The “Family” unit is a classic is almost every single ESL/EFL textbook, especially for beginners. It can be a little bit boring for the teacher, as well as the students if you do the same old thing all the time. Check out some of my favourite family ESL activities to try out with your classes today. They range from beginner to advanced, and kids to adults.
#1: Mixed up Sentences
If you’re teaching beginners the basics of how to describe their family, then you might want to consider using this grammar review activity.
You can use sentences like:
“I have a brother and two sisters.”
“My Mom is 48 years old and my dad is 45.”
“My brother likes to play soccer.”
You mix them up in random order and the students have to unscramble them to make correct sentences. Learn more here: Mixed Up Sentences Review Activity.
#2 ESL Family Activity: Picture Prompt
This ESL Family Activity works for just about any topic actually. The way it works is that you put a picture or photo up on the screen. In this case, you’d probably want to show a family doing some activity. Then, depending on the level, students have to say vocabulary words they see in the picture (beginner), or describe what’s happening (more advanced).
It’s a nice way to begin a class as it helps to set the context. Check out more details here: Picture Prompt ESL Warm-Up.
#3: Information Gap Activities
This style of ESL activity is a classic! It’s where there is a single set of information, but each student only has some of it. They have to work together to put the whole story together.
Information gaps lend themselves well to stories of another family (not their own). Instead of just reading it, do this kind of activity to make it more memorable.
Find out more here: ESL Information Gap Activities.
#4: Just a Minute
If you teach more advanced level students, then you’ll want to consider using this Toastmaster style activity. Students have to speak for an entire minute about their family without stopping. It’s a nice warm-up, or you could consider using t at the end of class as well.
To turn it into more of a conversational activity, put students into groups of 4. Then, each of the 3 students who were listening have to ask 1-2 follow-up questions based on what they heard.
Check it out here: Just a Minute ESL Speaking Activity.
#5: Just One Question
This is a fun warm-up activity that gets students out of their seats and moving around the class. If you have sleepy students, it may be your ideal solution!
Put students into pairs and then ask them to think of some interesting questions related to family (around 5). Then, they choose just 1 that they want to survey their classmates about.
Give students time to ask 8-12 of their classmates and take notes about the answers (1 member of the pair is the “talker” and the other is the “writer”). Then, students take a look at their answers, find some patterns and then report their results to the class.
You can learn more about it here: Just One Question ESL Warm-Up.
#6: Journalling about Family
If you teach writing, or even a 4-skills class, consider using journaling with your students. You can give them a few minutes at the beginning or end of a class to do this, or assign it for homework.
I generally assign my students a topic or question to help them get started. Some questions about family that you could use include the following:
- Describe your family.
- What qualities do you admire in your Mom and/or Dad?
- How does your family spend time together?
- What’s your favourite memory of your family?
Find out more here: Journalling for English Learners.
This ESL activity can focus on either speaking or writing, and either way, it’s heavy on the listening. Choose a reading passage related to family. Then, read it out at a mostly normal pace so that the students can grasp around 50% of the information.
Put the students into pairs and they have to work together to recreate the main idea of what they heard. Then, read it again and students can add more information.
At the end, put the reading passage on the screen and students can check and see how they did. Find out more here:
#8: Family and Relative Clauses
Relative clauses and the topic of family are often put together in ESL textbooks. It just lends itself well to this in my ways. Think about these example sentences:
- My father is someone WHO is very trustworthy.
- I have a brother THAT can play the guitar.
Find out more about how to teach this grammar point here: How to Teach Relative Clauses.
#9 Family ESL Activity: Speaking Fluency Activity
120-90-60 is a way to encourage students to speak more fluently. Have students prepare a short talk about their family, around 2 minutes long. They can write a few short notes, but not full sentences. Then, they give their speech to a partner or small group.
The next round requires them to include all the same information in 90 seconds. Round 3 is 60 seconds. It’s a fun challenge that students have fun with! Of course, the topic you’d set would be something related to family in this case, although it lends itself well to almost anything.
I’m ALL about using surveys in my TEFL classes. Just ask my students and they’ll tell you that they have to do them around once a month, if not more. There are a few reasons that I love them:
- Students have to get out of their seats
- They cover all 4-skills
- You can use them for almost any topic (including family)
- It’s simple to make your own in just a few minutes
- They help students with follow-up questions
Check out some examples of surveys I use in my classes here: Surveys for ESL Students.
#11: ESL Family Tree
Making a family tree is a classic activity for this unit. Depending on the level of student, you could make it as simple, or as detailed as you want. Here’s my favourite source for worksheets:
#12: ESL Family Vocabulary
If you have a textbook that you’re teaching from, the basic family vocabulary words will almost always be included. More advanced books will include things like niece, nephew, step-brother, etc. However, if you’re not using a book but want to teach your students this vocab, there are plenty of worksheets out here.
Here’s one of my favourites:
Have your Say about these ESL Family Activities
What are your thoughts about these family ESL games and activities? Did you try them out in your classes? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.
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