Category Archives: Vocabulary Games

Using an Interactive Image to Play a Game to Revise and Consolidate Feeling Adjectives

Autumn is probably my favourite season. Autumn is the season of birthdays in my family. Also, it’s not too hot or too cold. This year, this is especially important for me as I have been assigned a small class facing south and I know, come May,  I’ll be sweating up a storm. So, for the time being, let’s enjoy beautiful autumn.

This year I am teaching 2-hour lessons so, more than ever, I feel the necessity to design activities that might change the pace of the lessons and keep my students from dozing off in my classes. The activity below is aimed at that. Still, I need to be completely honest here. I have not started teaching proper lessons so this activity has not been tested yet.  I’ll let you know how it goes and if I hear any snores or see people yawning, then I would know it has been a complete failure.

 

Aim:

  • to revise and consolidate adjectives related to feelings
  • to use these adjectives in a speaking activity.

Tool: Genial.ly. For this activity, we will use the grid below with gifs representing different feelings. This is an interactive image created with an awesome tool called Genial.ly, which I am proud to say is a Spanish start-up used all around the world. Genial.ly lets you create engaging interactive visual content and for this activity, I have used the “Hide” effect so if you mouse over the gif, you’ll be able to see the adjective. Also, the questions for discussion will be displayed when you click on the numbers.

(click on the arrows to enlarge the image)

 

Procedure

For each of the squares in the grid, do part 1 and then part 2.

FIRST PART: WORKING ON VOCABULARY

  • Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will be playing “against” Student B.
  • Ask student As to choose a number from the Feelings Grid below. You can ask all the As to agree on a number, but in some classes, it might prove a difficult task to reach quick consensus, so you might want to just choose a random student A to decide on a number.
  • Once they have chosen a number, both student A and B will write the adjective they think is hidden behind the gif representing the feeling. Allow 30 seconds for this step. Let student A and B compare their answers and then mouse over the gif to display the hidden adjective.
  • If they have guessed the adjective, they score 2 points. If the adjective they have written is a synonym, they score 1 point. Ask students to keep score of the points they get.
  • On the board, you might want to write the target adjective and the synonyms they come up with. Drill pronunciation of the adjective and all its synonyms.

For example, if they choose Gif  9 and the adjective is worried you might want to accept “anxious, troubled or concerned” as synonyms. You can use a synonym dictionary, like this one https://www.thesaurus.com/. There is no shame in this. 😉

SECOND PART: WORKING ON SPEAKING

  • Click on the number, in this case, number 9 and a question will be displayed. Ask students in pairs to discuss the question. Set about 4 minutes per question. Walk around. Monitor and help. Avoid overcorrecting.

Now, B’s choose a new number from the Feelings Grid.

Note: if you haven’t taught any of the adjectives, you can still use the activity.  Change the rules of the game and instead of scoring two points if they guessed the adjective, you might want to give them the points if they come up with a synonym even though it’s not exactly the one hidden behind the gif.

To be on the safe side, and to avoid wasting time checking the dictionary, you might want to write a list of synonyms before you play the game.

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Countable and Uncountable Nouns: a Game and a Quiz with Partitives

Most of the times, it is easy to tell when a noun is countable (ie. can be counted) and when it is uncountable.  Think about the words “dog” and “sugar”. Easy, isn’t it?

We can say one dog, two dogs or a dog, ie, you can count “dogs

But can you count “sugar”? Of course, you can’t. You can’t say one sugar, two sugars or sugars, not even a sugar.

If only it were that easy! 🙂 Take for example vegetables and fruit. Vegetables are countable, but fruit is normally uncountable, though in some cases, to complicate things, it can be made plural when referring to different kinds of fruit.

The vast majority of commonly consumed fruits qualify as non-starchy.
Would you like some fruit for dessert?

There you have it, this is English!

If you want to know more about countable and uncountable nouns, here,  it is clearly explained.

On this post, I want to share with you two activities I did with my Upper-intermediate students in case you want to use them in your classes.

 Game: Sit down. Stand Up

The first one is a very simple activity, perfect to use after a tedious lesson when you see attention is beginning to fade. Actually, it is not a game as there is no competition and nobody is eliminated but, to be honest, I don’t know how to call it. An energizer, perhaps? What is clear is that it will keep your students engaged and motivated.

I have used this activity with upper-intermediate students so the concept of countable or uncountable (mass) is not new to them.

Before the class: prepare a list of names that are clearly either countable or uncountable.

How to play:

  1. Tell students you are going to call out nouns that can be classified as either countable or uncountable.
  2. Tell them they will need to sit down if the noun is uncountable and stand up if it countable.

This is the list of nouns I have used:

Uncountable nouns: weather, advice, accommodation, luggage, staff, furniture, scenery, rubbish, behaviour, health, cotton, politics, work, homework, news, clothes, money

Countable:  vegetables, worksheet, newspaper, item, journey, grape, difference

As you can see there are far more uncountable than countable nouns because my students already have a clear idea of what countable and uncountable means. If you are introducing this concept for the first time, I would suggest you use more or less the same number of countable and uncountable nouns.

The Quiz

So, how can we make an uncountable noun countable? That’s easy! Very often, we can use “a piece of…” before the uncountable nouns.

We can say:

A piece of fruit/cake/cheese/baggage/furniture/news/rubbish/research… etc

But English wouldn’t be considered one of the richest languages if you could just use “ a piece of” with every uncountable noun, would it? So here’s a quiz where you will learn some other partitive structures used with uncountable nouns.

How I suggest you work with the quiz:

You can certainly do the quiz once if you have a prodigious memory and are able to remember every combination, but if you are like the rest of the mortals, taking the quiz once is not enough.

I would suggest taking the quiz two or three times, then writing down all the combinations you can remember and then taking the quiz again to check and consolidate.

I’m Shamelessly Addicted to this Game

Yes. It’s true. I love this game. It’s just the right kind challenge for someone studying English.

The game is called Fluent and this is how it works:

  • There are 20 different trivia categories all dealing with grammar and vocabulary.
  • You’ll have to answer each question before you run out of time.
  • You have 3 lives.
  • You’ll need to answer 5 questions correctly to go to the next level.
  • As you level up, you are given less time to answer.
  • You can play it pairs (or 2 teams) and the winner is  the top scorer after 8 questions.

Ready for some fun, a bit of challenge and lots of learning. Here we go, then!

Click on the picture.

fluent

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Stars in their Eyes

When I was a kid in my hometown, a little village in the north of Spain, there used to be a cinema. Not any more and not for a long time. In fact, it seems to me there are very few towns or even cities which still have a cinema and I’m not talking about the outdoor cinemas, which are so popular in summer, I am talking about the real thing. Cinemas with endless rows of seats smelling oldish and where the usher always told you off before you even got to your seat and started cracking up. I remember we didn’t get to see the latest films until they were 4 or 5 years old and then, they were not new any more as our friends from the capital city kindly reminded us rolling their eyes in disbelief when they came on holiday, but all the same it brings back very good memories. I must be getting old!

So today I’m sharing with you an engaging lesson with lots of activities around the theme of films and the cinema. Hope you enjoy it!

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2  (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning  and using vocabulary  related to films and the cinema  through a variety of engaging  activities which will help them improve listening, writing and speaking.

Activity 1. Warming-up. Learning and using vocabulary.

Step 1.Wordcloud.
Display the word cloud and ask students to guess the topic. Click on the words you want to highlight and ask students to guess meanings and try to use them in a sentence. Alternatively, you can choose the latest box-office hit and ask students to give you a sentence about this film containing the targeted word.

 

Step 2. Mind mapping.  Handout with vocabulary here

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board a mind map as the one below (give them only the words inside the circles) to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes to complete their mind maps and get feedback from the whole class, completing the mind map on the board with their suggestions.

  • Exercise on types of films here
  • A crossword with film words here

Activity 2. A game.

The class is divided into two groups. In turns, one member from each group sits on the Hot Chair facing  away from the whiteboard. The members of their group have  one minute to describe the film being displayed  without mentioning the title ( that goes without saying, but just in case, I’m saying it). The aim is to guess as many films as possible in one minute. Then, it’s the other team’s turn.

They will need to talk about:

Kind of film/ Nationality of the film/ director/ plot/

Some hints:

♥The film ‘_______’ is a(n) _______ film which takes place in _______.
♥The film is set in __(ancient Greece)__.
♥The story is based on __(a popular novel)__.
♥The film is directed by _______.
♥The main character(s) in the film is/are _______.
♥_______ is a character who _______.
♥__(Johnny Depp)__ stars as __(Captain Sparks)__.
♥In the film, __(Jack Black)__ plays __(a rock guitarist). The story is about _______
♥The best scene of the film is_____

Activity 3. A listening : interview with Hitchcock talking about his film Psycho.

Ask students: What kind of films do you like? Do you have a favourite director?

Write on the board Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho and ask students if they know who he is and if they know any of his films. Students most probably will have heard about Hitchcock and seen some of his films, but in case they haven’t, tell them Hitchcock is considered “the master of suspense” and “Psycho”(1960) s is arguably Hitchcock’s best-known film.

Play the video and ask students to answer the questions. (Find the answers at the end of this post).

  1.  What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein?
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
  3. When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.

Activity 4. Speaking.

Ask students to work in pairs or in small groups and answer the following questions.

Activity 5. Writing a film review.

Handout with the task and useful vocabulary and expressions to use in your review.

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Answers to the listening

  1. What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein?He thinks they are very easy to make and that they are props.
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
    He believes in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen.
  3.  When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?
    An amusing film
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.

There is only one violent scene in the film, which is at the beginning when the girl is     violently murdered in the shower. As the film developed, there is less and less violence. The horror and the tension are transferred to the mind of the viewers, which are the end of the film are screaming.

Tools used
Tagul, Hot Potatoes, Picture Trail, Thematic

Activating Passive Vocabulary

One of the things that worries me most when teaching vocabulary is that students tend to store the newly acquired knowledge as passive vocabulary. Agreed that most of us have more passive  than active vocabulary, agreed  that we use a larger variety of words when we write than when we speak, but still I think that as teachers we need to go the extra mile and help our students see the importance of incorporating new vocabulary into their communicative tasks.

Designing activities to convert passive vocabulary into active vocabulary is one of the things that occupies most of my planning.

This is a very simple activity I have designed to” force” my students to use new vocabulary and connectors to express contrast.

Level : Intermediate and above

Aim:

  • To use newly acquired vocabulary
  • To improve students’ writing abilities by using connectors of contrast
  • To encourage collaborative writing

Step 1.  Selecting vocabulary.  Ask students to work in pairs. Explain that they’ll need to write on a clean sheet of paper ten words or expressions recently studied. (You can also be more specific here and tell them the unit or the pages of the book you want them to get the vocabulary from).

Step 2.  Explaining the task .Ask students now to pass their list of 1o words to the pair sitting behind them or next to them.

Tell students they are going to write a story in pairs. In this story they’ll need to use at least 7 of the words on their list and three out of the five connectors of contrast you are going to write on the board (see below an interactive flyer explaining Clauses of Contrast)

Give them the beginning of a story, for example “When Fiona entered the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes” or use a story starter generator here.

Step 3. Writing and editing. Encourage students to dedicate some time to planning their story. Set a time limit of 30 minutes, but I suggest not limiting the number of words in their stories to encourage fluency and boost their imagination.

Once they have written their draft (20 minutes), ask students to carefully edit their stories. Display the following checklist on the board  (click here to download it) or alternatively print it and give one to every student.

Give each pair a different coloured paper or if you have more stories than colours, use different pen colours or assign a number to every story.

Ask students to write their story and underline the targeted vocabulary and the connectors of contrast used.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Clauses of Contrast Flyer

Photo credit: Deb Stgo via Visual hunt / CC BY

Teaching Collocations: a Low-Prep Activity

I am almost embarrassed to share this super easy lesson plan with you, but right now I am in the middle of a love affair with collocations and all my classes, no matter the level, are working  with collocations.

Please, don’t freak out! I am not going to give you an obnoxious list of collocations and ask you to learn them by heart. That’s not the way I do things!, but you’ll surely agree with me  that there is no point in learning the adjective “interested” if you don’t know that it’s followed by the preposition “in”. Yes, Ok, you can say “I’m interested”, but that’s it!! And we are aiming for a bit more, aren’t we?

(at the end of this post, you’ll find  some interesting links to learn more about collocations)

So, take a deep breath and follow me!

Step 1. What is a collocation? Though students don’t really need to be familiar with the term, it might be a good idea to introduce the concept.

In English we can say I absolutely agree but we cannot say I absolutely go; we can say I am interested in, but not I am keen in. We can say a heavy drinker, but not a strong drinker or a  chain drinker. These conventional combinations of words, chosen naturally by the English speakers to express an idea, are called “collocations”.

Below you’ll see some of the collocations I am going to use, but this activity will work with any collocation:

Depend on/ interested in/ arrive in/ arrive at/ fed up with/ spend on/good or bad at/ close to/fond of/keen on/ look forward to…etc.

Step 2. Slips of paper. Oral activity.

  • Select the collocations to be studied, as many as students you have in the class. In my case, I have decided to give them dependent prepositions with common adjectives and verbs because I have noticed they always make mistakes here.
  • Write the adjective or verb on the slip of paper and on the back of it, the preposition(s) it collocates with. Stand up in the middle of the class for everybody to see you. Show students the slip of paper containing the adjective or verb and ask them to guess the missing preposition, and then give you a sentence containing the collocation.
  • A small competition. Divide the class into two groups and repeat procedure. This time, groups will need to guess the preposition and give a sentence -different from the one they gave in the previous stage- to win the point.

Step 3. Slips of paper. Writing activity.

  • Give every student a slip of paper from the previous activity and ask them to individually think of a question to ask their partners containing this collocation.

Offer help if necessary.

Step 4. Speaking activity using the speed-dating technique.

Students sit facing each other. Some students will remain seated during the whole event (in real speed dating, women remain seated). They have 4 minutes to talk asking and answering the question they have written containing the collocation. Then, a bell rings and “men” need to stand up and move to their right to start a new conversation and the whole process is repeated again. I didn’t have a bell so I used a Class Timer (here).

A highly engaging activity your students are likely to enjoy!

Useful links to learn more about collocations

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Thanks for reading!

Used TO: Introducing Used to ,a Nice Short Writing Game and a Beautiful Song.

After almost eight years posting ( I had another blog before this one) I have to say that I am absolutely convinced that if it were not for my blog ,I wouldn’t be able to find and remember half the activities that I do in my class. Don’t misunderstand me !!! I’m not implying by any means that I’m sort of disorganised or forgetful; a teacher should never fall into this category ,but the truth is that this blog has helped me tons to  have all my stuff organised . That must have been the reason that prompted me to start writing… but to be honest, I cannot remember ! :).

Two activities that I did yesterday with my students and that I don’t want to forget are

1. A small warm-up to introduce Used To

2. A  fun nice short writing game that requires no preparation

1. Introducing Used To. The picture below shows what I wrote on the whiteboard. I made sure I gave examples of past actions -in the diagram the font is in black- and past states -in blue. (Remember : We use ‘used to’ for something that happened regularly in the past but no longer happens or for something  that was true but  no longer is).

At this stage , a good performance makes all the difference.

Students pay more attention when you dramatise or introduce the idea in a nice way. Let’s see two examples. Which do you think wil make the student pay more attention?

1. OK, Today, I am going to explain Used to, It is used to…. and here are some examples…. Do you understand?Any questions?

2. Ok, folks !! That’s me 10 years ago!! Look at my  hair now!! What colour is it? Do you think it suits me?? Thanks so much !! You’re so sweet! Now I have fair hair but 10 years ago, I used to have dark hair.  What about you? Has anybody changed their hairstyle?? Yes, teacher , I had dark hair too and now I have  red hair!! Ok ! María , so in English you can say ! I used to have dark hair but now  my hair is red.

The second option works much better, trust me on this one!

2. WRITING GAME: I HAVE RETIRED

Target language : Used To to describe past habits or states , contrasted with the  present

Preparation: none

Level :B1/B2

Time: about 15 minutes

Procedure:

Setting  the context. Tell students they have to imagine they are 70 and they are retired . They  are happier in retirement  than when they were working but there are some things that they still miss.

Step 1. Students in pairs or in threes choose the job they used to have.

Step 2. Students will need to produce  four sentences using Used To ,giving clues for the other groups to guess their job .

  • All the sentences must contain ” Used to” in the positive or the negative
  • the first sentence will contain the clue most difficult to guess
  • the last sentence will contain the easiest clue
  • The first sentence will be awarded 4 points and the last one 1 point

Step 3. Each group will name a spokesperson who will read out the clues. It’s important ,at this stage, to ask students to speak up and clearly . Some rules:

  • The spokesperson will read the first sentence and the other groups will raise a hand if they think they know the answer.
  • Only one guess is allowed for each clue
  • If the answer is correct, they will be awarded the four points , if it is not ,the second clue will be read for three points.

Example

  • 4 points . I used to work with a lot of people
  • 3 points. I used to work after “work”
  • 2 points. I used to use my voice a lot
  • 1 point . I used to work with children

How many clues did you need to hear??  Yes, the answer is TEACHER

3. LEARNING WITH SONGS. Is there a best way to learn?

This is a beautiful song by the Newcastle songwriter James Morrison and it is called Once When I was Little . I used some time ago to talk about Childhood Memories and to revise Used To.  I hope you like it. I love it!

Click here to see how I worked with the song

A Guess the Word Game to Practise Relative Sentences and Paraphrasing

What do you normally do when you are talking to a person in English and you don’t know the word? I guess you don’t tell the person ” OK, right, hold on! I am going to look it up on my mobile phone”. You might be tempted to do it, but know that the person you are talking to might lose interest in what you are saying.
So, the thing to do would be Paraphrasing.

How do we paraphrase?? There are some expressions you can use
It’s A KIND OF house
It’s THE OPPOSITE OF lazy
It’s LIKE cleaning but… trying to explain what you want to say but using other words you know. That’s calle
It’s SIMILAR TO book but..
FOR EXAMPLE, you do this when
It’s A SYNONYM OF..
It’s A PERSON/SOMEBODY WHO…
It’s a THING/SOMETHING WHICH…
It’s SOMEWHERE/A PLACE WHERE

It can also help to say “ It’s a noun, or an adjective…. “ If it’s an expression, you can also say “ It’s an expression and there are three words in it”

Right, now we are ready to play the game. It’s called WHAT’S THE WORD?

How we play the game:

  • Divide the class into two teams
  • Ask a member of Team A to sit on chair with his back to the whiteboard.
  • Display the first word on the screen
  • The members of the team have two minutes to describe the word but they cannot use any parts of the words on the screen. For example if it is “teacher” they cannot use the word “teach”.The aim is for the student to guess as many words as possible in one minute. Every word in black scores one point , the ones in red score two points.
  • Then, it is the other team’s turn to choose someone to take the hot seat.
  • Needless to say, you keep the score on the board for everybody to see. Have fun!!!

 

Reading Comprehension: Pre-Teaching Vocabulary

All my lessons last 90 minutes and even though I like to think that students don’t normally get tired or bored, changing gears several times during the 90 minutes is quite important to maintain their level of attention. In this sense, fortunately, teaching a language is not the same as teaching some other subjects where the range of activities you can do is a bit more restricted.
When it comes to Reading Comprehension there are some activities I have tried over the years that seem to have worked pretty well. This week I am planning to use a different activity with my intermediate groups to pre -teach the vocabulary in the Reading Activity, which I would like to share with you. It will require that they leave their seats and walk around the class, talking to their classmates. I’m sure they will appreciate the opportunity to move their legs.
Steps.
Step 1. Decide the vocabulary you want to teach (that goes without saying, doesn’t it?)
Step 2. Prepare two sets of cards. One card contains the word and part of speech you want to teach and the other card contains the definition.
Step 3. Students stand up and find their partner ( I have large groups so it’s going to take a while).
Step 4. Students sit down with their partner and write a sentence containing their word.
Step 5. Students read their sentences and explain the meaning of the word /expression being studied.
Note: I have very large groups, like  thirty students  per class but I never know how many  will be attending on a particular day. For this kind of activities I need to make sure I have cards for all the students. So, if I run out of words to pre-teach, I’ll prepare some cards containing the phonetics for the targeted words.

Thanks for reading!

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Two Games to Revise Vocabulary

If you’ve been reading me for some time  you know how much I love games. Unfortunately, when I was a student at the high school I don’t seem to remember games being part of the teachers’ lesson plan. Now, from the other side of the fence, I wonder why with so many different  things you can do in a language class, we never did anything funny; well, occasionally, we did some fill in the blanks exercises with songs, but that’s it! I also wonder how, being our classes so boring, I ended up being  a teacher.

If you are at all like me, you will love playing these games!!!

♥AGAINST THE CLOCK
This game requires some preparation. On slips of paper, write down the vocabulary that needs to be revised (verbs, phrasal verbs, adjectives…etc) . Students, sitting in a circle, play in groups of four or five, so there should be one set of cards for each group. Set a random amount of time, which students won’t know (this is important so that they don’t cheat). Give the pack of cards to one of the students. Set the timer. Now, he has to describe the word to the students in his group using only verbal language and, it goes without saying, without saying the word or part of it. When a student guesses the word, then the cards are passed to the next student. The person holding the cards when the alarm in the timer goes off loses. Continue playing until there is a winner.

Click to see a good selection of Classroom Timers

♥A-Z Picture Vocabulary.


This is a good activity to brainstorm new vocabulary and also to give more advanced students the opportunity to show off a bit. Students play in pairs or in threes mixing stronger and weaker students.
A picture with lots of elements is displayed on the Overhead Projector and students need to find in the picture something beginning with each of the letters of the alphabet A-Z .Set a time limit of 7-8 minutes
 

 

 

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