Tag Archives: grammar

2 Engaging Activities to Work with Reporting Verbs

I have to confess that lately I haven’t had much time to publish. I design a lot of cool, if I may say so, activities for my students but posting about them takes time, time I lack right now. But posting is constantly on my mind, and not because I feel I have to do it, but because it makes me happy. So, today is a happy day.

Now, these are two activities I have designed for my C1 students. If C1 is not your level, keep on reading; they are highly adaptable to any level.

  1. Working on the grammar of reporting verbs
  2. Using post-it notes to reinforce and fix mistakes
One. Working on the grammar of reporting verbs
Helping students learn this point of grammar is not an easy task. OMG, they are so many reporting verbs….!!! Plus, some of them can be followed by more than one pattern. A nightmare!!!
STEP 1. The presentation
Even though it is a C1 level,  I felt compelled to explain what a reporting verb is with a small presentation.
For this introduction, I’ve used the first 6 slides. I have used the rest of the presentation to explain the game that follows.

This is the infographic that I have designed. Please, bear in mind:
1. It is not meant to be comprehensive
2. Verbs can follow different patterns
You can get it here

reporting verbs by cristina.cabal

Step 2: Using double-sided cards. Now that we have seen the grammar, let’s put it into practice. You can download the cards here

  • Aim: to place the verbs under the right pattern
  • Before the class: photocopy one set per group of three/four students. In my case, I have photocopied them in different colours.  Also, photocopy the headings with the verb patterns here.

I think the images below clearly demonstrate how we have played this “game”.

Instructions: put students into groups of three and give each group a set of double-sided cards. (you might want to fold them before the game or ask students to fold them; whatever works for you) The aim of the activity is to place the verb on the card under the right column.

First, they guess the pattern and then, before placing it under the right column, they check their guess by turning the card over.

I did it twice:

  1. They just guessed the pattern and placed it under the right column
  2. They did the same as in 1 but, this time,  they also produced a sentence containing the prompts on the card.

Below, students working

Students checking their guess is correct by flipping the card.


Two. Using post-it notes to reinforce and fix mistakes
This activity using post-it notes is dedicated to  Maribel, a teacher in Andalucía (I will say no more as I haven’t asked her permission ) who, when we met in person in a teacher training session, gave me a most useful present, a box with 1440 colourful post-it notes (an easy multiplication) + a letter I will always cherish.
The activity is a simple,highly-adaptable one and one that can be done in many different ways (you don’t have to use post-it notes- any discarded scrap of paper will do). I just happen to think that presentation matters and colours and movement is an added bonus in this activity.
Step 1. Writing a reporting verb on a post-it note
Ask students to write on a post-it note a reporting verb. Encourage them to have a look at the infographic (pdf above)and instruct them to make sure they know the grammar of the verb they have written.
Note: If you have a large class, put the students in pairs. You don’t want to have as many as 25 reporting verbs to work with. If you have a 6- 12 student class, you might want to ask them to work individually.
Stick their post-it notes on the walls of the class.
Step 2. Gallery walk. Writing sentences.
On a table in the middle of the class, leave some post-it notes -(a) different colour(s) would be great.
Put students in pairs now and ask them to stand up and do a gallery walk. They will stop at each “picture’ and in pairs write down a sentence containing the reporting verb. They should write the sentences on the post-it notes and put them next to the ‘picture’ it corresponds to. Encourage them to write only when they know exactly what they want to write. Otherwise, it would look very untidy. Also, tell them they need to write a sentence showing they are C1 students (you know how it goes if you don’t push them a tiny bit)
Pairs don’t have to walk clockwise; they can choose any ‘pictures’ on the walls in any order but they must do all of them.
Step 3. Peer correction.
Once they have written their sentences, instruct students to move to the post-it containing their original reporting verb; the one in Step 1, the one they know the grammar for.  Ask them to read the sentences next to their verb
– If they are correct, they should put a tick
– If they are wrong, they should underline the mistake but not correct it
Step 4: Fixing mistakes
Ask students to stand up again, the infographic containing the grammar for those verbs in their hands,  and again do a gallery walk. They should read all the sentences surrounding a “picture’. If their sentence happens to be one of those containing mistakes, they will have to correct it using the infographic as a reference.
Step 5: My turn
Now, it is my turn to make sure, as a teacher, that all the sentences are correct. I have also added my opinion on whether the sentence is a C1-level sentence or a B2-level sentence to encourage them to try harder next time. 🙂
I hope you have enjoyed the activity.

My Crystal Ball is Cloudy. Ask Again! A Game to Practise Making Predictions

Fun, interactive and engaging! More?

  • It deals with grammar: the future tense for predictions
  • Students practise asking questions
  • It requires little preparation


Tell the students you’re a gipsy and that you have the ability to tell their future.  Tell the students they can only ask you one question, so they have to choose carefully what to ask you. (If students are not very confident, ask them to write their questions. On second thoughts, ask them anyway even if they are confident).

The Activity

Now, ask students one by one to ask you their questions. Ask the student posing the question to choose a number, any number up to the number of cards you have created.  Then, shuffle the cards and lay them face down on the table. If they have chosen number 4, place three cards face down on the table and, with a lot of drama, the card which comes fourth face up on the table. This is the answer to their question.

Possible words on the cards?  Yes, it is in the cards/No way/ It’s not likely/ Not a chance/ Absolutely/ Most certainly, no!/Not in this life!/ Most decidedly so!/If you play your cards right/Not in the immediate future/My crystal ball is cloudy, ask again!

  • Laura: Will I be rich?
  • Fortune Teller: No way!
  • David: Will I pass all my final exams?
  • Fortune Teller: Yes, it is in the cards

CARDS : template,PDF

Note: I have been playing this game for a long, long time and I can’t honestly remember if I invented it or someone else did and was passed on to me.

Mixed Conditional Sentences

Learning about  Mixed Conditional Sentences is the perfect way to finish this weird year, don’t you think so?

I am sure you have been speaking English way too long without adorning your speech with  Mixed Conditional Sentences. Well, I am here to remedy this.

First, you need to open your mind to the fact that when you first start learning about Conditional Sentences, we only teach you the basic types like, for example, when you learn Conditional Type I and we teach you If+present simple⇒Future “Will” . Of course, this is correct  but as you get more proficient, you soon realize that there are so many variations to the basic type that you begin to wonder if any combination is possible. I am tempted to say “yes”.

Anyway, I am here to teach you about Mixed Conditional Sentences. Are you ready?

So, we are going to study two cases:

  1. If + Past Perfect ⇒ Would

                                  If I hadn’t studied, I wouldn’t be in the advanced course.

As you can see,  we have a combination of Conditional Type III  (if+Past Perfect) and Conditional Type II  (would+infinitive)

When do we use it? When we refer to a past event that could have had a direct result on a present situation if it had been different.

I know … difficult to grasp. Some help in Spanish?

(Nos referimos a un hecho pasado que de haber sido de otro modo habría cambiado el presente.)

Now, let’s have a look at some pictures with some hints in bubbles. Try to finish the sentences using this Mixed Conditional Structure.


Now, write your own sentences.

2. If + Simple Past --- Would have+ Past Participle

              If I were tall, I would have enrolled in the army

As you can see,  we have a combination of Conditional Type II (if+Past Simple) and Conditional Type III  (would have+ past participle)

When do we use it? When we refer to a present event that could have changed a past situation.

In Spanish? Un hecho presente que podría haber cambiado un hecho pasado, es decir, el pasado habría sido diferente ,si el presente fuera diferente. I know, you have to read it several times.

Now, let’s have a look at some pictures with some hints in bubbles. Try to finish the sentences using this Mixed Conditional Structure.

Now, write your own sentences.

 Writing: Ready for a Guessing Game?

Aim: guessing the exact sentence on the back of the tile

Time: 1 minute/sentence

Put students into pairs and choose one of the flip tiles. Instruct students to complete the conditional sentence on the tile. They will need to write it down. Tell them the picture is a hint. Listen to their sentences and flip the tile. Award 1 point for each exact sentence. Similar but not quite? Half a point 🙂


PDF with more exercises here. Use a QR Code Reader to scan de key

A Guessing Game Using Tenses

Clear a spot in your lesson plan for this engaging activity because you are going to love it. This is a small writing guessing activity using Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous- you can also throw in Past Simple if you are feeling adventurous-  with an added touch of technology.

  • Skills and subskills: writing, vocabulary, speaking  and grammar
  • Strategy: whole class, individual work, whole class
  • Level: B1,B2
  • Magic Touch: Wordwall
Step 1: Learning Vocabulary: Jobs

Revise vocabulary related to jobs using the FlipTiles template on Wordwall- see the game below. If you don’t want to create your own, you can always use mine. I’d be honoured.

In the Flip Tiles, you will see vocabulary for professions or jobs they already know like  teacher, architect… and some more challenging ones like priest, street vendor or surgeon. That was the idea, to revise old content and introduce new.

And so, we spent some time guessing the words and flipping the tiles.

Bonus. Fun revising activity:  after revising all the vocabulary on the tiles, I pointed at one job and instructed students to repeat after me but only if the word matches the tile and remain silent if I was making a mistake. Fun! I told you.

More? Yes! You can do the same with pronunciation. Instruct students to repeat after you only when you have pronounced the word correctly. 😊(most of the times  I give myself away when doing this exercise)

Step 2: Writing. Using Grammar.

Individually, students choose a job from the ones displayed.

Ask students to write clues for this job without mentioning the job. Tell them they will then read their sentences aloud one by one and the class will have to guess their job.

They will need to write three sentences:

  1. Using the present perfect continuous
  2. Using the present perfect
  3. Optional: using the past simple


  • I have been training all morning  ( 3 points)
  • I have scored two goals today (2 points)
  • Yesterday, I played a match (1 point)
Step 3: Here comes the fun

Ready to play? Divide the class into 2 teams. Instruct a student from Team A to read his/her first sentence, ie, his/her first clue to the job. If members of the other team guess the job only by listening to the first sentence, they score 3 points; if the second sentence needs to be read, they score 2 points and well, you know what the score is if the student needs to read sentence number 3 or if they can’t guess the job.

I hope you have enjoyed this little game. If you use it, let me know how it goes.


The Future with Be: the Visuals, the Grammar, and the Exercise

After over a decade of running this site, if I have developed one signature post, I would say it’s ideas to bring to life content from the course books.  That’s, at least, the posts I enjoy writing the most.

But, in this post, the star of the show is grammar and the featured tool is one of my favourites, for its versatility and visual impact. I am sure you all know and tried and fallen in love with Genial.ly, so I am not going to waste your time or mine talking about it.

Whether explaining grammar or doing a speaking activity, visuals play a very important role in my teaching. Is it the same for you?

Finding the right visuals to accompany a point of grammar is not a task you do in the blink of an eye; it takes time and it is never entirely fulfilling as you are left with the feeling “there should be a better picture to represent this if only I kept looking”. Unfortunately, time is tight and sometimes you just have to make do with what you have.

Without further ado, let me introduce to you the visuals.

The Visuals:

After writing on the board the point of grammar we are addressing –the future with the verb “to be”– and eliciting some structures they might already know, I display the first picture.

  1. Students, in pairs, try to come up with a sentence that describes the picture.
  2. Listen to their sentences. In most cases, they will give you a “be going to” sentence, but someone is likely to give you the “right” one. If not, don’t despair; this will only happen the first time you show the pictures. The second time -yes, there is a second time and even a third- they will do better and quickly come up with your same sentence or a similar one.
  3. Click to show your sentence, explain without getting into much detail, move to the next picture and repeat procedure.
  4. Once, you have shown them all the pictures; start again, this time a little bit faster.


The Grammar

Now that students are familiar with the structures, let’s jump right into the grammar. Rules should be very easy to understand now.


The Exercise

This grammar exercise is from their textbooks and yes, I know you can do this same exercise in their books, but it is not the same, is it? The exercise in their textbooks can be set for homework to reinforce this point of grammar.

You can even divide the class into two teams. Display the first sentence, give them a minute to rewrite the sentence using the future with the verb to be and then ask Team A to challenge a student from Team B to say the sentence. If the student from Team B gives a correct answer, he will score a point for his/her team; if incorrect, the point will be awarded to Team A. Display the second sentence and repeat procedure with Team B.