Time is precious. And it’s easy to feel like your time in the classroom is being wasted by lengthy activity directions and classroom management issues. Giving directions is an important part of the ESL classroom because learners who understand what is expected of them are more likely to engage, which solves a lot of classroom management issues as well.
Nevertheless, you still need to spend a decent amount of time making sure your students understand the task at hand, but what if your students already knew what to expect? Reusable routines are an incredible tool for the language classroom. Not only will they save you time in the classroom (by eliminating the need to give lengthy directions), but they’ll also save you time when lesson planning and help build your students’ confidence.
Today we’re not only going to break down what a reusable routine is and the many benefits of using them with adult learners, but I’m going to share a few of my favorite routines that can be easily adapted for any proficiency level.
What is a Reusable Routine?
Reusable routines are activities, procedures, and tasks that you use for multiple lessons and in multiple ways in order to familiarize your students with them and maximize your classroom time. They don’t have to be used every single class, but many students may choose to use the same routine to warm up students at the beginning of every class.
Like I briefly mentioned above, there are so many benefits to using reusable routines in your classroom. As a teacher, planning lessons becomes much more simple when you can simple plug in an activity that you’re already familiar with. You’ll know how to set up the task, you’ll know what you need for the task, and you’ll know how to group your students for the task. A more simple lesson planning routine means less teacher stress and less chance of burnout!
Lesson planning is the foundation for teaching, learning, classroom management, and everything else involved with teaching ESL. If your lesson planning is chaotic, stressful, and rushed, developing a healthier and more focused routine can help revolutionize your classroom environment and even your own teaching experience!
Reusable routines have many benefits for your students as well. Students typically crave routine and familiarity. After all, when they know what to expect and they know what you expect, expectations get met.
Many ESL students enter the language classroom with a lot of fear and hesitation. Learning a language is a very vulnerable experience, and if your students have recently immigrated, they’re already in unfamiliar territory (both metaphorically and literally). Reusable routines are a great way to give your students more stability in the classroom. This stability gives way to greater confidence when engaging in discussion tasks and using language in the classroom.
Reusable Routines for Adult Language Learners
Below you’ll find 3 different reusable routines to use with your adult students in order to maximize your time. One of the things I didn’t mention above is that reusable routines are really easily adapted to different proficiency levels, different topics, different language skills, etc.
After each reusable routine, you’ll find a few tips and tricks for adapting the task to whatever circumstance you may be teaching in and whatever material you may be teaching.
After explaining the directions to and doing these activities with your students 2-3 times, you’ll eventually get to a point where you can simply tell your students what activity you’ll be doing and they’ll be able to organize themselves and engage without any further instruction.
Use: Jump-Start Discussion
Materials: White/Chalk Board
Directions: Write a question on the board for your students to respond to. Give students time to think and formulate an answer individually. When they’ve come up with their answer, have them write it on the board. After all students have written their answers on the board, debrief as a class. Discuss similarities and differences between the many answers. Use this opportunity to transition into another discussion task in pairs or small groups.
This task can be used to discuss preferences, learning styles, cultural upbringing, beliefs, hobbies, and so much more. It’s a great way for students to individually think about their own opinions and to share them in a controlled way.
Instead of writing the answers on the board, have students write them on slips of paper. Collect the slips and either redistribute them or have students choose one at random. The students now have to go around and discuss the topic with their peers in order to find out whose slip of paper they’re holding (without showing or asking explicitly). For more advanced learners, tell them that they aren’t allowed to say any of the words that are on the paper.
Materials: Cards with Questions/Words/Concepts
Grouping: Pairs or Small Groups
Directions: Students are given a set of cards that relate to the topic of class that day. They must work in pairs or small groups (depending on class size) to sort the cards into preset categories. For instance, vocabulary could be split up by part of speech. Then debrief as a class in order to discuss the similarities and differences between students’ choices.
For beginner-level learners, use cards that have pictures of vocabulary on them to help your students focus on the task at hand.
Advanced learners can sort out the cards with no preset categories. Encourage them to look for the similarities between the cards and come to their own conclusions. Then, have each group explain their rationale.
Use: Discuss Opinion
Materials: None, Signs Optional
Grouping: Whole Class
Directions: The teacher sets up a continuum at the front of the classroom. One side is one extreme, the other is the opposite extreme. You can write labels on the board for each side, put up signs, or just tell your class what each side means. For example, one side could have a sign that says “I love to listen to music in English,” and the other side could say, “I don’t enjoy listening to music in English.” Students must line themselves up according to their own personal opinion. In order to do so, they’re going to have to discuss with their classmates the extent of their own feelings to find out where in the line up they belong.
Use this activity to then put students in groups according to where they fall in the line to discuss their opinions and present them in class.
Split the line in half and have each half prepare their argument. Then have both groups debate the topic at hand.
Reusable routines are a great strategy to maximize your time in the classroom. It can be frustrating for teachers to have to explain lengthy activity directions, and students can get easily overwhelmed by learning new activities every class. These routines can help you lesson plan faster, help your students to be more confident and engaged, and help you to create a healthy learning environment.
I Want to Hear From You!
What are your favorite reusable routines to use with adult learners?
How do you maximize your time in the language classroom?