How to Choose Your ESL Materials: Look for Little Surprises

The first 3 sentences were regular, old, run-of-the-mill examples, but the 4th was silly.

  1. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
  2. Alexander Bell invented the telephone.
  3. Christopher Columbus discovered America.
  4. Christopher Columbus also discovered a large piece of stinky cheese in his refrigerator.

The students weren’t expecting the sudden humor of the 4th sentence.  A few giggled when they read it, unsure whether they had read it correctly.

A couple of others smiled and looked at me to see if it was OK to laugh. 

I smiled back at them. 

Suddenly, the class erupted with goofiness. They were laughing and raising their hands wanting to share their own silly sentences.

Expectations of boredom had been interrupted by unexpected humor. 

That little surprise turned the students from passive learners into active learners. They became interested. They ended up using the target language a ton. And they cared about being correct because they wanted to get a good laugh. 

When you are searching for materials, the littlest things can help bring a little life into your students.

Some color, a few cute pictures, a game, a craft, a little humor. A few little surprises sprinkled in here and there.

If you can’t find materials like that, you can always sprinkle in a few surprises yourself.

It makes a difference. 

It makes the difference between students who expect little and students who expect surprises. 

And that is a big difference when you are teaching.

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