Category Archives: Games

Modern Taboo with a Twist

Is there anything students love more than a good game? The Taboo Game is an oldie but goodie and I have yet to find a student who does not like it.  Playing and learning? It’s always a win-win.

Playing games in class is something that I often do. Well, not this year. I have been on sick leave for 2 weeks and it is taking its toll on my lessons. I feel like I am always in a  hurry trying to make up for lost time. It might be working. I might be finally catching up with the syllabus but I am not having as much fun this year as in the previous ones. And this needs to stop. Right now.

So, to give my students a much-needed respite, we have revised the relative sentences using the Taboo game.

GUIDED PRACTICE: RELATIVE SENTENCES
  1. Before playing, I wrote the beginning of a sentence and asked students to provide the relative pronoun. This is the best time to correct potential mistakes.
  • It’s a person… WHO/THAT
  • It’s something … WHICH/THAT
  • It’s  a place … WHERE
  • It’s a time … WHEN

2. I wrote the word  DOG on the board and asked students to define it using the correct relative pronoun. (for ex, it is an animal that barks).

3. Then, I wrote TEACHER in capitals and under the word TEACHER, I wrote 4 taboo words they were not allowed to use in their description of the word. For example: teach, students, subjects, school. Their definition could be something like ” it is a person whose job involves using the board a lot and helping people learn  English or maths”.

Tip: if it’s a B1 class, I would use only 3 taboo words instead of the 4 you have in this game

SEMI-GUIDED PRACTICE: MODERN TABOO

Once again, to create this game I have used the flexible multipurpose Spark Adobe ( honestly, I cannot go without it).

Procedure:

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative from each team to come to the front of the class and face away from the board. Decide which team is going to start.
  2.  Player A faces their team A.  Display the presentation below. Team A describes the word at the top of the slide, without using any of the words below it (taboo words). If they use any of the taboo words, they will lose 1 point for their team and a new slide will be displayed. When Player A guesses a word, the team gets 1 point and a new slide is displayed.
  3. Team A continues to describe words for Player A for 1 minute. The game continues with teams and players taking it in turns to describe and guess words. The team with the highest score at the end of the game are the winners.

NOTE: Make sure you don’t use all the words on the presentation below. You will need at least 4 for a variation od the Taboo Game you can do at the end of the game to practise questions.

Taboo

FREE PRACTICE

Once each team has had their turn, I have put them in groups of 4 and given them paper cards to continue playing. This time, Player A describes the word to their Team. One player from Team B is allowed to see the card to make sure none of the words on the card are used. You can get plenty of Taboo cards on IslCollective. Bear in mind, you will need to register to download content.

You can also download the traditional Taboo Cards here (B1-B2)  and here (A1-A2)

THE TWIST: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

To wrap up the activity, ask a representative from Team A and Team B to come to the front of the class. Ask them to face their team and away from the board.  Display a word. The team will have to ask questions so that Student A guesses the word; again, they cannot use any of the Taboo words in their questions.

Remember our example?TEACHER? This could go like this…

Team A to Student A

  • Who helps you learn English?  Who is standing right next to you? Who writes your school report?

I hope you have enjoyed the activity! Have fun teaching, have fun learning!

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.

A Cool Game to Revise the Irregular Past of Verbs

Time to revise irregular verbs. I know, I know!! I am teaching B2, but trust me, they need the revision.

I mean, let’s be real. Technically, they have learned the irregular verbs sometime between A2 and B1 but you and I know that irregular verbs are like a pain in the neck to learn only compared to studying phrasal verbs. So, welcome revision!!

I have always believed that using technology in the classrooms has a lot of benefits for the students- this is probably not the post to enumerate them- but also, I firmly believe that technology without methodology does nothing for the student. Just because you use the latest tools does not mean students are going to learn more or better. They do not. You have to plan exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it if you want the activity to be effective. Otherwise, you are just playing or entertaining students. And this is something I don’t do in my classes. So, playing and learning, a big YES; just playing, a huge NO.

Anyways, since  I am a superfan of :

  • using games to learn
  • using technology effectively and meaningfully in my classes

I have created the game below using the cool interactive freemium tool Genial.ly (proud to say I am an ambassador of this great tool developed in Spain)

For more information about my workshops on how to use free online tools effectively in your class, have a look here or  here

 

IRREGULAR VERBS

Aim: to revise irregular verbs.

Level: intermediate

Procedure:

  • Explain that this a competition to be played in pairs: student A and B
  • Whole class: As decide on a letter to challenge Bs.
  • Bs will have one minute to write as many irregular verbs (infinitive-past-past participle) beginning with the selected letter as they can think of.
  • Explain that irregular verbs will be awarded 1 or 2 points depending on the difficulty of their spelling or on their frequency at an intermediate level. Challenge students to try the difficult ones.
  • Set a timer for the allotted time and when time is up, display the answers by clicking on the interactive letter.
  • Student B gets 1 point or 2 points (depending on the verb) only if he has correctly spelt the verb in the past and past participle.
  • Now, it ‘s Student B’s turn

NOTE: What do As or Bs do while it’s the other student’s turn to compete? They can also do the challenge, but no points will be awarded!

Note: This is an interactive tool. Click on the letters. Click on the arrows to enlarge the game.

Enjoy teaching. Enjoy learning!

The 5 Seconds Game to Revise Vocabulary

I have realized something about myself today.  Vocabulary revision games are my thing.

All my good lessons begin with revision. I make a point of beginning my classes revising what we learned the previous lesson. It takes five minutes, but I honestly believe it makes a big difference. The little game below takes exactly that, 5 minutes. Just saying.

 

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you probably know by now that one of my most nagging worries- shall I call it an obsession?-  is teaching vocabulary about a certain topic and then hearing my students speak about the topic without a trace of the vocabulary we have been learning.

I never get angry. Believe me. I am a very nice teacher. But this,… I can hardly restrain myself.

So, again,  I have designed a fun little activity to revise vocabulary, collocations…etc about any topic and I have called it “The 5 seconds game”.

Before the class:

Prepare a set of 7-10 small questions for each pair. They need to be quick questions. Have a look at my questions below. They are all about Unit 1 dealing with “Education”

In class:
  • Ask students to choose a partner. After pairing up, each pair become a team and play against another team. So, we will have Team A and Team B ( 4 students)
  • Tell teams you will ask each team  X questions. After each question, they will have 5 seconds to think and when the bell rings, they will have to give the answer to the question at the same time. If the answer is the same and it is correct and they have answered at exactly the same time, they will score 1 point
  • Say Team A starts. Ask them to sit facing each other and in clear view of Team B who will be listening to their answers very attentively and keeping score of the points they get.
  • Ask the first question, mentally count 5 seconds, ring a bell or use any other device that makes noise and ask the two members of Team A to give the answer at exactly the same time. Team B will be in charge of making sure the rules are followed to the letter.
  • Continue in the same way until the X questions have been answered.
  • To reinforce, ask the questions again, but this time to the whole class.
  • Repeat procedure for Team B with X new questions

VARIATION:  In another group, I asked students to work in pairs, competing against each other and not against another pair. It also worked very well, probably better.

Thanks to Andrea and Paula for giving me permission to record them

Team A questions

  1. What do you call the school where you study and sleep?
  2. What preposition does “committed” collocate with?
  3. How do you pronounce “native”?
  4. Can you give me a synonym for “ obligatory?
  5. What’s the opposite of a “state school”?
  6. Which is correct “do your homework” or “make your homework”?
  7. Another way of saying “ to relax”
  8. “to assign” is a verb, what’s the noun?

Team B questions

  1. What do you call the school which trains students for employment?
  2. Which is correct “do an exam” or “make an exam”?
  3. When you pass an exam with high marks, you can say that you pass it with flying….?
  4. What do you call the money that you pay to attend a school?
  5. How do you pronounce the word “machine”?
  6. What preposition do you use with the verb ”keep” to mean “to go as fast as”?
  7. “To rehearse” is a verb, what’s the noun?
  8. What preposition does “ hopeless” collocate with?

Flexible Seating Using Collocations

What could be the advantages of sitting always in the same place working with the same partner? Can you see any? I can’t.  The activity below has been designed to give students plenty of opportunities to work with different partners in an engaging way. It is very flexible and lots of fun.

But first of all, a small intro. It is my first post in a long, long time so please bear with me. 😉

 

It is October! 

If you are wondering, no, we haven’t started classes yet. I’ll be greeting my new students tomorrow, 7th October. I can’t wait! I already know my classes are full. 25 students and some more on a waiting list. I am a bit worried because my class is tiny. One of the smallest in the premises but hey! I am not sharing it with any other teachers. It’s just for me, so I am not complaining. However, I like to do activities where students get up from their seats and move around the class and that’s going to prove difficult in this smallish class. I guess I will just need to use the hall for some activities.

Isn’t it true that we spend most of our day at school or work sitting down? And after some time,  sitting down gets boring, doesn’t it? Well,  in this activity students will need to stand up, move around the class and then sit down several times. Just my kind of activity. Besides, it can be adapted flexibly and creatively in different contexts and situations.  At the end of the post, you can read some other ideas I have to teach or revise vocabulary using this classroom dynamics.

Aim

  • to revise very common collocations
  • to ask and give information about yourself
  • to provide opportunities to get to know everybody in the class
  • to provide a friendly environment where students do not feel uncomfortable making mistakes and can learn from each other.

Time: 30-40 minutes

Preparation:

  • The collocations. Prepare a set of common collocations. You will need one per student. I have 25 students, so I will need 25 collocations. For example: break the law or fail an exam. On a card, write break or fail; on another card write the law or an exam. The cards containing the second part of the collocation  (the law, an exam) should be sellotaped to the back of the chairs of the classroom, visible to all the students. I use different colours for easy differentiation. (see picture below)
  • NOTE: it is important that the collocations are unique, ie, that they can only match once. For example: if you have break //the law,   you cannot have twist //your arm; as break can also collocate with arm as in break//your arm. It is useful to keep a list of the collocations you are using for agility purposes.
  • The questions to discuss. Prepare a set of questions; in my case, and for this class,  of the type get-to-know-each-other questions. I have prepared 25 but you can easily just use half the questions and have students share and talk about the same card.

Downloadable Materials:

Procedure:

  • Greet students at the door and hand them a card containing the first part of the collocation.
  • Explain that they will have to find the second part by reading the cards taped on the chairs.
  • Once they have found the matching card on a chair, they should sit down on that same chair.
  • Quickly check that everybody has found the right collocation and if they haven’t, ask students to work out where the matching part is before you intervene. It is good to make mistakes. That’s very often how you learn.
  • Ask them to say their collocation aloud so that the class can also revise it.
  • Once they are in their right seats, hand them a card containing a get-to-know-you question. Encourage them to include their collocation in their conversations.
  •  Ask them to leave the cards containing the get-to-know-you questions on the table. They can remain there for the next students.
  • Allow 6-7 minutes’ conversation and then collect the cards containing the first part of the collocation. (in the picture below, the pink ones)
  • Shuffle them, hand them out to different students and repeat procedure so that students get the chance to sit in another place and talk to a different student.
  • This second time, when students say their collocations aloud, ask them to pause for a second to give the class the chance to provide the second part of the collocation. This way, we reinforce without effort.

TIPS:

  •  I did the activity 4 times. The first time students found it harder to find the right collocation than the second time; the third and fourth time, they were incredibly quick.
  • I asked students to focus on their cards and read them carefully. Sometimes, the key to finding the right collocation resides in an article or a preposition.
  • The first and second time, and always before the speaking activity, I asked students to read their collocations aloud so that everybody got familiar with them. The third time, I asked them to try to remember their collocation without looking at the back of the chair. The fourth time,  I asked students to read aloud just the first part and then pause, giving the class the opportunity to provide the matching collocation. Revising, reinforcing and consolidating. That’s what we are aiming for.
  • At the end of the activity, I asked students to write down all the collocations they could remember and wrote them on the board to correct spelling mistakes. I gave a sweet to the student who remembered the most collocations  🙂

VARIATIONS

  •  Working with the vocabulary of a certain topic; on the chairs sellotape the cards containing the term and give students the cards containing the definition. For example, if  I am teaching Education: on one card professor  (taped on the chair) and on the other card a senior teacher at a university or college; and on the table a question such as: What was your favourite subject at school?
  • Working with phrasal verbs: term//definition
  • Working with compound nouns: first half// second half. For example: sitting// room
  • Working with phonemic transcriptions; on one card the phonemic transcription; on the chair the card with the matching word  /si:n/ seen
  • Working with functional language; on one card the function in the form of a question and on the chair,  a card with a possible answer. The follow-up task might be to continue the dialogue.

I don’t know. So many possibilities. The limit is your imagination.