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ESL Sample Lesson

Updated on April 5, 2016
Being at the head of the class can be stressful
Being at the head of the class can be stressful | Source

The bell rings and you're sweating bullets. Forty pairs of eyes are looking at you. You hear whispers in a foreign language and suddenly you realize that you are there to entertain, motivate, and teach.

If this sounds familiar, you probably have had experience teaching English as a Second Language (ESL).

While many native English speakers that are living abroad and teaching ESL tend to get caught up in the novelty of well... living abroad -- experiencing new foods, customs, culture, and meeting different kinds of people. One thing that tends to get pushed down the priority list is putting time and effort into the job that allows exploration.

Teaching ESL can be extremely rewarding and enjoyable. While one can get by for a while on primarily focusing on the English book or some common ESL games (hangman and pictionary), a well-thought out lesson plan that includes some of your own materials and ideas can prove more beneficial for both the students and you the teacher.

ESL Activities and Mini-Books for Every Classroom
ESL Activities and Mini-Books for Every Classroom

This helpful book provides tips on way to prepare for your students in addition to some fun, stimulating activities your class will love!



Used for 4th grade students (class size: 40 students / Class length: 40 minutes)

1. Warm-up Activity: “The Wheels on the Bus” (4-6 minutes)

A good warm-up is:

  • Usually (but not always) a review (in this case, the song was the previous lesson)
  • something that is familiar (the objective is to get students into English fast)
  • Something fun & light-hearted (especially for younger students... have fun with them and remember you're not only teaching, but showing them that learning English is cool)
  • Get their bodies going (start off with a bang! Make them feel that English is the highlight of the day! If you're using a song, appropriate body actions / dance need to be incorporated for maximum learning)

2. Review / Homework Check: Sentence Fixers (4-7 minutes)

If a teacher gives homework, then teachers need to check it, especially when it comes to written work. There are several effective ways to do this.

  • Do a quick walk and check to make sure everyone finished
  • Collect them and read them on your own time
  • Ask for a volunteer to share homework with the class (class can learn together... *** Make sure that no one gets embarrassed *** / Collect and read one or two anonymously

The mentioned "Sentence Fixers" activity goes like this. If there is a specific grammar point that the class is working on, a fun way to review the old lesson is by putting up a wrong sentence on the board. Let them work alone or in pairs and see if they can find all of your mistakes.


Me grandmother like to playing football at night.

After a minute or so, bring the class together and let them fix it.

My grandmother likes playing football at night.

NOTE: You don't want to spend too long on this activity because you want to save time for your lesson!

3. LESSON: Descriptive Vocabulary (12-14 minutes)

Overview: Most ESL students (that have been studying English for a year or two) will know common adjectives like big, small, fat, beautiful, ugly, and stupid. The goal of this lesson is to broaden their vocabulary.

Step by Step:

1.) Some classrooms allow the use of technology. If possible, preparing pictures of famous people or even not so famous people can really help a lesson. START by showing a picture and asking them to describe the person's looks. Write them down on the blackboard. Be prepared to hear answers like "he has two eyes".

TRANSITION with an objective statement.

2.) Either show another picture or stay on that same picture and introduce new target vocabulary (4-5 would be ideal for one day) like curly, muscular, blonde, skinny, bald.

3.) Show enough examples of vocabulary to allow students to practice. Have students repeat the words as a class. Have them say it individually with different kinds of voices (deep, high, quiet, loud) to keep the class lively.

4.) Act out vocabulary. Have them stand up and shout out a word like muscular. Everyone shows off their muscles.

****Step 5 is optional and should be left to the teacher. If students are doing well and pickup the words well, proceed, but if they are struggling a little or are getting antsy, save step 5 for another day.

5.) Introduce sentence patterns: 1. The (muscular, bald, skinny) man (verb of choice) with (name). EXAMPLE: The bald man studies with Homer. 2. The woman with (curly, blonde) hair (verb of choice) with (name). EXAMPLE: The woman with blonde hair dances with Scott.

4. HOMEWORK: explanation of what you want (3-4 minutes)

This step is often overlooked by ESL teachers who can easily get wrapped up in the fun and excitement of the class. Learning a different language is challenging and repetition is helpful in retaining content. For this lesson, I would have them practice the new vocabulary orally for the first day and then challenge them later with writing. Homework might look like this.

Find an example of each of the following five vocabulary words. The next day, students can talk about their choices. If you're looking for more homework, maybe have them draw 5 small pictures of each new vocabulary word.

5. ACTIVITY: Blackboard Artists (7-10 minutes)

A nice ESL class usually packs a punch at the end that leaves them wanting more. This activity works well with adjectives.

1.) Divide the class into 5 or 6 teams (perhaps each row becomes a team). Each students gets a number.

2.) Make sure blackboard is clean and also divided by the number of teams.

3.) The teacher calls a number and says an adjective. The student has 30 seconds to draw whatever the teacher asks.

EXAMPLE: #3 - big head with curly hair

If students are not sure, they can ask their teammates for help but help must be given in English.

4.) Continue playing until everyone has had at least a turn.

5.) Comment on pictures, making sure each team followed directions.


Good teaching requires a good plan. The longer you are with a class, the better you will understand them and know their needs and how to reach them. You can plan on it.


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    • joshv82 profile image

      Joshua Vick 5 years ago from Madison, WI

      Thanks Paul!

      You are exactly right that songs, dance, (kinesthetic learning) and role-plays are extremely effective for ESL/EFL classrooms. A well-prepared lesson filled with a diverse set of activities makes for fun learning and enjoyable teaching.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a great hub and also very useful for the ESL/EFL classroom. I teach 5th grade EFL students in Thailand and have either 28 or 42 in a class. Your sample lesson plan is similar to what I use. One thing I have found is that kids like to learn through song, dance, and role-play. When we go through stories, I always make it a point to get volunteers from the class who come up in front of the class and act out the story they have just read. Playing learning games with teams is also something my students really love. Voted up and sharing with followers.

    • joshv82 profile image

      Joshua Vick 5 years ago from Madison, WI

      Thanks for reading KA Pederson.

    • KA Pederson profile image

      Kim Anne 5 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting! Sounds like this could be fun!~ Voted up and useful!


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