6 Fun TEFL Classroom Activities
I still remember my first week as a Language Assistant so clearly. My school tutor had given me my schedule for the year that morning. Everything was a little confusing, from navigating the huge school, to getting to know all the different teachers I would be collaborating with. More than one thousand students attended the school I taught at. My school also had a kindergarten, primary, and secondary school!
When I first walked into the Primary 6 classrooms, I had no idea what to do. I only had a few icebreaker games I had learned from my training as an orientation leader the past years while in college, but that was pretty much it. My teacher suggested I tell them a bit about myself—so I pulled up Google Maps and began to show these curious Spanish students about where I was from. To avoid a frenzied first day like mine, here are 6 fun TEFL classroom activities you can do right away to keep your students engaged!
Create an introduction lesson about who you are! Students love learning about you, your family, and where you are from. I received many ooohs! and ahhs! when I opened up Google Maps. It’s helpful to provide students with a visual when showing them where you are from. My presentation also included photos of family, my friends, and myself. After class, a lot of them approached me and exclaimed that it was so cool to see where I was from, or that they didn’t realize the United States was so big compared to Spain! Showing them a map of where you are from fascinates these children and shows them that life in America or wherever you are from isn’t always like the stereotypical movies.
For those days where lesson planning can seem challenging with all the other activities you have, playing a minimal-material guessing game can be fun!
Students ask the teachers questions and at the same time, they can practice question-asking structures such as “Can I…?, Is it…?, Does it…?” If the students are learning about describing people, the teacher or the Language Assistant can think of a famous celebrity that the students have to guess. They can ask questions such as “Is he in a movie? Is he a singer? Does he have blond hair?, Has he got glasses?”
Questions asked can only have yes or no answers. The first student to guess correctly gets to be the next person who comes up with the celebrity. This game can also be altered to fit other vocabulary or topics the students are learning in class. For example, if they are learning about materials such as metal or wood, students can get extra points if they ask questions like “Is it made of wood? or Is it made of metal?”
Creating sentence scrambles for older students can be a lot of fun. Based on the English level of the students, we write about three to five sentences in different colors. Then, the teacher can cut up the sentences into phrases and mix them all up together. The main teacher split the class into three or four teams of four or five students, depending on how many kids there are in each class. The first team to put the phrases back in the correct sentence order wins! For example, a sentence structure for Primary 5 or Primary 6 students could be split like this: “I went to / the store yesterday / but I ended up / going to the movies.”
Memory matching will be one of the favorite TEFL classroom activities. Also, they are really great for younger primary students and kindergarteners. You can play lots of varied memory matching games online on this website or you can make your own! All you have to do is write a list of words in a specific category and find pictures to print out. Then, every time a student flips a card, he or she must say the name and practice pronouncing the word. If they get a picture and word pair that matches, then they get to keep the cards. Whoever has the most cards in the end, wins!
This or That
This is a good icebreaker activity for your first few days in the classroom. You can create a PowerPoint alongside the teacher with opposite vocabulary words on each slide such as moon or sun, fire or water, beach or mountain, Math or English, etc. At each slide, students must move to either the left or right side of the room depending on which word they prefer. You can have one student from each side
explain why they picked the word they did. This is a great opportunity to learn more about students and their learning styles. For example, if a student says they prefer the beach because they can feel the water and it makes them feel calm, they may like a more calming learning environment with tactile learning exercises. If a student says they prefer the sun because they can do more activities and hang out with friends, they may like more social tasks in class.
Word Search and Crossword Puzzles
These activities are suitable when children are too talkative and have too many side conversations. If they need a more calming and quiet activity, word search and crossword puzzles are my go-to-games! You can have students work individually or in pairs. These activities can be generated on lots of different websites such as Discovery Education or ESL Galaxy. What’s good about these activities is that you can make them for all age groups despite their English levels. I have used the same word search for my Primary 2 classes as I have for my Primary 6 classes!
Here you will find ESL Drama activities to engage with your students.