Mock Cooking Competition

This activity is best for B1-C2 levels after vocabulary for food and cooking has been introduced. I even use it with business clients when we discuss entertaining and explaining local dishes to guests.

  1. Create cards with various ingredients and also cooking utensils.
  2. Put the learners in pairs and give them some cards (say 6 ingredients and 4 utensils). Explain they are going to have a cooking competition using these ingredients and utensils.
  3. The learners look at the cards and discuss what kind of “new” recipe they want to create. After a few minutes of discussion, ask them to write the recipe out.
  4. Then swap partners and they describe their dish/recipe/cooking procedure and utensils to their new partner. This step can be repeated until everyone has heard everyone’s recipe.

Alternative: have the learners present their recipes to the class as a whole. Vote on the recipe that sounds the tastiest, craziest, yuckiest etc.

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Shapes & Designs & Descriptions

This is a very simple but effective exercise to practice anything from shapes and patterns to people and homes or even for prepositions.

  1. After introducing the target vocabulary, have the learners work in pairs. Each will need 2 pieces of paper.
  2. Tell them to draw the thing they should describe (if you are just practicing shapes, make them draw shapes of different sizes in different places on their paper, they can overlap or be inside each other etc.). They should work in a way so their partner can not see. Alternatively, you can draw and photocopy designs and give them to the pairs.
  3. Now they have to describe it to their partner who draws what they hear. You may need to give more language like: in the top right corner/bottom left corner etc.
  4. Then they compare the pictures.
  5. Repeat with the other partner describing.

1-1: This works well in 1-1 as described above with the trainer as one of the partners.

Country/Flag Guessing Game

This is a relatively easy exercise to understand but can be used at all levels.

  1. Print several flags to countries you think the learners don’t know and distribute them to the learners. They should not show their flag to their classmates.
  2. As homework tell them to find out which country the flag belongs to. Then have them read about the country. For low levels suggest “simple wikipedia” instead of the normal one. Also encourage them to watch youtube videos about the country or browse newspaper articles (google search the NEWS tab and the country). They can make some notes about the country.
  3. In the next lesson, ask each learner to show their flag. The other learners should ask any questions (other than What country is it?) to get more information. For lower levels you can elicit/board some question prompts such as “Is it in Asia/Europe/Africa/South America?/Do the people speak English?/Is it cold/hot/wet/dry? etc.
  4. Once they have guessed the flag, the person who researched can give any additional information they learned about the country.
  5. Optional follow up: Have the learners write a text about the country, this could be a) a summary b) a comparison to their own country or c) another topic related to the country

1-1: This activity can be adapted in that you should give the learner several flags (3-4) and follow instructions as above. The trainer should also participate with 3-4 flags.

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.

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).