A New Perspective in the ESL Classroom

Change. This is a word we have become very familiar with in the past few months and particularly within the past few weeks. Injustice has been brought to the forefront of our society, and as educators, we have a wonderful opportunity to open the minds and hearts of our students and educate them on the reality of race, injustice, and inequality.

Teachers have the power to eradicate ignorance and empower their students to seek the truth. Change begins in the classroom, so let’s educate ourselves and our students. We must embrace topics that make us uncomfortable and the learning opportunities they present.

There are many things we can do within our own classrooms to take charge of the learning environment. We can:

Create a safe, loving, and respectful space to learn.

Be open with our students about our own experiences.

Facilitate conversations.

Encourage our students to share their stories.

Change our materials, texts, and language.

Welcome the topic of race

Here are a few activities you can include in your classroom to help educate students and influence them to understand and respect each other.

  • 1. The Privilege Exercise: Have students stand in a horizontal line. The teacher will read statements to them regarding race and privilege. If the statement applies to you, take two steps forward if it doesn’t remain in your place. This is a kinesthetic activity that can help your students learn more about each other and their stories.
  • Level Basic – Advanced (you can tailor your statements based on the grammar)
  • Please note: Make your statements relevant.
  • 2. Presentations: Students can do family background presentations. Teachers can make up specific questions based on their family background, ethnicity, nationality, etc. For example: Where are your parents or grandparents from? etc. In this sense, the other students can learn more about each other’s backgrounds.
  • Level Basic – Advanced
Costa Rica TEFL’s safe, fun, and inclusive learning environment!
  • 3.Visual Posters:  Students can create posters in groups or individually depending on how many students there are in the class. After they are finished it can be displayed around the classroom. Please ensure they are promoting positive things. For example: “Love and Respect one another” etc. They can present it to the class when they are finished.
  • Level Basic – Advanced
  • 4. Back in time:  This activity we go back in time with our historical icons. Teachers can choose any historical icon and provide information to the students based on the historical icon. This activity can be done using the “jigsaw method.”
  • This is a great method to help your students work with different groups and learn to trust each other. Likewise, a way for them to improve their social and listening skills. Check out this video on how to do the Jigsaw Method for a clearer understanding.
  • Firstly, students are put in groups depending on how many students there are in the class. Everyone gets a paper with the specific information on the chosen historical icon
  • Secondly, if there are 3 groups of 4 people, each person in the group gets a specific piece of information. For example, if the historical icon is Maya Angelou, the 4 people in the group will be assigned to find different information on the icon.
  • Thirdly, Each person in the group is assigned a number. Students are then split into expert groups. All the 1’s go together, etc. In the expert group, you can discuss the information provided.
  • After the information is discussed, students return to their original groups, and each student in the group shares the information that they were assigned to do.
  • At the end, the teacher asks questions about the text and the students answer.
Encourage creativity!
  • 5. Music Gap fills: Music is always a great idea to bring to the classroom. Please ensure that the songs are appropriate for the level of students. You do not have to do the entire song; you can use pieces of the songs that stand out. Print the song, and let the students fill in the gaps with the words you take out. You can give them a word bank and let them choose a word that fits correctly within the gap. Here is a list of great songs about race. Click here for song ideas.
  • 6. Roundtable of Current Events: First, organize your classroom as if it is a roundtable where everyone is included and can see each other. Second, in this activity, show your students video or movie clips, articles, talks, podcasts– any of the above. Then, generate questions the students can answer based on the information provided. Ensure that each student gets one question to answer. At the end, ask them open-ended questions to generate more discussions and inter-student engagement.

These are some interactive activities you can do with your students in the classroom. The purpose of these activities is to educate our students and for our students to feel comfortable and safe sharing their knowledge in the classroom. Let us, as teachers, continue to motivate our students to be the change we wish to see in the world.

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