Learner-Centered Activities


EDU134 - Teaching ESL to Adults: A course leading to Colorado’s ABEA Certification
Red Rocks Community College, Spring 2016 (Leecy Wise, Instructor)

Prompt: Briefly describe a plan to teach one of the three concepts listed in this week's reading, to ESL students at a specific level, who are high-context learners and who share two major goals among them: eventual job certification and interacting with service professionals in their communities. Select a concept, define your students' level, and describe what activities you might implement to help them acquire the language skills they want.

Maria Soto

The concept I selected was simple negotiation to intermediate ESL students.  The activities I would implement to help them acquire the language skills they need are:

  • When the students walk into the classroom, they see the following words written on the white board: Simple negotiations.
  • Then on their desk chairs, they have a sheet of paper with the following questions: What does it take to negotiate?  How do I feel about negotiating?  Do I negotiate? If yes, in what areas of my life do I negotiate? If not, do I need to learn to negotiate? (Instructions:  Work in pairs of 3-4 and answer/reflect on these questions.)
  • The students work in groups of 3 or 4 and ask each other the questions.
  • Then, the students are shown a slide with the following information:

Learn to express needs, wants and likes as follows: (The teacher models the dialogue with a volunteer or with another student.)



to become certified in my job. Can you help me?



to fix my car but I only have $100.00 dollars.  Can you help me?

I would


to go on vacation. Can we discuss it?



new tires for my car. Can we talk about prices?



to see a doctor. Can we  look at some  possible dates?

I would


to test drive this car. Can I?

  • Then the students pair up to practice the dialogue and to come up with other statements/questions.  The teacher rotates from group to group and takes part in the activity. 
  • The students watch a short negotiation vignette on video. There’s a group discussion after the video.  Everyone shares their opinions about what they saw on the video; including the teacher.  Some students and the teacher share one successful negotiation experience.
  • At the end, the students talk about what they learned in class.

Reference: Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching (http://www.facultyfocus.com/)

Mary-Lynn Goberis

Briefly describe a plan to teach one of the three concepts listed in this week's reading, to ESL students at a specific level, who are high-context learners and who share two major goals among them: eventual job certification and interacting with service professionals in their communities. Select a concept, define your students' level, and describe what activities you might implement to help them acquire the language skills they want.

Concept – Sentence writing, Beginners

Objective – Students will be able to combine familiar words to form logical sentences and then into greeting contexts.

Teacher set up – Before students arrive, teacher posts on the wall in different parts of the room, six scrambled sentences dealing with meeting a business person. One scrambled sentence per paper. Teacher pairs students by high and low proficiencies, mid and low, or mid and high, but not two low students.  Typically there are 12 students in the class.

In class – Directions:  Students will work in pairs to compose a conversation about meeting someone. On the wall are six pieces of paper. Each paper has words separated by “/” in a non-sense order. Your task is to read the words, remember them and tell your partner what is posted. You may go to and from the wall to your partner as often as needed to have all the words written. When those words are written, together you are to place them in a logical order to form a familiar sentence, a statement or a question. Write the sentence in the correct order. Each group will start at a different location.

Students repeat sections of the directions back to teacher.

Roles are switched each time so that each student is reading three sets of scrambled words and writing three sets of scrambled words and sentences. Each pair of students receives six pieces of paper on which to record the sentence. A sheet of paper could be cut in sixths. Paired students decide who will be the first recorder and who will be the first reader. There is no time limit nor is there a limit on how many times a student moves from the desk to read and re-read the scrambled sentences aloud to his/her partner. Each pair starts at a different location to reduce crowding at one place. This activity should be later in the class period to get students not only moving around, but practicing speaking, listening, reading and writing and collaborating. When all students have completed the task, the unscrambled sentences are compared as a class. I debated with myself whether or not to use capital letters for the first word of the sentence or challenge students to remember to capitalize it.

After students have unscrambled the words into sentences they are asked to put the sentences in a logical order. Next students receive one piece of paper and a glue stick. The conversation is placed in order. Students practice it aloud adding an ending.

  1. . / meet / nice / you / to
  2. ? / name / what / your / is
  3. ? / I / may / in / come /
  4. . / is / Leroy Lenin / name / my
  5. ? / you / this / how / morning / are
  6. . / in / and / a seat / yes, / have / come


  1. May I come in?
  2. Yes, come in and have a seat.
  3. What is your name?
  4. My name is Leroy Lenin.
  5. Nice to meet you.
  6. How are you this morning?

Follow up activity – What are ways to continue the conversation?

Sarah Folzenlogen

The topic that I chose was Problem-Solving for Advanced ESL students.  For it to be learner-centered, it's important that the lesson relates to the students, is active and student-led, and allows students to make choices and reflect on their learning. To begin, I'd introduce an icebreaker that gets students moving around and taking with each other.

Birthday Line Up:  Students must line up in order of birthdays (month and date). To do so, they can communicate with each other using English words and phrases  that they know, such as: months of the year, numbers, etc.

After students have completed the activity, I'd ask them to reflect on how they worked through the situation, encouraging them to use words and phrases they know:

  • We worked together
  • We worked as a team
  • We communicated with each other
  • We helped each other

Vocabulary Lesson: Next I would introduce the phrase "problem-solving."  Who has heard of this term before? What does it mean? I would have the class work together to create a vocabulary list of words that relate to problem-solving. Examples could include:

Solution, Communication, Listening, Teamwork, Thinking, Cooperation, Conflict, Resolution

Practical Application: When do we need to problem-solve? Write this question on the whiteboard and have students volunteer to come up to the board and write down their ideas.

As a group, have them select 2-3 of the ideas on the board to use as discussion topics. Break the class into smaller groups and assign a topic to each group. Topics could include:

  • Work
  • Home
  • School

Each small group will be given a simple scenario for their topic. As a group they must discuss how they would problem-solve in that situation. The group will then decide how they want to present their problem/solution with the rest of the class. They can be as creative as they want to be in how they share the information. It could be a speech, a skit, a drawing, diagram, etc.

Wrap-up:  Ask students what they learned about problem-solving. How is it important to their personal goals? Have them respond with a journal entry, encouraging them to write a paragraph response. Allow students to volunteer to read what they wrote.

David Henderson

In a hypothetical ESL class of advanced level learners a sequence of classroom meetings concentrates on problem solving skills.  This class consists primarily of high context learners who share the goals of obtaining job certification and interacting with community service professionals to achieve that certification. My learner-centered plan for teaching the concept of problem solving to this class includes the following activities.

  • Introduce problem solving theory: understand the problem; understand what you don’t know about the problem; identify resources to help solve the problem
  • Model solving the problem; I need a job. 
    • Demonstrate how to use the internet to
      • find job categories
      • find specific jobs
  • Allow students to take control of the problem solving activity. For this lesson, it might be advisable to find out what jobs students are interested in pursuing and why. After completing this informal, verbal assessment, I would group students together by similar job categories.

The collective group assignments are to work together to use the internet to prepare a folder of written artifacts which:

  • Identify specific job postings
  • Identify job requirements
  • Identify specific required certification for the job
  • Determine what further instruction a student requires for the job

As students prepare their job preparation folders, a couple of class meetings should focus entirely on identifying resources available to students in the community to help narrow the search and to answer questions.  This will involve a field trip to the school library to include a tour of job search resources.  This should also include a tour of the school or local community employment service office.

Upon completion of this set of problem solving lessons, the students will have a set of artifacts and an understanding of how to use those artifacts to achieve their job certification goals.

Sheryl Michael

Many of my current students would like to be nurses. This lesson focuses on forming simple sentences using verbs associated with nursing. 

Lesson Objectives:

1. To define verbs associated with nursing.

2. To form simple sentences using verbs associated with nursing.

3. To write sentences using the simple present tense and verbs associated with nursing.

The following verbs are written on the board in the classroom where students can see them:to help, to record.

The teacher asks the students to define the verbs on the board. "What do these verbs mean?"

The teacher writes student responses on the board. Once all students have an idea of what the verbs mean, the teacher points to the following pictures which are displayed in the classroom:

  Patient with Nurse  Patient with Nurse 

As a class, students work together to talk about the pictures - Who is in them? What are the people doing? Where are they? Students also match the verbs with the pictures. Students are asked to explain why they have matched the verbs and the pictures. 

The teacher writes student responses verbatim on the board. i.e. The nurse helps people. Using Subject + Verb + Complement, the teacher underlines key words from student responses and rewrites basic sentences. The teacher asks for student input after the first example. After four sentences have been written, the teacher asks the students what the sentences all have in common and facilitates conversation to focus on Subject  + Verb + rest of sentence.

The teacher then asks students for other verbs that describe the picture. The teacher writes these verbs on the board. Circling only regular verbs, the teacher asks students to work with one other person to write two sentences that describe the pictures using the circled verbs.

The teacher walks around the room helping students as needed. Once students have written two sentences, students share their sentences with the class. Students are asked to write their sentences on the board. The class then discusses these sentences and make corrections as needed.


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