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Your ESL Adult Class: Teaching With the Word Prompt Game

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 12/29/2013

Bring new and exciting ideas to class when teaching your English as a Second Language (ESL) students, and see them transform from timidity to self confidence. Learn a game you can utilize to teach pronouns, and adapt it for other parts of speech.

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    Add Zest to Your Classes

    When teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) students, classes do not have to be exciting only for children. Adult classes can be ESL Class Mature fun, too. Infusing fun into the lessons is important because adults learn a foreign language in the same way as children. They need to start with the ABCs and simple short sentences and new vocabulary, just like when they were children and learned their own language. So having adults do quizzes, games, and crossword puzzles,as well as sing songs, role play, and other activities adds zest to classes and will also enhance the learning process and bring great results.

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    Speak English Only

    The main rule to observe in teaching English as a Second Language is to use English only as the language of instruction. Do not translate anything into the students’ language, because translation can lead to confusing mistakes. For one thing, translation will prevent the students from gaining a sense of the English structure of sentences and it will definitely interfere with idiomatic expressions. Translation will also take up time, create errors and slow down the students’ response in English. Activities must encourage speaking English and English only. The teacher should speak as little as possible while the students should be given opportunities to speak as much as possible. The following are some activities you can use to encourage your students to speak.

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    Word Prompts

    Word Prompts can be used as a guessing game that works with each level of teaching.

    Beginning Level

    Divide the class into two teams. Each team will write a list of words, which the other team has to guess. One member of the team will start by describing his word in every way, but without calling the exact word. For example he chooses the word horse. He can say “It is tall.” “It weighs many pounds.” “It is usually brown.” “Some of them race.” He goes on until a student from the other team guesses the word. Then, it’s the student from the B team’s turn.

    Intermediate Level

    For this level, the same game could be played; but this time members from the opposite team will ask questions in order to guess what the chosen word is, while the team that’s proposing the word will assist with prompts. For example, the other team asks questions like “Is it in this room?” "Is it round or square?" “Is it a person” “Which letter does it begin with?” The answer could be a chair or a table, or even a student who can eventually be discovered by the initial of the name and finally the whole name being given.

    Higher Intermediate Level

    This level can play this game using verbs. Each student is given a verb. Then, either in pairs, or as a whole class, students must guess the verb by asking questions using a nonsense word as a substitute. For example, when the student who is acting out his or her verb begins, the other students can take the nonsense word (like beep) and ask questions around it such as “Are you beeping now?” "How often do you beep?” “Do you beep with your hands?” "Can you beep anywhere?" “Can you beep something?” The idea of using the nonsense word is only to ask questions in order to arrive at the verb the student has in mind. You can use any nonsense word you may conceive; for example you can use blip or jiggle. The questions you ask with the nonsense word will lead you to the verb depending on the answers and actions given by the student who has the secret verb.

    Let's say the verb is "talk." By those questions "Are you beeping now?" and "Do you beep with your hands?" for example, the student can reply "Yes" to the first question, shake his head for the second and indicate his mouth if he so desires. This game can turn out to be quite entertaining. Verbs like cook, cry, bathe, and smile are verbs which can bring amusing results. Remember you are asking questions like "Are you blipping now?" or "When do you jiggle?" or any nonsense verb to substitute until you find the right verb, then you can end with "Ah, you are bathing!" or "Ah, I got, it, you are cooking!"

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    Other Games

    The guessing game can be continued with prepositions, adverbs and adjectives in any fashion you like. There are many other games which you can find on online sites. You can create and use some of your own games to help your students learn English as a Second Language in an enjoyable classroom setting.