Category Archives: Speaking

Some Activities to Teach Gerunds and Infinitives

I always claim that English grammar is easy, especially when compared to the Spanish or French grammar, but it gets a bit messy when it comes to verbs followed by infinitive or gerund.

The easy thing to say is that

  • some verbs are followed by infinitive (promise to go)
  •  some verbs are followed by gerund (can’t stand ironing).

But then we find that,

  • some other verbs are followed by infinitive or gerund with no change of meaning (start to study/start studying)
  • while some others are followed by infinitive and gerund with a change of meaning (stop to smoke/stop smoking)

And to add insult to injury,

  • some verbs are followed by infinitive with to (offer to help)
  • some others by infinitive without to ( make me study)
  • some verbs are followed by gerund, but if there is an object pronoun in between the verb and the gerund, then the gerund becomes infinitive (recommended reading / recommended her to read) …

Amazing, isn’t it?

Well, I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s get down to some serious studying.


  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time: 60 minutes

THE GRAMMAR.

      THE PRACTICE:

Exercise 1. The Quiz


 


Exercise 2: The Rewriting Exercise


 


3.  Speaking and/or Writing: Storytelling Competition


  • Go to wheeldecide.com. Ask students to tell you verbs followed by gerund first, and then verbs followed by the “to” infinitive. Feed the wheel with these verbs.
  • Explain that in this activity they will need to seat in a circle in groups of 4.
  • Explain that you will write on the board the beginning of a story and then, in their groups, they will need to continue it.
  • Write on the board the beginning of a story. You can use this Short Story Generator.
  • Spin the wheel.
  • To make sure students will use the verb in the correct way, ask them to tell you whether the verb displayed in the wheel is followed by infinitive or gerund.
  • The oldest person in the group will start telling the story using the target verb in the wheel.
  • Give the student one minute to continue the story and then spin the wheel again for the next student.
  • If a student cannot come up with an idea to continue the story, he’s eliminated.
  • Continue until there is only one student left. This student will be the winner if he manages to give the story in his group a suitable ending.

Here’s the wheel I have used with my students.

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Integrating Technology for Active Learning: An Activity Using Google Slides and Padlet.

There is no denying I use a lot of technology in my classes. It gives me great pleasure to discover a new tool and design an activity around it. I really think this is what keeps me motivated after so many years teaching. The challenge that mastering a tool brings and the possibility to use it in my classes to boost students’ motivation and spark their interest is certainly something that keeps my own motivation alive and kicking

Today, I would like to share with you an activity that I did with my intermediate students. I loved designing the activity and the way my students got involved activating their communicative and writing skills during the whole process.

Tools used:

Aims:

  • to develop students’ communicative skills
  • to develop students’ writing skills
  • to revise vocabulary related to “work”
  • to integrate technology in the classroom
  • to encourage collaborative work

Before the class.

I created a Google presentation using Google Slides and wrote the content for the first two slides. I also added three extra blank slides (see below)

I created three Padlets and called them: Work 1, Work 2, and Work 3

In each of these 3 blank slides I inserted a link to one of these Padlets.

 

During the class.

 One. I asked students to form groups of 4. I have 12 students in this class, so I had three groups, one for each blank slide. If you have more students, you can easily add another slide to accommodate two more questions. I asked each group to write three or four questions related to “work”. I certainly encouraged them to come up with some juicy questions and avoid simple ones such as “Where do you work?”

Two. Once they have written their questions, the groups read them aloud and the class decides on the best two from each group to keep.

Three. At this point, there are two things you can do

  1. Assign each group one of the three slides and ask them to write their two questions, being careful not to delete the link to Padlet. Share the link for your Google Drive presentation making sure you share the link with editing permissions (read and write).  I have shortened the link using Google shortener.
  1. If you think this step might be complicated for your students, you can always write them yourself. Have the groups dictate their two questions and move on to the next stage.

Four: Speaking. Ask students in their groups to discuss the questions in the three slides encouraging them to use work-related vocabulary. Get feedback.

Five: Set homework.

Show the presentation from the very beginning where they will see the instructions for their homework.

Explain that at home they will need to answer one of the two questions in each slide. They can do it by writing their answers or by recording them.

Remind them it is the same shortened link you shared with them in Three.

See one of the Padlet below

 

Hecho con Padlet

Lesson Plan: Do you Speak English?

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B1  (intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to learning languages through a variety of engaging activities.

In this lesson students will get listening and speaking practice, learn new vocabulary, and have the opportunity to improve their writing skills.

Topic: Learning languages

Level:  Intermediate and above

Time:  60/90 minutes

Materials: PDF vocabulary, teacher’s notes

Online tools used: Spark adobe and Playbuzz


Warm up:

Guessing the topic.This funny sketch below works like magic to introduce the topic. The idea is to play this short funny video (2:48) and let students guess what we will be talking about.

Now, ask students to discuss these 2 questions:

  1. What’s the most spoken language in the world?
  2. What’s the most widely spoken language in the world?

Revising, introducing and using vocabulary

The idea is to elicit vocabulary by posing some questions and showing some pictures meant to stimulate spontaneous speech and class discussion. New vocabulary will be written on the board. See PDF with targeted vocabulary here

Tell students that of a total of 1, 5 billion speakers only 375 million are native speakers, so this means that over 1 billion people speak English as a second language. Ask them:

  • How do you think your country ranks in terms of English language proficiency?

Show them the picture below. If their country is not there, click here to see how it ranks. Elicit any reactions to the picture.

  • Does the ranking surprise them? Why (not)?

Get students in pairs to discuss the question below:

  • What do you find most difficult about learning English? Why do you think is that?

 

 


Listening and speaking

In this section there are 3 videos. Below you’ll find instructions to work with them. You can watch all of the snaps in a row or freely jump around from snap to snap.

Part 1: Speaking. English borrowings.

Follow the instructions in the video.

Part 2. Listening Comprehension. Note taking exercise.

Alex Rawlings, who speaks 11 languages, says that the way to start speaking a language more fluently and more proficiently is to practise speaking. In the video, he gives us four tips to get more practice speaking the language we’re learning.

      1. Get a conversation partner
      2. Talk to yourself.
      3. Learn vocabulary in phrases
      4. Imagine how you’ll use the language.

Watch the video and summarise what he says about each of these tips.

Part 3. Speaking. Reasons for learning a foreign language.

After watching the video, in groups of 3 share the reason why you’re learning English

Answer the following questions

      • Do you know anybody who has emigrated from your country?
      • Do you know any immigrants? Can they speak your language?
      • Before entering your country, should immigrants be required to speak the local language?

Speaking

Do you Speak English?


Writing

Write an article on one of the following:

  • “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” Zig Ziglar
  • “There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs”.Zig Ziglar

Post on how to write an article here

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Vocabulary Competition: a Nice Simple Activity to Revise

A nice simple idea to start a lesson.

I always like to start my lessons doing some quick revision of what I taught the previous day. I do it using different techniques, but they always have something in common: they help get students into the mood and start using English from minute one.

The idea in this activity is to combine two things:

  • Revision of targeted vocabulary
  • Consolidation of relative sentences

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard.(see picture above)
  2. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  3. Display the first word cloud on the board.
  4. Team A will choose a word or expression from the word cloud and define it for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will cross it off and the team will define another one. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word and this same team continues defining words and scoring points.
  5. Continue until all the words have been defined.
  6. Procedure is repeated again with word cloud 2. The teams choose other players to take the “hot seats”. Team B starts playing now.

As stated above, the idea is to revise relative sentences, but obviously in the heat of the game I’d allow any paraphrasing students can come up with.

Online Word Cloud used: ABCya. A word of warning: this tool is so easy to use that you’ll soon get addicted to it! See tutorial below.

Word Cloud 1

Word Cloud 2

Using Genial.ly to Create Visual Activities for the Classroom

Here I am again. Trying another tool.

To be honest, the tool was suggested to me by one of the teachers (Marga Valdés) attending a talk I gave last year. It was a talk about creating activities for the classroom using free online tools, and when I finished the presentation, this teacher came up to me and said she was surprised I hadn’t mentioned Genial.ly. I confessed to her I didn’t know the tool and promised I would give it a go.

It was almost the end of the course and although I gave it a quick try, my mind was in holiday mode, and I didn’t put my heart into it. Now, after trying the tool, I run the risk of becoming addicted to it!.

Genial.ly works like Thinglink but, in my opinion, it’s a lot better.  Genial.ly is a web tool to create engaging interactive visual content. You can make interactive pictures, infographics, presentations, posters and questionnaires or guides. And, for me, the best thing about this tool  is that you can choose from a wide variety of free templates to create very professional interactive content or you can upload your own pictures and start from scratch. It also gives you the ability to integrate videos, audio, and any embeddable code among other things.

THREE ACTIVITIES I HAVE CREATED USING GENIAL.LY
Using how long+present perfect in combination with simple past

Aim: To orally practise asking and answering questions using Present Perfect and Simple Past.

Competition: revising irregular Verbs.

Click on “instructions” to see how to play

 

Indirect questions + questions about money.

A speaking activity revising the grammar for indirect questions and questions about money.

 

10 Games and Activities to Practise Personality Adjectives.

Ten entertaining ways to  practise personality adjectives with activities for all ages and levels. In this post, you’ll find listening,writing, speaking activities and games to help students master this vocabulary.

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This is me.  

Ask students to work in pairs and write down as many personality adjectives as they can in two minutes.

On the board write three columns: positive, negative and neutral adjectives and ask students to provide adjectives for the three columns. Have students choose one adjective from each column to describe their personality and in pairs talk about how these adjectives they have chosen are representative of their personality. Ask students to elaborate on their answers and provide examples to support their choice of adjectives.

Roleplays
Prepare cards with a personality trait written on it (talkative, cheerful, arrogant, stubborn, immature, possessive…etc). Give students a card telling them this is their personality. Pair up students and ask them to start a conversation and act the way the card says until their partner guesses what adjective they were given. Ask students for example to talk about buying a present for the teacher or deciding on what do at the weekend.

Reading your signature.

What does your signature say about you? According to handwriting analysts, signatures reveal a lot about your personality.

  1. Ask students to write the sentence Write soon on a piece of paper and then sign under the sentence.
  2. Ask them to work in pairs and look at their partner’s signature and explain what it means. See interpretation here
  3. Ask them to discuss whether they agree with their partner’s interpretation and why or why not.

What’s your job?

Research has shown that different personality traits tend to have distinct preferences in their choice of careers. On the board write the jobs below. Ask students in pairs to choose five and discuss what personality types the jobs would attract and why. Then discuss their choices with another pair:

Tax inspector    Teacher      politician     computer programmer   librarian

Actor    fashion model    psychologist   entrepreneur   judge

Acting out

Prepare cards with personality adjectives. Divide the class into 2 teams. For each team’s turn, set a time (1 minute).

On the board write the sentence: I want to go to the cinema tomorrow.

Team 1 begins and choose a player to sit at the front of the class. The player draws a card and acts out the phrase according to the adjective on the card. When the team guesses correctly, he can draw another card. He continues until the time is up. The timer is set again for the other team, and turns continue until all the slips are gone. Count the slips and give those points to their teams.

Quotes.

On the walls of the class stick the following quotes. Students in threes stand up and discuss what the quote means and whether they agree or disagree with them.

  • Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Bruce Lee.
  • It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not. André Gide. 
  • If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am
  • Beauty attracts the eye but personality captures the heart.
  • Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
  • It’d never too late for what you might have been. George Elliot.

 

Guess who. A speaking or writing activity.

Speaking. Before the class, prepare a set of pictures of famous people with very clear personality traits. For this activity the students are sitting in pairs, one student (A) facing the board and the other (B) with his back to the board. Display the photo of a celebrity and ask student A to describe this person in general terms focusing on his personality.

Writing. Before the class, prepare a collage with pictures of famous people with very clear personality traits. Ask students to write a description of one of them focusing on their personality without saying their names. Descriptions are read aloud and students will need to determine the identity of the person being described.

The four big questions.

Tell students you’re going to analyse their personality by asking them four key questions to which they should answer using three adjectives for each question. Adjectives cannot be repeated.
1. Choose a colour, the first colour that comes to mind.
Once you have that colour, list three adjectives that describe it.

2. Choose an animal, the first animal that comes to mind.
Once you have selected an animal, list three adjectives that describe it.

3. Choose a body of water like a river, ocean, sea, or lake. Once you have chosen a body of water, list three adjectives that describe it.

4. Let’s say you are in a white room with no windows no doors, list three emotions that you are feeling.

When you are done answering those questions, highlight the following to get your results: your colour represents what you think of yourself, the animal represents what you think of other people, the body of water represents your love life, and the white room represents what you will feel like when you are about to die.

Birth order

Do you think birth order has any influence on our personality?

Ask students to work in groups of 4. Tell them they are going to see a video where personality is related to birth order. Assign each person in the group the task of writing down information they can gather from the video about either first borns, middle children, last borns or only children.

Whole class discussion. Starting with “first-borns”, write on the board all the information the students learnt from the video. Start a class discussion where first borns in the class will say whether they agree or disagree with the content in the video. Repeat procedure for middle children, last borns and only children.

 

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe. also known as noughts and crosses or Xs and Os is a game for two players, X and O, who take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 (3×4 in this game) grid. The player who succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.

In this game, to place their mark they’ll need to talk for about two minutes about the question in the box.

 

 

 

Lesson Plan: A Picture-Based Activity to Enlarge Students’ Vocabulary on Travelling

I’m really happy to introduce a guest writer to you. Maria Jose Díaz is a friend and fellow teacher from EOI Avilés and, in this blog post, she will be sharing with us an excellent communicative activity for C1 students based on pictures. María Jose also runs a blog Ingles en Aviles, which is really worth a visit.

Once again I have to cover the topic of travelling with my C1 students. You might think there shouldn’t be a problem dealing with this theme because everybody likes travelling plus it’s a common topic in the elementary and intermediate levels, which means students are familiarised with it. However, what might be seen as an advantage is a disadvantage for me: students seem bored with talking about different kinds of accommodation, means of transport and flopout versus niche holidays.

After racking my brains for a while I came up with this idea to help students talk about travelling from a different point of view.

Aim: activating new vocabulary through class discussion and providing students with new ideas to talk about travelling.

Level: C1

Materials: pictures of prehistoric people, explorers, missionaries, pilgrims, refugees and holidaymakers.

Instructions:

1. Start the lesson by asking students why people travel. From my experience, they will come up with the following: to broaden their minds, to work, for business, to relax, to know other cultures or to brush up a foreign language.

2. Ask for more reasons and show a picture with prehistoric people. Ask why people travelled in those times and try to get words like look for edible plants, follow animals to hunt (game), survival, look for better climes, nomads, caves…

3. Show a picture with explorers to help them think about people who travelled searching for better trade or commercial routes; they can give examples like Columbus or Marco Polo. You can also show them the silk route.

4. Show pictures with pilgrims or missionaries or the Mayflower. The idea is to make them think about why people move for religious reasons, either to evangelise new civilisations or to go on pilgrimage to places that are important to their faith and beliefs such as Santiago de Compostela, Meca or Jerusalem. Also, some people are forced to leave their countries to avoid persecution because of their religious beliefs or because they do not follow the religion of the country where they live.

5. The idea of persecution links the pictures in number 4 with the picture below. Refugees or asylum seekers also flee their countries to avoid persecution or to escape conflicts or wars, they seek refuge or asylum somewhere else, they look for a better life, in the same way immigrants and emigrants did in the past (and in the present!).

6. Finally, show the pictures below and make students think about their relationship with holidays. Hopefully they will talk about volunteering, ethical tourism and niche holidays.

 

Walk, Talk and Give Opinion

Is there anything that students love more than walking around the classroom while talking to their classmates? I doubt it!

One of the most effective techniques to keep students engaged is probably varying the dynamics in the classroom. It’s true that some tasks require that students work alone, but working in pairs or in small groups is always a good alternative and if you add movement to the activity, then you can almost guarantee success. What is more, varying the dynamics during the course of your lessons helps to reduce the weariness that sets in when students are asked to sit two-hour lessons, which are the ones I teach.

The activity I am going to share with you today is a very simple one where students will need to work in small groups and move around the classroom discussing some controversial statements. It is highly adaptable to any topic. In this example, I am revising food- related vocabulary with intermediate students. This discussion technique allows students to be actively engaged as they walk around the class.

  • Level: intermediate to advanced
  • Time: one hour
  • Language point: Expressing opinion. Agreeing and disagreeing
  • Organisation: Small groups of 3 or 4 students
  • Materials: Posters containing controversial statements (see mine here). Handout with target language. PDF here
  • Aims: To teach how to express opinion and how to support or contradict other people’s opinions through the discussion of some controversial food-related statements.

PROCEDURE

Before the class

Write some controversial statements you want your students to discuss about the current topic of study. Write each one on a slip of paper or print some photos and add the text to the picture- I have used picfont. Stick them on the walls of the class. For more advanced classes you can choose random polemical statements. I would suggest that you avoid statements that might lead to embarrassment or offence.

Teach how to give opinion

Give students the handout with the target language and ask a student to read it out, clarifying meanings and focusing on pronunciation and intonation.Ask them to choose 3 or 4 expressions from each column; the ones they feel most comfortable using.

Group students.

Ask students to work in small groups of three or four students depending on the size of the class and direct students’ attention to the walls of the class, where the statements will be displayed.

Begin

Ask students to stand up. Each group should start at a different statement where they will discuss their opinions and agree or disagree accordingly. Remind them to use the expressions they have underlined, either to give opinion or to agree/disagree with someone’s opinion.

Help

While the students are talking, walk around the class offering help and guidanc

Rotate.

After six to eight minutes, ask the groups to rotate to the next statement. Repeat until all the groups have talked about all the statements

Share

Ask students to sit down and choose a statement to discuss as a whole class.

Below, some of my students doing the task.

Spinning the Wheel: an Engaging and Productive Speaking Activity.

This is a very simple communicative activity that works wonders because it is highly engaging, students love it and it is very productive. It takes 2 minutes to create and it is adaptable to any topic of discussion and suitable for all levels.

 

Aim: activating new vocabulary through discussion questions.

Levels: all

PROCEDURE.

  1. Easy peasy! Just go to wheeldecide.com and fill in one wheel with the target vocabulary and another one with the questions you want your students to discuss.
  2. Students in pairs
  3. Spin the wheel containing the questions and then, the wheel containing the word/ expression you want your students to use when answering the question.
  4. Student A has 2 minutes to talk about the question and use the target vocabulary. If he does, he scores a point.
  5. Spin the wheels again. It’s student B’s turn.

NOTE: When creating the wheel, go to the advanced section to choose colour and whether you want the option to be removed after it is landed on or not.

 

 

If you are a student and you’re preparing for exams or studying on your own, you probably have your own studying strategies, but I invite you to try this new one. I’m sure you’ll find it engaging and productive.

I ‘d like to thank Cristina Serafim for bringing wheeldecide to my attention.

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“You’re Lying”: a Game to Practise Present Perfect Simple and Past Simple

Today I’m really happy to introduce a guest writer to you. Angeles Jimenez is a friend and fellow teacher from EOI Oviedo and, in this blog post, she will be sharing with us an excellent communicative game to consolidate the use of present perfect simple and past simple. Ready for a lot of fun!

Do you want your students to keep their noses in the course book? Don’t read on then.

Going into a new class on the first day can be a little bit stressful both for teachers and students. Teachers get ready to greet their students, anxious to get started, and learners are nervous wondering what is to come. That’s why it’s important to have a first day of class that will set the tone for what the course will be like. And it will be FUNtastic!!!

Games for getting to know one another can be an excellent way to establish a stress-free environment in the classroom. Let your students know that they’re welcome in order to put their insecurities aside, try to make them feel comfortable participating. They’ll have fun learning English in no time!

The “You’re lying “game lives up to its name.

It’s a fun game which works very well at the start of the term as a ‘getting to know you’ kind of game. Teenagers love it because they don’t feel like they’re learning, and advanced students love it because it’s a break from the monotony of learning with serious assignments.

It’s also a great way to consolidate the use of the present perfect tense to talk about experiences and the use of simple past to ask follow-up questions.

  • Language point: Present perfect tense and simple past
  • Organisation: Pair work
  • Level: This speaking activity is designed for advanced levels.
  • Materials: One copy of “You’re lying: student A” for half of the students in the class and one copy of “You’re lying: student B” for the other half of the class.Pdf here
  • Aims: To present the present perfect tense (have + past participle) with the function of talking about past actions. Students should be able to recognise that the present perfect and the simple past are both used to talk about a past action but the present perfect is used when the time is not stated and the simple past when the time is known.It works well as an ice-breaker for C1 students since it requires some previous knowledge of verb structures and some command of vocabulary.

For B2 students some warming up may be necessary.

  • You could begin the lessons by speaking about your own experiences in a general way. Be careful not to give any details about these experiences. In other words, keep to the present perfect. For example:

 I’ve been to many countries in my life. I’ve been to Italy and I’ve visited France, Germany, and Switzerland. I’ve also driven a lot in the United States.  

  • Ask students to ask you questions about the specifics of some of your adventures. On the board you can draw a time line and point when they took place. Students will hopefully be able to catch on fast and keep to the past simple.

 How to play

Students are invited to lie to their opponents, something which they usually tend to enjoy! The more detail the students can give in their answers, whether invented or not, the more convincing they will be.

  • Put students in pairs and give them A and B handouts.
  • Students ask each other “Have you ever..?” questions. Remind them they must answer all the questions with “Yes”.
  • Student A asks student B a question using the Present Perfect. Student B must answer “Yes, I have”.
  • Student A can then ask them 3 “Wh” questions in the Simple Past and try to spot from B’s answers (sometimes body language ) if their opponent is lying or telling the truth.
  • If student A guesses, then he / she gets the point. If he’s been fooled, then student B gets the point.
  • The winner is the student with the most points. They could also start with a maximum number of 10 points. Student A subtracts one point if he / she fails to guess whether B is lying or telling the truth. Student B substracts one point if Student A guesses.

For more advanced learners, this is a great opportunity to bring in modal verbs (“That must be true, it can’t be / have been true because…”)

 Why does this game work?

Because students tend to remember more when they are relaxed and enjoying the activity. It’s also an easy way to encourage quiet students to get involved too!

It makes it a lot more fun if they think of facts that may trick or surprise others so tell them to be creative.

As a follow-up they can also write five sentences about themselves and then get into pairs or groups and repeat the interrogation. Have fun!!

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