Category Archives: Funny Stuff

Reporting verbs: A Translation Exercise Using Grass Skirts

Do you like translation exercises?

If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.

Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀  ).  It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me:  I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.

I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.

In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better.  You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.

 


The activity


Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.

Now, you are ready to start.

Procedure:

Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.

Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.

Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.

Rules.

  • The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
  • The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
  • Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
  • The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.

Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them.  Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.

Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink  😆 

Have you ever played Quizlet.live? Then, you are missing out!

Easter is here and this means a break from teaching. A very much needed break to be honest. Not that I am complaining but, is it me or does this Easter feel extra early?

Anyway, the last day before the Christmas break and the Easter break are always days that I both love and hate. These are the days when I have to give my students good or bad news. This means marks and, unfortunately, not all the students pass with flying colours.

Well, this last day and just before giving them their marks I wanted them to have a bit of fun and leave the class in high spirits so I decided to try a new game I had been meaning to try for a long time, Quizlet.live.  I tried it and I have to say I liked it.

Here’s why:

  1. Students work in groups. I like this much more than individual work.
  2. Students have to discuss the correct answer and they have to agree before they click. And this means talking. A lot. In English.
  3. If they make a mistake, they can start again. And this means reinforcing.
  4. However, they have to choose the correct answer very carefully. If they make a mistake they go back to 0 points.
  5. The teacher can create his own sets or if he is feeling lazy or too busy, there are millions of public quizlets to choose from. Thank God for this small favour!
  6. It’s free.
  7. It’s fun. Like, a lot.
What you need to play:
  • Mobile devices: tablets, mobile phones or Chromebooks. One for every student.
  •  A minimum of 4 students. The more the merrier.
  • A study set with at least six unique terms and definitions. Again, I would recommend more.
Setting a game

Part 1. Pre-game

  • Once you have decided on the study set you want to give your students, choose Live. I have created a study set to revise the use of the infinitive and gerund in English.

  • Then, choose Definitions and Terms. Actually, if you do not have a Premium account, that’s the only one you can use. Bear it in mind if you decide to create your own set: what you have written as a definition will be what your students see as a question and what you write in the space provided for the term will be the possible answer.

  • Ask students to take out their devices and go to quizlet.live. Share with them the join  code you will get once you click Create Game. When prompted, ask them to write their real names. Writing their real name makes it easier to form the groups.
  • The computer randomly selects groups. If you have some students that you feel won’t work well together, you can always reshuffle the groups.
  • Ask students to stand up and sit in their groups

Part 2. Playing

  • Once the teacher clicks Start Game, the students will see the first matching task.
  • On the class screen, they will only see that the ostriches and sea turtles are tied 0-0.

  • Now the first question/definition/word is displayed on their screens. It’s the same for all the members of the team, but only one member of the team will have the correct answer. They will need to discuss who has the correct answer and click on it. For example, in the picture below, I am pairing with Mary. I do not have the correct answer, but my partner does.

  • Tell students that the first team to get to 12 points wins the game.
  • Warning: If a team chooses an incorrect answer, they go back to zero and they will lose all the points and will need to start again. In my opinion, this is just great to reinforce knowledge.
  • At the end of the game, they can analyze the answers and see what they are struggling with.
What I liked most

What I like most about this game is that students are collaborating with each other all the time, using vocabulary and discussing which answers are correct and which are incorrect in a way that is really engaging and motivating.

Also, you can share with them the link for the study set and have them revise at home.

Finally, on twitter, I saw an idea that I really liked, especially if you don’t mind some noise and you only have a few devices. It was from a teacher called Mrs. French. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing the video.

The Liar: a Present Perfect Continuous Game.

This week is not supposed to be a game week. I can feel the “exam cloud” starting to creep up on me. Yes, exams are just two weeks away and I should probably be dedicating the whole lesson to revising. And I‘ll do it. I promise. And it will all be very academic and probably boring.  So what you are about to read is very likely the last fun activity I’m going to do with my students before exams but students deserve a break from time to time and I’m sure they will enjoy this little game to revise the Present perfect Continuous. Besides,it is a ton of fun.

I have to say that I have not invented the game. I was kindly offered to me by a teacher from EOI Plasencia (hello Maite Martínez) after an enjoyable training session. I asked her to write a guest post explaining the game, but she kindly refused and said she could not do that as she was not the author adding that the game had been in her possession for a long, long time and couldn’t remember where she had got it from.

I have googled up the game trying different combinations, but I could find no trace of it. So I have decided to publish it.

Please, if you are reading this and you’re the author, write to me to give you proper credit.

Now, with the game.

Aim: to practise the present perfect continuous in the pattern:

  • How long have you been playing golf?
  • I have been playing golf for 6 years

 

Before the game: You’ll need to prepare cards with the numbers 1 to 10. You will need a deck of cards for every four or five students. Numbers (1-10) will be repeated three times in each deck of cards. So, you will have three 1s, three 2s, three 3s… etc, ie, a 30-card deck.

You can download mine here.

The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.

  • Ask students to play in groups of 4,5 or 6.
  • Tell students they are all “nouveaux riches”.
  • Someone in the group shuffles the cards and deals them out. All of them.
How to play:

  • Player A, the person on the right of the dealer, begins. He turns to Player B, the person on his right, and asks him a question. For example:

                   How long have you been eating at Maxim’s?

  • Player B puts one of his cards face down on the table without showing it to anyone and answers, for example:

                    I have been eating at Maxim’s for 5 years.

Important: You must always put down a card equal to, or more than, the previous card. Player B will need to put down a card with a number higher than 5. If you cannot do this, you must lie and hope not to be challenged to show your card. 
  • Now, Player B repeats exactly the same question Player A asked him to Player C, the person on his right. Player C answers and puts one of his cards face down on top of Player B’s card. For example:

                  I have been eating at Maxim’s for 7 years.

  • Now Player C repeats exactly the same question to Player D. In this way, play moves round the circle in turn.
  • If any player suspects that another player is lying, they can say:

 Stop! I don’t believe you- let me see that card.

  • If it’s a lie, that player must pick all the cards on the table. However, if he was telling the truth, the player who challenged him must pick all the cards.
  • After a player has picked all the cards, it‘s he who starts the game again asking a new question.
  • The first player to get rid of all his cards is the winner.

List of snobbish things to do

  • Ski in St Moritz
  • Eat caviar
  • Play golf
  • Fly business class
  • Wear Armani clothes
  • Vote conservative
  • Shop at Harrods
  • Drive a Porsche
  • Go on cruises

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Sentence Betting: a Vocabulary Revision Game

I’m really happy to welcome  again Angeles Jimenez as guest writer on the blog. Ángeles is a friend and fellow teacher from EOI Oviedo with over 25 years’ experience teaching adults and, in this blog post, she will be sharing with us a fun engaging game to revise vocabulary.

The Sentence Betting  game is a vocabulary revision game which requires students to recognize, correct and explain vocabulary related to the topic of work. It’s highly adaptable to any semantic field and it’s a great game to review vocabulary as end-of-unit activity and usually a lot more fun than the typical course book review.

Level: This game in particular works best with C1 students since there are difficult expressions B2 students haven’t studied yet.

Preparation: Prepare a worksheet for students to check for word-usage mistakes related to the topic of work. Include correct sentences in a random order.

Time: about 45 minutes

Materials:

  • A sentence betting worksheet (see handout).
  • Fake money or poker chips (optional). You can download play money here

How to play:

1. Divide the class in teams of 4 students. If you want to play with bigger groups, split each group into two teams.

2. Give each team a handout of the betting sheet. Allow them 10 minutes to go down  the list of sentences to decide and mark which one is either correct or incorrect.

They need to put a tick or a cross and bet a sum of money between 1$ and 5$ depending on how confident they feel about their answer.

3. The auction. Call sentences aloud one by one and ask each team to bet a sum of money stating whether they think is correct or incorrect. Display the answer on the screen. Ask students to fill in the 3rd column with the amount won or lost.

For example, if a pair of students bet 5$ on a sentence because they believe it’s true and they’re correct, then they win 5$. But if they get it wrong, then they lose that sum.

Students add up the figures both plus and minus. The winner is the team with the most money at the end.

Once a team has won the bet by correctly saying that a sentence is wrong, they have the chance to double their money again by correcting it.

Remind students that once the game starts you will limit the amount of time they have to decide if the sentences are right or wrong.

Variation: If you want to build up excitement, divide each group into two teams appointing a spokesperson, who will be in charge of reading each sentence aloud and giving the correct answer after each bet.

Tip: if you want to keep the activity fast-paced, it may be better to play in teams as poor pronunciation will slow down the game.

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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10 Creative Ways to Use the Wheel of Fortune to Teach English

The wheel of fortune? I know. I know. If I want you to continue reading, I’d better explain what it is. Have you ever seen the game show Wheel of Fortune? Yes, that one where you spin a wheel and get money if you successfully guess the missing letters in a word or phrase.

Good news. It can also be used to teach/learn English.

Unfortunately I am not working with primary or secondary students. I know they would love this tool. It’s a lot of fun to work with -spinning a wheel normally is, isn’t it?-, but it also has a lot of potential to teach/learn English. I teach adults and it normally takes them more time to get used to the way I teach. Sometimes, a far cry from traditional. Well, yes, I take my work very seriously but, from time to time, I like to spice up my lessons with little games and online tools to energize my lessons. This tool I’m using today is from classtools.net.

In this post, you’ll learn

  1. How to feed the wheel
  2. Ideas to use the wheel of fortune to teach/learn English

 

 

1. How to feed the wheel

  • Click here to get to the wheel
  • Click on Edit and write whatever you want to see displayed on the wheel.
  • Click on Save this list as currently shown
  • Choose a password to edit the wheel in the future
  • Make sure you make a note of the unique address of your wheel. I suggest you email yourself the link.
  • After a name or category is selected you can remove it from the wheel.

2. Ideas to use the wheel of fortune to teach/learn English

Vocabulary

  • Revising vocabulary. Very useful to revise vocabulary either as a whole class, in pairs or in competitions. Students will need to either explain the meaning of a word or use it in context. Nobody will ever accuse you of favouring a team and there are countless options when working with vocabulary. While you’re reading this article, I am sure your brain is already suggesting lots of possibilities, like irregular verbs, phrasal verbs, phonemic transcription…etc
  • Another possibility to explore would be feeding the wheel with different topics and asking students to write or say as many words related to the topic as possible in one minute. Some easy topics could be: jobs, shops, nationalities, animals, food…etc.

Speaking

  • Three minutes. Feed the wheel with different topics you want students to talk about and ask students to work in pairs and spin the wheel. They’ll have to talk about the topic for about three minutes. Great to revise for oral exams!
  • Hot seat.  Again feed the wheel with different topics you want students to talk about and divide the class into teams and ask a student from Team A to sit in the “hot seat”. Spin the wheel. Members of the other  team need to ask him questions about the selected topic; he’ll need to talk for about three minutes answering the other team’s questions but his answers cannot contain the words YES or NO.
  • Comparing. Do you want students to compare? Feed the wheel accordingly: compare living in the countryside/city, travelling  by bus/plane, working as a teacher/shop assistant…etc

Writing

  • Storytelling. Give students an inspiring story starter and feed the wheel with prompts they need to incorporate in their story. Spin the wheel and give students a minute to use the prompts in their stories. Spin the wheel as many times as you deem appropriate. Display on the walls of the class the stories for everybody to read.
  • Using connectors. Feed the wheel with different connectors (and, but  however, although,…etc). Ask students to work in pairs. On the board, write three sentences and ask students to choose one. Tell them this sentence will be the first in their stories. Spin the wheel and display the first connector they need to use.  Spin the wheel as many times as you deem appropriate. Display on the walls of the class the stories for everybody to read.
  • Dependent prepositions: feed the wheel with verbs such as depend, rely, insist…etc and ask students to write a sentence using the verb together with its dependent preposition.
  • Order of adjectives. Are you teaching the order of adjectives before the noun? Feed the wheel with nouns and ask the students to write a sentence containing the noun modified by two or three adjectives.
  • Verbs followed by infinitive/gerund. Are you teaching/learning verbs followed by infinitive or gerund? Rotate  the wheel and ask students to write a short sentence containing the verb randomly chosen.

I’m sure you have some more ideas to use this classroom tool, which is free and embeddable.  Have fun while learning, have fun while teaching.  😉

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Getting-to-know-you Bingo with a Fun Twist

I can’t believe summer is coming to an end and well, here we are again. Another school year is about to begin and once again, as every year for the past 25, butterflies are beginning to gather in my stomach. It’s a nice sensation and one I welcome ‘cause it means that even after 26 years dedicated to teaching English I still feel like a newbie aiming to impress my students.

Now, be honest! Wouldn’t it be nice to start the course with a fun activity? A getting-to-know-your-classmates activity after which, students leave the class with a smile on their face and chatting animatedly with their peers?

This is the aim of this fun human bingo ice breaker designed to get students talking to each other about themselves while having a nice laugh.

The game is easy to customize, so feel free to edit the cards to include or exclude prompts

  • Materials: bingo cards, pens or pencils and a small object to grab: for example, a rubber.
  • Optional online tool:  Osric
  • Time: about 30 minutes
  • Level: A2 and above

BEFORE THE CLASS

  • Prepare 25 prompts for the students to talk about
  • Prepare a Bingo card (5x5grid) for each student with the prompts (see mine below).

There are lots of bingo card generators online which will randomly generate as many cards as you wish once you provide the desired input. Osric is the one I used for this activity.

  • Cut up all the 25 different prompts and put them inside a bag or a box.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Explain that they are going to play a human bingo to get to know each other. To win the game they will need to mark off the prompts on their cards as they are drawn randomly by a caller. The winner will be the first person to mark off five squares in a vertical or horizontal row.
  2. Give each student a Bingo card and a pen/pencil. Allow them one minute to read the 25 prompts on their bingo cards and decide on their strategy.
  3. Explain that although this is a whole-class activity, students will be playing in pairs and they will need to sit together or put their desks together.
  4. Ask each pair to place a rubber (or any other small object ) on the table. Explain that to win the game they will only need a bit of luck and quick hands.

How do you get to mark off your square?

Tell them that you’ll draw a prompt from the bag and read it out. Students listen and if it is true for them, they quickly pick the rubber on the table. Only the student who has the rubber will get the chance to mark off the square. To do so, they will need to talk about the prompt  for one minute or do as the prompt says.

Who wins the game?

The first student to fill five squares across or down shouts BINGO! and the game is over.

The winning card is checked to make sure the student has not made a mistake

Rounding off the activity. Check that the winner has marked correctly all the squares by asking him to read the cards he has marked on the winning row. Ask him to talk about one of the things in the card and then choosing another prompt, challenge another student to talk about it for one minute.

 These are the prompts I have used

  1. Is an only child
  2. Was born in another country
  3. Speaks 3 languages
  4. Has lived in another city
  5. Can sing a song in English
  6. Can cook
  7. Plays a musical instrument
  8. Has a sports trophy
  9. Has a tattoo
  10. Has a dog
  11. Has done sth cool this summer
  12. Belongs to a sports club
  13. Has a celebrity autograph
  14. Prefers books to ebooks
  15. Has been in three continents
  16. Has had a big argument with a friend
  17. Doesn’t like English
  18. Can tell a joke in English
  19. Has been on holiday recently
  20. Can pronounce 13 and 30
  21. Knows how to pronounce “bear” and “beer”
  22. Knows how to say “gallina” in English
  23. Knows how to say 345,768
  24. Has slept in a tent
  25. Can write the past/past part of “to fly”

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A Guessing Game to Practise Questions

Are you in the mood for a game?

Lots of learners find it difficult to ask questions in English and these little particles called “auxiliaries” are the ones to blame; hard to believe that such tiny things cause so much trouble, but the fact that students need to remember when and how to use them or not to use them- makes it difficult even for some advanced learner to feel confident when asking questions in English.

Based on the classic game show “What’s my line?”, this game aims at improving students’ ability to ask yes/no questions in English, something most learners find difficult.

“What’s my line?” is a guessing game in which four panellists attempt to determine the occupation or the identity of a guest by asking only yes-no questions.

Rules based on the game and adapted to the classroom.

  1. Divide the class in groups of five people. Four students are going to be the panellists and ask the questions (either to guess the identity of the famous person or the occupation), and the  fifth student is going to answer their questions playing his given role. If you decide to play the variant of guessing a famous person’s identity, I would suggest having a list of famous people and letting the student choose who he wants to be.
  2. A student  (panellist) chosen by the teacher would begin the game. If his question elicits a “yes” answer, he continues questioning. When a question is answered “no”, questioning passes to the next student.
  3. Students have the option of passing to the next and they can also request a conference, in which they have a short time to openly discuss ideas about occupations or lines of questioning.
  4. To increase the probability of affirmative answers, students can phrase questions in the negative starting with “Can I rule out…?”
  5. When after some intense questioning a student thinks he knows the identity or profession of the mysterious guest, he can say so and become the mysterious guest for the next round.

Before the game begins, play the video of the  game where Salvador Dali is the              mysterious guest.

Akinator, the Web Genie. Just as I was about to publish this post, I remembered that some time ago I used to ask my elementary students to play an online game that never failed to surprise me and that my students used to love. I recommeded it because it gave them practice to understand questions in English. I checked and it is still working. The name is Akinator and he’s a genie. It goes like this: you think of a prominent person, celebrity or fictional character. Akinator will ask you up to twenty quetions and he’ll guess the person you have in mind. Check it out!

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Nine Ways to Revise Vocabulary Using Slips of Paper

In today’s post I would like to share with you the link for an article I wrote for the  British Council’s magazine, Voices. As a result of winning this month’s  TeachingEnglish blog award with my article on pronunciation  Most Common Pronunciation Mistakes Heard in Oral Exams I was kindly invited to write a new article for their magazine.

Here’s the article Nine ways to revise vocabulary using slips of paperwhich I hope teachers will find useful.

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The quiz: 13 Modern Words Recently Added to the Dictionary in 2015

Three years ago, a colleague of mine wrote the word “selfie” on the board. She says none of her students knew what the word meant. Nowadays, even my great grandmother, should I have one, would most definitely know what a “selfie” is, and would probably have taken one or two to send her peers.

It is said that the English language has more words than any other language in the world and it seems it might be true. The Oxford Dictionary Online stores over 600,000 words. Despite this number, new words are coined, clipped and blended all the time and although some of them are very soon forgotten, others make their way into the dictionary.
But how do they choose the words they include in a dictionary? The answer is simple: people need to use them. Basically editors watch the word for several years to see how it is used in both spoken and written English. They check to see that the word is used to express an idea clearly, and that the idea is understood. Then, when the word is seen in writing and speech regularly, it can go in the dictionary.

New words are added every year, but also words that are no longer used are eliminated.

Every year, the Oxford Dictionary selects a Word of the Year. “Selfie” was chosen Word of the Year three years ago. This year, the award has been given to the emoji (plural emoji or emojis) Face with Tears of Joy. The decision to choose a pictogram as word of the year, when it is clearly not a word, has been publicly criticized by many. But despite the selection of this word being frowned upon in many circles, the question to consider is: if words are used to communicate, aren’t emojis also used to communicate feelings and emotions in this new digital era?

So, as stated above, lots of new words enter the dictionaries every year. In this little quiz below you will find some of the most recent additions to the dictionaries

Are you up to the challenge?

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