Teaching ESL Vocabulary: First Aid

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

First aid vocabulary includes objects in a first aid kit but also situations that require first aid. This lesson includes both types of vocabulary along with practical activities for your ESL students.

Students Participate

First aid is a great topic to involve ESL students actively in class. To begin, ask your students this basic question: What is first aid? This elicits answers from students as they use the knowledge and language skills they already have.

Next, have your students participate in a brainstorming activity about why first aid is important. Begin by telling your students a story about how first aid saved a life. You can make it up or find a short clip on the internet. Next, record students' ideas about why first aid is important. Students might say that it saves lives, it immediately helps a sick person, it is good for emergencies, etc.

With this introduction, you can now teach two different sets of vocabulary as follows:

  • First aid kit items
  • First aid situations

First Aid Kit Items

With this vocabulary, students not only learn new words; they also get to identify items in a first aid kit.

First, ask your students if they have ever seen a first aid kit in your school, and do not hesitate to add any of the following questions:

  • What color is it?
  • How big is it?
  • Where have they seen it?
  • Who can use it?
  • Why does the school have a first aid kit?

Next, show a first aid kit to your students (perhaps you can borrow one from the school nurse or have one of your own). To make the following activity more fun, do not open the kit yet.

Vocabulary Activity

Ask the students: What things are inside the kit? To answer, students can guess and make a list of the things they believe are inside the first aid kit.

Once students have actively participated in guessing about the things inside the kit, you can introduce this basic vocabulary list along with definitions. As you introduce each word, open the kit and show each item to students. Students should repeat aloud and check off each item they correctly guessed.

The vocabulary would include items such as:

  • Gauze
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive tape
  • Bandage
  • Ointment for burns
  • Instant cold pack
  • Cotton applicators
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Pain reliever
  • Aspirin
  • Allergy medication
  • Gloves

Students can now imagine a situation in which they would use at least two items in the kit. They can work in pairs/groups and then present their situation to the class.

First Aid Situations

To introduce vocabulary for first aid situations to students, you can show them visuals that illustrate what each word means. Visuals are easy to find on the internet these days, and they can be pasted on a PowerPoint for you to display. Here is a list of words for you to consider:

  • Injury
  • Insect bite
  • Poisoning
  • Burn
  • Heart attack
  • Choking
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bone fracture
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unconscious

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