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.

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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).

Mad Libs

This is good for A1-B1 levels especially. If you never played Mad Libs as a kid, check out the wikipedia entry for an example:

 "_____________! he said ________ as he jumped into his convertible
   exclamation            adverb
  ______ and drove off with his ___________ wife."
   noun                          adjective

After completion, they demonstrate that the sentence might read:

 "Ouch! he said stupidly as he jumped into his convertible 
  cat and drove off with his brave wife."
  1. Select a recent text from the coursebook that the learners have already studied.
  2. Type up the text (or photocopy it and blank out some words) and leave some words blank. Then write what kind of word goes in the blank: verb, adverb, adjective, noun, place, name, animal, color, exclamation etc.
  3. Then have the learners work in pairs or small groups. One person has the text and requests the types of words by saying: Give me a color/animal/verb in the past etc.
  4. When the text is complete, the learner reads the new text to their partner/group. If they laugh or look confused because something doesn’t quite fit, you know they have really understood the text and had a lot of fun.
  5. Then give the partner another text and repeat.

1-1: This can also work for 1-1 lessons as described above with the trainer taking the role of the partner.

Word Cloud

This is a great way to preface a text (especially a longer one), finds the main vocabulary needed to understand the text, and presents it in a cool way. Best for B1-C2 levels.

  1. Find the text in digital format, for example, an article or wikipedia entry. Copy the text into a word cloud generator (there are a ton, just check the ones that are compatible with your computer). Press enter and voila, you have a word cloud. (you can make adjustments to the settings).
  2. Show the word cloud to the learners. Explain these are the most frequent words from a text (the larger, the more frequent). Ask them if there are any unknown words, pre-teach them or ask the others to explain if they know.
  3. Then ask the Ls to predict what the text is about. I usually write a few of the guesses on the board.
  4. Then read the text (using whatever strategies you normally use for texts). Check if their predictions where correct.
  5. Then have them write or give an oral summary of the text using the words in the word cloud. This is where the unknown words will move from passive understanding to active use.

This is basically a great confidence booster. When the Ls get a long text with lots of new words, it can be demotivating. But when you explain that they just need the main words, that helps. Usually, however, they don’t KNOW what the “main” words are. A word cloud helps out in that area as it pulls the words with the highest frequency (usually omitting words like a, the, it etc which can be changed in the settings).

1-1: This works perfectly for 1-1 as described above.

Folding Stories

This is something I used to do with my friends back home. It is best for levels from A2-C2. As the teacher, you should also take part!

  1. Give each participant a page with one sentence at the top (a different sentence for each sheet), such as: Bob had a problem at work./An old woman named Martha needed help./Sarah received an email with the best news of her life.
  2. Allow the learners to read their sentence and explain that they will write the next sentence under the original sentence.
  3. Then, everyone should fold the paper in such a way that only their sentence is visible.
  4. They then pass their paper to their left. When they receive the new sheet, they read the visible sentence (again ONLY THE LAST SENTENCE), they continue the story for that sheet.
  5. The process repeats for a certain period of time or until the sheets are full.
  6. Finally, the learners open the sheets and read their stories out loud to the group. Some of the stories will be quite funny, others strange, but everyone enjoys hearing them!

1-1 Adaptation: this exercise does not work for 1-1 situations at all. There need to be a minimum of 3 people who write.

Infographics

I have been using more and more infographics with all my courses. Here are some of the ways they can be used.

  1. To introduce a topic. Google the topic and the word infographic, e.g. “e-health infographic” or “online marketing infographic” etc. Choose one that your learners will easily understand and generate conversation. Use it like any other text (pre-teach vocabulary if necessary, gist questions etc.) but most importantly get them to talk about it. Is it surprising for them? Do they agree or disagree with the information? Is is similar to their company/experience? etc.
  2. As a lead-in to a written task. Ask them to change the infographic to be true for their country/company/experience.

1-1 variation: Infographics are perfect for 1-1 situations.

(Dream) House Description Swap

(Dream) House Description Swap

This one is good for describing rooms in a house and the things you find in those rooms. Also good for prepositions at lower levels. For intermediate levels include the activities they do in those rooms and for more advanced levels have them describe in as much detail how they would furnish/renovate and why.

  1. Have the participants write the description. They should NOT write their names on the paper. This could be homework or a timed writing (I usually give no more than 7 minutes).
  2. Collect the descriptions and redistribute them (it’s OK if someone gets their own back).
  3. Next have them read the descriptions alone, circle and help with any vocabulary or handwriting questions.
  4. Next, have one person read the description (making changes to the third person singular) and everyone else listens carefully. They should then guess whose description is is and ask at least one follow-up question.
  5. Continue until all the descriptions have been read and the authors identified.