5 ESL Immersion Curriculum Ideas That Will Spice Up Your Classroom

There is no better way to learn English than to immerse yourself in it.

But for your students who might not be located in a native English speaking country, how can they be immersed in English?

In your classroom!

Your classroom can easily serve as an English immersion home for your students, so it’s important to remember: Only English should be used in the classroom.

To help you spice up your English-only classroom, we’re sharing five successful ESL immersion curriculum ideas today, which all involve another subject. Why remove the focus from pure language?

Using subjects and skill sets already familiar to your students can both help your students feel a measure of success while also highlighting the many nuances of English expression. They’ll talk more and feel comfortable doing so.

I once taught English immersion at a private elementary school in Korea. This particular school decided they wanted to use their native English teachers to teach actual subjects, such as science, math, social studies and more. I was incredulous. How would these young students be able to grasp not only basic English, but more topic-specific English vocabulary words?

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of these immersion classes. Students who normally did not excel in linguistics would shine in a math lesson, or win a game while shouting a new English expression. It boosted confidence and added more interesting topics to the ESL classroom.

It was a true success!

You can very easily incorporate immersion learning into your classroom too—while helping your students feel more immersed in the language—with these five ideas.

5 ESL Immersion Curriculum Ideas That Will Spice Up Your Classroom

1. Use Math to Help Build English Ability


Numbers are universal. Every one counts, and every one needs to be able to have a good grasp of numbers in any language they are learning to speak. It’s an essential part of the language, and of survival.

Learning numbers can be a dry lesson—lots of repetition, counting out loud, and the such. But learning numbers can also be fun!

Incorporating math lessons into your ESL classroom is a great way to teach number vocabulary, and to reach out to the students who typically excel in math (and maybe not such much in foreign languages).

Here are a couple of ideas to teach a math lesson in your ESL class.

Play the Game 3-6-9

The game 3-6-9 is a simple counting game where students count in turns from 1 – 100 (more or less), but have to clap instead of speak whenever they are supposed to say three, six or nine, or any number containing a three, six or nine somewhere in it. For example, you would clap at 16, 29, 43, etc.

The game gets more difficult when the students get into the 30s, 60s and 90s. In these cases, students have to remember to clap twice (on 33 or 66, for example). If the student gets it wrong, they are “out.”

It’s easy to modify the game in various ways: count backwards, count in ordinal numbers or change the game to 1-5-8, for example.

Use Worksheets and Have Students Write out the Numbers

When I taught elementary school, I would have my ESL students spell out the numbers when they did a math worksheet. It was very easy for them to add  2 + 2, but it was more challenging to write out the problem as “two plus two equals four.”

Boggles World ESL is a great resource for math worksheets for ESL learners.

2. Incorporate Science into Your ESL Classroom

5 esl immersion curriculum ideas that will spice up your classroom

Some students learn best by doing, not watching or listening.

Science experiments are a really fun way to develop vocabulary and introduce the scientific method to your English language learners.

Here is an example of an engaging science experiment and how to use it in the ESL classroom.

Lesson: Sink or Float?

First, go over the scientific process with your students. Have them learn the vocabulary words and processes of:

  • Asking a question
  • Making a hypothesis
  • Gathering materials
  • Performing the experiment
  • Discovering results
  • Making a final conclusion

Suggested materials for this experiment include wood, metal, plastic, aluminum foil, apples, oranges, plastic bottles, toy blocks, paper, bathtub toys, plastic forks, rubber balls, soda-bottle caps, pencils, erasers and sponges.

For help on how to proceed with the experiment and other activities that go along with completing the scientific process, use this great science website for help.

Earth Day themes and other environmental topics are also relevant and engaging ways to immerse your students in English while helping them connect to the natural world and learn about sustainability. 

3. Cook Recipes with ESL Learners

5 esl immersion curriculum ideas that will spice up your classroom

Cooking classes are always a hit in the ESL classroom. We all love to eat. And what’s more fun than sharing recipes or teaching someone else to make a recipe that you love?

A hands-on activity like a cooking class offers ESL learners an introduction to names of food, following instructions, recipe vocabulary and helps spark conversations about food around the world.

Here’s a simple recipe on how to make pancakes, with ideas on how to engage your students in the process.

Easy-to-make Pancakes

Ingredients: (for four servings)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flower
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  2. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, egg and oil.
  3. Mix until smooth.
  4. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.
  5. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.
  6. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Engage your students:

  • Have students read the recipe out loud. Are there any words they don’t know? Have they ever tried pancakes?
  • Cook the meal. Have all students participate. They should follow instructions carefully and watch your demonstrations.
  • Eat together around the table, and have your students share their own favorite foods and dishes from their home country.

4. Use Games to Teach Rules and Quick-witted Expressions

5 esl immersion curriculum ideas that will spice up your classroom

If you’ve been teaching for longer than, say, a day, you’ve heard the pleas from your students: “Teacher! Game!! Please!”

All students love games, no matter their age and no matter the curriculum. But, you don’t have to feel guilty when you give in and save your dry grammar lesson for another day.

Games can be a wonderful learning tool for ESL students, plus they teach rules and quick-witted expressions.

Here are two examples of great games to play in your class.

Personalized Jenga

You probably know the original game, Jenga. You start with a wooden tower carefully stacked, and each player must pull a block and put it back on top until the tower comes crashing down.

But, this simple game can create lots of fun conversation and laughter when you write questions on the blocks. You could make it an icebreaker game where you ask questions about the person (e.g. Tell us your earliest memory) or you could make the questions about a recent lesson you had (e.g. Which comes first—the subject or the verb?).

Hot Seat

This is a great game to use when students need to practice new vocabulary. Make a list of vocabulary words and divide your class into two teams. Place two chairs in front of the classroom and have a member from each team sit in the “Hot Seat.”

You then write a word on the board in front of the class, and make sure the two students in the Hot Seats do not turn around and look at the word. Each team then has to get their Hot Seat teammate to guess the word as they describe it in English.

It’s fast-paced and fun, and your students will surely get excited and competitive in the process. You’ll be amazed at the English words that pop out of their mouths when they have to think quickly.

Have students rotate in the Hot Seats, giving all the students a turn.

It’s important to note that in both games, make sure your students only speak English. Teach them phrases like “Your turn,” “My turn,” and “Good try!” Before long, they’ll sound like native speakers as they have a great time playing these games.

5. Play Sports and Get Physical Exercise in English

5 esl immersion curriculum ideas that will spice up your classroom

Sports is a fun topic for ESL learners. There are an abundance of flashcards and worksheets online that can help warm up your students to the world of sports, exercise and hobbies. It’s also a great way to talk about sports and culture in different countries.

If the weather is good, take your students outdoors for a little fun. One of the easiest games to play is kickball.  You can divide your class into two teams and go over the basic rules.

It’s also a great moment to teach encouragement, and how to cheer for teammates in English.

Incorporating these subjects and activities in your ESL classroom is sure to catch your students’ attention and add some fun and diversity to your classroom. Try it today!

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