Are you looking for language activities for your kids? Perhaps even an activity that could get them out of your hair for a bit (not judging). In these unprecedented times of social distancing, keeping your kids busy or better yet, engaged is challenging to say the least.
Generally speaking, eslconversation.ca is a site devoted to ESL materials for adults. However, being a mother of young kids myself, I feel compelled to share what I am doing with my own girls.
Because I too worry that they get complacent. I too worry that their brains turn to mush. And I too need a break from being the hourly ringmaster. But there is no way that my conscience will let me plug them into a video game or television. So what do to?
Easy Comic Maker: by Mélanie L. Sisley
If you have other sites or apps, let me know. I would be more than happy to make a video and share it.
Ever play the game Guess Who? You know the one where you and your partner have a bunch of tiles representing different people and you have to ask yes/no questions to guess which person your partner has in mind.
I love that game for beginner ESL. Only it costs a lot of money to buy one for each pair of students. So I created a modified version of this in a PowerPoint. The presentation also includes a couple of introductory exercises to practice the vocabulary of the different parts of the face.
I placed the fully downloadable presentation on Teachers Pay Teachers. At $2.99, it will save you some precious prep time. Get it here: Parts of the Face
Are you ready for a vacation, but don’t know where to go? Have I got a fantastic tool for you. The Washington Post offers this wild vacation planner tool. All you have to do is answer their questions and the computer will generate the top vacation spots based on your answers.
Is that not an awesome ESL exercise! I was beyond tickled when I stumbled on this gem of a website. Not only is it super useful for the common mortal, but it is also a fantastic speaking, reading and conversation exercise.
The questions are interesting and the options are funny. You may need to help the students with some of the jokes and figurative language, but once they understand that they don’t really have to understand everything verbatim, they should have a good time.
The articles are well written, perhaps a little challenging at times, but include many pictures.
How I would Teach This
Get students in pairs. One person asks the questions and the other answers
Let the computer generate the results
Ask each student to choose an article, even if they are not the traveller. Each read and then do a Tell Back on the content.
Can you describe what emotions you are experiencing right now? This is the question Tiffany Watt Smith asks her TED audience to sensitize them on how easy or how hard it is to put words on our emotions. This is a fantastic presentation to conjure the vocabulary of emotions and an esl psychology lesson.
Do you think words can really describe how we feel? If you watched the movie Inside Out, or are knowledgeable about the scientific litterature on emotions, you may have heard that emotions have been broken down into 6 basic forms: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. The first time I read this, I found it hugely oversimplified. I just couldn’t relate my own personal experience with this. Yet, these basic emotions seem to be the baseline for emotional researchers.
Smith challenges this simple view of emotional language. She looks across different languages and cultures to show the complexity and diversity of the words used to describe how we are feeling. She even suggests that the very existence of these words may allow us to feel things that people in other cultures don’t. She exposes a compelling and thought provoking-idea that words can shape how we feel. Before you start, be sure to download the Google docs included in this post. It has a preliminary list of emotions vocabulary words.
What emotion words do you know?
Do you think you are good at talking about how you feel?
The Video: TED The History of Human Emotion Discussion by Tiffany Watt Smith
I would break this presentation down into a series of snippets and begin by doing Tell Backs of each segment. In fact, if you have more basic students, I would stop at the 6 min mark and center a discussion on the vocabulary of emotions. However, for more advanced learners, I would go through the presentation as it digs much deeper into the topic of the history of emotions and may be very engaging for higher-level discussions.
What emotions does Smith talk about?
Can you give some examples of the emotional language of other cultures?
What stuck with you in Smith’s presentation?
Do you have words in your native language that describe feelings that don’t exist in English?
How are emotions viewed in your culture? Do you talk about them, or not?
What, according to you, is emotional intelligence?
Did your mother tell you not to talk to strangers? Mine did. Was that really good advice? Of course, we don’t want to compromise the safety of our children and we are not all be social butterflies. We have our personalities and our boundaries and it is important to respect ourselves in that way.
But isn’t there something alarmist, maybe even cold, about stranger danger? Are we encouraging isolation, apathy, disengagement, fear, tribalism? Even though it is natural to gravitate toward people who have familiar ideas and beliefs, could we be missing something?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Talking to Strangers” he exposes how opening ourselves up to others has a lot to teach us. But it is not all touchy-feely shiny happy people communing. Talking to strangers can be very destabilizing and may even reveal or confirm that there are some twisted people out there. Not everyone is truthful and not everyone is empathetic. But some are, and by closing ourselves off for fear for landing on a bad one, we are pruning our outlook and our own empathy.
Justin Trudeau’s keynote address to the NYU graduates takes this notion to the next level. He calls us out on our hidden biases, our fears, our tribalism. He wants to inspire us to have courage and get to know those who make us uncomfortable, get to know those who don’t resemble us and get to know those who don’t think like us. For him, and perhaps for Gladwell as well, talking to strangers is the path to world peace…no less.
What do you think talking to strangers can achieve?
Why is it so difficult for us?
The Video: Justin Trudeau Diversity doesn’t have to be a weakness!
What are some of the main messages that stuck with you?
What does Trudeau mean when he talks about ‘tribalism’?
What does he mean when he says “win the argument”?
What can we do to know the good strangers from the bad strangers? Are there tools, tricks?
Do you think Trudeau is being naïve? In what way?
What are some of the ‘juicy’ words and expressions? Make a list and see if you can put them in other sentences.
Do you knit, run, read, eat, garden? Hobbies are acticities that we do for the sheer pleasure of doing them. They help us take time for ourselves. Whether they are sports related or a more relaxing activity, a hobby is something to enjoy. In other words, when you have given them a bit of time, you feel recharged and happy–as opposed to guilty or tired.
Personnally, I have more hobbies than I probably should. I love relaxing. I knit, paint, garden, cook, take long walks with my dog, read and write blogs. In fact, my hobbies help me channel a lot of creative energy. My husband on the other hand uses hobbies like obsesive video game playing to expell his stress. I’m not sure that it works though.
Moreover, not everybody nutures hobbies. In fact, in many cultures hobbies can be viewed as lazy or a waste of time–something you do when you are children or you want to avoid ‘real’ work. What do you think? Are hobbies healthy or a waste of time? In this Huffington Post article, the author develops the idea that there are good and not so good hobbies.
Being environmentally mindful can mean much more than composting your food scraps and recycling packaging. There are hundreds of little gestures that can contribute to making the planet healthier.
How many try to pack litterless lunches? Do you use plastic produce bags for your fruits and vegetables? Do you use reusable shopping bags? And more importantly, do you think that any of this makes a difference in the planet’s health?
And what about the way we buy food. Do you try to buy local? Can you tell which is local from the imported stuff? What do you know about how your food is produced? If you are like me, probably not enough.
If we look at food buying trends, it would appear that we are trying to shop and eat smarter. So what do you think that means? In this PBS Hot Mess feature, they take a look at global food production and why it is so hard to change methods that are depleting the planet of its resources.
About the video: the information is not always easy to follow. It is full of government references (I guess it must be interesting for someone) and they bring up many questions but don’t really get to the answers. Still, I suggest you get through to the end. The conclusion carries many of the main messages and leaves a few concrete things to think about.
How have you changed the way you buy food in the last 10 years?
The Video: PBS Hot Mess Food vs. Climate Change
First, do a global Tell Back of the video…broad strokes.
What do they mean by a universal food reference?
Does eating more fruit and vegetables help the environment?
Why is it hard to change our food habits?
Agree or disagree
Adopting a universal reference diet is easy
To reduce carbon emissions, all we have to do is eat less meat
If people knew more about how food is produced we could change damaging food production practices
There is nothing we can to do change food production
Are your clothes environmentally friendly? Do you even know. I didn’t. Manufacturing clothes is a complex industry that involves chemicals, non-ethical labour (child labour), shipping, and very high carbon emissions (5% over the overall carbon emission every year).
Clothes define us. Make us feel pretty or handsome, help us feel confident. I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to feel good in a job interview when you are wearing and old suit. But
Still, I know that my love of clothes is not the best for the planet. So I made one of my environmental objectives to buy more second hand clothes. In this PBS YouTube show Hot Mess they present other ways to help reduce our environmental foot print with different ways of choosing and buying clothes.
Do you like to shop for clothes?
Do you ever buy second hand clothes?
What do you do with the clothes you don’t wear anymore?
Some concepts to explore before the video:
clothing as a status symbol
impact on the planet
releasing carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emission
environmentally friendly shipping
Teachers note: The presenter speaks fast. But you can reduce the speed to 0.75 and still get a natural flow. You can also add the close captions. If the rate and vocabulary is a bit frustrating for your students, encourage them to use their meta-knowledge to achieve comprehension (images, body language, guessing from context). The faster they get over what they don’t understand, the better they will feel when faced with native speakers in real life.
The Video: PBS Hot Mess How To Make Clothes Less Terrible for the Planet
Stop the video 2 or 3 times and do a Mind Map of all the key concepts.
Why are clothes so important to us?
What are some of the impacts of polyester, rayonne, leather, and cotton?
What are some of the environmentally friendly things we can do to reduce the impact of buying clothes?
After watching this video, what could you change in your buying habits that could improve the impact of the clothing industries’ impact on the environment?
In three minutes this video gave me goosebumps. It’s not the first time I encountered the idea that kindness is contagious, but it’s another thing to watch someone put it into practice. The gratefulness, the “someone sees me”, the “someone cares” leaps right out of the screen.
“Can I help you with anything?”, produced by Kindness.org, so simple yet so potent, so connected. Can you remember a time when someone just reached out and gave you a hand? Perhaps you didn’t even know you were struggling and they just cut into your bubble and helped.
I don’t have too many anecdotes, but those I do, I cherish. I also cherish times where I have stepped in and the person let me help them. In my mind, this is a unique privilege that is sometimes more about me than about them. Because it feels so lovely to feel the upside of my humanity. Better than a glass of good wine, a beach breeze or even a great tune, it ignites my soul.
Can you think of stories involving random acts of kindness? Either someone helping you, or you helping someone. How did it feel?
The video: Can I help you? Kindness.org
What is Joe’s objective?
What are some of the problems he encounters?
What are some of the things he does?
Do you need money to help people?
What is meaningful?
What is the butterfly effect?
As a class, make a list of random acts of kindness
How do you poach an egg? Yes, that is my discussion question for today. Easy right? In my humble experience, poaching an egg is one of the harder cooking skills I have ever had to master.
But aside from the culinary anecdotes, the mmmEnglish YouTube channel prepares cooking lessons with the goal of teaching English. Now I know it goes against the Whole Language Approach to use adapted materials, but I think this video has got all the authenticity features of first language material and is a great resource for beginner ESL material, of which I don’t have a whole lot.
So if you are looking for a good launchpad to teach food words or cooking verbs or just a good listening exercise that focuses on process, this is a short, slow, clear and useful video. Especially if you are trying, as I am, to make the perfect poached egg. Bon appétit!
Do a quick Mind Map of all the food words your students know. Perhaps you could also prompt a few cooking verbs.
The Video: How to Poach an Egg by mmmEnglish
What are the ingredients?
What tools are needed?
What are the steps?
Complete these sentences:
The water is perfect when it has small________ but it is not boiling.
The yoke must be _______but not hard.
Toast is just a ________that has be toasted in the ______
______butter on the toast.
Make a list of all the cooking verbs. Can you put them in another sentence?