EFL and ESL students all over the world sign up for English conversation classes. The problem is, like many EFL teachers will tell you, once they arrive many of them are too shy to speak. That’s why, when you begin to teach a new EFL/ESL conversation class, it’s important to get all your students comfortable enough to speak from the very first day. Here’s a free lesson plan for the first day of a new conversation class, with some fun activities to help you.
Level: The lesson plan can be used for anything from low-intermediate up to advanced students, as they basically run the class themselves, using vocabulary and grammar they are familiar with.
Lesson Plan Expected Learning Outcome – New EFL/ESL students will feel comfortable enough in class to speak, participate and, most importantly, have a good time. That way, they’ll keep coming back.
Materials and Resources – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, leopard-skin pattern shirt and a plastic spear/khaki ‘white hunter’ style safari shirt and a plastic gun. Tables pushed together to use as a ‘raft’.
Step One: In every first class I teach to new students, I do an extremely quick introduction of myself. I tell my students my name, talk about why I moved to Thailand to teach English and make a couple of jokes. I spend no longer than two minutes doing this, but with a short, friendly introduction and a couple of silly jokes, students already begin to loosen up.
*****One important addition though – in my first class, I either wear a leopard skin shirt and carry a plastic spear, or a khaki ‘white hunter’ safari shirt and carry a plastic guy. (The theme is ‘jungle’ – all will be explained in a moment). This alone peaks my students’ interest, particularly as at the beginning, I don’t tell them why.
Step Two: Where some EFL teachers believe in easing their students in slowly when it comes to speaking in class, I believe in throwing mine in the deep end. Continuing on with my lesson plan, I now explain that the theme for today’s lesson plan is ‘the jungle’ and that we will be doing two activities.
Step Three: The First Activity – There’s a funny guessing game from the internet that I use for each new class, and it goes like this. There are four questions all related to animals and the jungle and students have to guess what the correct answers to the questions are. For the first couple of minutes there’ll be a lot of dead air then, when students realize it’s just silly, they’ll start to be silly too. Eventually, one student will get the right answer and they are rewarded with a piece of candy. The questions are:
Question One: How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator? (Answer: open the door, shove him in, close the door).
Question Two: How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator? (Answer: open the door, take out the elephant, put in the giraffe, close the door).
Question Three: Tarzan and Jane are holding an animal conference. Every animal in the jungle attends, except one. Which one? (Answer: the giraffe. He’s in the refrigerator).
Question Four: You’re in the jungle and you need to cross a river. Crocodiles live in the river and there’s no boat. How do you get across? (Answer: Swim. The crocodiles are at the conference).
By this point, every student is having a silly time and the mood in the room is already relaxed.
Step Four: The Second Activity – Most of your EFL/ESL students will have either seen ‘Survivor’ or know about it. Explain to them you’re going to play a ‘Survivor’ game and everyone has to play. Split the class into
two teams, and give the teams funny names.
Explain to them they’re all stranded on a desert island. The food is running out and there’s only enough water for a few days, so in order for everyone to survive, each team must decide to put one team member on a raft and push them out to sea – thus saving the food and water supply for the rest of the team.
But, in order to choose which team member gets the old heave-ho, each member must say why they are beneficial to the team and why they should be allowed to stay on the island. “I can make fire”, “I know how to hunt”, “I can climb up trees to get coconuts” etc.
I then go around the classroom, choosing one person from each team to explain why they are useful. At the end of the round, each team votes for the person they want to put on a raft and cast adrift, and those two people are out of the game. (I actually set up a few tables pushed together as the ‘raft’ and as team members are eliminated, they must move to sit on the table – each student is given a piece of candy as they move, to ‘sustain them on the raft’). To keep the students who are eliminated still participating though, they are allowed to vote in every subsequent round.
This continues on in subsequent rounds, with each student giving a new reason why they’re indispensable, with two members being eliminated every time (don’t forget to give them the candy to sustain them on the life raft). Eventually, you’ll be down to only two team members – one from each team.
They must then ‘fight to the death’ – which in my classroom means they each stand at the white board and have 30 seconds to write down every word connected with a ‘jungle’ that they can think of. The winner with the most words, correctly spelled, receives a bar of chocolate and the runner-up something a bit smaller.