Creative Ways to Teach English
Aug 25, 2014 English Language Teaching (ELT) 3869 Views
If, like me, you like to write, then finding creative ways to teach English should be easy. What helps tremendously in any class is to get your students actively involved in your lessons as much as possible.
Idea # 1: A Different Ending
In a high school ESL class in Bangkok, I wrote a quick story about a student in rural Northern Thailand who had an after school detention for listening to his IPod in class. Having missed his bus, he had to walk home. Taking a shortcut, he passed a large overhanging rock and suddenly noticed a tiger sitting beside the rock. He offered a prayer and promise never to use his IPod in class again if he was allowed to escape with his life. Two young tiger cubs suddenly appeared beside the mother and then scampered away up the hill. The mother followed and Pan, the boy, was able to get away safely and run the rest of the way home.
I had the class read the story aloud (good reading and speaking practice). Then, I have them an assignment to write an alternate ending to the story.
The result was excellent. I had several students read their alternative endings to the class and a good discussion ensued.
I submitted the story and three alternate endings to The International Journal for Teachers of Written English who published it. The students were thrilled to see the story and their own endings in print!
Idea # 2 - Urfus to the Rescue
I wrote a story in short chapter form about the adventures of a mild mannered young fellow who lived in a small town. I called it Urfus to the Rescue. My intention was to help students practice listening, reading, understanding life in Western society, and building vocabulary. I began with a couple of chapters and through the year, it developed into a book of 22 chapters with exercises and activities. For example, in one chapter, Urfus is employed as a postman and he has to deliverer mail to a selected part of the town. I created a map of the town, added street names and then made up about 60 envelopes and parcels with names and addresses which the students had to sort into streets and address numbers according to the way Urfus did his daily postal walk. Lots of fun!
Idea # 3 - 52 Words
52 Words is an exercise for students who have a reasonably good command of the English language. The challenge is for each student to be given the same 52 words and they have to create a story using all 52 words. This really gives them a workout in using the language. Here is a story I wrote in order to get student' creative juices flowing. It is called Maurice and I have highlighted the 52 words so you can pick them up if you want to use them with a class.
Maurice was a plumber and a very good one at that. He was quite strong, though he was getting old slowly. His small beard was turning gray, too. He was a happy kind of guy. He liked to stop and talk with everyone he would meet. That was why after his drive home, he always parked his old red van two streets away from his house - so he could walk home through the park, smell the flowers, look at the kids and dogs running and playing. He would laugh at their antics and remember when he was that age. Ah, that was so long ago, he thought to himself, though he could recall his childhood as though it was yesterday.
One day in June, as he was walking through the little park, he heard a shout. At first, he ignored it and kept walking. He was coming up to the little café in the middle of the park. Sometimes when he was tired, Maurice liked to stop there, enjoy a coffee quietly along with one of their nice vanilla cream cakes. After a hard day's work, he was usually hungry. Since his wife had passed away two years ago, Maurice had no reason to rush home to his empty apartment.
He could see two college-aged students, a boy and a girl, sitting and talking angrily. Obviously the boy was jealous about something. The boy was dressed in tennis whites and had a racquet slung over his shoulder. The girl had a stack of books beside her.
Maurice would not normally have bothered but they seemed like a nice young couple and he hated to see people arguing.
"Excuse me," Mario said politely. "I couldn't help but overhear your, ah, conversation. Would you mind terribly if I was to sit and tell you a quick story about something that happened to me in March in 1994 that changed my life?" He smiled and held up his hand. "I promise I won't stay long, okay?" He looked from one to the other.
The girl smiled back and motioned towards an empty chair. The boy looked frustrated and not happy about the intrusion. He didn't say anything but neither did he object when Maurice lowered his ample frame into the seat. "You look like such a nice young couple. May I buy you a coffee or soft drink?" Maurice took out some money and called the waitress. He noticed the girl kick the boy lightly under the table.
Maurice began his story... "It was my wife's birthday. As I got home from work, I gave her a kiss when she met me at the door. I was going to take my wife out to a nice restaurant to celebrate her birthday. I like the old type of restaurant, not the new modern unfriendly ones, don't you?"
"Anyway, my wife had bought some big Courtland apples that day and she offered me one to tide me over until we had dinner later. I was a little hungry after a long day. She had an apple as well. I sat down to read the Travel section of the newspaper because we were thinking of making a trip to France in the fall. The next thing I knew, my wife was on the floor and turning blue. A piece of the apple had stuck in her throat and she was choking. I knew I had to do something quickly. She didn't have much time. Well, I didn't know what to do so I yelled out for my neighbours. One is a policeman. We had just met him last week. He came running in; got my wife to her feet; turned her away from him; put his arms around her middle and pulled quickly. He did it a couple of times. In the end, the piece of apple loosened and she was able to cough it up. He said I was lucky that he had just returned from the police station and that she could have been dead in a very short time. He suggested that I take her to see a doctor just to be safe. A couple of years ago my wife got very ill and passed away, but between 1994 and then, we enjoyed each other's company every chance we could. We tried never to get mad at each other and went for a walk together every day whether it was sunny or wet."
Maurice looked at the couple. "You never know how long you will have together so if you don't mind an old man's advice, enjoy life while you can." He stood up and started towards his apartment.
He looked back at them. "Ask yourselves... a year from now how important will it be... what you are arguing about, I mean. Relationships take work. If you love each other, then your differences today will seem trivial later. It is such a lovely day. Hold hands. Go for a nice walk. Enjoy each other's company. Laugh!" He smiled and waved as he walked off.
Maurice turned to watch some children playing. He didn't see the couple get up, hug each other and then walk off arm in arm and smiling.
As you can see, it is quite short - easy to read in one class. Later, having everyone read each other's stories is a fun exercise. So is reading one or two out loud in class.
So there are three ideas for you to get your classroom creativity going.