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).

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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: http://www.destination-innovation.com/the-top-ten-lateral-thinking-puzzles/).
  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).

Guess my job

This is good for A1-B1 levels and can be used for general English or business English.

  1. Brainstorm jobs in English and write about 12-15 on the board.
  2. Elicit some yes/no questions about jobs with the learners, for example:
    1. Do you wear a uniform?
    2. Do you work inside?
    3. Do you work alone?
    4. Do you study at university for your job?
    5. Do you work in a team?
    6. Do you earn a lot of money?
    7. Do you use a computer in your job?
    8. Do you drive as part of your job?
  3. Put the learners in pairs or small groups. Explain that one person will choose a job from the board, but will not tell their partner/group.
  4. The partner/group may ask 4 questions from the brainstormed questions (or others) before they can guess the job.

1-1 The activity works well for 1-1 as described.

Interview Bingo

This one is great for groups (at least 9 participants or more) and lower levels (A1-A2). It can be adapted to any grammar point or vocabulary.

  1. Distribute the handout. (see sample handout below called “can you”)
  2. Ask a learner to model the dialog/interview. Explain that if the person answers with YES, the asker may write the answerer’s name in the box below the picture. For groups that can handle it, you can request that they ask a follow-up question. If the person answers NO, then nothing is written. They may ask another question to the same person.
  3. The learners move around the room interviewing their classmates (The trainer can also take part). When they have completed their BINGO card, they sit down.
  4. The trainer then calls out the learners names one at a time at random. Those who have that person’s name, should mark the box with an X. Whoever has a row (vertical, horizontal, diagonal) shouts BINGO! Then, to confirm the win, they read out their row, e.g. Marco can repair cars, Teresa can swim, and Paulo can ride a horse. The winner can get a point or a candy/sticker or other reward.

Alternative: Instead of using a photo, use a photo AND a word/phrase or only a word/phrase in the box.

This is game can not be adapted to 1-1.

can-you

 

If this person were a…

This is a game I sometimes play with my family and friends on road trips. It’s best for groups at the B1 level and up.

  1. Explain that one person will be the “Asker” and the rest of the group will answer. Choose one person to leave the room. While that person is out, the group selects a person in the room to describe.
  2. The Asker comes back in (I usually demonstrate the first round by being the Asker myself). The Asker asks a question such as:

If this person were a color/flower/animal/food/piece of furniture/disease/car/sport/movie genre/insect/planet etc., which one would they be. (Be careful to use THEY in your answers). The Asker asks the questions then designates a person to answer. The person who answers should answer based on personality (not likes, for example if a person likes black, but you think yellow best represents them, say YELLOW).

3. The Asker asks one question to everyone in the room before guessing who it is.

4. Repeat the game with a new Asker.

1-1 Variation: This can work for 1-1 if you limit the number of questions to five (for example) and use a list of names of people both the learner and the trainer know (may include famous people) to be kept on the table for reference.