How to Teach Body Parts to ESL Students

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Body parts are an important part of English as a Second Language (ESL) students' vocabulary, as they need them to express themselves if they are injured or sick. Ideally, body parts should be taught to students at a young age. Use a combination of visual resources like flashcards and enjoyable games to teach body parts to ESL students.

1 Introduce the concept in an entertaining way

Introduce the concept in an entertaining way by leading the students in a short game of Simon Says. Model the activity first by saying "Simon Says touch your nose," then touching your own nose and having students mimic you. For very young students, the song "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" is also a popular way to get them warmed up and recognizing body-part vocabulary. Begin each lesson with about five minutes on one of these activities, allowing students to physically move and get accustomed to hearing the new vocabulary and responding.

2 Present the students

Present the students with flashcards that feature an image on one side and the body-part word on the other. Start with fewer than 10 flashcards per lesson and introduce a few more every day, quizzing students by showing the image first and having them name the body part. You can download and print body-part flashcards on websites like ESL Flashcards and English-4Kids.

3 Each day

Each day, introduce a new body-part activity to the class. For example, on Monday, students can engage in a role-play activity called "At the Doctor's Office," in which one student is a doctor and another is the patient, describing what hurts. On Tuesday, provide students with a body-diagram sheet with labels, and on Wednesday, with a word-search puzzle focused on body-part names. Thursday students can play charades, acting out things that include body parts like "I dropped a book on my foot." On Friday, review or quiz on everything covered that week, including writing and speaking body-part names.

  • Repetition is important to retaining new vocabulary, but drills can become boring and cause the words to lose meaning to the students. Supplement the drills with discussions of real-life situations in which they will need to use this vocabulary in conversation.

Kara Page has been a freelance writer and editor since 2007. She maintains several blogs on travel, music, food and more. She is also a contributing writer for Suite101 and has articles published on eHow and Answerbag. Page holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas.