Tag Archives: vocabulary

2 Engaging Retrieval Practice Activities to Start your Class on the Right Foot

Two ideas that can easily be adapted to your own context.

True to my habit of beginning the class with a retrieval practice activity, I have added to my growing arsenal two new ones:  playing hangman and doing crosswords. This is how I have modified the rules of the games to adapt them to teaching/learning more effectively.

GUESSING THE TOPIC WITH A FRIENDLIER VERSION OF THE GAME HANGMAN

Playing hangman is an old classic. Well, at least for me. I cannot count the number of times me and my friends whiled away the time between classes (sometimes during classes) playing the paper and pencil version of hangman.

And playing hangman is just what I need to start my classes this week.  (Aside note: did you know that the hardest word to guess in Hangman is Jazz?) This time, the word will be easier. Students will need to guess what topic we will cover in class next, But…. There are rules to follow:

  • The class is divided into 2 teams. Each team names a spokesperson.
  • Let’s say Team 1 starts. Now, to get the chance to say a letter to solve the puzzle, they’ll have to answer a content review question.  For example: “what preposition collocates with the verb “depend”?”. After a quick discussion with the members of their group, the spokesperson will give an answer. If correct, they can suggest a letter. Whether it is a correct or incorrect guess, the turn will pass to Team B, who will get another content review question and the chance to guess a letter if the answer to the review question is correct.
  • Important: Teams can’t try to solve the puzzle until half the letters have been guessed(i.e. if the word has 14 letters, 7 must have been guessed) and only the Team playing will have this chance.
  • If they guess and fail, their turn will be skipped.

Tool used: Learning Apps

GAME: THE 15 SECONDS CROSSWORD GAME 

Ready for another engaging gamified retrieval practice activity? Here we go!!

  • Divide the class into 2 teams.
  • Team A chooses a representative who chooses a number from the crossword puzzle, reads the description, and has 15 seconds to guess the answer with the help of their team.
  • If they guess the answer, they can continue playing until
  1. they can’t guess the word,
  2. they run out of time (remember 15 seconds) or
  3. they guess three answers in a row.

If this happens, it is Team B’s turn.

  • The winner is the team that solves the last clue.

In this case, the terms in the crossword were related to the “relationships”
NOTE: (click on the top right-hand corner to enlarge the crossword)

  • Tool used: Learning Apps

I hope you have enjoyed these two activities I have created for my students.

Retrieval Practice Activity Using Cards for Any Level

And I am back. Yeahhhh!  Hopefully, I’ll have more time to write about all the activities that have worked wonders in my class. Hopefully.

But, before you continue I have an important announcement: I love retrieval practice activities! And this activity is all about pulling vocabulary out. Are you ready?

 

Whether you have just stumbled upon this blog or are a long-time visitor, you have to know that, first and foremost in my mind before I give my students a writing or speaking activity, is retrieval practice. We need to bring to the front of their minds the language we want them to use. If we don’t do it, what inevitably happens is that students will keep on using what they already feel comfortable using. And that won’t work. We are aiming at improving their level of English.

So, let me summarize this simple, highly-adaptable  idea.

  • Part 1: students, in groups,  revise key vocabulary using cards that contain the definition for the target language.
  • Part 2: students use these cards in a speaking activity.

NOTE: I am sharing with you the card template, but you can easily simplify the activity by just typing the definitions on a slip of paper. Me? I love visuals. I think they make a difference.

Now, that you are interested, let’s explain in detail:

PREPARATION
  • Vocabulary.Choose some vocabulary you want your students to use and revise. It shouldn’t be new vocabulary.Remember this is a retrieval practice activity. Type (if digital) or write the definition. Print and cut the cards. You will need a set of cards per group. As explained above, I love using visually appealing stuff, but you can easily simplify this part  using scraps of paper.
  • Conversation Questions. Prepare some conversation questions related to the topic.

Here’s the template in Canva I have used. You will need to create a free account to download it.

ACTIVITY 1. RETRIEVAL PRACTICE

STEP 1: Arrange students into groups of 3 and give each group a set of cards. Working together, they read the definition and try to come up with the word/expression that matches the definition. Ask them to use a pencil as they might not get all the answers right.

STEP 2. Whole class. Check answers. Clarify. Work on pronunciation.  You know the drill!

ACTIVITY 2. SPEAKING

STEP 1: Students in the same groups.Ask students to put the cards on a pile face down on the table.

STEP 2: Tell students they are going to do some speaking practice and the first student to start speaking, for example,  will be the youngest and then, the activity will continue clockwise. Let’s call him Student A.

Ask the first question and Student A will pick up a card and show it to the other students in his/her group. Student A will have about 90 seconds to answer the question trying to use the word/expression on the card. If he manages to use it, he can keep the card.; if not, it will be returned to the pile.

I forgot to mention you would need a timer. You can easily find one on Classroomscreen

Repeat procedure for Students B and C and repeat until all the cards have been used or you run out of questions.

How many cards?  A multiple of three works well since we are working with groups of three students. Thus, 6, 9, or 12 will work fine.  If you revise 12 words and only give them 6 questions, that should be fine too. They don’t have to use all of them. As an alternative, you can instruct students to choose two words rather than just one and keep the one(s) they have managed to use.

Note: I have used this activity in C1. The topic was Relationships and the answers are as follow:

1.the main breadwinner 2. black sheep 3. the spitting image 4. to fall out 5. to take after (phrasal verb) 6. to see eye to eye 7. to keep an eye on someone 8. sibling 9. to be under age 10. To come of age 11. to get on/along with somebody 12. to make up

AND AGAIN. Yes. Again

Whole class now.

  1. Gather all of the cards and review the target vocabulary again while providing definitions.
  2. Give each student a card. Have them read the definition aloud and give this card to the first student who answers correctly and manages to give a sentence using the word/expression. I guess you know who the winner of this little game is. A round of applause for the winner is a good prize. We are poor teachers, here.

I hope you have liked this simple game. If you put it into practice, please let me know how it goes.

Oral Exams: Two Activities to Revise all the Topics in a Single Lesson

I know precisely what you are looking for because I guess,  we are all in the same boat: approaching finals, a plethora of topics to revise and juggling work and life. These two activities might come in handy now that you, like me, need to help students  1. revise the vocabulary for all of the topics covered during the course and 2. provide the means to use this vocabulary in spoken interactions or monologues. And this, in a single lesson. Granted it is a two-hour session, but still a feat.

What’s the aim?

  • to develop their communicative skills by asking and answering questions  about different topics
  • to compose a short speech on a topic of choice
  • to revise the specific vocabulary learnt for these topics

ACTIVITY ONE: Throwing the Dice. Revising Vocabulary. Asking the questions.

What you need:

  • slips of paper
  • sticky notes or, alternatively, scraps of paper and cellotape.
  • a dice or a virtual dice (here)

On the walls of the class, put up slips of paper with the various themes you wish to review: work, sports, education, leisure time activities…etc.

Step 1. Revising Vocabulary

  1. Put students into pairs or groups. You’ll need as many pairs/ groups as there are topics you’ll be revising.
  2. Assign each pair/group a topic and ask them to write down all the vocabulary/expressions…etc they have learnt related to their assigned topic. Have them name a secretary who will be in charge of writing the vocabulary on a clean sheet of paper and trying to write in legible handwriting.
  3. Give them some cellotape or blue-tack and instruct them to tape/stick the vocabulary on the wall,  next to the topic they have been assigned.

 

Step 2. Throwing the dice. Writing the questions

1. Assign to each number on the dice a wh-word and write it on the board. For ex:

  1. why
  2. where
  3. when
  4.  what
  5. how
  6. who

2. Now, roll the dice and ask pairs/groups to choose a topic and write a question beginning with the wh ( for example if the number is 4, they will need to write a question beginning with “what”) and related to the topic they have chosen. Make sure pairs/groups choose different topics. Encourage students to write interesting questions or questions that can generate conversation.

Ex: the topic is Crime and the number is 4; the question might be something like :

What are the most common crimes in your town?

3. Once they have written the question, ask them to post it next to the topic the topic it pertains to.

4. Throw the dice again and repeat procedure only, this time, groups must necessarily choose a different topic. Again, make sure all topics are covered. Hopefully, when you roll the dice, it will show a different number. If it is the same number( say number 4 as in the example), throw it again, you want a different Wh- question.

How many questions do I think would be more than enough for each topic? I would suggest 3 questions/topic

Step 3. Gallery Walk

Gallery walk: Once you have at least 2 or 3 questions per topic, ask students to stand up in their groups and stand next to a topic and together read the vocabulary for the topic they will next to it.  Then, have them read the questions and discuss them. Allow about 10 minutes per poster and then ask them to move clockwise to the next topic. Repeat procedure.

ACTIVITY TWO: Tearable topics. Beautiful template

It is not the first time I have used a tearable activity- if I may call it like this-, but it is the first time that I have used Meredithakers’s template. I saw her design and I thought ” I need to use it”. So cute. Have a look at her design here and if you don’t read her, I highly recommend it.

NOTE: This activity follows the first one where students have already had the opportunity to revise vocabulary. If you choose to do only this activity, give students some time to revise the vocabulary they will need to give a great speech.

Before the class: Edit a copy of my/her template and write your own content. My template here

Cut a line between words but don’t cut them all the way so that the slip of paper doesn’t detach. I guess a copy will be enough if you have a class of 24 students or less.

Divide the class into groups of 5-6 people. You can easily create 4 groups of 5-6 people as there are 24 tearable strips of paper. Topics might be repeated, just make sure they are not repeated within the group. In fact, for easier identification, you can divide the class into 4 groups and assign a colour to each group. They can only tear off a topic highlighted in their assigned colour.

Give them about 5 minutes to prepare their monologue encouraging the use of vocabulary and grammar.

Isn’t it a beautiful template? I told you! Thanks @meredith

Lesson Plan: The Hunt for News

It’s been years since  I last discussed the media and its role in our society in my classes. I don’t really think much has changed since the last time I explored this topic in class.

  • I feel we are still being manipulated by the media
  • I still feel we are, in most cases, misinformed
  • I still feel that the press is controlled by the same networks of people that run everything else
  • I still feel the information we receive is biased and based on speculation rather than hard facts.

But this lesson is meant to be focused on the paparazzi and their work chasing celebrities or famous people. We will discuss the very serious damage that the paparazzi and tabloid media can cause when they constantly invade people’s privacy. We will discuss whether the paparazzi are to blame for some unfortunate events and whether stricter laws should be enforced. We will study vocabulary relevant to this topic and read real examples where the right to have a private life will be discussed. Are you ready?

Step 1: a stirrer.
  1. Ask students: Have you ever met someone famous?

Telling an anecdote about yourself never fails to engage students. It’s only fair that if you are asking them to talk about themselves, you do the same.

2. On the board, write the question below and ask students to briefly comment on this.

 Want fame? Kiss your privacy goodbye! 

Step 2 . Introducing vocabulary

Every time I revise or introduce vocabulary in my classes, I make a point of reminding my students that they need to study the vocabulary in chunks. There is no point in studying the verb “apply” if they don’t know the preposition it collocates with.  The next activity is a good one to remind students of this necessity.

  • Give students two minutes to write all the vocabulary they know related to The media.
  • On the board, write a circle with the word The Media inside. Do a mind-map with all the vocabulary students provide.
  • Drill pronunciation and then do a quick translation exercise to consolidate meaning and pronunciation.

Introduce new vocabulary.

  • To follow a lead
  • paparazzo/paparazzi/amateur paps
  • revulsion/respect for their profession
  • a tip-off/to tip off the paparazzi
  • to gather news
  • to spot a celebrity
  • agency/ˈeɪ.dʒən.si/
  • news outlets
  • news coverage
  • exclusive /ɪkˈskluː.sɪv/
  • a major scoop
  • click-bait story
  • photojournalism
  • tabloid journalism and sensasionalism /senˈseɪ.ʃən.əl.ɪ.zəm/
  • to censor/impose strict censorship /ˈsen.sə.ʃɪp/
  • Celebrity scandals
  • sensational news
  • To harass foreign journalists UK /ˈhær.əs/ AmE /həˈræs/
  • to stalk a celebrity /stɔːk/
  • to pursue or chase celebrities /pəˈsjuː/
  • to catch up on the news
  • to leak to the press
  • to tackle misinformation
  • invasion of privacy /ɪnˈveɪ.ʒən/ /ˈprɪv.ə.si/
  • untrustworthy/reliable sources /ʌnˈtrʌstˌwɜː.ði/
  • accuracy of the reports
  • unverified information
  • biased/unbiased
  • to be in the limelight
  • to be highly sought-after /ˈsɔːt ˌɑːf.tər/

You can follow the rest of the lesson plan using the presentation below. I hope you enjoy it!

The Hunt for News

In case you are looking for debatable or persuasive topics about the media, here you have some.

A Vocabulary Bingo Game with a Touch of Tech

Honestly,  not sure if there is anything more fun than turning a classic bingo into a language bingo. Ok, ok, rereading the sentence it is fair to question my fun scale. But I can assure you that it is going to keep your students engaged. That much I can promise.

Playing bingo in my classes is a classic. Not only the usual grid with numbers. The grid can contain pretty much everything and be used to revise almost all skills.

But today, it is going to be a vocabulary bingo with a touch of tech

This activity has two steps:

  1. Building the Word Cloud ( traditionally on the board or, in my case, using the free app Wooclap) https://www.wooclap.com/
  2. Playing Bingo
STEP 1.  Building the wordcloud.

This is a retrieval practice activity where students, using their mobile phones, revise vocabulary taught in previous lessons. In my case, I am teaching The Media and we played bingo with vocabulary from the newspapers and the media.

How to set the activity on Wooclap. Very easy!

  1. Go to Wooclap and register.
  2. Click on Create new event.
  3. Choose WordCloud and click Start Now.
  4. Share the link, the code or the QR Code with your students and Bob’s your uncle.

This video might help you follow these steps

Once the wordcloud is built, revise again pronunciation, form and meaning

And just because I like to play with tools, I have designed my own word cloud on a different tool just because I like the way words are highlighted. Click on the image to see it in action.

Step 2. Playing Bingo

Here we go!!!

One. Have students draw a grid on their notebooks: 3×2 ( 6 words) will work just fine. There should be significantly more words than squares in the bingo card. Ask them to choose any six words from the cloud and fill in the bingo squares.

The idea is to randomly give definitions for the words in the cloud. As students match definitions and words in their bingo, they cross them off. Bingo is shouted when all the squares have been crossed.

Note: Although you might think that everyone knows how to play bingo, trust me when I say several of my students had no idea how to play. So, explain that their goal is to cross all the squares in their grid before anyone else.

Two. How to play

This can be done in two different ways. One requires no preparation, the other one requires a little preparation. If you know me, I am sure you have guessed the one that I favour.

No preparation: randomly define the words in the cloud. I’d suggest keeping a record of the ones you have already done so as not to repeat the same definition twice. It can happen. Trust me.

Preparation: More fun. More drama. More everything.

  1. Write the words in the cloud on small strips of paper.
  2. Search your house for a  suitable bag and put the strips of paper in it. Draw a strip of paper at a time and give a definition for the word. You might need to repeat the definition twice. As students listen to the definition, they have a look at their grids. If they have a word matching the definition, they cross it off. The game continues until someone shouts bingo.
  3. Don’t forget to build suspense. It adds to the game.

A simple but very effective game.

Follow-up: 

  1. Ask a question or several and give students a strip of paper or several. When answering the question, they should try to use the word(s) on their strips.

How do you get the news in your country? Has the way of keeping up to date changed over the years?

Repeat procedure with as many questions as you want students to answer. Ask them to swap their words so that they get new ones.

2. In the next class, I am planning to play bingo again. Same steps but with a twist. This time, the students will draw the slips of paper from the bag and they will be asked to provide the definition.

Inspired by Serena’s blog choice of words.  Here you can revise taking her quiz.