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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 1

Expected time frame: 1-2 lessons

These learning activities are designed to activate the prior knowledge and lexis of students and to extend their topic-specific vocabulary. See activating prior knowledge for more information. A number of collaborative oral and reading vocabulary activities are included to give students many opportunities to use key vocabulary in different ways. Teachers should choose from this range of activities to suit different learner needs.

Finding out about learners’ prior knowledge

1. Activating prior knowledge


  • Put pictures of volcanoes on the board e.g. from the National Geographic Adventure Magazine: Volcanoes Photo Gallery.
  • Give students one minute to write down as many words as they know about volcanoes.
  • Ask students in pairs to say their words to each other. Each student writes down any new words and explains their words to their partner, if necessary.

Ensuring learners know the content and language learning outcomes

Share the learning outcomes with your students, for example:

  • I can identify the parts of a volcano
  • I understand and can use key vocabulary relating to volcanoes

Giving learners many opportunities to first notice then use new language

2. Pre-Teaching Key Vocabulary

  • Write the key vocabulary (see above) over the board in random order - not in columns. Say the words to the students and ask them to repeat each word. Try to elicit the meanings from the students.
  • Ask students draw four columns in their books. See Words and Definitions Table (Word 39KB) .
  • The purpose of this activity is to give students practice with sound / letter correlation. The teacher dictates the words to the students, and the students write the words in column 1. They may copy a word straight from the board once they have identified the word.
  • The students fill in the definitions for column 3 and they draw pictures or write the translation of the word in their first language in column 2. The teacher demonstrates drawing the words.
  • Note that the final column can be used for self-testing by folding over column 1).
  • The pictures, definitions and words are cut up for a matching exercise.
  • Use the Structure of a Volcano Pair Activity (Word 50KB) as a barrier exercise. Explain to the students that the purpose of this activity is to speak together using the key vocabulary and thinking about the meaning of the key words, so they must not look at each other’s diagrams. Students work in pairs. One is given diagram A, the other diagram B. The partners then talk and ask each other questions to complete their incomplete diagrams. When the diagram has been fully labelled, the students should paste it into their books 

3. Reviewing key vocabulary

  • Revisit key vocabulary at the beginning of each subsequent lesson. The following strategies could be used:
  • Vocabulary Jeopardy: Write 7-10 of the new words on the board. Read out the definitions or draw pictures. The students write the word as they hear the definition or see the picture. Mark student answers immediately.
  • Whispering game: Divide the class into teams. Give the last person in each team a word. When the teacher says "Go", the last student whispers the word to the one in front and so on until the first in line has the word and runs up to the board and writes it. The first team with the correctly spelt word on the board gets a point. At the end the students are able to see the whole list on the board again.
  • See also Vocabulary Revision Activities (Word 27KB) .

Published on: 09 Jan 2018