Worksheets are boring. Students get enough of those in class, so why not think beyond the worksheets and introduce some different activities? As an ESL tutor, I’m constantly thinking up new ways to engage my students.
A couple years ago, I tutored a German woman who was accompanying her husband on a business trip. We spent the week visiting tea shops, museums, vegetarian cafes, and fair-trade stores. As a pilates instructor, history buff, and staunch vegan in her home country, this was how she wanted to spend her holiday. Over lunch, we read articles about fair-trade projects, and reviewed our daily field trips.
Field trips expose students to authentic English outside the confines of a classroom or tutoring session. Students are not only able to learn about the city they live in, but they’re able to read and listen to information intended for native English speakers. Make the most out of learning excursions by having students reflect on field trips in a journal or short video.
Friends, Modern Family, Sex and the City, and Dexter. These are just a few of the TV series that my students have tried to make sense of over the years. I’ve had to brush up on my slang and idioms to answer their questions. And these TV series have been springboards to discussions on cultural differences and controversial topics. (I’m not the only tutor that thinks Modern Family is great for ESL students. Check out this post and worksheet.)
TV series give insight into pop culture and expose students to informal conversations. They help students hone their listening skills, and learn about cultural nuances and humour. Ask your students to summarize episodes, role play a dialogue, or explain phrases and vocabulary!
Many of my students would rather read comic books than pick up a novel written in English or their own language. I have one student that is a big Harry Potter fan, and he’s putting down his manga to delve into Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. We’ve decided to read the book together and meet a couple times a week to talk about the adventures of the boy wizard!
Novels open up a new world to your students and give them a much needed break from grammar textbooks. Allow your students to choose a novel — preferably a novel made into a movie that they’ve already seen so that they have a basic understanding of the plot and characters. Read aloud with your students, discuss the story, go over vocabulary, and encourage your students to use their imaginations to create their own conclusions!
As tutors, we can stray from the curriculum and tailor lessons to the interests and needs of our students. We can think beyond the worksheets and truly engage our students. When students are interested and engaged learning breakthroughs begin!