DIY Teaching Resources for Your ESL Classroom
Since you’re basically packing your life away for your grand adventure and TEFL internship abroad, you probably aren’t going to have tons of space to devote to “teaching resources.”
Trying to squeeze extra games, cards, books, and educational toys in between your third pair of shorts or your extra pair of socks just doesn’t always work. Space in your carry on and backpack or suitcase is precious—which is why you need to optimize your storage space to include tools and resources you can use to make more tools and resources, like scissors, paper, and string.
Or, better yet, why not leave even those basic materials at home and figure out how to do it yourself—make your own teaching resources—once you get abroad? There’s nothing stopping you from rocking DIY, homemade, #PinterestFail learning tools in your own classroom.
Since most countries have shops with basic materials easily available, you don’t actually need to bring this stuff from home. That means more space for a fourth pair of shorts (or better yet, souvenirs!).
Here are a handful of our favorite DIY projects and teaching resources that you can use in your ESL classroom abroad.
Classic, easy, & fun DIY ESL classroom projects
1. Sock puppet
You might roll your eyes looking back on the sock puppets you’ve encountered as an adult, but get into the minds of your students. Kids LOVE being silly and can be very easily entertained by and enthralled with something as simple as a sock puppet on your hand paired with a funny voice.
Your sock puppet can have a name and special circumstances when he appears. Maybe he’s always there to introduce new vocabulary, or to answer hard-to-ask questions from students about upcoming exams. Maybe, just maybe, your students will want to
- Materials: Sock(s), marker(s)
- How to: Put the sock over your left hand and mark where it’s eyes and mouths should be. Be sure to leave extra slack so that your sock puppet has enough room to “talk.” Remove the sock from your hand and draw the eyes and mouth more prominently—you need to make sure the kids in the back can see Mr. Foot-in-Mouth!
2. Cut out from magazines
As your days abroad turn to weeks abroad turn to months abroad, start picking up extra magazines and newspapers you’ve seen lying around. These can make great resources for one-off activities whereby students make sentences or posters with “ransom note” letters, words, or phrases cut out from magazines. OR, for you, this can be a more interesting way to present an assignment or biuld your very own motivational poster for the classroom. Win-win!
- Materials: Magazines, newspapers, scissors
- How to: Try to have at least one individual magazine for every student, as well as individual scissors for every student (or one for every small group of students). Give students plenty of time to think through what sentences they want to write or design they want their artwork to have, then follow that with ample time for them to get to work to find and cut out the words they want!
3. Use a bag with props
Students love when surprises are REVEALED. Pulling items out of a bag that you can’t see through one at a time is a fun way to do just that. You can pull out water, food, tea, snacks, candy (maybe enough for the whole class?), photographs of far off animals or places. Have students write down the name of the item silently or race to the board to write the word before their classmates. Maybe you can work out a way to pull that sock puppet out of the bag…?
- Materials: Tote bag, props
- How to: Place all the items in the bag and pull them out individually one at a time. You can determine how to make it a “game” and how “complex’ the props are based on the ESL level of your student group.
4. Cut out snowflakes or paper hearts
Anyone who grew up in a western—well, at least an American—school system is no stranger to cutting fun shapes out of construction paper. You can make paper chains of people, a heart or star, or even a snow flake (perfect for teaching students about winter where you come from!). The best part about these projects is that there is no “right” or “wrong;” everyone’s final product is beautiful in its own way. Have students color their cut outs to really make their mark!
- Materials: Construction or recycled paper, crayons/markers, scissors
- How to: 1) Snowflake. Fold your paper in half long ways, then fat ways, then long ways, then fat ways. It should have eight layers of paper at this point. Cut into all pieces of paper along the edges. Unfold and voila! Ready-made snow! 2) Heart. Fold your paper in half long ways. Point the creased, folded section towards the left and draw half of a heart. Cut it out and there you have it—a heart the size of the Grinch’s!
5. Make your own coloring book pages
Sometimes activities don’t take as long as you thought and sometimes activities fall flat in terms of student interest and engagement. What can you do to fill that unexpected pocket of time? Have kids color! Make your own coloring book pages with bubble letters or simple drawings (Google can be a great teacher for learning to draw) for those one-off moments when you’ve got time to kill. Ideally, you’ll have access to a scanner and printer to help scale this project. Or you just REALLY REALLY REALLY like drawing the same thing over and over…
- Materials: Paper, marker, printer/scanner (ideally)
- How to: Draw the image, characters, or letters on the page with ample room to color inside. Make multiple iterations so students can “choose” what they want to color. Have enough copies of the DIY coloring book pages to distribute to each student. To make the task a little more interesting, give students color directions, too—like, “only use primary colors” or “color in order of the rainbow.”
Great Pinterest boards for more ESL classroom DIY inspiration
- ESL Classroom from Josi Anee
- Organized Classroom’s DIY Classroom Set
- ESL Classroom Decor from JA Bookout
- General Ideas for Classroom Decorating & Organizing
- ESL Kids’ Crafts from Bekki Champken
Making DIY teaching resources for your ESL classroom is fun in itself
Lighten up a little as you experiment with resources and materials and get more creative with the activities that you bring to your students. Adjust as needed for student proficiency—we doubt teenagers will like cutting paper hearts—and don’t be afraid to look elsewhere on the web for more DIY inspo. Happy cutting and pasting!
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