(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.)
My lead teacher used one of these activities to introduce essay structure in our Advanced Academic Writing class last week. She gave each student an element of an academic essay (i.e. “thesis statement,” “topic sentence 2,” etc.), and as a class they had to tape them to the board in the correct order.
I’ve used it in the past to teach sequence signal words (first, then, etc.) and to review several different verb tenses all at once. I’ve also used a variation where students put words in an appropriate order to form a sentence.
One of my Russian teachers used it on us to teach… well, I’m not sure what she was trying to teach. It was the first week of class and she gave us two stanzas worth of separate lines of a Russian poem. We had to put them in order. It was waaaay over my head.
This is a great activity for students to do in small groups or as one big group. They’ll be negotiating meaning together and the conversations will be authentic because of that. It can be individually done as well, but there’s less conversation and lots more cutting out that way.
- Decide what you want your students to put in order. Some kind of chronological or other objective sequence (i.e. introduction, body, conclusion) is the most clear-cut way to do this.
- Decide how many students to a group, and how many groups.
- Decide where the students will be working – at their tables, on the board, etc.
- Cut out the pieces onto separate strips of paper.
- In class, introduce the activity. Explain that you’ll be putting the papers in order. Explain what the students will be looking for to determine the order.
- Give the students time to figure it out.
- Go over the students’ results. Highlight the clues that pointed us to the right answer (i.e. “last” would go at the end; a thesis statement always goes at the end of the intro). Go over what is correct and be sure to answer questions about it.
Other prep ideas:
- Bring several pairs of scissors and have students help you cut strips.
- Write on index cards or sentence strip card stock.
- Assign students to each write on each card, then they can put the cards in order. Example: ask each student to write one sentence that told one activity they did last week and when they did it. (This element can be practice of Simple Past.) Then they can put all their sentences in order on the board.
Levels of focus:
- word building (i.e. prefix, root, suffixes)
- sentence building (each strip is just one word)
- paragraph building
- narrative building / timeline
- Conversation starter – have students put things in a more subjective order, such as importance, preference, fairness, etc. This sets up the class for meaningful conversations: students can discuss why they put things where they did, ask each other questions, and practice politely disagreeing. Examples: best food, most important belongings, spouse traits, etc.
- Syllabus study – the first day of class, when going over the syllabus, have students put their major assignments in order so they for sure know what’s coming up in the semester.
- Grammar study – include sentences in various past, present, and future tenses and aspects that the students are familiar with.
- Content – put a step in a process on each strip, then have the students put those in order. Examples: photosynthesis, blood transfusions, rebuilding a carburetor, etc.