English Comes Alive!

Jim Witherspoon, Ph.D.

ESL and EFL with Pizzazz

Students want pizzazz in their English classes, and why not?  What do they remember best: a dull lesson or an exciting one?  What makes their cerebral cells connect: an active lesson or a passive one?  So let’s give them pizzazz.  

In 19 summers of teaching overseas, I introduced more and more lively, pizzazz-type activities to my classes.  Such activities worked well for everyone: teens, middle-aged professors, school teachers, clerks, physicians, and others—and they’ll likely work for you.  Students want variety.  Here are four of the many possibilities:

Talent Shows.  Our groups schedule talent shows on or near the last day of classes, giving students ample time to write scripts, prepare constumes, and rehearse.  Such shows bring lots of laughs--as you can see at the right--and lots of practice with English.  Why not try it?

Slap Thighs, Clap Hands, Say Words.  To promote the learning of words in a category—such as food, jobs, or clothing—use rhythm.  Have students draw their chairs into a circle.  Then have them slap their thighs twice, clap their hands twice, and take turns saying different items within a category.  Using food, for example, the group slaps and claps and the first student says “tomato” or another choice.  Then the group slaps and claps and the second student says a different food.   Continue slapping and clapping around the circle of students until they can no longer respond.

Correct Bloopers.  For a humorous break, read some of these or other goofy sentences to your students or, as needed, write them, and have your students correct the mistakes:

Us teachers never make mistakes.

There bats flew out to greet them.

There ain't no bugs in your soup.

I was so exciting when I heard Albert Einstein speak.

The monsters was squatting inside their tent.

Sing and Dance the Hokey Cokey.  Do your students need a wake-up call?  Try this.  Have them stand in a circle as they sing these words and do the corresponding actions:  “You put your right hand in; you put your right hand out; in, out, in, out, you shake it all about.  You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn yourself around.  That’s what it’s all about, HEY!” (Simultaneously clap when you shout HEY!)  Then repeat the song while giving other commands, such as “left foot in,” “right hip in,” “elbows in,” “whole self in,” and so on.  Ask the students to contribute new lines to the song.

These words and directions here are for the British version of the song, and they continue with a chorus: “Whoa-o, the Hokey Cokey; whoa-o, the Hokey Cokey; whoa-o, the Hokey Cokey; knees bent, arms stretched, Rah! Rah! Rah!”  I suggest that you omit the chorus while in the classroom, giving more emphasis to the naming of body parts.  But if you have a game day outside, include the chorus.  It’s fun!

To hear the music and see the motions, search youtube.com for “Hokey Cokey” or for its slightly different American alternative, “Hokey Pokey.”

How Is This for Pizzazz? 

When we teach with pizzazz, our students respond positively, as when they took me to this qigong hospital in China.  There I interviewed doctors and patients, observed their interaction, and took photographs.  How intriguing. 

Here a qigong doctor is treating a patient who had a stroke four years earlier but had not fully recovered.  He waved his hand above the patient, somehow causing her body to convulse, exercising her muscles.  "Qigong," said the patient, "restored my ability to write," and she scribbled a few words to prove it.

For more pizzazz,  see either the  
PAPERBACK or 
KINDLE sample for English Comes Alive! or see ENGLISH COMES ALIVE FOR STUDENTS!

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