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A Transportation Lesson for ESL Teachers

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

Are you a teacher of English as a second language looking for a lesson plan to teach your students about travel on the road, in the air, on the rails, and on the water in an English-speaking country? Look no further than the following vocabulary and activities focused on travel and transportation.

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    Teaching English language learners to talk about the different types of transportation common in English-speaking countries is essential for their success in the English language. This ESL lesson plan provides teachers and students of English as a second language with some common transit vocabulary as well as some fun activities to reinforce learning.

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    English Travel Vocabulary

    Begin the ESL lesson by introducing the following English language transportation vocabulary and definitions:

    On the Road

    • bicycle – a manual vehicle with two wheels
    • bus – a large motorized vehicle with seats for multiple passengers that usually operates as part of a scheduled paid service
    • bus stop – a place on a bus route where buses to pick up and drop off passengers
    • car – a motorized vehicle that seats five to six passengers
    • highway – a type of street between cities
    • interstate – a type of highway that crosses two or more states
    • minivan – a small passenger van
    • motorcycle – a motorized vehicle with two wheels similar to a bicycle
    • RV – a motorized vehicle used for recreation purposes and often equipped with a living area; abbreviation of recreational vehicle
    • semi – a large motorized truck with a detachable trailer used for hauling freight; abbreviation of semi-trailer
    • street – a paved surface on which vehicles drive
    • SUV – a rugged motorized vehicle designed for occasional off-road use; abbreviation of sport-utility vehicle
    • taxi – a public passenger vehicle; clipping of taxicab
    • truck – a motorized vehicle with a bed or hitch for hauling freight

    In the Air

    • airplane – a motorized aircraft with wings
    • airport – an area with facilities for the landing, takeoff, shelter, supply, and repair of aircraft
    • helicopter – a motorized aircraft with rotating wings or blades
    • jet – an airplane moved by jet propulsion; clipping of jet plane
    • tarmac – an airport runway
    • terminal – a station that serves airplane passengers

    On the Rails

    • cable car – a motorized vehicle operated on a cable rail
    • monorail – a motorized vehicle operated on a single rail
    • railroad – a permanent road with rails on which trains operate
    • subway – an underground railroad
    • train – a motorized vehicle operated on railroad tracks
    • tram – a motorized vehicle operated on a cable usually suspended over a canyon or between mountain peaks; clipping of tramway
    • trolley – a motorized streetcar propelled electrically from overhung wires or wires between the tracks

    On the Water

    • boat – a vessel for transport by water
    • canoe – a boat with tapered points at both ends that is usually made of aluminum or fiberglass
    • cruise ship – a passenger ship used for pleasure cruises
    • rowboat – a small boat designed for rowing
    • ship – a large vessel for transport by water

    For additional vocabulary and definitions, please download the accompanying vocabulary sheet from ESL Transportation Lesson Vocabulary.

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    ESL Activities on Transportation

    After teaching the English vocabulary for travel in English speaking countries, use one or more of the following educational activities to reinforce the lesson:

    • Flashcards: Have the students make their own English transportation flashcards by printing an image of a vocabulary word on one side of the card and writing the English vocabulary word on the other. Use the flashcards to practice the vocabulary.
    • Maps: ESL students can practice their speaking skills by using a map to facilitate talking about taking a trip. Have the students explain the various modes of transit they might use while traveling from one location to another.
    • Travel journals: To practice their writing skills, English language learners can write a journal about their travels (both real and imagined). Have the students use their new vocabulary to describe a trip from one place to another.
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    By the end of this ESL transportation lesson plan, English language learners should be able to talk about some of the most common modes of transportation in English-speaking countries through vocabulary and activities.