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.

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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.

 

How They Met

How They Met

 

This one is good for practicing the past tenses and vocabulary connected to stages in a relationship. If you feel it is too personal, you can have them describe a celebrity couple or even their parents etc.

 

  1. Explain that they should write the story about how they met their partner, best friend or neighbor. Again, if this is too personal, they can also research a famous couple or write about their parents etc. You might give this as home practice so they can take their time writing it. However, it is important that everyone does this activity for the it to work. If you want to be prepared for those who forget, bring extra celebrity stories that you can distribute. It is best if they type these stories so they are easier to read and less easily identifiable by the handwriting.
  2. Collect the stories (with no names of authors) and redistribute them. It is OK if someone gets their own back. Allow them time to read the text. Circulate and answer any vocabulary questions they might have.
  3. Have the participants read out the stories or summarize them in their own words and the others listen and guess who wrote the story. If it is a personal story, allow for follow-up questions. If it is a story about a famous couple, allow others to add information that was not in the text.

Variation:

Collect the stories and redistribute. Have the participants write questions about the texts such as “Who met his future wife in 1988?” or “Why did X go to Cuba in 2009?” etc. Then collect the question slips and redistribute them (NOT to the person who wrote the slips or the person who the slips are about).

Ad Lib

Ad Lib

This one is great after you have finished working with a text (from the course book or otherwise). It’s best for Elementary-Pre-Intermediate levels. Some of you might know it from your childhood, in the form of Ad Lib pads.

  1. Type up the text from the course book AFTER you have already finished working with it (this is important that it is NOT an unknown text).
  2. Blank out some of the words and write in parenthesis what type of word it was, e.g. verb, adjective, noun, number, color, job etc.
  3. Then put the learners in pairs and give the text to one person who will then request the missing information as such: “give me an adjective” “stinky” “give me a verb”….
  4. Then they read the new nonsense text together and have a laugh.
  5. Give the other person another text (or another part of the same text) and repeat the exercise.

The laughter is key as it means they recognize and understand that it is silly. Good way to wind down the lesson and make the most of the course book.