It is nearly impossible to think of autumn in the United States without thinking of football, one of our most popular weekend activities and beloved sports. Children start playing football as young as two-years old. By middle school, most boys are playing some form of football (although recently there has been a great deal of debate concerning the sport’s safety for children that age. See Additional Resources below). Middle schools (grades 6-8), high schools (grades 9-12), and most universities have their own football teams and play on weekends throughout the fall.
These football games are quite the social activity for students and parents alike. Many students who do not play football get actively involved in these football events as cheerleaders or, at the high school and college levels, as members of the school’s marching or pep band. Many choose to cheer their teams on from the stands. Here is a video of the University of Wisconsin’s marching band providing half-time entertainment for its football fans.
At the professional level, the NFL (National Football League) has thirty-two professional teams around the country. Friends and family come together on autumn weekends to watch their favorite teams compete. Those who go to the games “tailgate” (grill, eat, and drink) in the stadium parking lots before the games. Those who stay home and watch the games gather around the television sets cheering on their teams, booing the referees (or refs as they are “affectionately” known), and tailgating on chips, bratwursts (especially here in Wisconsin), sloppy joes, potato salad, beer and soda among many other things.
Rivalry is not uncommon. Here, in Wisconsin, our home team is the Green Bay Packers, but not too far south of us is the Chicago Bears. Across the Mississippi River on our western border, we have the Minnesota Vikings. While some people take these rivalries to extremes, most people enjoy a healthy, friendly competition since many Wisconsinites have lived or have family living in those areas.
Because football is such an important part of our fall tradition in the U.S., even people who are not avid sports fans need to know some of the basics about the game and its vocabulary simply to participate in conversations. Here is a terrific vocabulary cheat sheet from dummies.com for getting started, and another from the NFL.
Additional Resources: Can Youth Football Be Saved? (And Should It Be?)
I use these pictures for high beginning ESL conversation and employ questions such as the following:
- What does the building look like? Describe it.
- Is it a business or a government office?
- What is it for? Why do people go there?
- What different kinds of work do people do there? What do they call people in those jobs? (sales clerks, secretaries, judges, etc.)
- Do you ever go into a building like that?
- Is there one in your town (city)? Where is it? How do I get there?
- Is there public transportation for me take there? What kind? How much does it cost?
- Do you live in a house, condo, or apartment? What does it look like? How many rooms does it have? Do you rent it or own it?
- What is your address? What is your telephone number?
- How do I get to your house (apartment, condo) from here? Please give me directions.
For higher level students, some of these questions or versions of these may be appropriate:
Simple past: Did you go to the _____________ last week? What did you do there?
Present perfect/simple past: Have you ever gone to a __________? (Short answer: Yes, I have; no, I haven’t.) What did you do there?
Future using present continuous: Are you going to (planning to) go to a _________ this week? What are you going to (planning to) do there?
Conditional 1: If you go to a __________ this week, what will you do there?
Conditional 2: If you went to a _________, what would you do there?
Conditional 3: If you had gone to a __________ fifty years ago, what would you have done there?
Key to items on slides:
Slide 3: Gas station
Slide 4: Grocery store (supermarket)
Slide 5: Barber shop
Slide 6: Shoe store
Slide 7: Bakery
Slide 8: Shopping mall
Slide 9: Parking garage
Slide 10: Sports stadium (American football stadium)
Slide 11: Museum
Slide 12: Library
Slide 13: Movie theater
Slide 14: Cafe or restaurant
Slide 15: School
Slide 16: Church
Slide 17: Mosque
Slide 18: Court house
Slide 19: Fire department
Slide 20: Police station
Slide 21: House
Slide 22: Condos
Slide 23: Neighborhood