Young ESL learner engagement It is very important for ESL students to be curious in class and to ask more questions. It can be difficult to achieve this if they lack interest or don’t understand the benefit of this. Relying solely on a screen or paper  can also become a stale approach as the students become used to this routine. A change in teaching approach from time to time stirs up students’ interest and attention. The choice of materials and topics thus becomes a fundamental matter for effective learning and engagement. In this article, I am going to write about the choice of materials that I used in one of my speaking lessons to encourage further class discussion, interaction, and motivation to speak.

About the Author: Zarin Tasnim is a graduate of OnTESOL’2 250-hour TESOL diploma and Teaching English to Young Learners course and teaching primary English in China. 

Introducing A Novel and Fun Idea

A week before this lesson, I reminded the students to bring a secret object from home and not to tell their classmates what it was. This already made the students very curious about what they were going to do in the upcoming lesson. The lesson I planned was about finding out what was in the mystery box. To do this, students would ask me questions and jot down their answers as clues. The materials this time were only a big box, a mystery object inside, and the blackboard.

READ: TIPS FOR ENGAGING SHY YOUNG STUDENTS IN A GROUP CLASS

Practice: Asking ‘Wh’ Questions

I started the lesson showing the students the box and explained that they needed to guess what was inside by asking questions. Then, I asked the class what types of questions they could ask and I wrote them on one side of the blackboard. Students came up with many different questions, such as “What shape is it?”; “What colour is it?”; “How does it feel?”; “How heavy is it?”; “When do you use it?”; “Where can you find it?”; “How much is it?” and so on. Students remembered all the Wh-questions from their past learning. After that, we also discussed possible answers to those questions, and I wrote down the vocabulary on the board while students wrote them in their book. This vocabulary was divided into such categories as shape, colours, feelings, and weight. This was practice before we started the activity.

Preparing for the Lesson: Ways to Set up the Class

Before starting the activity, I told them that it’s a competition to see which team guesses correctly first. I then divided the class into rows according to their seating plan. This stirred up the excitement in class and grabbed their attention. They already had an existing class rule that when we play a game, the winning team receives a star.  At the end of the semester, the team receives a present from their teacher. When I started the game, almost every student raised their hands to ask a question, including those who never spoke. Many sample questions were already on the board so students simply read them out loud instead of not speaking at all.

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Increase young ESL learners' engagementAn Exciting Game Using Physical Objects

While we played, I invited a student to write down my answers on the board as I answered questions. The more clues written on the board, the closer the students became to finding out what was in the box. This was the most intense part of the lesson, where all students were in a rush to guess correctly first. They asked more and guessed more, increasing their class engagement, excitement, and curiosity to speak out. Next, each student who brought their secret object to class took a turn to speak. This time, the students holding the box with their secret object answered their classmates’ questions. After a team guessed the object correctly, student took a turn. In this way, most students got the chance to ask and answer questions. They answered questions such as “It is green in colour,” “It feels rough,” “It is as big as an elephant,” and “You cannot buy it”.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I learned that using physical objects is as effective as using PowerPoint presentations with animations and videos. With physical objects, students are able to experience real life by using their senses, such as touch and sight. This also reinforces their reflective thinking abilities and generates more ideas. I also learned that having visual aids on the board helps students to speak in front of the class increases their confidence to speak. It also encourages the weaker students to speak. This is because they relied on the board as they spoke and were not worried about what to say on their own. Therefore, the teacher’s guidance is essential as it can help to build students’ confidence to speak.

With winning as the goal, students’ are automatically thinking and responding quickly. In this way, they enhance their memory and make use of what they learned in a quick and short time period. If we allow students to bring something to the class that they really like and make use of, it further increases their interest in learning. When students can use something they are personally attached to,  they become more interested and invested in their learning. It also fosters curiosity about their classmates’ belongings.

Recommended Reading:

CULTURAL ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE YOUNG LEARNERS IN SOUTH KOREA

TEYL: KINESTHETIC ACTIVITIES FOR TEACHING WRITING TO YOUNG LEARNERS

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