Learning English as a second or foreign language can be difficult for some students. There are several different ways to learn, and many people benefit from a wider approach than the traditional methods employed in most classrooms. Adding games and activities that appeal to all the different ESL learning styles along with your standard curriculum can transform your lessons and make the time more productive for all!
Most authorities in the field of learning styles agree there are four basic ways people take in and process information. These are known as the four learning styles and consist of Auditory ESL Learners(students who respond best to lectures, tapes and verbal instructions), Visual ESL Learners (students who benefit from more traditional methods such as written material, pictures and video), and Tactile and Kinesthetic ESL Learners (treated together here as their styles involve either hands- on or whole body learning).
Many of the following games can easily be implemented in your classroom and adapted to best suit the ESL learning styles of any or all of your students.
AUDITORY ESL LEARNING STYLE
These ESL students will enjoy verbal games in a group setting; introducing repetitive chants using previously demonstrated words is a good way to start. EFL learners from Japan particularly appreciate Karaoke Night as a learning tool and this can be a fun idea for marking milestones as your class advances.
After a group activity, students can retire to separate listening stations for a Vocabulary Scavenger Hunt; multiple tapes with different key vocabulary words can be rotated to increase the number of words each student learns. Cloze Passages can be used with tapes as well to enhance the lesson’s effect.
Quizzes are a fun way to encourage a mild spirit of competition in your classroom; you can divide the students into teams and allow them to confer with each other to find the answers. Listen to a taped TV or radio broadcast and have them take turns answering questions about the content – you may be surprised at how well they pick up on the meanings!
VISUAL ESL LEARNING STYLE
These students can absorb information from common classroom tools such as books, flash cards, and video footage. Many language games work well with this type of student, and worksheets are a must – they will retain more from reading material than from verbal instruction.
Board games such as ‘Parts of Speech Path Finding’ (based on the Candy Land Board) are easy to laminate onto a manila folder, and the game accessories can be kept in an attached baggie. You can use color and images to make your board interesting, but remember your adult students may be turned off by a childish motif!
You can adapt Jeopardy and other popular games to use picture prompts. Current entertainment and media events can often be humorously discussed, and provide a real world aspect that will help students take their English skills outside the classroom.
Reading is of course expected from all students, and Ten Important Sentences with Watermelon is an excellent game to promote teambuilding, working under pressure, and summarizing. This is a game that crosses over to appeal to Tactile learners as well, as teams send representatives to put sentences in order.
TACTILE and KINESTHETIC ESL LEARNING STYLE
These students make up the last two types of learning styles. Tactile learner projects focus more on model building and crafts. Games for the Kinesthetic learner include group participation and physical use of the whole body. Activities originally developed for these learning styles have been discovered to assist all types of ESL learners, which is encouraging news for those trying to introduce new elements into their classrooms!
A good vocabulary game with a strong tactile element to appeal to this learning style is the old ‘items in a bag’ game. Students can describe the items by feel and the class can venture guesses as to their identity. Be prepared, this game can cause a degree of hilarity as students grope for words to clue their classmates in!
Spatial games involve rearranging items (a tactile variation) or people (a kinesthetic approach). Population Punctuation can be played by handing out cards with words and punctuation marks to all but one class member who is designated as ‘it’ This student then tries to make a proper sentence complete with punctuation by lining up as many people as possible.
Crafts and model building sets are invaluable as they combine auditory or visual elements with the tactile as students read or hear project instructions. Investing in an extensive Legos set will prove well worth it! Brightly colored pencils are another fun way for the students to proclaim their individuality as they follow directions for drawing or labeling maps.
Variety can bring success to your classrooms and help all of your ESL class members to broaden their learning styles. Games that make learning fun are a great way to foster independent thinking patterns, and create a relaxed, creative atmosphere where every student can find the tools they need for success!