Technology is ever-changing, and so are our classrooms.
Ever listened to your students talk about their favorite gadgets, only to wonder whether they were even speaking English?
As teachers, it can be hard to keep up to date with the latest technology. And if you teach children or teenagers, your students could probably teach you a thing or two about the trendiest apps and gadgets on the market.
Feel old yet?
Never fear! Bringing technology into the classroom doesn’t mean keeping up to date with the latest social media app or service. All you really need are some carefully-crafted lessons. And if you need a push in the right direction, there are plenty of technology-related activities and lesson plans available. You can use them for inspiration on how to get your students talking about technology.
More on that in a minute. First, let’s look at how technology is influencing life in and outside the classroom.
How Technology Is Changing Our Lives
Technology has been integrated into every corner of society, making our lives easier by enabling us to communicate, make transactions and gain access to information all at the swipe of a screen.
However, the effects of technological advancements stretch much further than that. They’re even changing our brains, altering their rewards systems to change the way we think and focus. As a result, it’s changing the way we teach and learn English too—which is a great topic of conversation for your ESL classes.
5 Activities That Upgrade Your ESL Technology Lesson Plan
The good news is that you don’t need to be a tech wiz to teach these activities. A basic understanding of technology and a little creativity can go a long way in creating a stimulating technology lesson. Here are all the resources you need.
1. Technology Timeliness
This activity will get students talking about vocabulary for smartphones. The best thing about it is that it requires no materials at all. Every student should have a phone in their pocket, which can be used as a conversation starter.
As an ice-breaker, ask students if they remember their first mobile phones. They can discuss them with their partner, comparing them to their current phones.
Next, ask them to draw out a timeline, starting from the very first mobile phone to the most modern. This should include the model they have, as well as any others they can remember. They should add notes on the technological advancements between each one. Go over everything from cordless phones to flip phones, QWERTY keyboards, picture messaging, Bluetooth and touchscreens. If your students aren’t old enough to remember some of the older models, give them some help along the way.
In groups or pairs, have them predict what they think a future mobile phone might look like. This should include materials, features and cost. It doesn’t need to be realistic, so they can get creative with it. At the end of the class, each group can present their idea. This will get them to practice their public speaking skills too.
Got a student without a smartphone, or any phone for that matter? Not a problem. Have them talk about why they chose not to purchase a smartphone. You may be surprised to hear some of their reasons why!
And if you really want to get your students talking in class, add FluentU to your activities. FluentU gives you the tools necessary to create a fully immersive learning experience. Students master conversational skills and learn grammar through real-world material, like music, television and news articles. As a result, students can get firsthand look into the culture of different English-speaking countries, learning more about what native speakers talk about and what’s everyday life in places like the United States and Great Britain.
2. Product Design
If your students are interested in design or marketing, this activity is ideal.
To start, introduce the things that designers must think about when creating a new product. This should include ergonomics, aesthetics, safety and lifespan. ThoughtCo has a lesson plan on creating new products which includes some of these terms.
Then, put students into small groups before asking them to look around the room and choose one product. It could be anything at all, from an electronic device to a piece of furniture or stationery. After they’ve chosen a product, they’ll have to evaluate it based on the qualities listed at the start of the class. Students should ask each other the following questions:
- How long does it last?
- Who is the target customer?
- What is it made from?
- How could it be misused?
- How could it be improved?
For a more basic version of this activity, you could use ISL Collective’s product pitch worksheet.
3. Strange Products
Not every student will find technology interesting. For some, the idea of spending an hour talking about product design, coding or gadgets puts them to sleep. To make it interesting, you can add an element of humor by talking about some of the weird and wonderful products people buy.
To do this, present the weirdest products of 2018 to your class either in a PowerPoint or on worksheets. If that doesn’t take your fancy, you can use Buzzfeed’s list of ridiculous products you can actually buy, which includes a ‘boyfriend pillow’ for singletons, a turntable for cats and underwear for your feet.
Use these products as the basis for a discussion or debate class. Students can talk about whether they like them, how useful they are, if they would buy them and how much they would pay for these products.
4. Predicting the Future
This activity will not only teach technology-related vocabulary, but also enable students to use it to make complex predictions about how it will change in the future.
To kick things off, ask students how they think the world will be different in 10, 50 or 100 years. Encourage them to think from lots of different angles, including transport, food, jobs and relationships. They can brainstorm their ideas on the board or on paper to come back to later.
Then, give out a worksheet with Bill Gates’ 7 predictions for the future. He talks about automation, clean energy, artificial intelligence, mobile banking and even “bioterrorism.” It’s a great reading activity, which features lots of different vocabulary surrounding technology.
Allow your students to read the information, highlighting any words they don’t understand. There are likely to be a lot of them, so you’ll have to spend some time going through definitions as a class. Once your students have a grasp of each of the seven predictions, they can use them as a basis for discussion. Ask students to talk in pairs about whether they agree or disagree with each prediction and why.
Once they’ve done that, teach them some grammar for how to talk about the future. Specifically, modal verbs like:
” If your class is more advanced, you can also include words like:
Students can learn how to use these words to talk about degrees of certainty. TEFLTastic has a wide range of worksheets for this.
In the last activity, you can put all of this together. Groups can present their predictions from the beginning of the class, using the language you’ve taught to express different levels of certainty.
If students struggle for ideas, you can use ISL Collective’s future predictions worksheet, which has 26 examples already written out. If you want to make it even more advanced, you can use this class to teach future perfect tense, asking students to make sentences like these:
- By 2050, scientists will have found a cure for cancer.
- In fifty years’ time, everyone will have bought a flying car.
5. Technology Survey
This activity will teach students how to form questions and will help them to practice fluency. It doesn’t require any complex grammar, making it appropriate for lower level students.
In pairs or groups, ask your students to write ten questions to ask each other about technology. These questions can include devices and apps they use, their opinions about the use of technology or anything else they can think of. Here are some examples:
- How much time do you spend on social media every day?
- Do you think that children should have mobile phones?
- How old were you when you got your first mobile phone?
- Do you prefer to use laptops or tablets?
These questions can be used to conduct a class survey. Students can go around the class and ask their questions, recording answers as they go.
Technology is a great tool for learning English. In these activities, students will practice their skills while building the confidence to be able to talk about it. They can discuss how they use it, what they like and dislike about it, and how they think it will change in the future. This will help them to build fluency that’s valuable in all conversation, no matter the topic.
And One More Thing…
Looking for ways to incorporate technology into your ESL lesson plan? Then you’ll love FluentU! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities. You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
Emma Thomas is an ESL teacher in Bangkok with more than five years of experience in teaching students of all ages. You can read more about her experiences as a teacher in Thailand at Under the Ropes.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.