Teaching the months of the year to EFL and ESL students
How would you teach the months of the year? Learning the months of the year is often a rather dry task for ESL learners.
Here are lesson plan ideas to make each month more vivid and memorable. Teach six months in one lesson, then revise and add to those in a further lesson. It'll be easier for students to memorize what you are teaching them if you do not overload them.
Pick a typical characteristic, event, type of weather or local festival for each month. Ideally, these need to be things your students already know, so they only have to focus on learning the name of the month.
What you choose will vary depending on your location, but in the UK it could be:
January: New year's day, making new year's resolutions, wishing everyone a happy new year
February: Freezing, windy weather, making snowmen, or Valentine's day. In the States, you might choose Groundhog day.
March: The coming of Spring with tender leaves coming out on trees and crocuses
April: Rain, because April is known for its showers or April Fools Day
May: Mayday (a national holiday), Mothers day or VE day, 8th May 1945.
June: Midsummer's day, the Spring equinox or D Day
July: End of the school year, Sunshine and going on holiday to the beach
August: Nottinghill Carnival, Summer holiday concept
September: Back to school or the Harvest Festival
October: Autumn leaves or Halloween
November: Guy Fawkes bonfire night, or Remembrance Sunday
December: Snow, or Christmas
The game ideas that follow are from my book ESL Games: 176 English Language Games for Children. If you are teaching teens and adults, you want these teen & adult games and activities instead.
To make learning the months of the year easy it's imperative to choose associations to each month that are common knowledge to your students. There might be some local festivals that would be ideal to associate to the month they are held in. If your classroom is made up of multiple nationalities then choose a selection of the most famous events and festivals from around the world. You might even use birthdays of your students.
Get a picture for each month and display them. Ask students to work in pairs and invent a mime for each month. Ask pairs to mime while the others try to guess which month it is. Do this in teams and award points to those who guess first.
- Pupils will loosen up as the game goes along, especially if there are points at stake.
- Don't insist if your students are too shy and don't like it.
Have each student sketch concepts for two months. Call out a month. All those with that month stand up and name it out loud. After you've called each month once the kids swap papers and do it again.
Give students a chance to write out the words while you stick pictures up around the classroom. Avoid giving out photocopies. Have kids work from the board instead. For example, if it's a gap fill, write the text up, with the gaps and put the vocabulary down the side of the board. Students copy it all into their workbooks. This means more writing for the students and less photocopying for the teacher. Try a word jigsaw, crossword or anagrams instead of a gap fill.
Use language games to drill the months of the year
- Play Show Me, with students touching or pointing to the months you name, going faster and faster. Now see if someone in class is ready to call out a month for the others to point to.
- With the classes with 14-15 kids you can introduce a running game here - or a game with more movement such as All Change.
- With the bigger classes try Kidnap.
- Then for all classes an easy speaking drill like Relay Race - the kids make teams in rows, at the front of each row are all the weather pics that the kids drew at the start of the lesson, and on go they pass them down simply repeating the word.
In the next lesson revise these first six months and teach the next six. Revise first using games from ESL Games: 176 English Language Games for Children, or the Teen and Adult games book. Games like Which one has gone? Show me, Bingo, Jump the Line, The Big Freeze or Find a Friend, Connect Four, Battleships, Grammar Auction (with sentences such as: In January I make snowmen.)
Teaching tip: Allow ten minutes of every lesson for revision- see my books for revision games. If you don't cover previous topics each month, students will have no chance of remembering it. For sure, at the end of the year you won't have covered as much as you would, had you turned over all the pages of your textbook, but at least the children will remember it, be able to say it, and think that English is fun - so that's a good base for them and better than covering a load of stuff, none of which they remember and are too scared to say!
Helpful resources to teach the months of the year
In my game books use steps one and two to introduce new words, steps three and four to drill them and steps five and six to work on reading and writing.
* Available in paperback