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15 lesson ideas for teaching junior EFL students – Part 1

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Keeping lesson content interesting is a key tactic which is essential to help our young learners recall important learning outcomes from the summer. Our Embassy Summer Academic Coordinator, Philip Warwick, has prepared 15 lesson ideas you too can adopt with your junior EFL students. This is part one of three.

Sometimes when the weather changes or the mood swings, the wonderful English language lesson we had originally planned for our students runs out of steam or fails to ignite their imagination.

Let’s look at some simple games and activities that we can use with our students to provide them with an opportunity to practice and review some of the lexis and grammar that they have probably spent all summer forgetting. I’ve put together 15 of my favorite activity ideas for teaching junior EFL students that I regularly use to change the pace during a transition stage or when I need to revise some of the words and phrases I’ve been teaching them, or if I have a few minutes to kill at the end of the English lesson. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that you can try out in your English course for teens and juniors – let me know if it works for you.

  1. The ‘C’ and ‘S’ game. This is a word association game. Split the class into teams of 3 or 4 students give each team 4 lives. Explain that you will say a word and that the next team have 5 seconds to say a word associated with it, then the next team have to say a word associated to the first team’s word and so on until you hear a word beginning with either ‘C’ or ‘S’ in which case you deduct a life from the team introduce a new (unconnected word) and continue. The winner is the last team alive (i.e. with lives left). A good way to introduce the instructions for the game is to demonstrate (write ‘boy’ on the board and then get the students to think of all the words connected with boy –write them on the board making sure that you also include ‘son’ and ‘child’, use these to explain that words beginning with ‘c’ and ‘s’ are not accepted. The game works best if the teacher has put some thought into words that will produce ‘c’ or ‘s’ responses (e.g. moon, drive, table, beach etc.)
  2. Back writing – This can be a fun activity for lower level students. Divide the students into teams getting the teams to form lines facing away from the whiteboard. Write a word you have introduced to the students recently on the whiteboard, get the student from each team nearest the whiteboard to look at the word. They then have to ‘write’ this word on their teammates back with their finger – the teammate repeats this with the next student in line. The last student in each line has to shout out the word. The student who is first to do this scores a point for their team.
  3. Buzz, Whiz, Bang. This is a good activity for lower level students. Get the students to stand up in a line or circle. Tell the students that they are going to count up to 20 but with a difference. Instead of going 1,2,3,4,5 they will substitute every number divisible by 3 with the word ‘buzz’ (i.e. 1,2 Buzz 4 5 Buzz), then add in that every number divisible by 5 should be substituted with the word ‘whiz’ (i.e. 4, Whiz, Buzz, 7, 8, Buzz, Whiz) finally with a good class you can substitute every number divisible by 7 with ‘Bang’. Students count off one number at a time (i.e. the first student says ‘one’ the second ‘two’ etc) every time there is a mistake the student who made the mistake sits down and the teacher starts again from 1 with the next student. The winner is the last student left standing.
  4. ABC. Divide the whiteboard into three or four sections, write the alphabet in each section. Divide the class into teams and designate a section of the whiteboard for each team. Hand out one whiteboard marker to each team and tell them that they will have to write one word on the board each time you mention a category. The word has to begin with one of the letters in their section and they can only use each letter once. They have 5 seconds to write the word, if the word is misspelled then it will be removed by the teacher. The first team to have 26 words on the board (one for each letter) wins. Examples of categories include write: a sport, a job, something connected with Education, something at an airport etc.
  5. Adjective dating. Make sure that there are lots of different adjectives on the board then tell the students that they are going to take a test. Get the students to close their eyes and ask them to think of a colour when they can see the colour get them to open their eyes and (secretly and individually) write it on a piece of paper. Then get them to write down  3 adjectives that describe how that colour makes them feel. Repeat this time with ‘you see an animal coming towards you as soon as you can see the animal open your eyes and write it down’. Again students write three adjectives describing the animal. Finally repeat with ‘imagine a form of water’ (i.e. the sea, ice, a lake etc) and three adjectives describing the water. Elicit some answers from students and then inform them that they have all taken a psychological test and that what they have done is actually described 1. How other people see them (colour) 2. Their ideal partner (animal) and 3. How they are in a relationship.

Phil first started working at Embassy when there was just one school in Hastings, back in 1990 – during his time there he has worked in many roles, from teacher to head of vacation education to teacher trainer and then finally over to Embassy Summer, where he has Academic Coordinator for UK schools since 2007. 

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