Tag Archives: grammar

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.

Lacking inspiration? 6 awesome resource websites to find stuff for your classes

I like to consider myself a creative person and I’m always designing and devising activities to step away from the course book with the aim of sparking students ‘interest. Unfortunately, I’m not always in that mood. No problem :)Luckily, there are plenty of websites offering free resources that can really save the day.

These are my favourite go-to sites when I am feeling kind of lazy or uninspired, but still want to shine in class.


TED 4 ESL. Great for listening comprehension

This website offers activities based mostly on TED Talks videos. It provides free downloadable students’ and teachers’ worksheets and you can choose the video by topic or level (B1, B2 and C1)



Print and discuss.  Stimulating conversation questions

This site doesn’t probably offer an astonishing variety of discussion topics, but I find the questions in each set quite stimulating. Scroll down the page to find their selection of topics for your conversation classes.



EFL Magazine- Resources. Anything you need is probably here.

EFL magazine has collected a host of great resources from different sites around the world.

The site has an excellent collection of resources for teachers. There are sections for grammar, pronunciation, functions, business, tests, speaking topics, vocabulary and lesson plans.



Teaching English- British Council. Excellent for lesson plans and methodology

This is an excellent site. The section for lesson plans specifically offers well-designed lesson plans to suit adults and teens. It also provides downloadable worksheets for both teachers and students.

Highly recommendable is also their Facebook page where tips, ideas, practical advice and lesson plans are offered.



 Road to Grammar. Awesome for quizzes.

Road to Grammar is the place to go if you want to find a simple interactive grammar or vocabulary quiz. Don’t miss the Games Section with my favourite online game Fluent. It’s addictive!

You might also want to have a look at Road to Grammar Junior



Busy Teachers. Also called “teacher’s paradise”.

Awesome compilation of resources for every level. On this site, you’ll find worksheets for grammar, vocabulary, speaking, reading, writing and pronunciation among other things.

My favourite section is the Listening Section, where you can filter the activities by level (from complete beginner to advancedd)


Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Click to follow!


What are favourite sites? Can you add to the list?

Life Begins at 70: a Future Perfect and Future Continuous Lesson

To me, old age is always ten years older than I am”  John Burroughs

In this engaging lesson students will consolidate the use of future perfect and future perfect continuous through some engaging activities.


WARM UP


Show them a picture of how you see yourself when you are 70 and explain why you see yourself like that. (below you’ll see the picture I showed my students). After some laughs and a bit of explaining, ask students:

How do you see yourselves when you are 70? Do you look forward to getting old?

Ask them to talk in pairs for two or three minutes and get feedback.


THE POEM- WARMING by Jenny Joseph


This is a nice opportunity to introduce poetry in class.

Explain that the poem they are about to listen/read, written by Jenny Joseph,  goes hand in hand with the picture of yourself shown above. After listening to the poem, ask students whether they think the author is looking forward to getting old and why.

It seems the poetess is rebellious, but she is only comfortable to ‘break the rules’ when she has the excuse of old age and senility. Ask students what they think about her attitude.


GALLERY WALK

  • On the walls of the class display pictures of elderly people reflecting different attitudes towards life when they are old.
  • Ask students to stand up, have a look at all of them and decide which one will best represent their attitude to life. They now return to their desks.
  • Ask them to write two sentences using the future perfect and two sentences using the future continuous, based on the picture they have chosen.
  • Get students in threes now and ask them to explain their choice to their partners and use the 4 sentences they have written.
  • For example and based on my picture
  • I will have tried parachuting when I am 70
  • I will have probably written a recipe book.
  • I will probably be living in Bhutan
  • I will be living life to the fullest

I have used these pictures  to display on the walls, and this presentation when giving feedback see  here.


SPEAKING


Students now work in small groups and answer the following questions about the future. Remind them that they need to elaborate on their answers giving reasons and using different expressions to give opinion. All the questions contain either a future perfect or a future continous form; encourage students to use these tenses in their answers.

You might find this handout useful

Looking Forward to the Future

2 Fresh & Fun Activities to Practise Both, Neither and Either

If you think that teaching both, neither and either is a bit boring, I have good news for you. In fact, I dare say great news!  It can also be fun!

It’s no secret on here that I love having fun in my classes but what people may not know is that although flexible when necessary, my classes are carefully planned and  games are not played just  to keep my students entertained; on the contrary, they are carefully designed and used to improve certain abilities and with a clear goal in mind. If at the same time we can have a nice time, that’s the icing on the cake.


1.SOULMATES

This is a team game and it aims at practising the structures

  • Both/Neither of them
  • Both… and / neither…nor

Materials:

  • 2 white cards with YES written on one side and NO on the other
  • Teacher’s here

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide the class into two or three teams.
  2. Ask the teams to select two people to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will sit facing their team.
  3. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  4. Explain you’re going to give each of the two members of the team a white card withYES written on one side and NO on the other. Tell them you’re going to ask them 10 yes/no questions.
  5. Their team will score a point every time these two students show the same answer to the questions asked, and the team provides a correct sentence containing the target structure.
  6. Repeat procedure for Teams B and C and give a big applause to the winners.

Example 1.

  • Teacher asks: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: YES     Student B: YES
  • TeamBoth of them have scored 10 out of 10 in an exam / Both Mary and Peter have  scored 10 out of 10 in an exam (1 point)

Example 2.

  • Teacher asks: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: NO    Student B: NO
  • Team: Neither of themhave/has scored 10 out of 10 in an exam / Neither Mary nor Peter has scored 10 out of 10 in an exam (1point)

Example 3

  • Teacher: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: YES     Student B: YES (0 points)

2. CHANGING SCHOOLS

This communicative activity has two parts.

In part 1, students will have a conversation where the aim is to agree with their partner using the structures:

  • So do I- to agree with a positive statement
  •  Neither do I or  I don’t either- to agree with a negative statement

In part 2, students will report back to the class using:

  • Both/Neither of us…
  • We both…
  • Both … and … / Neither … nor…

PROCEDURE. 

PDF teacher’s here

  1. Ask students to work in pairs and give them Handout A and B.
  2. Ask them to complete the answers.
  3. Explain the context. You have just changed schools and you don’t know anybody in the class. You want to make new friends quickly and the best way, if not the most honest one, would be to agree with whatever the student sharing your desks says. So, five minutes before the next class starts you decide to strike a conversation with the student sitting next to you.
  • Start by introducing yourself and then ask your classmate some questions.
  • Your classmate will introduce himself and also ask some questions. Make sure you agree with everything he/she says using the structures.

So do I- to agree with a positive statement

Neither do I or I don’t either- to agree with a negative statement

  1. Ask students to report back to the class using:
  • Both/Neither of us..
  • We both…
  • Both … and … / Neither … nor…

Ex. Both of us have one brother/We both have one brother/ Both Peter and me have one brother

Neither of us can speak Norwegian/ Neither Peter nor me can speak Norwegian

Example Handout Student A


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Introducing Reported Speech Statements,Questions and Orders in a Different Way

This week’s post was not supposed to be a grammar post, it just so happened to turn out like that. Come to think of it, I have been teaching lots of grammar lately so I shouldn’t be surprised if my brain is filled with ideas for grammar teaching.

If I want my classes to be different from the ones I had when I was studying English at school (teacher-centred and book-centred), I cannot introduce all those digital tools I’m so keen on using and then go and spoil it all by asking students to read straight from a photocopy when it comes to grammar. I’m not saying it’s the wrong way to go about it, I’m just saying it’s not the way I teach or the way I’d like to be taught.

Admittedly, grammar is grammar, but can we make it a bit more appealing to our students?

Reported speech is probably one of my favourite grammar points and this is how I have introduced reported speech statements, questions and orders in my classes this week.


INTRODUCING STATEMENTS.

To introduce statements I often use quotes from famous people. The presentation you’ll see below is one I often use as my students, for the most part, are adults. But if you’re teaching teenagers, you can easily change the people in the slides and use celebrities they can relate to.

So the idea is to play the presentation, read the quote and then ask: “What did Marilyn say?” Guide students through the changes in reported speech and then show the second slide where the reported sentence is displayed.


INTRODUCING QUESTIONS.

I’ve been introducing reported speech questions in this way all my teaching career. The reason? Students collaborate from minute one and this is something I treasure.

I tell the students my son Daniel is 4 years old and he’s always asking questions. With all the drama I can muster I tell them that yesterday I got home really tired and wanted to rest a bit but my son Daniel had other plans for me and could not stop asking questions.

I draw on the board a boy and I call him Daniel and a woman and I call her Cristina- my name. I draw a big bubble next to Daniel and I ask students to guess what sort of questions he might have asked me. As they provide the questions I write them inside the speech bubble making sure there is a variety of wh- and yes/no questions and a variety of tenses. Once the questions have been written, I go on telling them that when my husband got home I was lying on the sofa with an ice pack on my forehead and looking dead tired  -remember drama is important- and when he enquired why I was so tired I told him all about my day and how I couldn’t rest because Daniel had asked all those questions.

  • He asked me why I was smiling
  • He wanted to know if he could watch cartoons.

INTRODUCING REQUESTS AND ORDERS.

To introduce request and orders I write inside a circle on the board

First day instructions

and ask students to try to remember some of the instructions I gave them on the very first day in class.  Encourage them to tell you the exact words I used. They will probably say:

  • Use English
  • Put your mobiles on silent mode
  • Don’t be late.
  • Change partners regularly.
  • Don’t forget to bring your workbook

Write them on the board and choose a student who couldn’t attend that first day.

Tell students they now need to inform this student of the instructions I gave this very first day.

  • The teacher told us to use English in class
  • Cristina told us not to forget to bring our workbook

Hope it’s helpful! You might also be interested in this other post

Some nice activities to practise Reported Speech

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Some Activities to Teach Gerunds and Infinitives

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

The easy thing to say is that

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

But then we find that,

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

And to add insult to injury,

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

Amazing, isn’t it?

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


  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time: 60 minutes

THE GRAMMAR.

      THE PRACTICE:

Exercise 1. The Quiz


 


Exercise 2: The Rewriting Exercise


 


3.  Speaking and/or Writing: Storytelling Competition


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

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

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The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

Teaching Both, Neither and Either with List.ly

Several times I have been on the verge of almost writing a post exclusively to share with you this beautiful presentation tool without any reference whatsoever to English teaching.

But I didn’t. I don’t know why, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Normally posts about tools and apps you can use in the classroom go unnoticed, unless you’re clearly into incorporating technology into your classes.

So, next week I’ll be teaching the grammar for both, neither and either and I thought it would be nice to use this tool to present and teach these pronouns as, among other things, List.ly helps you build beautiful presentations, add text and links.

Now, if you’re not interested in incorporating List.ly into your classes, you can skip all about List.ly below and go straight for the grammar. 🙂 although I hope you don’t.


About List.ly


What is List.ly?

Basically it’s a tool for creating and curating lists. With List.ly you can

  • Curate content
  • Create original post content
  • Get feedback from your students

Other features

  • You can add items with or without links, photos, text, video, audio…etc
  • Also, it’s a highly collaborative tool. Students can participate:

-by voting individual lists items up or down

-by adding to the lists

-by writing comments

  • It’s free ( you can create 3 free lists) and you can easily share it and embed it on your blog.
  • You can choose from 6 formats: list, gallery, magazine, slideshow, minimal and badge.
  • You can make it private. You can obtain the link and share it privately.
  • You can moderate the list to approve any comments or contributions to the list.
  • You can decide the order in your list: curated order (great for collaborative storytelling), crowdrank (great for voting), alphabetical or newest.
  • Below you can see some of the things you can add to your list

 Tutorial: here

   How can I use it in the classroom?

Given that you can allow students to collaborate, there are endless possibilities. To mention just a few:

  • Create a list of tips. For example: for scoring high in the oral exam and have students vote the most helpful.
  • Choose a topic, for ex. stereotypes and let students add their own ideas to the list.
  • Create a list linking to specific content they need to see or study: videos, grammar exercises, topic-related lessons, …etc.
  • As you can also upload audio, give them a topic for discussion and ask them to add to the discussion by uploading a recording with their own view on the issue.
  • Create beautiful presentations with links to extra content.
  • Writing contest: share their writing and ask students to vote on the best.
  • Start a list with the songs they would like to work with, ask them to add their favourites and then vote on the best.
  • Collaborative Speaking activity: brainstorming of ideas.

Any other ideas?

 


 Using BOTH, NEITHER AND EITHER


  1. Traditional? Pdf with exercises here. 
  2.   A bit less traditional? Down here!

I have embedded the presentation using two formats:

  • slideshow format
  •  List format
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