It is always very exciting after a few years of teaching a group of students basic vocabulary and grammar, when you finally reach the point where they can start combining what they know to express ideas. It is even more exciting when students can start expressing their own opinions on subjects. Students who are overly concerned about getting the “right” answer often look confused when they have to state their opinion because, in this case, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. However, with practice, I’ve found that they can become quite comfortable and even confident about stating what they think in English.
It’s interesting how ideas on expressing one’s opinion on a subject really vary from culture to culture. I once had a very interesting discussion with a group of Japanese English teachers about how students in Japan often claim that they have no likes or dislikes. The Japanese teachers told me that having strongly held opinions on things can be seen as childish or selfish in Japanese culture. They were surprised to hear that in America, not having any opinion on subjects or personal preferences could get one labeled “wishy-washy” and can be seen as a sign of weakness!
One subject many children like to talk about is what they would like to be when they grow up. After teaching about jobs in WE CAN! Level 3, Unit 8 (Jobs, page 64), go to Starter Unit 35 (Jobs/pages 80 and 81).
Have the students tell you what jobs are in both books and which ones are only in the Starter. Teach all the new jobs on the Starter pages and then have the students practice asking each other, “Do you want to be a. . .?” in pairs.
After they have finished, ask the students to make two lists in their notebooks; one list is of the top five jobs they would like to have and the other is of five jobs they would not like to have. Students can check their WE CAN! Level 3 books or the Starter to see how to spell the different jobs. Once students have made their lists, have them take turns standing up and presenting their lists to the class by saying, “I want to be. . .” or “I don’t want to be. . .” (Write these sentence fragments on the board so students can refer to them if they need to do so.)
A game that can easily combine opinions with past vocabulary and grammar lessons is a guessing game. After studying the names of sea animals, adjectives and the sentence structures, “I think _____________ is _________ er than a _________________, “ and “It’s as ___________ as a _______________, “ in Level 3, Unit 3 (Sea Animals, pages 20 - 24), go to Starter Unit 9 (The Seaside/pages 20 and 21). Have the students tell you what sea animals are in both books and which ones are only in the Starter. Teach all the new sea animals on the Starter pages. (Note; You can teach non-animal words such as, “sandcastle”, from the Starter, but these will not be used for the game.)
Write the following sentences on the board:
1. It’s (color).
2. It’s (big, medium-sized, small).
3. I think it’s _____________er than a _____________. OR I think it’s as ______________ as a _______________.
Start the game by secretly choosing a sea animal and then describing it, using the sentences above. For example, if you chose a seahorse, say:
1. It’s orange.
2. It’s small.
3. I think it’s as slow as a jellyfish.
Student should guess using the question, “Is it a _________?”
After you have described a few sea animals and had the students guess, let the students try. Depending on the level and personality of the class, either have students come to the front of the class one at a time and describe an animal or have them write their descriptions in their notebooks and then come up, one at a time, to the front of the class to read them aloud. Once a student guesses correctly, it can be their turn to come to the front and describe their sea animal. If you have a very large class, break the class into groups (six students to a group would be ideal) and have students take turns describing the sea animals to their group.
These types of activities are very valuable to students because they are not just repeating something the teacher has told them. Instead, they are communicating to others using words they chose for themselves with the teacher only providing a bit of support. Now they are on their way to becoming future independent speakers of English!