Awesome ESL Projects
February 8, 2012 8:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a fun medium to long term project for an advanced ESL student.

For the past few months, I've been volunteering giving ESL lessons through a program at my university. In the past we've done small exercises and activities, reviewing new grammar, vocabulary, and reading each time we meet. My student's English is pretty advanced. He struggles with some grammar and occasionally with pronunciation, but generally is very good at getting his point across clearly and quickly, has a good working vocabulary, and understands just about everything that I say. I occasionally explain things in Spanish (his native language,) but it's rarely necessary.

We talked about goals for the lessons at our last meeting, and we both think it would be fun to start a longer term project. A few years ago he made a cooking video with a previous tutor, and really liked that, so I'm thinking something along those lines, though I don't have the video editing skills that his previous tutor did. I'm looking for ideas of projects that we can work on together during these lessons.

Things that I'm looking for:

- This is a one-on-one tutoring situation, so this needs to be something that my student can work on on his own, with my help.

- It has to be something that doesn't involve too much homework for either of us. We meet for and hour and a half twice a week, and ideally we could work on the project during that time.

- We'll be meeting most weeks between now and the beginning of May, so this project could be something we work on from a couple of weeks to a few months.

- It shouldn't require too many complicated materials or too much space. I have basic school supplies and art supplies, a computer (though it would be easier if we didn't have to use the computer all the time,) and a DSLR camera (with video, though the audio's not too great.)

- My student is an adult, so he might not be interested in projects targeted at kids.

- It ideally should produce some kind of tangible product

- And of course, it should be lots of fun!

ESL teachers and students of Metafilter - what are some awesome, creative ESL projects that you've done or assigned?
posted by one little who to Education (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Something I did with an ESL student that she enjoyed (and I was mortified!) was to pick up a tabloid paper and read it together. You could also have your student translate it, maybe rewrite a story as though it's serious journalism. It was hilarious and she picked up a lot of American slang in the process.
posted by eleslie at 8:52 PM on February 8, 2012

maybe instead of a tabloid, get a real newspaper, and have him read or talk about whatever articles he's interested in, and then he writes a letter to the editor. that could produce tangible results.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:56 PM on February 8, 2012

I've done both of these with great success (as a student):

Translate selected chapters of The Little Prince from her native language to English. Can compare with existing translations.

Working together with you, write a script for a soap opera using characters you know from real life or movies. Come up with some of the storyline ahead of time; your student can write one scene for homework, and then during class time you proofread that scene and add another one using both of your ideas. The plot can change as you go along. You (the teacher) can also bring in part of a scene that you wrote, which intentionally includes new idioms/expressions, and you can discuss it. When I did this, it was absolutely hilarious and possibly the single most enjoyable experience I've ever had learning another language!
posted by danceswithlight at 9:10 PM on February 8, 2012

If he likes cooking, perhaps a cookbook of recipes from his family translated into English? Along with stories of the people who gave him the recipes, that could provide a lot of language practice.

And in the end, you could use a print-on-demand service to create it as a real book that he could get copies of for his family.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:00 PM on February 8, 2012

I used to teach a unit to advanced ESL students around volunteering. First, we'd talk about what it means to volunteer, has anybody ever volunteered, or wanted to, what they did, or would like to do.

Then we hit the computer lab and they all went online to the local volunteer website (our city has a great site that lists almost all the local opportunities by category, type, etc) and looked around at opportunities.

Next step was for the student to choose a possible volunteer opportunity, and prepare to apply for the position, by making a phone call - which gives you the opportunity for role-playing phone calls - or filling in an application, another useful skill. They'd practice and then apply. If this results in an interview, you can do more role-playing around interviewing in the target culture vs the home culture, things we do here in interviews that are shocking and rude elsewhere, and vice-versa.

Finally, the student heads off into the world and volunteers. My students often aimed for festival type work eg working in a kitchen at folk fest, or taking tickets at the door. This worked well as it was one event, so not a long-term commitment. Others were here for longer and got set up at a seniors' home talking to the residents. I encouraged them to seek talking/interacting roles.

After, they all shared their stories with the class. In your case, you could have your student write something for a local newspaper or newsletter or something like that.

Also, if he really enjoyed making the cooking video, he could document his experience from start to finish in some digital medium to share with...friends, family, other students.
posted by lulu68 at 10:08 PM on February 8, 2012

Anyone in an advanced level class taught by me keeps a journal. Every night before they leave I give them a prompt to respond to. Sometimes it's a quote and sometimes it's a very open ended question. Every day we spend fifteen or twenty minutes of class reading and correcting journals. The rest of the class goes to a different lesson. Before they leave they get a new prompt, and a chance to ask a question or two about it if they want.
posted by piedmont at 10:41 PM on February 8, 2012

D&D! Or any role-playing game.
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:46 AM on February 9, 2012

Thanks everyone! There are a lot of really great ideas in here. I'm going to make a list of a few different ideas and suggest them to my tutee tomorrow to see what he thinks.
posted by one little who at 7:59 PM on February 13, 2012

« Older What Not To Wear: The Interview Edition. Help!   |   How to help a kid chill out quick Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.