Naturally, I am a huge supporter of any activity that involves students getting out of their seats and interacting with other students. Also, if you have been reading me for a while, you will surely know that I am always worried about making vocabulary stick.
So, this super simple activity combines these two things+ zero preparation. How does that sound? Yes, I know. Besides, it’s compatible with any topic you are working with. Believe me, this activity is a hit.
There is a 99% chance that you will end up participating in the activity, but please, do not get all proper and spoil the fun by telling students to keep their voices down. Let them enjoy.
Aim: to make vocabulary stick by revising, reinforcing and using it. Topic: Any. I was working with the theme of environment, but any topic would do
How to go about it
1. Revision with slips of paper. Start by revising the vocabulary you have introduced in previous lessons. I usually write the vocabulary I need to revise on slips of paper, place myself in the middle of the classroom (desks are arranged in a U shape) and very quickly give a short definition, synonym or antonym. The student who guesses correctly gets the slip of card. The winner, as you might have guessed, is the student who has more cards at the end of this activity. I do this activity very often. I think I like it because I can see that my students love it and it is a good exercise not only to revise meanings but also to work on pronunciation.
2. Writing 5 newly- acquired words. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “make the most of” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “make the most “.
3. On the board, write a question for the students to discuss in pairs.
4. Tell the students to stand up with the scrap of paper containing their words and choose a partner to talk to. They can sit down if they want to or they can remain standing.
5. Ask them to swap the pieces of papers and read the 5 words on it making sure they know what they mean. If they don’t, they should ask their partner to explain or clarify meanings
6. Point to the question on the board and ask them to discuss it trying to introduce as many words as possible from their list of words. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.
7. Important step: Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.
8. Write a new question for discussion on the board. Ask students to sit down with their new partner, swap the scraps of paper and repeat procedure.
My students said they loved the game! Let me know what your students think if you decide to give it a go.
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.
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.
I’m not a native speaker. I work in English, write, read and watch TV in English. In short, I breathe English. But I’m not a native and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, especially when correcting written work, I have this feeling that a collocation is just not right but I cannot I come up with the correct one straight away.
Has it ever happened to you?
I could rely on my instinct, I could certainly do it, but sometimes I just can’t without making sure I’m doing the right thing. Problem is that a dictionary would be no help here as we are dealing with more complex issues. We are not talking about grammar or vocabulary meanings, we are dealing with how words collocate with some words, but not with others and this is just something that if you are not a native, you will have a hard time deciding whether it is correct or a bad translation from your native language. The problem, of course, is that to your non-native ears it might sound perfect.
For example, let’s take this simple sentence
Global warming is produced by…
Does it sound Ok to you?
For a Spanish speaker, this sounds just right. But is it a natural collocation in English?
Doesn’t Global warming is caused by… sounds better?
Oh, this tool. I cannot tell you the number of times I have used it to teach English.
Not going to lie to you, although it’s one of my favourite sites to create visual activities, play buzz is way less exciting than using other tools such as Flipgrid. Still, a lot of fun.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t like teaching grammar. I’m not one of those enthusiastic teachers that eat up grammar books in search of the perfect written exercise to give students. I devour vocabulary and speaking activities, but to be honest, grammar exercises bore me. That must be the reason why I always try to find a fun activity so that not only my students but also me, can have a nice time when dealing with grammar. So, it felt really nice to create this visual activity where I could see my students using the First Conditional in context.
Firstly, after explaining the grammar we reinforced its form by watching this video I have created with Lumen5. This tool is the latest craze. If you are attending my workshop on “Using Images” on Tuesday 20 or Thursday 22 (Feb) this is one of the tools we are going to work with. Let me tell you that it is one of the easiest tools I have come across and nowadays, on social media, you can see a lot of presentations created with it.
Secondly, I asked my students to form small groups and discuss what you’ll see below. The questions are thought-provoking, morally challenging and with a touch of fun. It might also be a good idea to ask yourself what you would do in any of these situations.
Display the first photo+caption and ask students to finish the sentence using the first conditional. Encourage discussion within the group and then a whole class discussion.
If I find a wallet in the street, I might take it to the police.
If I find a wallet in the street, I will probably call the police to let them know I have found it, but will probably keep it until the owner called me.
Show the second picture+ caption and repeat procedure.
It’s Monday. I swear it was Friday when I last blinked. Exam time is inching closer and closer and I figure it’s about time I share part 2 of how I prepare my students to take oral exams. Please, note that attending classes and piling up dozens of photocopies helps, but this alone does not guarantee you are going to pass the exam. Practice. Keyword here.
In Part 2, you are going to read about the two-corner technique and the websites I use to help my students gather ideas.
What I am going to relate here is one of the reasons why I try to offer my students not only vocabulary and structures but also ideas. Yes, I present them with different ideas, but I don’t ask them to study and use them as if they were theirs, I ask them to discuss them. Why? Mainly because by discussing ideas they can develop their own, acquire some others and also learn to challenge opinions they do not agree with.
You have probably heard students, or experience if you are one, talk about this fear of not knowing what to say.
Only last week I set a writing activity to be done in class. I asked students to write for about 20 minutes giving their opinion about a topic we had already discussed in class.
I observed one of my students was not writing but staring into space. After 5 minutes, I approached him and asked why he wasn’t writing. He said he could not come up with any ideas, said he wasn’t inspired and that he was afraid this would happen on the day of the exam.
And I worry. Even though my students study hard, sometimes they find it hard to think on their feet and start talking or writing.
It’s with this in mind that I try to provide my students not only with grammar and vocabulary but also with other people’s points of view on a given topic so that they can discuss these ideas and develop their own arguments. Speaking is not only talking about what you would do but also about what you wouldn’t do.
Topic: Ebooks versus paper Books
Level: B2 (upper-intermediate)
Time: about 30 minutes
Step 1. Brainstorming vocabulary. As usual, we brainstorm vocabulary on the board. This is a necessary step as you don’t want students to get stuck because they can’t come up with a term.
Step 2. Posing the question. I write on the board ht e big question. In this case: What do you prefer? Ebooks or paper books?
Step 3. Using the two-corner teaching technique. This technique is actually called the four- corner technique, but I find a two-corner approach suits my classes better. With this technique, you get your students out of their seats and thinking about the topic they are going to discuss. In one corner of the classroom, I put up a notice saying paper books and in another corner a notice with ebooks written on it.
I ask students, still in their seats, to think which corner of the room they would choose and think of the reasons why they prefer one choice to another. After a bit of thinking time, I ask them to stand up and go to their corner of the room. Once there, they talk to the members of their group sharing ideas and talking about why they favour one choice and not the other.
Step 4. Getting ideas from other sources.
Time to see how others express your same idea and maybe get some others. Give students in favour of ebooks handout A and give handout B to students who prefer paper books. Let them read it and comment it in their groups.
Step 5. Persuading and Convincing
This is the part I like best. Pair up students from both corners. Their aim will be to campaign on behalf of their choice and try to convince a student from the opposite corner to flip sides.
For this activity, I have used the website https://netivist.org/ , which is a platform where users can debate and engage in thoughtful discussion sharing different points of view.
As I thrust this lesson plan towards my students, I realize how little I know about what some environmentally-related terms mean. I know I have heard people talking about the carbon footprint and acid rain, but honestly, I have never given it much thought. I recycle. I really try to. I don’t eat meat and try to buy local products. But thinking hard. I guess that’s it. I am drowning in eco-guilt, but this needs to change.
I have promised myself two very simple things: to use reusable shopping bags and to cut down on the minutes I spend singing in the shower. The shower thing is going to be hard. Really hard.
I have just read in the The Guardian this list with 50 easy ways to save the planet. Really, point 16 and 34 are just gross.
This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2 (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to the environment and environmental issues through a variety of engaging activities which will help them improve listening and speaking.
You can see this lesson in digital format here and you will also find it embedded at the end of this post
Introducing the Topic
On the board, write I’m eco-guilty of … Ask students in pairs to discuss their environmental dirty secret and then come up to the whiteboard and write it down. Help with vocabulary and then, discuss some the eco-sins written on the board.
Listening: How Environmentally Friendly are you?
Lead in: ask students, in pairs, to write their best tips on how to be environmentally friendly. Write their suggestions on the board.
Listening Comprehension: How to be environmentally friendly.
This is a note-taking exercise.Students listen to some more tips and write them down. Comment on the tips. Correct using subtitles.
Vocabulary: Revising and Introducing New Vocabulary.
After doing the previous activities, students will probably have learnt lots vocabulary. Yes, I know. Wishful thinking. Anyway, let’s keep trying. Draw a mind- map on the board and brainstorm newly-acquired vocabulary drilling pronunciation. Introduce some new terms if appropriate.
Here’sthe vocabulary my students will need to learn and use.
Speaking Activity using Posters
An activity my students always enjoy is gallery-walking. It gives them the opportunity to get out of their seats and interact with other students in the class.
Display posters on the walls containing some predictions about the future. See my posters here.
Ask students, in pairs, to write on a post-it (a scrap of paper+ sellotape would do) a list of 5 words or expressions they have learned related to the topic. Take their lists and put them on the walls next to the posters. There should be at least one list per poster.
Gallery Walk: ask students, in pairs or small groups, to stand up and discuss the sentences written on the posters making sure they use some of the words on the list.
Listening: Environmental Issues our Planet is Facing.
Warm up: Ask students, in pairs, to brainstorm environmental issues our planet is facing. Write their suggestions on the board and discuss them.
The listening task: Play the video below ( only from 0:00 to 1:35)and ask students to find the answers to the following :
How old is the earth?
How old is the human race?
List 4 general problems mentioned in the video related to the sea, the animals, the ocean and climate change
Check their answers. Play the video with the subtitles on.
In this part, students will work in pairs. Encourage the use of the vocabulary they have learned in previous exercises. Use the lists of vocabulary students wrote for the posters activity, giving each pair of students one of these lists. Ask them to swap lists as we move through the questions.
Embedded below. you will find the online lesson with the questions for discussion. Just scroll down the different activities.
Students, in pairs, talk about the topics suggested in the pictures. Brainstorm ideas for a minute or so, and ask them to speak for about 4 minutes.
It is said that you need to use a new word at least ten times to be able to remember it. I don’t know what to say about it.
I should probably not be saying this, I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t let it pass. For some students, using the word once or twice is enough and for some others, you can work on it and repeat it until the cows come home and still, no luck. If you are a teacher, I know you understand what I mean. Fortunately, this is not true for most of my students 🙂 🙂
This is a simple activity you can do to encourage the use of newly-acquired vocabulary and to help students remember it.
I’m afraid if you don’t have a computer and OHP in your classroom, this activity would probably be useless to you. So, I won’t blame you if you stop reading right now.
Topic: Travelling and holidays. (You can easily use any other topic).
Level: Upper -intermediate (I would say this activity will work well with B1 students and upwards)
Time: about 30 minutes
Activating previous vocabulary. I introduced the topic by asking students to discuss in pairs some uncomplicated questions, such as:
What kind of holidays do you prefer? Do you prefer package holidays or making your own?
2.Introducing new vocabulary. Nothing fancy here. I introduced and worked on new vocabulary using a variety of activities, but most from their textbook.
Boring part over.
Brainstorming. I asked students to close their books and, in pairs, brainstorm words and expressions related to the topic. I completely forbade “easy” words such as plane, ticket or suitcase. Reserve some “Awesomes and well-dones” for the advanced vocabulary they are likely to provide.
Using a word cloud. In my computer, I opened the free word cloud generator https://wordart.com/ . I like this tool for two reasons:
it allows you to maintain words together very easily.
It very nicely highlights the words you want to work with.
I asked a student to help me with the typing of the words. So while I was writing on the board the words students volunteered, he was typing these same words in the wordart app.
Magic. When all the words were written and after drilling pronunciation and meaning, I cleaned the board, turned on the overhead projector and magically displayed the word cloud containing all words they had provided.
(click on the image)
Steps 1, 2 and 3 took about 5 minutes.
Teams. I divided the class into two teams and asked a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the word cloud was displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B. Place a table (or two) in front of the students and on the table(s) place two reception bells. I got mine from the Chinese Bazaar shops. If you can’t find the bells, any other sound would do! But, there has to be a sound, mainly, because it’s fun!
Team A starts. I point to a word (very nicely highlighted in this app) and team A has to describe the word to their captain using synonyms or paraphrasing. The only problem is that both Captains can press the bell if they know the word. Teams have 1m 30´ to describe as many words as possible.
Award one point for each correct guess.
Some more rules:
If the two captains press the bell and answer at the same time, the point is awarded to the captain whose team is playing.
If the two captains answer at the same time, but one of them has not pressed the bell, the point is awarded to the other team.
If a captain gives the wrong answer, he cannot answer again until the other captain has had a chance at guessing. In this case, the other team can try to explain the word to their captain.
Have fun while teaching and your students will learn better!!!
I have to say that I have an incredibly complicated relationship with grammar. I don’t like it and that’s my problem. I wouldn’t go as far as Michel de Montaigne and say “The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar”, that’s probably going too far but, for me, “Grammar is a piano I play by ear” as Joan Didion said,.
Obviously, this is something that, as a teacher, I cannot share with my students.
So, in order to make teaching grammar more palatable, I am forever trying to present it in a more appealing way. Not only to my students, but also to me.
Embedded below is a more visual explanation of the use and omission of the relative adverbs: where, when and why.
I have used one of my fav free tools, PlayBuzz, which is not specifically designed to be used as a teaching tool but it really has a lot of potential for language teaching.