Six Activities for Generating Enthusiasm in the Foreign Language ClassroomPhilip Dave Ambard
philip.ambard [at] usafa.af.mil
United States Air Force Academy (Colorado, USA)
Linda Katherine Ambard
Academy School District 20 (Colorado, USA)
IntroductionMotivating students to use acquired target language skills to listen, speak, read, and write is key to foreign language instruction. With these goals in mind, it is helpful to apply everyday activities within the classroom setting to inspire and instruct students. Utilizing the tools of creativity, humor, friendly competition, and tie-in to familiar knowledge of everyday items (i.e. songs, school supplies, body parts, etc.), teachers can create an energized atmosphere conducive to language acquisition and retention. Below are six classroom activities designed to generate enthusiasm and create desired environments. These activities can be easily adapted to fit a wide array of academic settings from elementary students through adult language learners.
Creating a Friendly Monster
- Focus: listen, comprehend, and apply
- Unit: body parts, numbers, positioning/spatial
Once students have drawn their monster, then recognition is given to each student. Depending on the number of students, the teacher may have to creatively invent sufficient awards to ensure all monsters win in at least one category. Categories can include funniest looking monster, monster most likely to be afraid of its own reflection, monster most in need of vitamins to fend off anemia, movie star monster, overly cheerful monster, so on and so forth. Finally, the students name their monster and the activity ends. The monsters can remain on the board until the end for students to admire each other's work until the end of class.
- Focus: conversation (speaking and listening) and some writing
- Unit: foods, colors, numbers, animals, temperatures, etc.
Once the menus have been created, then students role play using the menus. For example, students can work in pairs, in groups of three where one person is the waiter and the others customers, or before the class in a setting that is likely to be entertaining and instructional. Individual teachers should determine which setting will work best for each class.
People, Clothes, Colors
- Focus: creative expression, writing, speaking, and listening
- Unit: clothes, colors, typical activities
Once the students have finished drawing, then they should write a brief description of what is happening in the scene. This needs to include who is wearing what (include colors in the text). Once the text is complete, students present their drawing using the target language to a partner, small group, or even to the class. Encourage creativity (within the norms of classroom acceptable material) and humor. For example, the scene can depict a day at the beach using cats and dogs instead of people. In this case, a dog may be surfing with sunglasses and a swimming suit, while two cats are wearing a suit and drinking lemonade.
- Focus: team work, conversation (speaking and listening), some writing
- Unit: classroom items, descriptive words, spatial (i.e. near the door or next to the table)
Initially, the students use dictionaries or other sources to determine what each item on the list. Then the fun really begins as teams seek to locate these items quickly. Located items are collected by the teams and brought to their home base (desks). The final phase involves writing a basic sentence (in the target language) using each item on the list (ten sentences in this case). These sentences should briefly describe the item or perhaps disclose where it was located (i.e. the pencil is yellow or the paper clip was near the blackboard). Again, only the target language is used throughout the activity.
- Focus: listening, reading, word association
- Unit: varies depending on song selection
The activity begins when the song is played twice for the students. After the second time, the words are placed on the overhead and each student receives a copy of the words. Now the students hear the song and follow along by reading the words. In certain classes the students may be encouraged to sing along as well (more typical of younger classes). Finally, the students are asked to underline unfamiliar words. This leads to a discussion involving the use of contextual clues to assign meaning to unfamiliar words. As an option, fairly advanced classes may be asked to identify verbs in tenses currently being studied (conditional, past, future, etc.) or other grammar related topics.
- Focus: listen, apply instructions, and eventually lead the activity
- Unit: body parts, classroom items, movement, spatial
Initially, the teacher leads the class. Subsequently, students take turns playing the role of Simon. This game is effective if played periodically and if everyone gets a chance to lead the class at some point.
The rules are very simple. Using only the target language, the leader has everyone stand and await instructions. The commands may be as simple as Simon says touch your nose, Simon says clap twice, Simon says raise your right leg and count to ten, and so on. The trick is that only commands preceded by the phrase "Simon Says" are to be followed. Anyone who performs an action that was not preceded by "Simon Says" (i.e. touch your ears or do two jumping jacks) sits and is out of the game. Eventually, only a few students remain standing and reducing the number of players may be quite challenging.
This game captivates everyone and produces a lot of laughter and humor. Even students who are eliminated from competition want follow along to see how their classmates perform. Leaders are encouraged to be creative (within established limits) when issuing instructions. The use of movements, incorporation of body parts, and application of understood instructions make this fun game a valuable learning tool.
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. X, No. 9, September 2004