The Building Blocks of ESOL

November 4, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, ESOL | Leave a comment

I could see the strain and frustration on their faces.  My students had been working very hard to grasp some difficult English concepts over the last couple of classes.  They were doing very well, and I wanted to give them a reward for working so hard, so I brought in a couple of games that I really enjoyed playing, and adapted them to my lesson plan.  

One of the games was Questions Jenga.  My students were working with numbers, and the game was a perfect way for my students to practice writing and pronouncing numbers.  On each block, I wrote a numerical number on one side of the block and spelled out the word for a different number on another side.  I found that this setup offered a chance for students to play the game at various stages of difficulty, based on the directions provided by the instructor.  For the first game, however, I gave my students a choice.  They could write out the word that represented the numerical number, or they could read the spelled-out number and pronounce it correctly.  Most students went for pronunciation, as writing and spelling tend to be more difficult.  Like I said, though, it’s easy to make the game more challenging by simply providing a different set of rules.  

I gave my students the game, and they got off to a disappointingly slow start. My students removed and replaced bricks with painstaking caution.  Maybe it’s the five year old kid in me, but I only build a tower of blocks because I want to see it come crashing down!  It was tedious to even watch.  Finally, the moment for which I had been waiting arrived, and the tower collapsed, scattering small wooden bricks all over the table and my students.  I looked at the expressions of mild surprise and disappointment on their faces and waited for the change to take place.  Gradually, I began to see the light go off and sly grins tugging at the edges of their mouths.  I moved on to observe a different group, as they rebuilt the tower, but I remember listening to exclamations of “stop touching the table!” and hearing the tower come smashing down much sooner than it did during the first game.

– Erin Andrews,  AmeriCorps Instructor

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