“Good quotes are timeless. It’s as if someone just ahead of you on the path of life is turning back to give you a helping hand…” —Rolf Gates
We’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning at ESL Library. This includes redesigning, updating, and editing many of our older lessons plans. In the warm-up section of most of our newly designed topic-based lessons, you will find a quote. Quotes contain memorable bites of English that your students can explore in detail. Here are five ways to use quotes while teaching English.
1. Practice pronunciation
Choose a student to read the quote out loud to the class. Correct any pronunciation or intonation errors. Explore word stress and sentence stress. Have your students practice saying the quote with emphasis.
You could also practice saying the quote in a variety of ways. Try speaking quickly, slowly, or in unison. Our Maple Syrup lesson includes the following quote from Buddy the Elf. In the Christmas movie, Elf, Will Farrell speaks very quickly when he says the following:
“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” —Buddy the Elf
If you come across a quote from a speech, movie, or TED Talk, why not try to find an audio clip? Here is a great clip of this famous Will Farrell scene. In addition to helping with pronunciation, a quote may inspire your students to watch a full movie or listen to a full speech or song.
2. Deconstruct sentences
Deconstructing sentences can be a dull task when you use See-Spot-run sentences. Why not use interesting quotes to practice sentence dissection? Challenge your students to deconstruct the quotes that you come across in your ESL Library lessons. Here’s a quote from our Robin Williams lesson:
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” —Robin Williams
Can your students identify each part of speech? What else can your students find in this sentence (e.g., a contraction, a modal in the negative form, the passive voice)? Can they rewrite this sentence in the active voice? First they’ll have to discover who or what gives a person this “madness.” That should spark some discussion, too.
3. Review grammar and usage
Before you begin an ESL Library lesson, look at the quote to see if there is a mini lesson that you can teach inside it. Can you spot any common errors? When my students use “one of the” in a sentence, they often incorrectly follow it with a singular noun. In our Niagara Falls lesson, you will find this quote by Nik Wallenda:
“It is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. Who wouldn’t want to walk across it?” —Nik Wallenda
Check for tips on common errors in the Teachers’ Notes at the end of our lessons. For example, in our revised Hockey lesson, we included Mario Lemieux’s famous quote:
“Every day is a great day for hockey.”
This quote gives you the opportunity to review the common error every day vs. everyday.
4. Explore informal language (idioms, phrasal verbs, slang)
Explore the literal and idiomatic meaning of words and expressions that you find in quotes. For example, in our Gender Inequality lesson you will find the following quote by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg:
“We must raise both the floor and the ceiling.” —Sheryl Sandberg
Use this opportunity to teach the expression “glass ceiling” (an invisible barrier). What did Sheryl Sandberg mean by “raising the floor”? Don’t just rely on dictionaries to provide definitions and explanations. Challenge your students to look up words and expressions from quotes in context by searching for the word online. For example, according to this article, raising the floor means “to increase the knowledge, skills, abilities, and capacities of the folks doing the work.”
5. Assign a follow-up writing task
If your students write journal entries for homework, invite them to comment on the quote from a lesson you used. You could also challenge your students to find a related quote on the same topic (maybe they can find a better one). They could also research the person who was quoted and find out more about the context. For example, in our Bullying lesson we include a quote from Taylor Swift. Challenge your students to find out how Taylor Swift has been bullied by her peers.
“If they don’t like you for being yourself, be yourself even more.” —Taylor Swift
Please share your favorite quotes in the comments below!