Ideas for Teaching English As a Foreign Language

Written by roxana wells
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Ideas for Teaching English As a Foreign Language
(school supplies 2 image by Lauren Ingro from

English is spoken by more than 350 million people in the world. With the increased globalisation of business and education, many of the other 6.3 billion people on Earth are in a hurry to learn the new International Language. Teaching English as a foreign language, as opposed to a second language, has many challenges including the lack of local language models and often a lack of support from local schools. But with the right mix of fun and learning, young students the world over will find the challenge of studying this complex language exciting.

Children's Books

Read children's picture books to help reinforce basic vocabulary and common phrases. Story books also provide a starting point for language exploration if you lack a regular textbook.

Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" (Philomel, 2009) is great for teaching days of the week and foods. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" (Harper Collins, 1985) helps students remember household items. The classic tale of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" introduces superlatives and opposites. The repeated phrases also make the books interactive and make the language memorable.

Expand on story time by acting out parts in small groups and playing games with new vocabulary from the book. Higher level students can practice reading the books on their own, or even write a new ending to one of the stories.


Challenge students to remember new vocabulary and phrases by playing games. By engaging them in a fun activity with a purpose, you help solidify new information.

Play "Simon Says" to reinforce instructions and body parts. Have the class stand up and direct them to jump, turn around, dance, touch their noses or rub their bellies. Adding the motion to the instructions keeps them learning.

Cut out pictures of mp3 players, bicycles, and other items from a magazine, and write their estimated prices on the back. Then play "The Price is Right" with students, having teams guess the cost of the item in dollars. Whichever team comes closest without going over gets a point.

Use simple vocabulary cards in duplicate to play "Go Fish." Have students practice the basic vocabulary needed to play the game, then use cards with words or pictures of items they are studying. Students will ask questions like, "Do you have any strawberries?" to find a match to the cards they already have.


Sing songs to help students improve memorisation, get students motivated and learn the rhythm of the English language.

Teach the days of the week by singing the following to the tune of "The Addams Family:" "There's Sunday and there's Monday, there's Tuesday and there's Wednesday. There's Thursday and there's Friday, and then there's Saturday. Day's of the week (snap, snap!)"

Reinforce basic greetings by singing a simplified version of "Where is Thumpkin," and substituting in your students' names: "Where is Lisa? Where is Lisa? Here I am! Here I am! How are you doing? I'm fine, thank you. Say goodbye. Say goodbye."

Sing the "Hokey Pokey" and have the students dance together to practice parts of the body. Getting your students moving while they sing helps the vocabulary stick.

Role Play

Write up basic scripts -- or borrow them from children's books -- to help students practice their English skills in full sentences and in real world situations.

Set a table and have a group of three or four students play restaurant in front of the class when learning about foods. Provide plenty of props like an apron and moustache for the waiter, play menus and tableware to make the situation more realistic and fun.

Bring in play money from an English-speaking country and set up a pretend store. Then have students role play different scenarios while going shopping.

Write a short survey and have all students walk around the class and ask questions of at least five classmates. They can ask questions like "How old are you?" or "What's your favourite colour?" Close the lesson by asking a few students to share their results.

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