Take the English language learners in your class to the local grocery store for a scavenger hunt. Prepare a list of items for students to find in several departments of the store. Provide a store map that details what is on the various aisles and in different parts of the store. Pair students up to find all of the items listed, and ask them to write down the number of the aisle on which each item is found to practice reading English words and navigating an American grocery store. Ask for permission from store management before you bring your class to the store.
Meet your English students at the library. Students can take public transportation or carpool to reach the library. Have them bring their identification cards with them and a utility bill or other documentation that they do, indeed, live in the community which the library serves. This will help them practice asking store clerks and receptionists for assistance in English. Students will have to tell the librarian what they want when they reach the circulation desk and answer basic information about themselves such as their names and addresses. Ask a librarian to show your students around the library, focusing on the children’s and ESL sections for easier-to-read material in English as well as the computer lab.
Students can get a lot of practice navigating various social and workplace situations by pairing up and playing out a situation in role plays. Following a standard dialogue the teacher provides or innovating and using a list of vocabulary words the teacher posts on the board, students can do run-throughs of situations such as asking for a job application, meeting new people, or asking where an item is in the store.
Invite a teacher in your community to come and speak to your English class. Ask the teacher to focus on information such as checking their children’s backpacks for notes from school, about coming to the school to enroll their child, calling the teacher with concerns about their children, and reporting students’ absences to the school receptionist. Follow up with a scheduled tour of a local school.
Print out news stories from Breaking News English or the Voice of America’s website for English language learners. These sites provide simplified English news articles for students as well as activities to help them learn new words and about concepts in the articles. Students can also listen to the news stories published on the VOA website if your school is equipped with Internet access.
Incorporate these ideas for teaching English language free in your classroom. They can help break up your traditional lessons by getting students out of the classroom and into the community to practice their English with native speakers.