Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TESOL Teaching Tip #50 - What did you eat for dinner last night? Little questions lead to big discussions.

As a teacher at an International School for two years, many of my students were English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers were living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #50 - Talk to your ESL or ELL students about their home life. These little conversations turn into big conversations and build up your understanding of your students. Find information about this topic at my blog - Raki's Rad Resources.

TESOL Teaching Tip #50 - Talk to your students about their home life.
One of the things I loved about my last school was that we ate lunch and snack with the kids.  This gives you a chance to talk to your students about different topics that would generally come up during a normal lesson.  One of my favorite questions to ask my students during this time was “What did you eat for dinner last night?” The answers may surprise you – and they will definitely give you some insight into what happens when your students leave you.  For ESL students, this question gives them the chance to use vocabulary that they don’t normally use in a classroom – fruits and vegetables, meats, proteins, etc.  In addition, they practice speaking in past tense and forming complete sentences.  The students who don’t use these correct grammar functions are gently reminded by me to use them when speaking, as well as when writing.  Often that exchange goes like this:

Teacher:  What did you eat last night?
Student: Chicken, potatoes
Teacher: In a sentence please.
Student:  I eat chicken and potatoes.
Teacher: I ate chicken and potatoes last night.  Can you repeat that.
Student: I ate chicken and potatoes last night.

After we talk about what we eat, this often leads to discussions about why we like or don’t like these foods, giving time to work on adjectives, and who we ate with, giving time to work on family members.  All of this regular conversation leads ESL students to use a lot of spoken English conventions in a natural setting.
Other great questions to ask are:

What did you do this weekend?
What do you play after school?
What do you eat for breakfast?
What is your bedtime routine like?

If you don’t eat lunch with your students, these questions are equally effective during transition times, waiting for the bathroom, recess etc.

How do you help your ESL students practice their spoken English?
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources