Effective Classroom Activities

TEFL teacher Carly has been teaching in Japan for just over a year now, so is what you might call a ‘seasoned-TEFLer’, which basically means she has lots of amazing tips to share with new and aspiring TEFL teachers!  Carly has kindly agreed to share with us her two favourite TEFL lessons from teaching in Japan, which you might be able to adapt for you own classroom.  Both of these activities were used by 4-6 year olds, but should work well with all young children.

1.  Decorating the Christmas tree

This is great for teaching vocabulary about Christmas and other associated themes.  I would start with a warm up which involves some leaping around like a virtual idiot until I collapse in heap on the floor whilst the children all laugh at me, which gets the heart pumping to say the least.

Once that is all done and dusted, I settle the class down around me (no seats, I get those pushed to the back of the room so they can clamber around me and take a good look at my pictures for the presentation stage of my Christmas words). I then drill and practice and play with the words to make them laugh some more, by the end they are smiling like loons. I always say if they had a good time, they are more likely to remember their lesson with me, which would be a plus.

Once the words have been grasped, they all sit back at their little desks and I present the main activity which is decorating their own Christmas tree, I pull out a beautifully decorated A4 version created by myself (taadaa!) to show the students what I mean and let them ogle at my scribbles before handing out a blank copy for each student. They are given 10 minutes to decorate their tree using the pictures of various Christmas decorations that I have been drilling them on (points also given to children who use their imagination and start drawing snowmen with bazookas etc).

As they get down to it I would wander around the class and spend some time with each student, asking them what they are drawing to check their grasp of the English words they have just learned (stickers are given if they can remember their vocab), and then once time is up everyone holds up their drawing for the Japanese teacher to take a picture of.

Quite an easy lesson plan really but it allows for some creativity on the student’s part and you as the teacher get to spend some time monitoring each students understanding of what you have taught without being too in their face about it. Throw in a song and a dance to start or finish with and job’s as good as done as they say.

The main thing with teaching the children for me was being able to laugh and make a fool of myself in order to make them smile: it may not be everyone’s style but the way their little eyes would light up when I walked in for the lesson said everything in my book. Also I’m a sucker for adorable children… so cute!

2.  Pictionary

The lesson as usual for me would begin with the bouncing around of us all during the ‘mad as can be’ warm up and would end with the familiar giggles of the children and me dropping to the ground, pooped from too much exercise in one go. Oh how we all laugh at poor, unfit teacher Carly.

Presentation would involve the lovely flashcards of my subject for the day, in this case, animals which the children would repeat though drilling exercises, including a game that ends up sounding something like musical chairs but with vocab. Needless to say they seem to like playing with words and sound like that.

Once the words have been connected to the pictures, we go for the main event, Pictionary!  My version involves splitting the children into groups, gathering the first one from each team at the front and showing them a picture from my flashcards to draw, they are then blindfolded and spun round and sent to the board to try and draw the animal whilst their fellow team mates try and guess what animal they are drawing, first team to guess correctly wins. The best part is quite obviously the wonderful and often incredibly strange drawings that end up decorating the blackboard!  The laugh that ensues is amazing, the children absolutely loved drawing silly pictures and the best thing is that everyone gets a go and we all have a laugh together. Winning teams can get stickers and praise, but really with this game no one feels like they lost because we are all having too much fun to think about it. The results really do speak for themselves, namely involving endless amounts of hugs from the children once class ends and delightfully big smiles.

What are some of your favourite games? And some of the most effective games? Share your thoughts with i-to-i!


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