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.
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.
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.
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 😆
I am not a big fan of watching TV. I find most programmes dull and very often uninteresting. However, one of the very first things I do as soon as I wake up (this, of course after my first cup of coffee) is to watch the news. However, lately, I have been considering skipping them. Is it me or do you have the impression that the news is filled with disaster and corruption? How can you be expected to rise and shine when the world is going crazy, when all the stories in the news are about crimes and criminals? I’d rather watch the weather forecast! Hey! Hold on!! Just heard about hurricanes and floods? I think I’ll stick to Netflix.
Anyway, please excuse my rambling and let me share with you some of the activities I have designed to help my students learn and practise vocabulary related to crime in a series of engaging speaking activities.
Using grass skirts. Making up a funny crime story
Choose a number of crimes and write them down. You can use my own template. See it here.
Cut a line between words (see picture) but don’t cut them all the way so that the slip of paper doesn’t detach.
Each poster contains 9 crimes. If you have between 10 and 18 students you will need two copies of the poster.
Put the poster(s) on the walls of the class.
Point to the posters on the walls of the class.
Tell students they will have about 10 minutes to make up a funny crime story. They can take notes but they cannot write the whole story.
Ask students to stand up and take a crime. They will do it by tearing off the piece of paper containing the crime.
Students sit down and began making up their funny crime stories.
In groups of 3 or 4, they share their stories and decide on the best story in the group.
The best story in each group will be then shared with the whole class and again the best story will be chosen.
Using a Feedback Tool to play a game to revise vocabulary.
This one is a lot of fun. Believe me!
Aim: to revise vocabulary related to crime using the free online tool Answergarden
If you have never used a feedback tool, you really should give it a try. I have used feedback tools and also backchannels in my classes in a number of ways to teach English and I like them for several reasons.
They are very effective
They tell you in real time whether students are really learning or not.
They give voice to all the students and not just to the ones who always raise hands.
They are fun and make classes more interesting and engaging.
Downside: it requires the use of devices with an internet connection. However, two students can share the same device.
If you find it hard to integrate technology into your classes, I run workshops on the use of online free tools in the language classroom (tool+practical tested ideas+practice designing your own activities- see workshops here)
Go to Answergarden and click on Create Answergarden
Type your topic or question
Set Classroom or Brainstorm Mode
Set the answer length to 20 characters
Click on Create and share the link with your students.
Students submit their answers and they are represented in the form of a growing word cloud.
Tip: Don’t forget to refresh your page to see all the answers the students are submitting or to choose the expand tab which will refresh the page automatically every 5 seconds.
Step 1. Creating the wordcloud
Share the link for the Answergarden you have created and ask students to submit words related to crime. Their answers will be represented in the form of an attractive wordcloud.
(Note: This is an active answergarden. You can submit words, but please, only words related to crime 🙂
Step 2. Playing
Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the word cloud is displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B. Place a table in front of the students and on the table place two reception bells. If you can’t find the bells, any other sound would do! But, there has to be a sound, mainly, because it’s fun!
Set a timer for 90 seconds. Teams have 1m 30´ to describe as many words as possible. Point to a word and ask the class to describe the word using synonyms, definitions or paraphrasing. If a captain knows the word, he will need to press the bell and then say the word.
If the answer is correct, his team scores a point and the game continues in the same way until the time runs out. The teams choose other captains to continue playing.
If the answer is incorrect, he won’t be allowed to guess again until the other captain has had a chance at guessing.
Random Questions- A Speaking Activity.
I have created the presentation with questions to discuss about crime and punishment with the free tool Genial.ly
Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “ to be sentenced to” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “sentenced “.
Click on the random question button in the presentation. Ask students to swap slips of paper with their partners and get them to discuss the question reminding them to use as many words from the slip of paper as possible. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.
Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.
Click on the random question button in the presentation again and repeat procedure.
Hope you have enjoyed the activities.
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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.
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?
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!!!
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 lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2 (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to health and illnesses through a variety of engaging activities which will help them improve listening and speaking.
This lesson plan works well on its own, but I have used it to complement Unit 2 of the course book New English File Upper-intermediate.
The Hot Seat. Revising and consolidating vocabulary.
A fun way to revise and consolidate vocabulary is playing the hot seat with the wheel of fortune.
Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard
Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game. Tell them each team will have one minute to describe and guess as many words as possible.
Spin the wheel. Team A will have to define the word for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will spin the wheel again for the same team. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word.
Repeat procedure for Team B.
Role-Play: at the doctor's
At this stage, students will have already learned the vocabulary for minor and more serious illnesses and conditions so now, it’s time to practise it.
Step 1. Working on pronunciation
On the board, write some of the words students have found most difficult to pronounce and revise their pronunciation. In my case, they might include:
Stomach ache cough temperature consciousness sprained antibiotics antihistamine wound blood pressure medicine paracetamol
Step 2. Visiting the doctor
Ask students about the last time they were ill. What symptoms did they have? Did they go to the doctor? What was the treatment? Did you follow his advice? Could you go to work/school?
Tell students that they are going to role-play a conversation at the doctor’s where half the class will be patients and the other half will be doctors.
Students playing the role of patients will get a card with their ailment and they will need to talk to the doctor, describe their ailment and get some advice or treatment.
Students playing the role of doctors will have to ask questions and then prescribe some medicine, if necessary, and give some advice (rest, diet…etc).
Build the basic guidelines of the conversation on the board with the students’ help
Doctor: “Good morning/afternoon. What seems to be the problem?”
Patient: “I haven’t been feeling well for a few days/ I don’t feel well”. Explain your symptoms
Doctor: Asks more questions like ” Are you taking anything for… ?“Do you have a headache”? When did it start?” Have you taken your temperature?” …etc
Ask half the class (the doctors) to remain seated at their desks and ask the other half (the patients) to stand up and move to a corner of the room. Give each of the patients a card with their illness and ask them to choose a doctor and role-play the conversation.
When a student playing the role of patient finishes, he should go back to the corner and wait there for another student (patient) to swap the cards. Students will role-play as patients twice.Once this step is over, change roles: patients will now be doctors and doctors will role-play as patients. Give them new cards or reuse the previous ones.
Listening comprehension: Complementary and alternative medicine
Write “alternative medicine” on the board and ask students if they know what it is and if they have ever tried it.
Tell students they are going to watch a video where Dr Mc Cann discusses traditional medicine and alternative medicine. Ask them to listen once and then, in pairs, share any ideas they got from the video.
Ask students to listen a second time (even a third, if necessary) and answer the following:
True or False? Justify your answers
Integrative medicine is a combination of traditional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine.
At medical school, professors show you some alternative and complementary medical practice.
Dr McCAnn thinks a doctor needs to treat patients with either conventional or alternative medicine
According to alternative medicine, the human being can heal himself
Patients of integrative medicine are willing to take an active role in their healing process.
Some patients of integrative medicine are not ill at all.
Dr McCAnn believes integrative medicine is here to stay.
Answers: At the end of this post
Going the extra mile: Introducing more advanced vocabulary
To feel under the weather = to feel slightly ill
To be as fit as a fiddle= to be healthy
To phone in sick= to call work and say you’re ill
To suffer from a disease
To be a hypochondriac or a cyberchondriac /ˌhaɪ.pəˈkɒn.dri.ək/
To give someone a diagnosis /ˌdaɪ.əɡˈnəʊ.sɪs/ Ex: The doctor cannot give a diagnosis without doing some tests
To treat an illness such as asthma, depression, high blood pressure
To relieve a headache, dental pain, arthritis /ɑːˈθraɪ.tɪs/
To practise self-medication with non-prescription medicines /ˈmed.ɪ.sən//ˈmed.sən/
To have an operation, to undergo an operation
To donate organs, to be a donor
To go down with a cold / the flu
To need surgery /ˈsɜː.dʒəi/
A life-threatening illness
A tumour /ˈtʃuː.mər/ (UK) /ˈtuː.mɚ/ (US). Ex: Brain tumours develop in fewer than one in 50,000 people
The side effects of drugs
Integrative medicine: a combination of traditional and alternative medicine
Alternative medicine /ɒlˈtɜː.nə.tɪv/
Homeopathy /ˌhəʊ.miˈɒp.ə.θi/: a way of treating illnesses using very small amounts of natural substances,
Osteopathy /ˌɒs.tiˈɒp.ə.θi/: the treatment of injuries to bones and muscles using pressure and movement
Reflexology: a treatment in which your feet are rubbed and pressed in a special way in order to improve blood flow and help you relax,
Acupuncture /ˈæk.jə.pʌŋk.tʃər/: to insert very fine needles into the body at points along the meridians
Controversial Statements about health.Discussion Posters
Using vocabulary is key in this lesson. In fact, all the lesson is aimed at motivating students to use vocabulary they are already familiar with and to give them a chance to use newly-learnt terms.
So, this lesson could not finish without devising another strategy to help them use the target vocabulary; this time with the help of visual images in the form of posters and with controversial statements that will, hopefully, spark discussion.
Procedure: Gallery Walk
On the wall of the class, display the posters. Ask students in threes to choose a poster and discuss the statement written on it. Encourage the use of target vocabulary.
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.
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.
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.