March 2023
Robert Minor, National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Hall Houston has created a one stop solution for university language teachers looking to implement active learning into their classrooms. His teaching guide, 101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students is just that: A plethora of ideas, activities, references, and handouts that teachers can utilize to encourage speaking, creativity, and dialogue amongst classmates and step away from dry teacher centered lecturing.

The book is organized clearly from a teacher perspective. There are three major sections organized in the order a teacher would teach a semester. Activities for class introductions called “Getting off to a good start”, “Maintaining Motivation” activities, and activities to “End a semester gracefully”. Anyone who has taught at the university level will immediately comprehend Hall’s design logic. Teachers could “read” this guide the first time in sections as they actually follow the timeline of their classes.

This is how I approached reading this book. As the semester started, I chose activities from the section “Getting off to a good start”.

I began with #9 Making a Name Card. Since there were 24 students in my class, I had them make a name card to put on their desk for the first month so I can call them by their English names. In the past, the students just wrote their names. Hall has suggested that after they write their names, a partner draws a picture of that person next to the name. They can draw a caricature of that person or basically anything they want. This added a fun lightness to class. The graphic actually helped me remember some student names more quickly.

In another class, I tried the #2 Circle Name Game. The students sat in a circle, and the first student had to say his name and what he liked to eat. Then, he passed a ball to the person next to him, and that person had to say the names and food of the people before them and then what they themselves liked. The ball went around, and the students at the end had to remember all the students in the class. This game reminded me of an old ice breaker activity at summer camp when I was a child. Everyone had to speak English and help each other out. I liked it also because it set the expectation that students will be required to speak English often in class.

As I moved into the middle part of the semester, I used Hall’s mid semester “Maintaining Motivation” activities. My goal is to have students up and speaking every class with each other as well as simultaneously using the grammar, vocabulary, and topics of the unit.

#61 4 Posters On the Wall is an example that I used to achieve this goal. As part of a presentation project in my class, the students made a poster and hung it on the wall. As classmates passed by, they stopped and listened to the presentation. Hall’s idea was to provide sticky notes to students and allow them to make comments and stick them on the poster. Classmates had fun being critical with anonymity while presenters received feedback.

I also used #40 Half-a-logue as an English club activity about smoking. I prepared half of a dialogue for two people with a smoking theme. I had the students finish the dialogue, using vocabulary we practiced, and then present the dialogue to the class. Students worked together and applied the vocabulary and grammar we were working on.

In the future, I look forward to trying #56 Creating Dialogue from Sounds and Body Language. For those that like to use video, this activity requires showing a short 5-10 second video without sound, and then students create the dialogue in pairs. This kind of activity can be on theme with your class, or just used as a fun general English activity.

To end a semester, Hall has suggested activities that may or may not interest every teacher as they may not have the time or students with a high enough language level.

Some activities like #68 Personalized Review Sentences or #71 Quiz Quiz Trade are straight forward content review activities.

Others like #95 How We’ve Changed allow students to be retrospective about the semester but wouldn’t really be suitable for my students as the class is only once a week and not a part of their major.

The positive here is that Hall offers activities for all kinds of teachers who can craft them to meet classroom goals.

If you look to encourage more active language speaking among your students, get this book and you’ll never run out of classroom ideas again!

Robert Minor is the founder of Robert’s American School in Kaohsiung City which teaches English to young children in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. He is also a lecturer at the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in Kaohsiung City. He has a Masters of Education in International Teaching from Framingham State University.