Comparison Drawings

This activity is good freer practice for A1-A2 levels especially when teaching comparatives and/or superlatives.

  1. Find/draw and print images of three things that are similar, e.g. 2/3 cartoon rabbits, flowers, people, vehicles etc. Print the three images on one page. NB use 2 for comparative and 3 for superlative.
  2. Put the learners in pairs. Explain that one partner will have 2/3 images. This partner will not show the images to their partner, but will describe the images. The other partner should draw what they hear. They can also ask questions. NB For lower levels I elicit the formula before the activity:
    1. 1 syllable adjective + er
    2. 2 syllable adjective with y = ier
    3. more + 2 syllable or more adjectives
    4. For higher levels add the superlatives and even “not as… as” etc.
  3. Allow the learners to begin. Circle and help with vocabulary and grammar as necessary.
  4. When finished have the learners compare the originals to the drawings.
  5. If there is time you can swap roles (though usually one round is OK for this activity)

1-1: Use as above. The trainer is the describer. Otherwise, get the learner to quickly draw 2/3 images and then describe them to the trainer.

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Eyewitness

This is a version of a game I read about on the British Council’s teaching page (with a few changes). It’s good for B1-C1 levels, especially for questions and tenses.

  1. Choose a video clip from youtube or a DVD etc (or a photo/photos) of a crime taking place. Show the clip (with or without sound) to half the class. These are the eyewitnesses. The other half of the class are police officers.
  2. The “police officers” should prepare (in pairs) questions that they can ask the eyewitnesses while the eyewitnesses are watching the clip (send the police officers out of the room). Allow a few minutes for eyewitnesses to discuss what they watched in the scene (and help with vocabulary as necessary).
  3. Pair up on police officer with one eyewitness. The police officers interview the eyewitnesses and gather as much information as possible. The police officers should take notes (and draw the crime scene if appropriate).
  4. Then have the police officers write up a “police report” and have the eyewitnesses check it for accuracy (either in pairs or as a whole class).

1-1: This activity works for 1-1 as described above. The trainer can take the role of either the eyewitness or the police officer.

Taboo

Many of you know this game for native speakers. It can easily be adapted for most levels. Warning: Do not attempt to play the store-bought game with any level other than C2! It is extremely difficult and demotivating. However, customized cards can work well.

  1. Choose about 20-30 recent words from lessons and write them at the top of a slip of paper.
  2. Next, add 2 words that are related, but are “taboo”. For example, if the word at the top is advertising agency the taboo words could be TV and magazine.
  3. Put the learners in groups of 3-5. Explain that you will set the timer for 1 minute and one person in the group will take the first card from the stack and describe it to their group. They are not allowed to use the taboo words (or parts of the word itself). If they use a taboo word, that card is discarded. If the team guesses the word and there is still time, the player takes another card and describes again. NB all the other teams are listening as well but not speaking at this point.
  4. Then the next team plays and so on.
  5. The winning team is the team with the most points.

Alternative: Have the learners themselves create the cards with the taboo words. Don’t worry if there are doubles (i.e. if two learners have the same head word).

1-1: This game can not be adapted for 1-1 lessons.

Reading Review

I usually use this exercise for A1-B1 levels. It aims to check not only comprehension and grammar but also memory.

  1. After learners have read a text (as homework or in class). Divide the texts into sections and assign one section to groups/pairs. For example, if the text has 12 paragraphs and you have 9 learners, create 3 groups and assign 4 paragraphs per group.
  2. Give the learners scrap paper (A4 cut in 4 is fine). Tell them to write one question about their part of the text on each slip of paper. You can decide how many slips to give each group, depending on the length of the text. The questions can be open or closed, but should not be opinion questions. Example of OK questions: When was X invented? Where did… How did… Did X patent the invention right away? etc. The trainer should circle and help with grammar as needed.
  3. Then have them fold the questions and throw them into the center of the table.
  4. Once all the questions have been written, tell them that each team is going to take a question and has 20 seconds to answer it. They will get 1 point if the content is correct and 1 point if the grammar is correct. Keep track on the board.
  5. The winning team is the team with the most points.

This is great for lower levels because it a) gives them the chance to review the text and make sure they really understood in a way that they feel safe, b) it reviews the asking and answering of questions which learners at this level still have trouble with. Even if they get a question they wrote, they have to actually answer it, so it’s OK.

1-1: This exercise can be adapted for 1-1 but then the trainer is one team and the learner is one team, which means the trainer can not check the grammar of the questions before they go in the center (but that’s OK).

First Day Lesson (1)

There are many ways to conduct the first lesson with a new group including a needs analysis and self-introductions. This is just one idea.

  1. Cut A4 paper into 4 and give each learner 4 cut pieces of paper.
  2. Ask them to write one word on each paper. It should be a thing/object that is important to them.
  3. Collect the slips of paper and redistribute them to others.
  4. Ask the learners to write a few questions about the object. For example, LABRADOR: Do you have a labrador? Is it male or female? How old… etc.
  5. Have the learners mingle and find the person who wrote the word. They should ask their questions (and follow-up questions).
  6. When everyone has found the person who wrote all the words they have, they can sit back down. Then report back by asking: What was the most interesting thing you learned about Maria/Marco etc.

This is a good activity to practice speaking and getting to know each other. Of course the trainer should also include 4 slips of paper!

Alternative: instead of just things, the learners can use dates or places or verbs or a mix!

1-1: This exercise can work for 1-1 lessons, but just have the learner write 4 words and you interview them about those words. Then have the learner interview you about your 4 words.

One Before You Go

This simple activity is hugely popular with all my learners.

  1. At the end of the lesson (1-2 minutes before it ends) announce: Please tell me one new word you learned and then you can leave.
  2. The first person to raise their hand and say a new word can leave.
  3. If the group is small enough and if you have time, I sometimes ask them for the translation or an example definition as well.
  4. The person who gave the word can now leave (and the rest remain until they can give a word).

As they realize they can not leave until they say a new word for them. I do this very often and they get quite good at it.

1-1: For 1-1 I usually ask for 3 words instead.

One-Minute Monologues

This activity is good for B1-C2 levels and I usually use it at the beginning of a class or when we start a new topic. For example, if the next topic in the book is “advertising”, I might use this as a warm-up.

  1. Choose a topic or topics. Write/type them on cards and distribute them to pairs of students.
  2. Explain that when you say go, one person in each pair will turn over a card (e.g. “favorite TV ad”, “bad advertising”, “famous actors in ads” etc.) and speak for 1 full minute on the topic. Stress that it is important that they speak without pauses. They must say something, anything at all to keep speaking. Many may find it challenging the first time (so try it with a very general topic the first time like: dogs, pizza, summer).
  3. Start your timer and when it ends, have them switch and repeat.
  4. Have a feedback round. Ask: What did you speak about? How did you feel? Was it easy or difficult, why?

This exercise helps learners get over their need to express themselves in 100% correct English and focuses on them just speaking and getting an idea across.

1-1: This exercise can be used as described above with the trainer participating.