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.


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.

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.

Guess who I am

This one is a very simple exercise perfect for A1-A2 level learners.

  1. After you have introduced and practiced the verb “be” and some other basic verbs, tell the learners they are going to describe a famous person. They should use simple sentences like: I am a man. I come from Austria. I have big arms. I live in California. I am a movie star. I am a politician. (answer: Arnold Schwartzenegger)
  2. As the learners are writing their clues, circle and help when needed.
  3. Then in small groups (or as a whole class) have the learners read their clues one by one. I usually have them read the most vague clues first. The others should guess who the person is.

There is no “winner” but this is a great confidence boaster and they usually enjoy this exercise.

1-1: Do the exercise as above. You can also have the learner write 2 or 3 descriptions as home practice (and you do the same).

Lateral Thinking Stories/Black Stories

This exercise is possible at the A1 level (after the past simple at least has been learned), but better from A2-C2 levels. The focus of this exercise is forming questions especially in the past (past simple or past continuous). There are many of these games on the market (see amazon) or you can find them online. Lateral thinking stories or Black Stories are a mix of a riddle/puzzle and a story in which the learners are told the ending of the story and must ask questions (yes/no) to figure out how it came to be. One story could go on for anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, so be prepared. I usually just do one or two stories at a time.

  1. Choose a story (see here for some:
  2. Explain to the learners that they will ask you closed questions. You can have them work in pairs or small groups if you have a large class.
  3. You could allow a person/team to ask a follow up question if the answer is YES. (your answers will be YES, NO, or NOT RELEVANT)
  4. The person/team that solves the story wins.

NB: Be prepared to give clues if they aren’t coming up with. For example: Ask about the wife/what he looks like/her age etc. (especially if the exercise is taking longer than planned).

City Maps: Directions

This is good for any level when practicing prepositions and/or giving directions. I do this after I have introduced the topic and done controlled practice.

  1. Print out maps of various cities that include attractions on them. Distribute the maps to the learners who are in pairs.
  2. Explain they should choose a starting location and ask their partner: Where shall we meet? How do I get there? (actually the partner should not name the place, just describe the way). The partner then describes the way without touching the map. If the other person does not find the way successfully, they should begin again.
  3. Continue from that location and then the person who gave directions last time asks: Where shall we go now? And their partner leads them to a new attraction.
  4. Finally, have them research one of the attractions online for home practice and give a mini presentation about it.

For 1-1: use the activity exactly as described above, the trainer is the learner’s partner.

Who has my phone?

This is a good review of questions and can be used form A1-B1 levels for best results.

  1. Explain that one learner will leave the room and the teacher’s phone will be given to another learner. The learner will then reenter the room and ask questions to find out who has the phone.
  2. You may need to board some question forms to remind them at this point.
    1. A1 level: Does a man/woman/person with brown hair/green shoes/etc. have the phone?
    2. A2 level: Is the person wearing…/Does the person …/Has the person got…
    3. B1 level: Did this person arrive late today?/ Is the person wearing…/Does the person …/Has the person got…
  3. Send one learner out and give a learner the phone.
  4. When the learner from outside returns, allow them to ask as many questions as possible until they can find out who has the phone (I encourage them NOT to ask “Does Maria have the phone/Do you have the phone, Maria” unless it is their very last question.).
  5. Repeat with a new learner leaving.

1-1: This could work with 1-1 if you print out a dozen pictures of different people and then place a card UNDER one of the pictures that says “phone” and have the learner play as above. You can start the game to show the learner how it’s done and to build confidence the first round (so the L “hides” the phone under a picture and you ask).