Keeping it Fresh: Adults and Teens

5 Apr

Sometimes I slip into a comfort zone, following the same routine class after class. It makes for easy lesson planning, but after a while my students get bored and so do I. Here are some ideas for switching it up.

Follow the News

There are tons of ESL websites out there, but a lot of them use similar themes — travel, holidays, the difficulties of language learning, etc. Even websites like and tend to rely on articles and news that are hopelessly out-of-date. If your adult students are like mine, they will quickly grow tired of asking each other about their next vacation or listing off their favorite home recipes. is constantly publishing full lesson plans based on recent news articles. The latest lesson plans cover the nuclear explosions in Japan, Gaddafi’s son’s threatening “rivers of blood” in Libya, Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, and, most recently, a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression.”

Encourage Arguments

The great thing about adult and teen students is that everyone has an opinion and isn’t afraid to defend it. Not only does this make for lively discussion, but I often end up learning a lot. and have a bunch of debate topic ideas. Gauge what ticks your class off the most and take advantage of that. My favorite lesson ended with a twenty-minute argument about government efforts to keep Mallorquín in schools.

Games and Act-Outs

Boggle’s World ESL has four pages of different speaking game ideas. has a “Quick Quiz” at the end of its articles requiring students to unscramble letters to find a vocabulary word. Discovery Education has a free online puzzlemaker. A friend of mine, who is also a language teacher, recommended asking students to write dialogues related to the grammar point or theme they’re studying. Then, when it came time to “perform” it, they’d be more interested in what was going on.

One of the teachers at my school likes to make her adult students sing English songs. Her last class cracked a lot of jokes about their marriages, so she got them to perform “Love and Marriage.” First she played the song and asked them to fill in missing words on a lyrics sheet. Then, once they were familiar with the song, she encouraged them to sing it with her. By the end of class, she said, they were all laughing.

Next up: Kids — Perform, Perform, Perform


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