Tag Archives: canva

Spice Up Your Writing Lessons with the Noun Roulette

Let’s talk about writing today! If you’re searching for a writing activity that is engaging, effective, promotes collaborative work, and takes only about 20 minutes to complete, then look no further! I have a simple yet effective activity that can help you achieve all these goals.

As an educator, I am always looking for new ways to help my students improve their writing skills. That’s why I’m excited to share an activity that I’ve created which has proven to be both effective and engaging for students. In this case, it’s been used in a C1 level class, but it can easily be used with any level.  In this blog post, I’ll be explaining the details of this activity and providing examples of how it has helped my students write more advanced texts. If you’re looking for a fun and creative way to help your students improve their writing, then keep reading!

This activity consists of two parts, with the first part being designed specifically for C1 students, or possibly strong B2 students. If you teach lower levels, you’ll need to create your own slides for Part 1 of the activity, but you can still use Part 2 and 3 in this post.

Part 1: The theory

I have created this brief presentation to target some specific points to help them write more advanced sentences. We have focused on 5 key points, including reduced relative sentences, order of the adjectives and using a noun as a compound adjective.

In the last slide, you will find the Noun Roulette Randomizer. Yay!

Improving writing de cristina.cabal

Part 2:  The Noun Roulette Randomizer 

Time to recycle spare photocopies!  Cut them into strips of paper large enough to write a long sentence on.

  • Ask students to pair up and give each pair 3 or 4 strips of paper.
  • Display the noun roulette and explain that it will randomly select a noun. For example: collection.
  • Click here to see the roulette in action. To create your own, click here and type your own words. Easy-peasy!!

  • In their pairs, they will have about 2 minutes to come up with their best sentence by incorporating some of the points worked with in the first part of this activity. They must include the noun “collection”.
  • In the meantime, I’ve written the word ‘collection’ on a post-it note and posted it on a visible part of our classroom wall.
  • Once they have finished writing their “advanced” sentence, we will put them up on the wall, surrounding the noun. You can use Sellotape or Blue-tack for this.
  • Select a new noun with the roulette and do it all over again. I have done this 3 or 4 times.
What is your role as a teacher?  Yes, you need to be working, too. Once they have placed their sentences on the walls, correct their mistakes.
Part 3:  Voting
Once the sentences have been written and mistakes have been corrected, instruct students to stand up in pairs and read all the sentences surrounding the nouns. They will now need to vote for the sentence they think is the best in terms of showing a more advanced level, regardless of the mistakes they might have made. To mark the sentence they like best, they will just have to put a tick on the strip of paper containing the sentence, as you can see in the picture.
This has two aims:
1. To help students identify their own and their peers’ mistakes, which is a valuable learning experience.
2. By voting on the best sentence, students come to understand their own ability to distinguish between writing that meets the C1 level and writing that falls short.

Double the fun: Travelling and Tourism Speaking Board with Two Decks of Cards

One might think that after 31 years teaching, I wouldn’t need to spend time preparing for classes. After accumulating so much content over the years, it would seem logical to just retrieve what I need from my files. However, for some reason, that’s not how it works for me. As a result, I find myself once again in the process of creating content, this time on the subject of travelling.

This post revolves around the topic of Travelling and Tourism and considering what I have written above, I have come up with this brilliant 🙄 idea.   Use a board from Canva and replace specific questions with numbers, making it applicable to any topic. Alongside this, we can create cards that include the relevant questions and reference their corresponding numbers. What do you think?

Hold on, Cristina! Did you read the title of the post? It says “Two decks of cards”. So, we have one deck for questions, but what about the other one? I haven’t forgotten! The other deck contains useful phrases to help students express themselves more effectively. 😆

What do we need?
  • Print the board multiple times. Print as many copies as groups of students. What works best for me is groups of 3 students. Get the PDF here

board game Template de cristina.cabal

  • Cards with the conversation questions. One deck per group. PDF here

travelling conversation cards de cristina.cabal

    • Reusable cards with useful phrases. One deck per group. PDF here.
    Ready to play?

    Create groups of 3–4 students and give each group a board game, the two decks of cards, counters and a die. Students decide who starts the game. Student A throws the die and places his/her counter on the corresponding square, which contains a number. On the deck of cards with the conversation questions, he/she finds the card that matches the number of his/her square, reads it aloud and then takes a card from the Useful Language deck. These cards are placed face down on the table.  The student will need to talk for at least two minutes, trying to use the expression on the card. Then, it is student B’s turn.


  • Original board designed by @mrkucukyilmaz
  • Useful phrases from intercambiodeidiomas

Book Tasting or How to Engage your Students when Choosing a Book

February favourite activity! I know! The month has barely started, but I already know this is going to be my favourite activity.

The truth is I’ve been meaning to write about this activity for a long time, and it has been sitting on my shelves for so long that I cannot give credit to one single person ’cause I don’t really know who first came up with this brilliant idea. Not me. This time, I am just the vessel.

So, this activity revolves around books and the question I am asking you is: Do your students need to write a book review? Do you, or do they, choose the books they have to read? In my case, I have always hated being forced to read books I didn’t like so ever since I turned into a seasoned oldish teacher and could make my own choices, I decided to give students the choice I had never had as a student.  Something as simple as choosing the books you’d like to read. From the school library. Sure.

  • Book the library room. That’s the best place for an activity revolving about books.
  • I carefully selected books and divided them into three categories: Fiction, Short Stories, and Classics. I chose a varied and attractive collection from each category.
  • I bought a pack of red and white chekered plastic tablecloths. I bought them here. (Note: it is not sponsored 🙂
  • I also brought some silver paper trays I had at home to place the books. Remember, this activity is called Book Tasting, so you want all the props.
  • In Canva, I designed:

– a place mat (I photocopied it in red to match the tablecloth). Download Here 


-a menu  (brochure) with all the instructions and space to write their options from each table. Download Here


How to go about it
  • Arrange the tables as seen in the picture above. Place the tray with the books in the middle ( to be honest, you don’t need a tray but it adds a little touch)
  • There are X tables with books from different genres. In my case, as explained above, I had 3 tables with fiction, short stories and classics.
  • Ask students to form groups and choose a table to start.
  • Ask them to choose one of the books on your table. ( there should a number of them)
  • Tell them they have 10 minutes to read the blurb, or synopsis, normally found at the back of a book’s cover. They should also read a page and assess the readability of the vocabulary used.
  • Ask them to present the book they have chosen to their group and explain why they think it would be a good or a bad choice.
  • After listening to all the presentations in their group, they have to  choose the book(s) they’d like to read from this table and write their option(s) in the space provided.
  • Ask them to move to another table and repeat procedure.
  • Tell them to list their top three book choices in order of preference after having visited all the tables.
  • It is now time to take the book they have selected. Ask them to start with their first choice, and if it is unavailable, move on to their second option.


Follow up: if you are feeling up to it and know how to work with Flip, set up a Topic asking students to record their reviews of the books they have chosen. Download the QR Code generated by Flip and attach it to the back of the book.  Now it’s time to move on to another round of reading. Encourage students to choose another book and listen to recommendations from their classmates.

The List: A Simple Retrieval Activity before a Speaking Exercise

I spend a possibly unhealthy amount of time designing activities that have to do with retrieval practice. I think I might be becoming an expert.  In my head, I design the idea and then, I am confronted with two options:

  1. Make it simple, using a simple sheet or slip of paper.
  2. Make it more appealing and spend time I don’t have looking for a nice design that in terms of learning is not going to make any difference.

Guess which one do I normally choose?  Yes! That one.

I always do some retrieval practice before giving my students a topic-related oral activity. I think it is essential to bring to the front of their minds what they have, with luck, stored at the back. Otherwise, in their conversations, I might not hear the desired newly-learned vocabulary but the old boring one from the previous level. And we don’t want that, do we?

This retrieval activity can be done using regular sheets of paper or this beautiful template on Canva designed by Sara T, which I have shamelessly modified to suit my needs. Here’s mine, which you can easily modify as long as you have a Canva Account.

Now, let me explain this very simple activity.

  • Level: can be done at any level. In my case, B1.
  • Topic: Education. Again. It can be adapted to any level.
  • Time: about 10 minutes


  • Choose three words for each student in the group to revise. You will need a different list for each student in the group, so if you form groups of 4 students, you will need 12 words.
  • It should look something like this


  • Put students, ideally, into groups of 4.
  • Give each student a list.
  • Before the activity starts, they need to make sure they know how to define and pronounce the words on their lists. Allow some time for this part.
  • Student A starts defining his/her words, one by one. Students B, C and D write Student A’s name in the space provided (_____’s list) and their guess at the words being defined by Student A. Then, it is Student B’s turn, then Student C and finally Student D.
  • Once all the students have finished describing the words on their lists, it is time to check how many they have guessed correctly.  You can do it as a whole class, with Student As re-explaining the definitions and any other student in the class volunteering their guess or, alternatively, you can let them do it at their pace, in their groups.
  • Each correct guess scores 1 point.
  • And well, you know, a round of applause or a sweet for the winners.

Now, they are ready to use this vocabulary in a speaking activity

Error Awareness Chart in Written Production

Glaring, serious, minor, common, grammatical, spelling, typing errors. Who doesn’t make them?

I must admit that I don’t dedicate as much time in class to honing my students’  writing skills as I should. Even if it is only for 30 or 35 minutes, assigning my pupils a writing assignment in class tends to disrupt the lesson’s flow. So, my students probably don’t write enough, but this is about to change. Well, in fact, I have already taken steps to make it happen.

But more important than making them write is the instructions I should be giving them to help them get better at this skill, and that includes many things, from using the newly acquired vocabulary and structures in a sort of guided writing to making them reflect on their errors. And it is this last part, making students aware of their errors, that has prompted me to write this post.

The truth is that it is not the first time I have tried some strategies to make my students reflect on their written errors  (you can read all about it here) but after reading a brilliant post by Gianfranco Conti and inspired by his own error awareness chart, I have decided to try something similar and see how it works.

Below, you can see the chart I have designed. I am sharing with you two links.

  1. View Link
  2. Template link: where you will be able to edit my titles and fully modify them.

Error Awareness Chart by cristina.cabal

So, what’s the idea?

  • First, the usual stuff: you give your students a written assignment, they hand it in, you spend an awful lot of time correcting their mistakes, and then, hand it back to them. So far, so good.
  • Now, together with their marked written work, give them a copy of the chart below and explain how, hopefully, the chart is going to help them improve their writing skills.
  • The first time, you will need to go through the list of errors on the left. Make sure they understand what each error refers to.  Tell them the numbers 1-9 in this chart correspond to the different essays they will be handing in throughout the year.
  • So, say it is Essay 1. Students will have a look at their mistakes and put a tick in the boxes where they have made a mistake.

For example, they should tick the box Subject-Verb Agreement if one of their errors is                                                         People makes difficult decisions

And the box   if they write something like: He went at home

This same procedure is repeated every time you hand back a marked written assignment. This strategy does not guarantee immediate success. That would be wishful thinking. Success at writing is something students must work on. And hard.