ESL Teaching Tips: Teaching With Limited Resources

ESL Teaching Tips: Teaching With Limited Resources

When you volunteer to teach abroad, you are likely to find yourself having to do without many familiar teaching materials.  Art supplies, markers, textbooks, a photocopier, games and computers could all be in short supply for you and your students.  But don’t be discouraged—this is the perfect chance to let your creativity and resourcefulness shine through in the ESL classroom.

If you know that you are traveling to an area where schools are under-funded and in need of support, you can prepare in advance to be teaching with limited resources.  Find out about what is likely to be available and how limited the resources are, and bring some materials with you.  Construction paper, crayons, a small ball, and speakers for your computer or ipod can all make a big difference in your class.  It is also a great idea to look into TEFL courses that have a module on teaching with limited resources.  This can help you be even more prepared before you go.

During class, focus on games or activities that involve a lot of speaking.  Role playing, conversations, and drama activities can get your students speaking and learning with virtually no resources.  Write up a short script before class, or write a conversation on the board.  Allow students to substitute words or phrases, if they are able to.  Let your students be creative, and have fun.

When it’s time for games, keep things simple—you can communicate a lot, and have a lot of fun, with simple games and ideas.  There are tons of fun games that you can play which require almost no materials at all.  Here are a few ideas:

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Spelling Game:  Say a vocabulary word and spell it.  If you spell the word right, the first one to sit down is the winner.  If you spell it wrong, the first one to raise his or her hand and spell it correctly is the winner.  You can try this with sentences and grammar, too.

Spelling Race: You can have individuals come to the board and race to finish writing a word first.  You can also play this game in teams, where each team member writes one letter, then hands the marker or chalk off to the next team member.  They’ll be writing fast, so make sure you include a rule that the word has to be legible to count!

Hot Potato: You’ll need a ball and a timer.  Students sit in a circle, and each one has to say one letter of a spelling word, or ask a question before passing the ball to the next student.  When the time is up, whoever is holding the ball has to sing a song, do a dance, or something equally fun.

Bear-Ninja-Cowboy: A life-sized version of rock-paper-scissors!  Teach your students actions for bear, ninja, and cowboy.  Then teach them the rules: Bear eats Ninja, Ninja chops Cowboy, Cowboy shoots Bear.  Students start off back-to-back, and take three steps as you and the rest of the class chant “Bear, Ninja, Cowboy, turn!”   When they turn, each student does one of the actions.  You can let the winner choose a spelling word for the loser to spell, or ask a question that the loser has to answer.  Or you can just play and have some fun!

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Two Truths and A Lie: Perfect for older kids who already have a good vocabulary and grasp of basic sentences.  One student says or writes three sentences.  They can be about anything, but two have to be true, and one has to be a complete lie.  The other students then try to guess which one is a lie.

As long as you are prepared for the limited resources that you may find in the classroom, you can have plenty materials and ideas ready to go.  The most important resources that you need to create a fun and enriching environment are, after all, your own creativity and imagination.


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