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.
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.
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.
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 toolGenial.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 hereor here
Aim: to revise irregular verbs.
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.
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”
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
What do you call the school where you study and sleep?
What preposition does “committed” collocate with?
How do you pronounce “native”?
Can you give me a synonym for “ obligatory?
What’s the opposite of a “state school”?
Which is correct “do your homework” or “make your homework”?
Another way of saying “ to relax”
“to assign” is a verb, what’s the noun?
Team B questions
What do you call the school which trains students for employment?
Which is correct “do an exam” or “make an exam”?
When you pass an exam with high marks, you can say that you pass it with flying….?
What do you call the money that you pay to attend a school?
How do you pronounce the word “machine”?
What preposition do you use with the verb ”keep” to mean “to go as fast as”?
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.
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
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 orfail; 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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
This is a post especially dedicated to all non-tech lovers! I am capping off this wonderful school year with an engaging yet effective activity for error correction. It may not be much when you read how to do it but trust me on this one, your students are going to love it!
If you follow me at all on my blog or on social media (facebook, twitter ), you will know that I am a huge fan of using technology in my classes. When I mean “huge”, I don’t mean that technology dominates my teaching practice. I use technology only when I think it’s going to contribute to effective learning. Otherwise, it’s time wasted.
Slips of paper are hands-down my favourite teaching tool. Essentially, they are scraps of paper that I use and reuse constantly in various ways. In fact, my record is having used the same set of slips of paper six times for a single class. I am sure some of my students will remember this day. They certainly learned everything on them.
The activity I am sharing with you today is a brand new one. I have to say I am happy with the result. It worked really well, it was effective, meaningful and engaging.
This time slips of paper have been used to fix fossilized grammar and spelling errors, but I firmly believe that the use of slips of paper as a teaching tool is a great addition to any lesson plan.
Note 1: “fossilization” refers the way in which some errors become a permanent feature of a language learner’s language
Note 2: at the end of the post, there is a video I’ve put together with some pics and clips I took from the activity. In case you want to see it. Just saying! 🙂
slips of paper
sellotape or blue-tack
Before the class
Yes. I am afraid there is some prep to do but it’s worth it.
Correct their compositions and write down common or relevant errors: for this activity, I have used common spelling or grammar errors.
Write them down on slips of paper.
Write the correction on sticky notes or scraps of paper.
Hang the slips of papers around the room. Identify each slip of paper with a number and write it down on the bottom right-hand corner.
For each slip of paper, and displayed next to it, is a sticky note containing the correction. The sticky note is folded in half so that the right answer cannot be seen unless unfolded.
How to go about it
Ask students to take out a regular A4 piece of paper, write Round 1 at the top and number it- whatever X slips of paper you are using. Ask them to do the same on another piece of paper and but this time they should write Round 2.
Note: It is spring so if it is sunny, why not take them outside the building and hang the slips of paper on the walls of the building? In fact, this is what I did. If you also play some upbeat music while they are doing the exercise, they are going to love you.
Ask them to form pairs.
Ask them to walk around the class in their pairs, read the sentence, spot the error, discuss the way to correct it and then write their answers on the response sheet. If the number on the slip of paper is 3, they should write it next to number three on their response sheet. Tell them it doesn’t matter where they start as they will end up doing all the cards.
Emphasize that they will need to speak English all the time and that they will both need to discuss how to correct the error- you want both of them to learn, not just one student- then write down the answer and then, only then, unfold the sticky note with the corrected version.
I like to meander around the room and check to see if they are having difficulties with a specific error and try to help them figure out where the mistake is.
Once the activity is finished, I ask them to count up the number of mistakes they have been able to correct and write that number at the top of their paper.
We are working here with fossilized errors, ie, errors we have already corrected a thousand times but we haven’t been able to fix. Reinforcement and consolidation are essential. So, let’s go for Round 2.
Group students: I asked students to form a line based on their birthdays (day/month). Once they formed the line, I ask them to work with the person on their right. (have a look at the video).
Explain that they are going to be competing against each other. At the end of the activity, the winner is the student who has managed to correct the most mistakes.
Everything is the same as above, but this time they don’t discuss the error. Together and silently they read the error on the slip of paper, write the correction on their sheets of paper, compare their answers, unfold the sticky note and put a tick or a cross depending on whether they have been able to spot and correct the error. Hopefully, most students will have been able to fix all the errors.
Yes. Again. Remember they are fossilized errors.
Follow-up: Ask students to sit down and ask them to write from memory all the mistakes they have been able to fix. Once they have finished, ask them to share them in pairs. Let’s hope that by writing them down from memory and talking about them in pairs …again, we will have helped them eliminate these fossilized errors from their oral and written production.
I love how slips of papers can turn into a simple and fun formative assessment tool that gets students out of their seats and learning, don’t you?
Have a look at the video now to have a clearer picture of the whole activity.