continuous in each sentence.”
The students would write their sentences. Then I’d have them crumple their paper, toss it into the middle of the room, and we’d all randomize them.
The students would each take a random paper, check it for errors by themselves, then switch with a partner. I’d circulate and help. If there’s time, we could also share them all as a class, or we could just spot-check a few where the partners disagreed on the corrections.
Other Content Possibilities:
- as a more personal activity, students could write down information about themselves. When students receive their random snowball, they have to try to figure out who their paper is describing. In Level 1, this could be visible information (i.e. “brown shirt, long hair, glasses”). In higher levels, it could be less visible information (i.e. “I play the piano. I love to read. I work in a hospital.”)
- ask students to produce pretty much any grammar point
- ask a few content questions (perhaps about the reading assignment?) and then “grade” each other’s papers. The point would be to learn the content better from the process of answering and correcting, not to receive the grade. You could ask them to report what grade they would have gotten, though, as an extremely informal formative assessment.
- in academic writing, you can ask students to write two thesis statements or three example topic sentences. Then they can evaluate and improve upon each other’s examples.