Tag Archives: grammar

Please, Come In! 3 Activities to Start Off the Course on the Right Foot

Ahh almost October! How are we here already?

I can’t even wrap my head around the idea that this is going to be my 27th year teaching English. Time, please stand still! OMG, It makes me cringe to even think about it! Ugh. But, here we are.This is life.

I know, I know. Most of you have already started classes in late August or early  September, but here in the EOI in Asturias, we dedicate the whole month of September to assessing written and oral exams. Nothing to envy here, trust me!

Anyway, a new school year, new students, a fresh start, a clean slate. I feel like in these 27 years I have tried all the different get-to-know-you activities that have been used all around the world, so this year I’m going to recycle and tweak some of my favourite activities,  changing the context to fit the mood.

So, the plan for the first day is the one below. An interactive game to revise grammar and vocabulary from the previous year (lots of fun, but also lots of learning) and not one, but 2 highly engaging speaking activities that can be considered, if you wish, get-to-know-each-other activities but that can be easily adapted to any context.

Activity 1. A Kahoot to revise

We will start the course playing a Kahoot to revise some of the content studied in the previous course. Always fun and to be honest, I am going to be recycling the one I did last year. That’s one of the things I like about technology, it’s paperless, recyclable and “findable”( meaning, easy to find,  yes, I know, I have just invented the word)

If you ask students to play in pairs or in threes, you’ll just need a device for each group. I like playing Kahoots in groups. It enhances learning as students will need to discuss the right answer and it’s more engaging and therefore much more fun.

This is the link in case you want to use my Kahoot. Here

 

Activity 2.  Welcome post-it notes

(I know! It looks home-made, but this is because it is)

  • On one wall of the class, I have displayed the word “Welcome” formed using Post-it notes, as in the picture.
  • On the back of each post-it note, I have written a question that will help students and teachers get to know each other.
  • I have asked students to stand up and pick a post-it note containing a question.
  • I have asked students to remain standing, pair up with another student and ask each other the questions on their post-it notes.
  • I have allowed them about 4 minutes to ask and answer their questions before asking them to find a new partner.
  • I have also participated in this mingle activity. After all, I also want them to know me and it gives me a good chance to assess their English.
  • Please, refrain from overcorrecting or even correcting. It’s their first day.

Can’t think of questions to ask? This site has you covered. bit.ly/2zqxcJP

Idea for the post inspired by Post-it.com

Activity 3. Yes, I have, I have never

This activity is just so much fun.  What do we need? We need slips of paper, as many as students in the class. I normally fold a regular sheet of paper in half, lengthwise, and get two slips of paper.

  • I ask students to write on one side I HAVE and, on the other side, I HAVE NEVER. Ask them to write the words big enough to see from a distance.
  • Tell students you are going to ask them questions and they should display their slip of paper with their answer to the question.

For example. Imagine that I ask  Have you ever failed an English exam?

In the picture below, you can see Julio, the German teacher, and me exemplifying the possible answers (sorry, as I said, classes have not started yet and I had to bribe a colleague).

  • Choose one or two students to elaborate on their answer and then ask another question and repeat procedure.
  • To add to the fun, and because it’s also important that students get to know you,  you should also have a slip of paper and once or twice give some details about you.

Note: Make sure you ask randomly I have and I have never answers, otherwise some students might never display the I have option.

Possible questions:

  • Have you ever been on TV?
  • Have you ever won a contest a received a prize?
  • Have you ever been stuck in a lift?
  • Have you ever got in trouble at school?
  • have you ever helped someone who was in danger?

Get more questions here and here  

Hope you have liked my first post! If you do not want to miss any of my posts, you might  want to follow Blog de Cristina on Facebook and on Twitter.

Great to be back!!! I’ve missed you!

Learning or Teaching Reporting Verbs? 5 Low-Tech and High-Tech Activities

And finally, it’s springtime. “Here comes the sun da-da-da-da”. After, like two months raining non-stop and cold spells whimsically coming and going, I was beginning to flirt with the idea of leaving “sunny” Spain. But, fortunately, it seems spring is here to stay. And this means light. Don’t you feel more energetic when you wake up in the morning, and there is this beautiful sunny day waiting for you outside? I do.

It seems to me that even explaining reported speech introductory verbs is a lighter task.

Here you can read some of the activities I did with my students to introduce, revise and consolidate reporting verbs. I have used a variety of online free tools. Free tools, as usual.

  • Aim: to introduce, revise and consolidate reporting verbs other than “say” “ask” and “tell”
  • Level: B2

AN INFOGRAPHIC TO CONSOLIDATE THE GRAMMAR STRUCTURE OF SOME REPORTING VERBS

I like infographics. They are colourful and can be displayed on the walls of the class for students to refer back to if they, God forbid, forget the grammar of these verbs. Honestly? I like creating them. I like playing with the fonts, icons, lines and anything the site has to offer to create them.

reporting verbs by cristina.cabal    I have created this infographic with Canva.

Direct link here


A "HALF-A-CROSSWORD" GAME TO HELP THEM REMEMBER THE MOST COMMON REPORTING VERBS.

This kind of exercise gives students a nice opportunity to use a variety of skills.

I have used a free website with a very complicated name, which I am not even going to attempt to write. Here’s the link. The only thing you need to do is write the terms in the box provided and then print the outcome. It’s magic.


A GALLERY QUIZ: A MATCHING EXERCISE WITH SOME REPORTING VERBS

This exercise takes students a step further as they will have to associate the meaning of a sentence in direct speech with the corresponding reporting verb.

This is a visual exercise you can do more than once to consolidate knowledge.


A STUDY-SET OF FLASHCARDS

Students should be ready to get into more demanding exercises as are the ones I suggest below.

In this exercise, students orally provide the reporting sentence.  The exercise has been created with quizlet, a well-known free tool I highly recommend as study sets are very easy to create and it’s great for rote learning. Although it offers a premium version, the free one is quite generous.
Depending on how confident your students feel, you can set this task to be done as an individual written exercise or orally as a whole class exercise.

Created with quizlet


USING GRASS SKIRTS: A TRANSLATION EXERCISE

This is game from the archives. I highly recommend you do it with your students. Lots of learning and lots of fun too. Your students are going to adore you.

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.


THE FRUIT MACHINE: A MORE DEMANDING EXERCISE ALLEVIATED WITH A BIT OF FUN

This activity is probably the most challenging in this compilation.

How to go about it:

  • Divide the class into two teams, Team A and Team B. Ask a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the fruit machine is displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B.
  • Set a timer for 90 seconds.

The activity has two parts:

Part 1.  Team A starts playing. Spin the fruit machine and a reporting verb will be randomly chosen.

For example: Suggest

Team A  needs to, using direct speech, come up with a sentence to exemplify “suggest”

For example: “Why don’t we go to the cinema?”

Captain A needs to guess the reporting verb associated with the sentence. If he does his team scores 1 point.

Part 2. Ask team members to repeat their sentence and have Captain A report the sentence using the reporting verb in indirect speech. If he does, his team scores an extra point.

Teams have a maximum of 90 seconds to do part 1 and 2.

Now, it is Team B’s turn to play.

I have created this activity with classtools.net. Click on the image to see the fruit machine in action. Warning: you might want to turn down the volume in your computer.

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  😆 

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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First Conditional Sentences: Advanced Grammar and Moral Dilemmas for Discussion

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.

A Word on Grammar: Relative Adverbs: Where, When and Why. use and Omission

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.

 

Six Low-Preparation Vocabulary Activities for the English Classroom

When I teach something new, I’m always worried about one simple thing. Will my students internalise any time soon the new “whatever it is”? How can I help them? How long does it take for them to feel confident using the new structure/expression/word? How many times do they have to be exposed to the new term? How many different examples/contexts do you have to give them? How long does it take before a word becomes familiar and therefore usable?

This is an article I wrote for Voices, the British Council magazine, where I suggest  Six Low-Preparation Vocabulary Activities for the English Classroom, which can help.

Do you Think Translation Exercises are Boring? Just the Opposite!

Believe me, they don’t have to be boring. In fact, just the opposite.

I know some teachers consider translation activities a thing of the past and that, arguably, they should be banned from our classes. I don’t completely agree.
If I am honest with you, I can’t say that I like giving students a whole paragraph to translate, but a one-sentence translation exercise can help consolidate and reinforce grammar and vocabulary.
And it doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it can be a lot of fun. How?

Easy. Let’s combine a seemingly boring traditional exercise with an online fun tool and let’s turn it into a competition.

Preparation:

• Decide on few sentences you want students to translate. I’d suggest 6-8 sentences. If you like exploring tools, my favourite for this kind of activities is Playbuzz flip cards.
• Slips of paper

How to go about it:

1. Pair learners and give them as many slips of paper as sentences you want them to translate.
2. Write the first sentence on the board and ask students to translate into English. If you use the online tool I mentioned above, just show the first card. (See mine below)
3. Depending on the length or difficulty of the sentence to be translated, set a time limit.
4. Once the pair have their sentence, ask them to write it on the slip of paper big enough for you to see from a distance.
5. When the time is up, ask the pair to hold it up and quickly go through all the translated sentences awarding 1 point to the pair who has the correct translation.
6. The winner is the pair who get the most points.

Note: Be strict with spelling mistakes or any other tiny mistakes. Students love it when you are strict and don’t give away the points easily.

Follow-up: Revise again all the sentences, but this time orally.