8 Engaging ESL Activities for Teaching about Travelling

Engaging ideas and activities revolving about the topic of travelling coming right up!

These are some of the activities I have been doing with my upper-intermediate students. I thought I might share them with you, in case it saves you some time.

I have split the activities into two days as some of the activities in Day 2 require studying the vocabulary introduced in Day 1.

DAY 1

Activity 1: Tapping into students' previous knowledge with  Half a Crossword

As my students are upper-intermediate, it is not the first time they study this popular topic.  Therefore, to revise some of the words I thought they knew, I used the website Half a crossword. I wrote about this useful website here.

Activity 2: Introducing new vocabulary

Addicted to using technology in my class, as I have confessed time and again, I have used Genial.ly to create some flashcards.  The flashcards were initially used in class and then shared with them to encourage revision outside the walls of the classroom.

The flashcards contain common collocations related to travelling, but some words are missing. Before flipping the card, students try to guess the hidden word(s). The initial letters are provided to make guessing easier for them.

Note: click on the 3 dots to enlarge the presentation.

 

Activity 3:  Using their own pictures.

Think about it: how many pictures are stored on our mobile phones? What could engage students more than talking about what is real for them, about their own experiences, about their own trips?

Ask students to take out their mobile phones and ask them to choose their favourite picture from their last holiday. Allow some minutes for this part. Ask students to work in pairs or threes. Ask them to show the picture to their partners talking about it and sharing the story behind the picture.  Encourage the use of the collocations in the exercise above.

DAY 2

Activity 4: Flexible seating using cards with common collocations and their pronunciation

This “flexible seating” strategy is quickly becoming one of my favourites to pair students with different partners. I explained the strategy here

For this exercise, I sellotaped to the back of the chairs of the classroom the phonetic transcription of the collocations studied in the flashcard activity. This way, I killed two birds with one stone as the exercise helped me to revise the collocations and ensure they pronounced the words in the correct way.  To transcribe the collocations, I used a website I have been using for years. Check it out here.

Cards here

Activity 5: Speaking: conversation questions

Using a presentation with some conversation questions I created on Spark Adobe some years ago, I asked my students to discuss the questions trying to use the collocations studied in Activity  4.

Every two questions, I gathered all the cards containing the collocations, shuffled them and redistributed them. This meant, standing up and finding the matching card with the corresponding pronunciation and then, sitting on that chair and talking to a different student.

Off the Beaten Track

Activity 6: Speaking: Ethical Dilemmas

Groups of 4 students.  I displayed the first dilemma and asked students to pair up within the group and discuss for some minutes what they would do.  Then, I asked them to share their ideas in their groups and finally, we had a whole-class discussion.

 

Activity 7:  Gallery Walk with Posters and Vocabulary on Cards

I created some posters using Canva.com and put them on the walls of the classroom. To form groups, I numbered them off and asked all number 1s to form a group, all number 2s to form a group, …etc. This way, I made sure they worked with different students.

Before the class, I put the 5 posters up on the walls of the class. Next to the posters, I also put 3 or 4 cards containing common collocations from Activity 4.

I instructed the groups to choose a poster and discuss the question in the poster trying to use the vocabulary in the cards.

I did not set a time for each poster, I gave them the freedom to discuss as much as they wanted but encouraged them to do at least three posters. I dedicated 25  minutes to this activity.

Posters here

Activity 8:  Using Google Maps Street View for Virtual Travelling

Giving your class a touch of modernity can’t get any easier. Ask your students to choose a city – any city in the world is at your fingertips-, and ask them to give a short speech about that city.  Just open Google Maps, write the keywords in the search box, drag the Pegman and enjoy the virtual trip. For more details, click here

Virtual Travelling: An Innovative Easy-to-Set Speaking Project

Virtual travelling must be the next best thing to actually travelling. Arguably, of course.

Using technology in the class is a risk. There are a number of things that can go wrong, so why do teachers still dedicate time and effort to introducing tech in their classrooms?  Could it be because classes become more…

  • fun
  • effective
  • engaging
  • interesting

to name just a few perks?  And if this is not enough to convince you to give it a try, just ask yourself this simple question: can we honestly, in the XXIc, be teaching as we were taught when we were kids? I know taking risks is not at the top of your list, but the truth is that if we want to get different results, we need to start doing different things or at least doing things in a different way ( hope A. Einstein forgives me for tweaking his words a bit).  We need to step out of our comfort area and try new things. Believe me when I tell you, making the effort pays off. If I have managed to pique your curiosity, go on reading; if I haven’t, you may want to stop reading right now because what follows is an example of how easy it is to use technology in our classes.

  • Topic: travelling
  • Level: any
  • Skills: reading, speaking, using technology

The activity

Steps 1.  Deciding where to go
  • Students get into groups of three and decide on a place to virtually visit. Ask them to agree on a second option, just in case another group chooses the same place to visit.
Step 2: Explaining Google Maps Street View

In class, open Google Maps and explain how to use it. For example, in the search box, type Buckingham Palace and drag the little man (called Pegman) in the bottom right corner to the area that you want to explore. Unclick to drop Pegnam on a blue line, blue dot or orange dot on the map. To move around, hover your cursor in the direction that you want to go. Your cursor becomes an arrow that shows in which direction you’re moving. Students love it! ( see the video below for details (0:55)

Step 3: Working Collaboratively on a Google Document
  • Working collaboratively on a Google Doc, they decide three places to visit in that city/country. (see the how-to video below (1:20).

Step 4:  Researching and Writing
  • Students do some research on the Internet and write their speeches on the doc document.  Warn them not to copy/paste the information.
  • Once they have written their speeches, ask them to collaboratively polish their writing, correcting grammar mistakes or spelling errors.
  • Ask students to share the document with you and correct the most important mistakes.
Step 5: Virtual Travelling
  • Students take the stage and give their presentation to the rest of the class.
  • Tip: while one of the students is presenting, another member of the team can be operating on the computer

Travelling at our fingertips!!! Enjoy teaching, enjoy learning!

Dry Erase Boards to Help Fix Grammar and Spelling Mistakes from Essays

Happy February everyone! Finally January is over, and we can start dreaming with the spring.  And that reminds me that I need to start thinking about losing some weight. Well, every cloud has its silver lining! I know, I know, we are still in the thick of winter. One can only dream…

The second term is upon us and it’s now the time to give students the results of their tests. I am never super excited about it. While it’s nice to see how some students are making the most of the course and will pass with flying colours, some others aren’t that lucky and, believe me when I tell you that even after almost 3o years teaching, it still saddens me to see their disappointment. Some of them are smart enough to admit they have not studied enough but for some of them, it is not a question of how much effort they put into it.

And talking about exams, isn’t it true that students tend to always make the same mistakes? I am talking here about grammar and spelling mistakes. Now, how many of you have corrected the spelling of “writing” or a “people goes”. See? It shouldn’t be that difficult to correct if, when we teach what we know is bound to become a mistake, we teach, revise, reinforce and emphasize the correct form. If only it were that easy… I can hear you say!

Anyway, these are some of the most easy-to-fix mistakes my B2 students have made in their essays. Problem is that if I give them their exams with the mistakes underlined and corrected, they are going to say “oh yes, silly me, I know the grammar for this, teacher!” and after a brief glimpse at the mistake, they are just going to forget it. What? Over my dead body!

On the blog, there are a lot of games and strategies to help students analyze and fix their written mistakes. This is just a new one! Fun, but also hopefully, effective!

For this activity, I have used a template that won my heart as soon as I spotted it on Genial.ly and some dry erase boards, which you can easily substitute by a regular A4 sheet of paper. You can, but it is more fun if you use a dry board. Don’t know why, but it is. Trust me.

Dry Erase Boards to Help Fix Grammar and Spelling Mistakes from Essays

You need

  • Grammar and spelling mistakes  from students’ essays.
  • Dry Erase Boards and whiteboard markers  (alternatively regular A4 sheets of paper).

Note: click on the 3 dots to enlarge the presentation. Notice the Push here button  to advance through the slides.

 

Procedure:

  • Divide the class into teams of three and give each team a dry erase board and a whiteboard marker.  Tell teams to quickly come up with a creative name for its team. Write the names of the teams in a list on one side of the board.
  • Display the first mistake and give students 45 seconds to discuss the mistake and try to fix it. You can use a timer from www.online-stopwatch.com or from classroom screen.
  • When the time is up, a representative from each team needs to raise the board with their guess at correcting the mistake.
  • Ask them to comment and discuss the mistake as a whole class.
  • If it’s correct, they score 1 point.
  • The team with the most points at the end wins.

At the end of the exercise, students do the exercises again but this time orally. This retrieval practice is what is going to help students remember the correct structure or spelling.

The next day, I would suggest asking students to discuss in pairs the mistakes and their correction, to fix knowledge.

Fun and effective! Enjoy teaching!

Spice Up your Class and Maximize Learning with Traditional Games

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say traditional games? Bingos, crosswords, board games? This website has them all. Free. Customizable. Yay!

Let me start by saying that tomorrow is Monday. Monday, and January. Not my fave month, to be honest. I know it has always been there, in between December and February but I find January dull, boring, lifeless and one of the darkest months of the year.  If I were talking about food in this blog, I would say a Monday in January requires comfort food. But this blog is not about yummy recipes, it’s about ideas, ramblings, tools, teaching and learning. So, let’s talk not about comfort food but about comfort digital tools. Tools that can make a Monday feel like a Friday.  Is it possible? It is!! Just have a look at this website.  It has all the right ingredients:

  • It’s free and fun
  • Membership is free but you do not have to register unless you want to save content.
  • You can download the content you create.
  • It has lots of different fun templates you can edit to create exercises relevant for your classes.

It is called Half a Crossword, but don’t let the name deceive you. It is much more than a web to create crosswords. You can create a variety of games but what is most valuable for me are the ideas it provides to make the exercises come alive.

What kind of materials can you create?

  • Half a crossword
  • Sentence correction
  • Sentence Unscramble
  • Number Bingo
  • Board Game
  • Word Bingo
  • and some more….

HOW TO CREATE AN ACTIVITY

  • Choose the activity you would like to create
  • There are 3 steps you will need to follow
  • Number 1. Depending on the activity, enter the word, sentence or question in the space provided.
  • Number 2. Have a look at the maximum of words or characters…etc specified for each activity
  • Number 3. Preview it and print it. You can also save it if you have registered
  • Have a look at the label named HOW, where you can read how to use the activity with your students

Let’s kick off this week with, for example, half a crossword to revise the vocabulary taught the previous week. How does it sound to you?

Guess my Age: a Fun Game to Practise Modal Verbs of Possibility and Certainty

Have you ever seen the contest  “El Concurso del Año” on TV? It is on Channel 4. I had never seen it before and I don’t think I am going to see it again any time soon. I found it incredibly boring and uninteresting. But dull as it was, I realized it had great potential to teach modal verbs. Yep. That sad! I am watching TV and  I can only think of teaching. So guess what, I am about to make this contest your new favourite thing to teach modals of possibility and certainty.

  • Now, what is the goal of the game? to guess the exact age of 6 celebrities. 
  • What’s the target language?  modal verbs of certainty and possibility in both their simple and perfect forms.
  • What skills are we working with? speaking and writing.

Materials: you will need blank slips of  paper  (a good opportunity to recycle the back of some old photocopies)

These are the basic rules of the game, which I have slightly modified to meet my students’ needs but hey, the ingredients in this game are just really appealing: celebrities, music, interaction, fun, new technologies…etc and lots of learning.

  1. The class is divided into teams. The aim of the game is to find out the exact age of some famous people while using the target language. In this case, modal verbs.
  2. Teams will be offered a clue to help them guess the exact age.

There are 3 types of clues:

  • the SONG ( one song released on the year of birth of the famous person)
  • the EVENT (an important event of the year the celebrity was born)
  • the CELEBRITY ( another famous person born in the same year)

To see how to play, and to play this fun game, open the interactive presentation below.

Personal experience: students really enjoyed the game and in their excitement, they tended to say just the age or slip into Spanish. Remind them to use the target modal verbs and English.

Note: To enlarge this beautiful interactive presentation created with Genial.ly, click on 3 dots and then on the arrows.