As an EFL teacher in Thailand, one thing I’ve noticed with most Thai students but particularly children who are beginners, is their difficulty learning adjectives and placing them in the correct place in the sentence. English puts the adjective before the noun. Thai, on the other hand, like some other languages, places the noun first and the adjective second (eg: ‘car red’) – confusing for any beginning EFL student, but particularly for young children.
That’s why I created this fun, easy and free lesson plan to help EFL teachers teach adjectives to children who are at beginner level. The lesson plan is appropriate for beginners from age 8-12, although frankly, I’ve used it with 16 year olds and they had fun too.
Expected Learning Outcome – Students will learn at least 30 new adjectives, know what they mean and be able to place them in the correct order in a sentence.
Materials and Resources – Whiteboard markers, Adjectives vocabulary handout, ‘Treasure Hunt’ checklist, 20 small pieces of cardboard and tape to make ‘Treasure Hunt’ clues and stick around the school.
Timeframe – 60-90 minutes
(**Please note – before your class, you must have created at least 20 ‘treasure hunt’ cards and placed them in strategic places around the school. Also, warn school officials, so nobody removes them before your kids get started. Cards should each have a clue to another place followed by a number, for example: “Blue door – 53”. The children then use the adjective and noun to find the next place, but write down the number before they leave, to prove they saw the clue).
Step One: Explain to students that an adjective describes something (the easiest way to explain what it does) – a color, a size, a shape, a nationality etc. Give a few examples of adjectives and write them on the whiteboard. I use simple examples like ‘red’, ‘big’, ‘short’ ‘Thai’etc. Point to examples of the adjectives in the classroom to clarify and make sure your beginner students understand.
Step Two: Distribute the Adjectives handout and read each adjective out loud, so students can hear how they are pronounced. (I usually find, out of 30 simple adjectives, even my beginner students as young as eight years old often know ‘big’, ‘small’ and a couple of colors).
Step Three: Go around the class, asking each student to pick an adjective from the list and use it to describe something. If they cannot think of anything, I choose something simple in the classroom the student already knows the English vocabulary for (eg: chair), point at it, and ask the student for an adjective. Ninety percent of my students, at that point, will come up with ‘brown, ‘big’ or ‘small’.
Step Four: Once you’re sure the students understand the concept of an adjective, write five examples of adjectives on the board, making sure the class understands the adjective appears before the noun in English. Model the adjective phrases, and ask students to repeat.
Step Five: Put students in pairs and give each pair a copy of the ‘Treasure Hunt’ checklist. Explain to them, they are going to go around the school and find clues. They must find one clue to be able to get to the next clue and, at each new clue, must write down the number they find underneath it. (If you don’t give children something to write down to prove they found each clue, surprise, surprise, a large percentage will cheat).
As describing a treasure hunt can be difficult for beginner EFL students, I already have two or three clue examples strategically placed around the classroom, so I can show by pointing and modeling exactly what they have to do. By the time I get to the third clue, even the student in the class who has the most difficulty understands what needs to be done. Now, tell students they have 20 minutes to find 20 clues and write down the number they see under each clue. Give them the first clue (an easy one to get started), explain, when they have found all 20 clues and written the numbers down, they must come back to the classroom. The first three pairs back win a prize. Now, let them loose.
*** Take note…..Before you have your class do an outside treasure hunt on school grounds, make sure the school allows it and they are aware you will be doing it. Tell your students they must be quiet and not disturb other classrooms. Finally, make sure there are at least two teachers (you and your co-teacher or grab another teacher to help) so none of the kids go missing or leave the school grounds. I usually place the clues in a small restricted area, not near any school exits, so kids don’t inadvertently wander off and they’re easy to keep an eye on.
Step Six: Once you can see some of the kids are heading to the last clue, go back to the classroom, leaving the second teacher to watch and round up the stragglers. As each pair comes back, they must have 20 correct numbers on their sheet. If they don’t, they must go back out to find the ones they’re missing. Remember, I said “The first three pairs get a prize”?. I actually usually give three larger prizes to the first three pairs back with all correct numbers (a larger bar of chocolate, for instance), but then make sure every returning pair at least gets a couple of pieces of candy.
By the time all your students return, most should understand what an adjective is and that, in English, it is placed before a noun. They will also have had a wonderful time learning.
Evaluation/Assessment: 1. participation in class, 2. students’ understanding of vocabulary, 3. students ability to follow directions, complete the treasure hunt and find correct numbers.