Ideas to Follow-Up Activities in ESL Teaching

Use follow-up activities to support your ESL class' progress.

When teaching any foreign language, repetition is key to your students' advancement. To solidify their understanding of new topics, it can be helpful to devise memorable and interesting follow-up activities. These activities may serve as extensions of the material you've already covered, or they may simply provide an opportunity for extra drilling and practice. If you have a few different follow-up activities ready, you can select one to suit the class' performance during any given lesson.

1 Vocab Refresher

After a vocabulary lesson, have students follow up the activity with a high-spirited review. First, have the students individually make lists of all the words they can remember from the lesson. They shouldn't write the definitions or translations of the words, but the English target vocabulary, alone, on one side of a page. Next, put the students in pairs; within these pairs, the students must use the lists to elicit the words from their partners. They can provide definitions or explanations, so long as they only speak in English. For example, for a target word "refrigerator," a student might say "something that holds food," "something that has a cold temperature inside," "something large in the kitchen."

2 Play-Acting

For an extended follow-up activity, have your ESL students create and take part in a short skit along the same theme as a lesson they've completed. You will probably need an entire class to complete this activity, making it an ideal "follow-up" at the end of a chapter or a unit of study. Break the students into pairs or small groups, and have each group write a script in English that uses either a theme or target language from the lesson that your class has just completed. Once the students have completed their plays, let them perform for the rest of the class.

3 Letter Writing

For a variation on normal review or typical letter-writing assignments, ask your students to imagine that a member of the class has been absent for the preceding lesson. Each student must write a letter to the absent student to fill him in on the material that he's missed. Allow the students to take some liberties with the letter form. They should use the basic structure of a friendly letter; however, put their focus primarily on their retention of the past lesson, and less on the composition itself.

4 In Related News...

After completing a lesson that relates to contemporary news and world events, present students with a number of headlines on the related topics. For example, if your students have been studying restaurant vocabulary, you might provide headlines of restaurant reviews or news items about celebrity chefs. Have the students work in small groups, chatting about the themes brought up by each news item.

Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.