Jump to Main Content
Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto Home| OISE| U of T| Quercus| Site Map | Contact Us | Accessibility | Feeling Distressed?
INSPIRING EDUCATION | oise.utoronto.ca
ESL Infusion at OISE
Go to selected destination

Title: A Day in the Park

This oral language activity is ideally designed for learners working at a stage 3 in ESL, but can also be used in other levels simply by changing the vocabulary list. This lesson is used in a language arts course and is intended for middle/intermediate school aged students. The lesson can be integrated into a unit or be used to practice oral skills. It is preferred that the students are in an ESL class, but this lesson can also be used in a mainstream language arts class. In terms of the prior knowledge, the learners should show evidence of full two-way communication. In this lesson, the learners listen to the communication and respond orally. They can speak in ‘chunks’ and are able to participate in the lesson without having completely mastered the grammar of the language. The lesson can be used with many age groups, depending on the nature of the picture used. Students should have been exposed to vocabulary concerning various outdoor activities (running, standing, barbequing, flying a kite, etc.) and pronouns (he is.., she is…, they are…).


This oral language activity is a kind of mini-conversation using vocabulary and simple sentences based on the scenario of ‘A day at the Park’. This activity is best done with the students working in pairs. Either a small or large group of students can be divided into pairs. Once they are paired, they should sit squarely facing each other and have direct eye-contact with each other. They may feel more comfortable working with a partner instead of with a larger group. Also, the use of pairs’ interaction is cognitively demanding. The students should feel safe and be able to experiment with ideas without ridicule. They should feel ‘supported’ by other learners and that they are in a safe environment. This goal is easier to achieve when they are working in pairs.

1. to provide students with action words and new vocabulary (running, splashing water, throwing a football, standing, walking, etc.)

2. to provide an experience which considers students’ different learning styles and intelligences (i.e. auditory, visual, verbal, interpersonal)

3. to develop use of appropriate language structures (Ontario Curriculum, Language 1997 for “Expectations in Specific Areas”)

4. to provide an experience that is relevant to the students’ real world

5. to develop use of formal speech in a variety of situations

6. to provide opportunity for students to have an oral exchange

7. to encourage growth in vocabulary

8. to develop fluency by encouraging each student to speak and by assigning roles

9. to show oral spontaneity through the use of new and previously learned vocabulary

The students will work in pairs and reverse respective roles/duties within the activity one at a time. The students should be paired with those who share the same first language or with someone who is at a slightly higher level and can help the other student. Depending on time, the activity can be done again so that students can work with different partners.

1. Have the following list of verbs and phrases written on the board:

Throwing a football
playing baseball
Eating a hotdog
Flying a kite
blowing in the wind
Splashing water
Climbing a tree
reading a book

• Say each word while pantomiming or showing the concrete objects – i.e. throwing a football. Have a football in the classroom to throw.

2. Students repeat the list and perform the action with the teacher. Do this in order and out of order from the list on the board

3. Use an overhead of the picture, and have a student come up to the screen to answer the following question: Who is splashing water? The student uses a pointer to touch the correct part of the picture. If able, the student can repeat the phrase. Repeat this procedure asking different questions – i.e. eating a hotdog, flying a kite, etc.

4. Hand out one photocopied picture to each pair. The first student says: “he is throwing a football”, “she is eating a hotdog”, etc. The second student points to the appropriate action. This continues until the first student has finished saying all the actions in the picture. Have the students reverse their roles. The second student now says “he is kneeling”, “she is standing”, “they are fighting”, etc.

5. Next, the student asks his/her partner: “Who is splashing water”? The other student responds by pointing to the picture and saying “he is splashing water”. Continue until all of the verbs and phrases have been used.

(Optional: before the students begin the activity in their pairs, you can model the activity either with a student or have two students at a similar level model the activity for further teaching.)

Because this is an oral language activity, the assessment is formative. Formative assessment is usually ongoing throughout the learning experience. For this activity, the teacher will walk around the room and observe each pair. The teacher will offer help/make any suggestions to the students if they require it, and will record observations on each student’s progress in a “Student Profile” sheet. The listed headings on the profile can be ‘strengths’, and ‘areas to work on’. During the formative assessment, the teacher instructs and informs the students about their learning/progress.

Pointing out mistakes does very little to help language learners in this case. Do not correct the students’ errors, especially when they are doing this activity. The current pedagogical focus of this lesson is more important than the errors that the students make. Don’t be too concerned if the students’ production does not match their ability to understand. Errors are better left untreated during the lesson. Students understand far more of the language than they can verbalize. Fluency should come before accuracy. Students should gain competence first and will later work out the details of grammar and pronunciation. Affective feedback and cognitive feedback from others, children learn to produce what is acceptable speech. If you perceive that there is a good chance of eliciting correct performance from the student after giving negative feedback, then repeat the phrase or word correctly after the student makes the error. Children benefit from various forms of feedback on their errors, but teachers must not put too much attention on errors and not enough on positive reinforcement of clear communication. I believe this is more important to the lessons, and far more encouraging to the students.
Some students may never be able to distinguish between certain sounds, and spending a lot of time on pronunciation is a waste of time. It is probably better to point out some of the pitfalls that students may run into with their incorrect pronunciation. Discuss what particular letters are difficult for them to pronounce (i.e. ‘th’), and how they can compensate. This lesson provides for increasing students’ accuracy of pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation. Students are encouraged to interact and share with their peers. They have the opportunity to repeat the language being learned in a ‘fun’ atmosphere.


1. a picture of ‘A Day at the Park’ showing many activities happening. There are several people of varying ages, cultural backgrounds and sexes performing different activities – i.e. flying a kite, eating a hotdog, barbequing, splashing water, wrestling, playing football, etc. At the bottom of the picture all of the verbs or phrases are written.

2. an overhead of the same picture

3. an overhead screen

4. a pointer

5. enough photocopies of the picture for the students to share


1. Peel District School Board – (ESL Instruction and Assessment Strategies Handbook – K to grade 9 – April, 1999)

2. web-site Education World

3. English as a Second Language and English Skills Development. A Resource Manual for Elementary Schools – Sept. 2000 (Peel District School Board)

4. Ontario Curriculum (Language 1997)

Submitted by: Natalie G.

OISEcms v.1.0 | Site last updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 Disclaimer

© OISE University of Toronto
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6 CANADA