Category Archives: Teaching

Warm Up Activities for ESL Classes

Here are some ideas of warm up activities for ESL classes.

Intensive Speaking and Listening

Ask the students a series of questions based on a topic, and then get all students to listen to the answers. When all students have answered the questions, quiz the students on their comprehension and memory of the responses.

  1. English (How long have you studied English? Why are you studying English?)
  2. Job (What is your job? How long have you worked there? Do you enjoy it?)
  3. Family (How many people live in your house? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Are you married?)
  4. Food (What is your favourite food? What kind of food do you like? What food do you dislike?)
  5. Movies (Do you like watching movies? What is your favourite movie? What kind of movie do you like? What kind of movie don’t you like? Can you recommend a good movie? What movie should we avoid?)


The teacher starts by saying a word. For example “book”. The first student has to say a word that starts with the last letter of the word (eg “king”), and so on.

20 Questions – Who am I?

Students ask questions and teacher answers yes or no only. Eg. Madonna, Gandhi

Kimberley’s Game

Bring around 20 objects to class. Teacher shows them to the students one by one, confirming the name of each object. Then the objects are put away. Students have to write down the names of all of the objects. (toothbrush, facecloth, film, mirror, bandaid, book, tuna, fork, knapsack, thread, headband, headphones, perfume, tape, cassette, watch, blowdryer, scissors, stapler, comb, disk, remote control, cards)

No No No yes

Teacher asks students questions, students must not say yes or no (must find another way to agree or disagree).


Students create fake definitions (bee in her bonnet, cheapskate) for words or phrases. The teacher collects the fake answers, adds the correct answer to the pile, and reads them out one by one. The students vote on which one is correct. Source:


Students are given five categories (animals, fruits & vegetables, person’s name, work-related word, country) and one letter of the alphabet (s, b, w, r, m). In a limited period of time, they must come up with as many examples of each category that start with that letter. When the first letter is done, check everyone’s answers. If the student has a word that no one else has, that student gets a point. Then move on to the next letter.

A + B = C

Students are given two letters of the alphabet and they must come up with words that include both of those letters. If the letters were “t” and “l” for example, the student would say “T plus L =…” and then finish with a word like “towel”. The next person then has to do the same in a short amount of time. Keep going around the class until someone stumbles. The letters can be used in order or reversed, and the word can be any length, but must be one single word. Words cannot be said twice in one game.

Minute Mysteries

The teacher gives the students a scenario and the students have to figure out what happened. The students can ask any question that has a yes/no answer.

A man is lying face down in the desert with a pack on his back. He is dead. How did he die?
Solution: The man had just jumped out of a plane and the pack was a parachute that failed to open.

There is a lady who lives on the 50th floor of an apartment building. Every day she likes to go shopping, so she takes the elevator all the way down to the ground floor and heads out to shop. When she returns, she takes the elevator up to the 10th floor and then walks the rest of the way to the 50th floor. On rainy days, she takes the elevator all the way to the top. Why?
Solution: The lady is very short. While she can reach the ground floor button in the elevator, she sure can’t reach the 50th floor button! On sunny days she can reach the 10th floor button and has to walk the rest of the way up. On rainy days she carries an umbrella and uses it to reach the 50th floor button.


Teacher writes a grid of 16 (4X4) letters on the board. Students have to come up with as many words as they can see in the grid.


Plus One, Two, Three

The first student says “Yesterday I went to the store and I bought [something].” The next person adds to the first by saying “Yesterday I went to the store and I bought [something] and [something else].” But, any student can add up to three individual items at a time.

English Songs for Kids

Here are some songs that I learned when I was a kid. Thought I might share them with you…

You can also download a pdf file of all of these songs.

Pretty Songs


Edelweiss, edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to greet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

Morning has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlight from heaven Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Where Have all the Flowers Gone?

Where have all the flowers gone long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls picked them everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone to young men everyone…
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone to soldiers everyone…
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards everyone…
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers everyone…

You are my Sunshine

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and cried



Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
Gay your life must be


Rose, rose, rose, red
Will I ever see thee wed?
I will marry at thy will, sire
At thy will

(Here is a second verse according to

Ding do-ong, ding dong.
Wedding bells on an April morn’.
Carve your name on a moss covered stone
On a moss covered stone.

Row, Row, Row your Boat

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream

Silly songs

Alice the Camel

Alice the camel has five humps.
Alice the camel has five humps.
Alice the camel has five humps.
So go, Alice, go.

Alice the camel has four humps.
Alice the camel has three humps.
Alice the camel has two humps.
Alice the camel has one hump.
Alice the camel has no humps.
…Cause Alice is a horse of course!

Apples and Bananas

I like to eat, I like to eat, I like to eat, eat, apples and bananas
A lake ta ate, A lake ta ate, A lake ta ate, ate, apples and bananas
E leke te eat, E leke te eat, E leke te eat, eat, epples end benenes
I like ti ite, I like ti ite, I like ti ite, ite, ipples ind bininis
O loke to ote, O loke to ote, O loke to ote, ote, opples ond bononos
U luke tu ute, U luke tu ute, U luke tu ute, ute, upples und bununus
I like to eat, I like to eat, I like to eat, eat, apples and bananas

Old MacDonald

Old MacDonald had a farm – E I E I O
And on his farm he had some – E I E I O
With a ____, ____ here
And a ____, ____ there
Here a ____, there a ____
Everywhere a ____, ____
Old MacDonald had a farm – E I E I O

cats – meow
dogs – woof
pigs – oink
cows – moo
sheep – baa
frogs – ribbit

My Eyes are Dim

My eyes are dim
I cannot see
I have not brought my specs with me
I have not brought my specs (spectacles) with me

There are __________,
In the store, in the store
There are __________,
In the corner masters store.

Pajama Song

I wear my pink pajamas in the summer when it’s hot
I wear my flannel nighty in the winter when it’s not
But sometimes in the springtime, and sometimes in the fall
I jump into my little bed with nothing on at all!

That’s the time you ought to see me!
That’s the time you ought to see me!
That’s the time you ought to see me!
When I jump into my little bed with nothing on at all!

Songs with actions


Farmer Brown, he had a dog
And Bingo was his name, oh!
B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O
And Bingo was his name, oh!

Father Abraham

Father Abraham
Had seven sons, sir
Had seven sons, sir
Had Father Abraham
And they didn’t laugh
And they didn’t cry
All they did was go like this…

With the left
And the right
And the left
And the right
And the head
And the bottom
And the eyes
And the tongue

I’m Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor

I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor
A boa constrictor, a boa constrictor
I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor
And I don’t like it at all

Oh no! There goes my toe!
Oh shoot! There goes my foot!
Oh laugh! There goes my calf!
Oh gee! There goes my knee!
Oh my! There goes my thigh!
Oh haste! There goes my waist!
Oh fiddle! There goes my middle!
Gosh darn! There goes my arm!
Oh heck, There goes my neck!
Oh Fred! There goes my head!

Little Rabbit Fufu

Little Rabbit Fufu
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping ’em on the head

Then down came the good fairy

And she said:
Little Rabbit Fufu
I don’t want to see you
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping ’em on the head
I’ll give you three chances
And if you don’t behave
I’ll turn you into a goon!

Little Rabbit Fufu
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping ’em on the head

Poof! You’re a goon!
And that just goes to show:
Hare today, goon tomorrow!


Swimming, swimming in my swimming pool
When days are hot, when days are cold
In my swimming pool
Breast stroke, side stroke, fancy diving too
Oh don’t you wish you never had anything else to do but…


Waddly-aka, waddly-aka, doodly-do, doodly-do
Waddly-aka, waddly-aka, doodly-do, doodly-do
It’s a simple little song and there ain’t much to it
All you’ve got to do is doodly-do it
I like the whole song but the part I like best is
The doodly, doodly, doodly, doodly, doodly, doodly-do, yeah!

Clapping Songs

Cici, My Playmate

Cici, my playmate
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies, three
Climb up my apple tree
Slide down my rainbow
Into my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more
More, shut the door!

So sorry, playmate
I cannot play with you
My dolly has the flu
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo
I have no rainbow
I have no cellar door
But we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more
More, shut the door!

Eenie, Meenie, Decimeenie

Eenie, meenie, decimeenie
Ooo, walla, walla, meenie
Education, liberation
I like you

Down, down baby
Down by the rollercoaster
Sweet sweet baby
No place to go

Caught you with your boyfriend
Naughty, naughty
Didn’t do the dishes
Lazy, lazy
Stole a piece of candy
Greedy, greedy
Chucked it out the window
Silly, silly

Eenie, meenie, decimeenie
Ooo, walla, walla, meenie
Education, liberation
I like you

Miss Sue from Alabama

Miss Sue, Miss Sue, Miss Sue from Alabama
Sitting in a rocker, eating Betty Crocker
Watching the clock go, ‘tick, tock, tick, tock, scha walla walla’
Tick, tock, tick, tock, scha walla walla
A, B, C, D, E, F, G
Wash those spots right off of me
Moonshine, moonshine, moonshine, freeze!


Stella, oh-la, oh-la
Clap, clap, clap
Say, ess, cheega, cheega
Cheega, cheega, chap
Say, ess, cheega, cheega
Velo, velo, velo, velo, velo
Say, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Repetition Songs

Bear Song

The other day
I met a bear
A great big bear
A way up there

He looked at me
I looked at him
He sized up me
I sized up him

He said to me
“Why don’t you run?
I see you ain’t
Got any gun.”

And so I ran
Away from there
But right behind
Me was that bear

Ahead of me
There was a tree
A great big tree
Oh Lordy me!

The nearest branch
Was ten feet up
I had to jump
And trust my luck

And so I jumped
Into the air
But I missed that branch
A way up there

Now, don’t you fret
Now, don’t you frown
Because I caught that branch
On the way back down

This is the end
There ain’t no more
Unless I meet
That bear once more!

And so I met
That bear once more
But now he’s a rug
On my bedroom floor

Down by the Bay

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say:

“Did you ever see a bear with long underwear
down by the bay?”

Hello, My Name is Joe

My name is Joe
I have a wife and a dog and a family
One day
My boss came up to me and said
Hey Joe!
Are you busy?
I said ‘nope’
(Turn the crank)

Old Hirem’s Goat

Old Hirem’s goat
Was a-feeling fine
Ate three red shirts
Right off of the line

Mrs. Murphy, the cook
She beat him black
And tied him to
A rail road track

Singing ‘Au revoir’
But not goodbye
For that old goat
Wasn’t doomed to die

He coughed and coughed
In mortal pain
Coughed up those shirts
And flagged the train

But the engineer
Was colourblind
Thought those red shirts
Were the go-ahead sign!

Soon to come:

Alouette gentille Alouette
Animal Fair
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Baby bumble bee
Brother John
Found a peanut
Frere Jacques
Great green gobs
Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
Hokey Pokey
Hot cross buns
If you’re happy and you know it
I’m a little teapot
Itsy bitsy spider
I’ve Been working on the railroad
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
Mary had a little lamb
Miss Lucy had a steam boat
Oh where has my little dog gone
On top of spaghetti
Pop goes the weasel
Ring around the rosie
The ants go marching
The bear went over the mountain
The farmer in the dell
The wheels on the bus go round and round
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
This little piggie
This old man (knick-knack paddy-whack)
Three blind mice
Three Fishermen

How to Study Kanji

Prepared for the Canadian Association of Japanese Language Education in August 2001

Use Kanji Proficiency Test Materials

The Kanji Proficiency Test is based on the school years in Japan and it is recognized by Monbukagakusho. Level 10 is the lowest, representing the first grade of elementary school, and it includes 80 characters. Level 1 is the highest and it includes 6000 characters. Using these books lets students study the characters in a comprehensive, methodical, and logical way.

The student is expected to study one or two chapters per week and then come to class prepared for a quiz. To prepare, the student will need to supplement the information in the book with at least one good dictionary. (I recommend a new Wordtank and a good kanji dictionary with lots of compounds and examples.) The student is expected to learn how to write the character (including number of strokes), all readings (and whether the reading is on- or kun-yomi), the name and form of the radical, the basic meaning of the character, and the meanings of the compounds that are given in the textbook. Some students will prefer to keep a notebook with all of this information and others will just try to remember the information without writing it down. After studying the kanji, the student completes the three pages of exercises, making note of any difficult questions.

During the class, the teacher first uses flashcards to do a pre-test on the student’s knowledge of the characters. The teacher should create flash cards with the readings (or the meaning) on one side and the character on the other. It is important for the student to be able to both recognize the character and recreate it from memory.

After the pre-test, the teacher will give the student a written quiz. The teacher must prepare this quiz before the class. The quiz consists of two parts of 10 to 15 questions each. The first part (yomikata) gives the student a sentence written in kanji and hiragana. The student must write the whole sentence in hiragana. The second part (kakikata) gives the student sentences in hiragana and the student has to write the sentence using as many kanji as possible.

The teacher marks the test immediately and comments on the kinds of errors that were made. The teacher should also keep note of the sentences that caused mistakes so they can be used in future tests.

This method of studying is very student-centred, so it works best with well-motivated, self-directed students. The advantage of using these textbooks is that by following these textbooks from level 10 up, the student is slowly able to read more and more Japanese books. Studying kanji from any textbook designed for foreign students will not necessarily correspond to an ability to read a particular Japanese book.

Order the Books from

These books are only available from the Japanese version of Amazon, so if you can’t complete a full transaction in Japanese, please get someone to help you.

Level 10 (Equivalent to Grade 1 of Elementary School)
Level 9 (ES Grade 2)
Level 8 (ES Grade 3)
Level 7 (ES Grade 4)
Level 6 (ES Grade 5)
Level 5 (ES Grade 6)
Level 4 (Equivalent to Grade 1 of Junior High School)
Level 3 (JHS Grade 2)
Level 2 (JHS Grade 3)
Pre-Level 1
Level 1

Brainteasers for ESL Classes

These are good to use as a warm up activity in ESL classes.

(1) If you went to bed at 8pm and set the alarm to get up at 9am how many hours sleep would this permit you to have?

(2) Why can’t a man living in Kingston, Ontario be buried west of Lake Superior?

(3) If you had only one match and entered a room in which there was a kerosene lamp, an oil burner, and a wood-burning stove, which would you light first?

(4) Some months have 30 days, some have 31 days, how many have 28 days?

(5) If a doctor gave you 3 pills and told you to take one every half hour, how long would they last you?

(6) A man builds a house with four sides to it and it is rectangular in shape. Each side has a southern exposure. A big bear came wandering by. What colour is the bear?

(7) How far can a dog run into the woods?

(8) I have two Canadian coins in my pocket and together they total 55 cents in value. One is not a nickel. What are the two coins?

(9) A farmer had 17 sheep. All but 9 died. How many sheep did he have left?

(10) Divide 30 by a half and add 10. What is the answer?

(11) Take two apples from three apples and what do you have?

(12) An archeologist claimed that he found some gold coins dated 46 BC. Do you believe him?

(13) A woman gives a beggar 50 cents. The woman is the beggar’s sister, but the beggar is not the woman’s brother. How come?

(14) How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the ark with him?

(15) Is it legal in Canada for a man to marry his widow’s sister?

(16) An electric locomotive is travelling north at the rate of 40 miles an hour. It is being chased from the south by a wind blowing at 80 miles an hour. Will the smoke from the locomotive be blown ahead of the train at the rate of 40 miles an hour?

(17) There is a ten-foot steel ladder attached to the side of a boat. The rungs on the ladder are exactly one foot apart with the bottom rung resting exactly on the top of the water. If the tide rises one foot every half hour, how long will it take to cover the first three rungs of the ladder?

(18) Are there more doorknobs on the right side of doors or on the left side?

(19) You have 4 and a half, 5 and a half and 3 and a half haystacks and you put them all together. How many haystacks do you then have?

(20) A small planeload of Americans flying over Canadian territory meet with a fatal accident. None of the remains can be identified. In which country will the survivors be buried?

These were taken from a handout I received in Grade 9, so I can’t credit the original writer.



(1) One if the alarm has no a.m. or p.m. setting.
(2) He is still alive.
(3) The match.
(4) All of them.
(5) One hour.
(6) White as this house can only be built at the north pole.
(7) Half way. After that he is running out of the woods.
(8) A half-dollar and a nickel. (One is not a nickel, the other is.)
(9) Nine.
(10) 70.
(11) Two applies.
(12) No, as the person who made the coin could not know that it was 46 years before the birth of Christ.
(13) The beggar is a woman.
(14) Moses did not take any animals aboard an ark.
(15) No, as he would be dead.
(16) Smoke from an electric train?
(17) Never. AS the tide rises, so does the boat, and so does the ladder attached to the boat.
(18) Same number on each side.
(19) One.
(20) You want to bury the survivors?

Minute Mysteries for ESL Classes

You can use these as a warm up activity in ESL classes.

This is fun to play with two people. One person looks at the answer. The other person tries to guess the situation by asking yes/no questions.

(1) A man is lying face down in the desert with a pack on his back. He is dead. How did he die?

(2) Mike lives on the tenth floor of an apartment building. Every day on the way to school he rides the elevator from the tenth floor to the ground floor. On the way home from school, he takes the elevator to the third floor and walks up the stairs to the tenth floor. Why?

(3) A man on his way home sees a man with a mask who is holding a threatening object. The first man takes one step back, and knows that he is safe. Why?

These were taken from a handout I received in Grade 9, so I can’t credit the original writer.



(1) The man had just jumped out of a plane and the pack was a parachute that failed to open.
(2) He is too short to reach the button for the 10th floor.
(3) The men are playing baseball. The first man steps back onto third base while the catcher holds the ball at home.