Teaching English to refugees

refugees learning English with a ball game to help them relax
31 Dec Shelley Vernon No Comments

Any teachers taking culturally diverse classes will tell you to be careful.

 

Refugees may be feeling vulnerable, shy and fragile. A simple question such as "Where are you from?" may result in floods of tears. There may also be tensions between students with cultural differences and backgrounds. There may be enemies from two sides of a war present. Using non-competitive games can help relax the atmosphere and create a friendly classroom.

 

Unit 1 from any workbook typically includes "Talking about yourself" but this can be dangerous territory. Stick to structured questions and answers rather than general chat. Allow students to communicate inside safe boundaries. The game Good Evening Beach Ball is a good example. When students catch the ball they answer the question or read the phrase to which their thumbs are pointing. Then they throw the ball to someone else. There is no pressure, and throwing a ball brings back the innocent fun of childhood play.

refugees learning English with a ball game

Why not teach students about the new host country? This will help them integrate. Everything is of interest, from geography, (cities, states, rivers, etc.) to key historical figures, but also famous musicians, fashion designers, architects, artists, culinary specialties and so on. Talking about neutral facts will help avoid conflict. Religion, politics, and probably relationships are off the agenda! Have students research and make up questions for the next class. Collect all the questions and make your own Trivial Pursuit game, just for your specific classroom. Play in teams, not as individuals, this avoids one poor student being last!

 

For higher level students you might consider teaching through a novel, but perhaps choose something light-hearted. Reading poetry is an uplifting way to study language and I recommend the Puffin books of children's poetry - for the adults! Children's poetry is easier to understand (less cryptic) and often light-hearted and amusing.

 

For plenty of ideas do get my book of activities for teens and adults. I also have plenty of resources for teaching children. Feel free to drop me a line and ask for some free samples.

 

For a more detailed look at teaching refugees English please see this article: How ESL Games Help With Difficulties in the Classroom

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