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Don't Be Boring!
What do you call lists of vocabulary and grammar rules that students must memorize? The answer in one word is--boring. Knowing all of the grammar terminology and memorizing lists of words is meaningless to students without context. Teach how sentences ought to be structured and what vocabulary to use in different situations using these lesson ideas for English language class that incorporate a bit of the real world and a little fun.
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Debating Death Penalty Reform
Capital punishment can arouse strong feelings in people. What better way to get a class ready to use agreement/disagreement vocabulary and grammar structures than to debate it?
Breaking News English has published a complete lesson plan, meant for higher-level students, about death penalty reform in China. The lesson includes several activities that incorporate new vocabulary from the articles. It does not, include however, much in the way of agreement/disagreement vocabulary. Pick which structures you want to teach, and ask students to debate the merits of the various sides of the topic. Several pros and cons, as well as discussion questions, are included in the lesson. The lesson also contains a writing activity in which the student must convince a government official of his point of view regarding capital punishment.
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Students have to give, accept, and refuse invitations in English on a regular basis. Teach them how to politely refuse an invitation by coming up with an excuse why they cannot accept it when they do not have a legitimate reason to decline, or how to ask someone out on a date.
Structures such as "I'm sorry, but..." or "Would you like to..." and "Wh-" questions can be taught in this lesson. Incorporate plenty of speaking practice in activities such as having pairs of students write a short dialogue in response to an invitation to an annual dinner or a wedding. Students can then present their ideas to the class. Another activity could include giving cards with invitation prompts on them to pairs of students. Each student invites the other according to the prompt on his card, and the other asks "Wh-" questions to get more information about the event. For example, "When is it?" or "Where will it be?"
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Asking for Help
At work, home, or in other public places, asking for help is an invaluable skill. Use role-play activities such as asking a landlord to help a tenant fix a problem in the apartment, explaining a car problem to a mechanic or asking a supervisor at work to explain a process at work, or asking where an item is in the grocery store. Pick one of these situations, or use your own, around which to build an ESL lesson. Students face these real-world scenarios on a regular basis. They can be relevant lesson ideas for ESL teachers.
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Source: author's own experience
Breaking News English, "China's Death Penalty Reform," http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/0510/051030-death_penalty-e.html
ITESLJ.org, "Invitation to an Annual Dinner," http://iteslj.org/games/9934.html
ESL Lab, "Car Repair," http://www.esl-lab.com/repairs/repairsrd1.htm