6 Peer to Peer ESL Activities and Their Benefits

Peer to Peer ESL Activities Teaching EnglishThere is a great deal of evidence proving the effectiveness of peer to peer education. What does this mean exactly? Essentially it is the idea that the teacher facilitates the beginning of a lesson but encourages a great deal of peer-to-peer correction (with the guidance and supervision from the teacher), strategizing, communication and teamwork among students.

When I began teaching English, the one thing I struggled with the most was getting my students to engage with each other. I was so focused on learning the material from the textbook and how to effectively teach the grammar points that I didn’t realize how important bonding and relationship building was between myself and the students. Furthermore, I didn’t realize how it would not only take the stress off of my shoulders, but how it would yield even higher results than teacher-led instruction.

-Clare completed the 120-hour TESOL certificate course and she is currently teaching English in Toronto-

One of the main skills every ESL student wants to improve is speaking. Once you know this as a teacher, the rest comes relatively easy. When I hear teachers complaining that their students are too quiet or that they can’t seem to engage them, I always wonder if it means the teacher is too quiet or that they aren’t encouraging enough peer-to-peer interaction.

6 Ways to Use Peer to Peer Education with Every Day Activities:

  1. In the morning, encourage discussion, especially on Mondays and Fridays. Go around the room and ask students to share their weekend plans one by one or ask them to share them with a partner for a few minutes and then select a few students to share their plans with the rest of the class. Also remember to share what you did on your weekend. Your students want to get to know you beyond your ability to teach grammar, so let them!
  2. Before taking up homework, instruct students to share their answers with a partner. Orchestrate the activity by encouraging students to be curious about what their peer got or if they struggled with an answer to ask their partner what answer they got.
  3. Jigsaw reading is a great way to not only make reading fun but to also introduce speaking into the lesson. It also encourages critical group thinking skills on the topic of interest. Students have to be prepared to explain what they read in their own words with the textbook closed, which encourages genuine speaking and summarizing skills. Give each group a time limit so they know to work effectively and efficiently with each other. The quizzing aspect of the activity is really important as it ensures that all students stay focused throughout the duration of the activity.
  4. If you are preparing students for the Cambridge exam with FCE or PET for example, you will at some point be administering the practice tests in class. Once the students have finished, instruct them to share their answers with each other.
  5. If you’re working towards providing your students with more independence in their learning, which is a key benefit of peer to peer learning, try scaffolding with running dictation as an activity. I always do running dictation with a part of or a whole text. Once they are finished, I have them sit down as a group to compare what they wrote with what is written in the text and to correct any errors made.
  6. There are so many other partner and team exercises including it, hundreds of different warm ups including tic tac toe and ranking activities in partners. Whatever encourages students to strategize together and to come up with a solution with little input from the teacher will promote active learning and a more joyous and comfortable learning environment.

The Benefits of Peer to Peer Education:

  1. It gives the teacher more time to relax and observe instead of constantly trying to entertain students.
  2. Once students have bonded through fun, engaging activities, it allows for a more relaxed atmosphere where students are more willing to take the lead in learning.
  3. Smaller discourse between a couple of students as opposed to a larger group allows for greater understanding. This kind of smaller discourse is more comfortable for students which encourages more sharing with their peers.
  4. Peer-to-peer education has been proven to show greater communication skills and higher self-esteem.
  5. Students become more productive and produce greater results compared with teacher-led instruction.