Wholesome Teaching: 5 Engaging Activities to Nourish Your EAL Students

Want to get your EAL students up, moving and jumping?

Want them speaking and eager to learn?

You can spark a fire in your students that will burn the entire class period.

The secret?

Using activities that your students are sure to love, which employ fun and exciting material in a visual and collaborative way.

With the five activities below, your students will actually get involved and really hone their English skills. Their confidence will blossom and they will have the “know how” to get outside of the classroom and use what they’ve learned in a practical way.

Why Use Dynamic Activities with EAL Classes?

English as an Additional Language (EAL) has become an ever increasing aspect of teaching and learning English. EAL students are taking their additional language to heart and English teachers, like yourself, have to keep this in mind when teaching an EAL class.

EAL activities, just like ESL activities, boast multiple benefits for your students, and using more visually-stimulating and action-oriented activities in your classroom will make you a hit. You’ll be able to target a number of English-learning skills, including writing, reading, speaking, collaboration, discussion, Total Physical Response (TPR) and more.

Here are a few more reasons these activities are so great for EAL students:

  • Promote communication. Your students are all about the practical use of their newly found language, which these activities allow. Your students will find a communicative spark while using English with you and their classmates. An interactive and collaborative activity will give them essential tools to draw from when using English outside of the classroom.
  • Visually stimulating. Visual activities allow your students to connect with your lesson material in a more beneficial way. It’s more fun, exciting and memorable for the students, which allows them to interact with the English language in a more comprehensive way. 
  • Dive deeper into the material. The activities you prepare for your students should be clear, using EAL “modeling” to allow your students to see and hear the key features of the language. Your students will then have a great source or reference to work from, so they can take a deeper look into the material you present.

Through the following five activities, your students will explore new ways to learn English, plus they’ll gain benefits that are essential to their language development and growth.

5 Engaging Activities to Nourish Your EAL Students

1. Word of the Day

This is a great way to get your students excited about using a new word every day in the classroom, and works for all ages and levels. This activity has been in use for decades in classrooms around the world, and is as simple as the name suggests. Every day, you’ll encourage your students to use one word throughout the day in order to receive some type of reward.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, think of a word that your students can use in the classroom for that day. For example, if the primary lesson of the day is about animals, then it would be best to use a word which relates to the material. This will give your students many chances to use the Word of the Day.
  • Let’s use the word “animal” and its plural form “animals” as an example. You want to keep modeling in mind and make sure to present the Word of the Day as if your students don’t know what it means. In this case, your students may know the word, however, the method behind this activity is to encourage them to use it in different ways.
  • Present the word, writing it on the board, followed by 2 or 3 example sentences using both the singular and plural forms. Keep the examples on the board for your students to reference.
  • Next, set the reward system. You can use one of two methods here or craft your own clever reward system as well. Tell your students that every time they use the word “animal” or “animals” in a sentence during class that day, they’ll receive a point or candy of some sort. Whichever reward system you choose is up to you.
  • You can accumulate Word of the Day points and tally them up to find the winner at the end of each week, or you could also do a daily point tally as well.

This activity allows your students to get deeper into English expression as they attempt to use the Word of the Day correctly and in different ways. They will also use other English skills, such as speech and possibly even discussion, depending on your practice and production activities.

2. Crossword Puzzle

This activity promotes communication, collaboration, deeper English thought, plus it brings fun and excitement to the classroom. A great way to implement this into your lesson plan is to pick a more specific topic to discuss before setting your students free to work in pairs or groups on the crossword. It’s also another activity that works well for all ages and English levels.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, you will need to craft a simple worksheet with a crossword puzzle. In order to develop your worksheet, you must do a bit of brainstorming and choose a specific topic and hints for words. You can also find a wide variety of pre-made printable crosswords on the Internet as well.
  • With a great crossword worksheet in hand, you are ready to present to your EAL students. Give them the topic the words will derive from and discuss several words relating to the topic as a class. For example, if your crossword topic is sports, discuss the words you have chosen for the answers with examples and even visuals. This will set your students up for success and allow them to think clearly about the topic, words and definitions.
  • It’s also a great idea to employ modeling, an essential aspect of EAL as mentioned earlier. Some students may have never seen or done a crossword before. Remember to give them references, visuals and examples to work from.
  • After your presentation is complete and all questions have been answered, pair students up and pass out the crossword worksheet. This is their time to shine as they collaborate and think deeply, in English, about the different answers previously discussed in your presentation.

Crossword puzzles are perfect for vocabulary building, peer collaboration, student-to-teacher discussion, modeling practices and overall fun. It will challenge your students to find answers according to your presentation, and use the new material in a practical way.

3. Energy Saving

This activity is great for your pre-intermediate and intermediate EAL students. It combines current global issues with English, which your students might even find useful in discussion outside of the classroom when conversing with native-English speakers.

Here’s how it works:

  • You can begin by downloading this worksheet to either use in your class or as a template to develop your own worksheet on saving energy. This worksheet will allow your students to work through the activity in a informative, fun and guided way.
  • Present material about saving energy to your students in a way they can relate. For example, first ask them, “What does ‘energy saving’ mean to you?” This will open up a wonderful conversation you can use to guide the discussion to your material. Give them useful examples that are practical and relate to the material in the worksheet. Remember visuals and modeling.
  • Next, pair up your students and let them work through the worksheet together. This collaboration is essential, as they’ll learn the importance of discussing current issues with another person while learning new material at the same time.
  • After the worksheet has been completed, open the classroom floor to discussion and findings for each of the pairs’ answers.

4. Action Phrases

A fun way to incorporate action phrases is with this activity centered on phrasal verbs, which is excellent for beginner to pre-intermediate levels. Your students will sharpen their listening skills since they’ll need to quickly understand the phrasal verbs you say in this TPR activity.

Here’s how it works:

  • In your presentation, you’ll want to address some of the common phrasal verbs your students will use in a practical situation. For example, “turn on” or “turn off” the light is an essential part of our daily lives in English. You can give your students visuals on this, however you should develop your students’ understanding by demonstrating the actions yourself since this activity incorporates the TPR method.
  • Run through each phrasal verb, even some you may not use in the activity, and show your students (modeling) the correct responses they should make when they hear a specific command.
  • With the material discussed and examples given, you can start a nice TPR warm-up to get your students’ minds churning with action. A great warm-up activity is, “My name is [name], what is your name?” This simple exercise will help students to begin their quick response times.
  • After everyone is warmed up and ready to go, start directing your commands at students to perform. It’s a great idea to begin with a more attentive student. This will ease the transition for others who may be a bit behind. For example, “Juan, stand up.” Your commands could even be in “scale,” with each question more challenging then the last.

This is a great way to get students moving, and they’ll gain enthusiasm for phrasal verbs through action while enjoying the excitement of quick English thought. Other skills include listening, speaking, phrasal verb building, classroom participation and communication.

5. I’m Going to the Grocery Store

This activity is fun, exciting and provokes enthusiastic learning. You’ll set up a category, and then each student will add an item related to that specific category. The list will grow, and continue to be repeated on each student’s turn.

For example, if the category is going to the grocery store, your students must name items found in a grocery store. You’ll start them off with a single item, and then one by one the whole class will get involved, as each student adds one item to the growing list as you make your way around the classroom.

Here’s how it works:

  • Set the scene by picking a specific category. For our example, we’ll use the grocery store. You can adjust the category to make it easier or more difficult, depending on your students’ ages and levels.
  • Make sure there’s a clear path as to who will go first, and how you’ll progress through each student in class. A circle works well for this, but isn’t necessary.
  • Tell the class, “I am going to the grocery store to buy an apple” to begin the chain.
  • Then, the first student will repeat what you said, and add one item found in a grocery store. For example, “I am going to the grocery store to buy an apple and a pineapple.”
  • The next student will repeat the new statement and also add a single item: “I am going to the grocery store to buy an apple, pineapple and [new item].”

Your EAL students will hone their listening, speaking, vocabulary, grammar and English thought during this activity. Not to mention it’s fun and easy to play, involving the whole class at once.


Activities for EAL students focus on visually stimulating material, collaboration, communication and gaining a deeper understanding of English through quick thinking in practical situations. Use these five exceptional activities in your EAL classroom to break up the day-to-day studies and bring out the wild side that your students are eager to explore in English.

Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.

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