How to Prepare ESL Students for Getting & Giving Directions


Getting lost in a foreign city is always a frustrating situation. However, it can be even more frustrating when a person cannot help someone who is lost because they just cannot explain the directions in a language that is foreign for them.

Your students won’t ever have to worry about that in English speaking countries. In this article, we will discuss some fun ESL activities that are geared for teaching ESL students how to give directions in English.

Giving Directions ESL: Getting Around in the City

There are several helpful activities and games that will teach your students to give directions to strangers who are lost in the city and are asking for assistance.

Map Activity

For this activity, the following needs to be done:

  1. The students work in pairs.
  2. One of the students shows on the map a specific point and asks another how they can get to this point.
  3. The other student explains how to get there by giving directions.
  4. The students switch roles.

Treasure Hunt Activity

This exciting giving directions exercise requires the following:

  1. The teacher hides some objects either in the classroom or outdoors within the school premises.
  2. Working in teams, the students need to find the objects (“treasure”) by understanding the directions that are given by the teacher.

Maze Game

To play a maze game, follow these steps:

  1. Create an improvised “maze” in the classroom.
  2. Divide the students into small teams of two.
  3. Blindfold one of the students.
  4. The blindfolded student needs to move through the maze.
  5. Another student gives them directions where to move.
  6. The winning team is the one that gets to the center of the maze first.

Wrong Explanations and Corrections

For this activity, you should do the following:

  1. Hand out the ESL directions worksheets to your students.
  2. Each worksheet should contain a map showing how to get to a specific object. The directions are depicted with arrows.
  3. Each map in a worksheet should already contain a text explaining those directions. However, the text contains a mistake. The students should identify and correct this mistake.

Simon Says

You can take a popular classroom game and turn it into a lesson on giving directions for ESL students. For example, “Simon” can “say”: “Go straight ahead” “Turn left,” “Turn right,” and so on, while the students should act out those directions.

In this way, it’s an ESL listening activity as well.

Here are more examples of ESL listening activities.

Map of a House or Apartment

Here’s how this activity works:

  1. Ask each student to draw a rough scheme of their home.
  2. Divide the students into pairs.
  3. One student has to describe their scheme to their partner.
  4. The partner should draw the scheme based on the given directions. For example, “When you enter the house, you can see the bedroom straight ahead and a corridor on the right. The kitchen is at the end of the corridor.”
  5. The students switch roles.

Getting to School

For this giving directions lesson plan, your students need to do the following:

  1. Work in pairs or small groups.
  2. Each of the students should tell their partner or group how they typically get to school from the place where they live. They should give as many details about their route as possible, including the transport that they use and all turns that they take.
  3. Within their group, the students decide which one of them uses the fastest route to get to school.
  4. Optional step – the group representatives can present the fastest routes to the class.

Transport Map Activity

For this activity, you will need to do the following:

  1. Bring the transport map of your city to the lesson.
  2. Discuss with the students which transport they use to get to school or other places. They can discuss it in small groups.
  3. Ask the students to create routes to specific places that you point to on the map. As a result, they will be able to give directions to strangers later in real life.

Google Maps

Google Maps or other electronic maps are the simplest way to teach your students giving directions in English. You can just create routes with your students (they can use their smartphones to do it) and discuss the terminology together.

Giving Directions ESL: Instructions

However, learning about giving directions is not only about getting around in the city – it can also be instructions that are not related to navigation.

Drawing Activity

  1. The students work in pairs.
  2. One of the students gets a picture that they do not show to their partner.
  3. The student who gets the picture instructs their partner to draw this picture by giving the step-by-step hints.
  4. The winning team is not only the fastest one, but also the most precise one.

Recipe Activity

You can arrange a lesson where your students prepare simple foods, such as sandwiches, by instructing each other how to do that. Some instructions can intentionally contain mistakes, so the students can detect those mistakes and correct each other.

What methods do you use for teaching ESL students how to give and get directions?

We told you our best methods and now we want to hear from you. Have you had success with any of these activities? Do you have any we missed? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section

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  1. I like the activities that allow the kids to actually get up and move, like the treasure hunt and the maze.

  2. Having students draw something from oral directions is my favorite way to check how well they take directions as well as how clear directions are given. These were all great ideas!

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