Small Talk Alphabet Letter

This is a no-preparation surprising and surprisingly interesting warm-up exercise for levels A2-C2.

  1. Ask the learners for a letter of the alphabet. Write that letter on the board (for example S).
  2. Now, ask for words that start with that letter and write about 15 on the board (for example sun, simple, socks, sorry, sick, soap, soup…)
  3. Put the learners in pairs. Tell them they have 4 minutes to have small talk on one (or more) of the topics on the board (of their choosing). Start your timer and have them start.
  4. Afterwards, get some feedback by asking: What did you talk about? Was it easy or difficult to discuss the topic? I also add why we do the exercise: You can’t always predict the direction small talk will take and practicing how to react in unexpected situations can be helpful.

1-1 variation: This works well in 1-1 as above with the trainer as one of the partner.


Call Me

This is just a quick twist you can add to any telephone practice. After the learners have been introduced to the particular telephone skill and practiced it in pairs, I give them more “realistic” practice.

  1. Hand out slips of paper to the learners. Have them write their cell phone number on the slip with NO NAME.
  2. Collect the slips and mix them.
  3. Explain you are going to leave the room and call a few of the numbers you now have. The learner whose phone rings should answer the call on loud speaker.
  4. While the learner is speaking, the others should take notes (What is the call about, was it successful etc).
  5. Then I go outside and make the calls. Usually I start with: Hello this is XX from YY. You called and left a message I should call you back? What can I do for you?” at which point the learner should respond in a similar way to the practice they had in the earlier stages of the lesson. I make notes on good language and areas of improvement. I usually call about 25% of the class, depending on how many are in the group.
  6. Return to the class. Have a feedback session. Important: to build confidence, don’t over correct at this stage since it is a fluency exercise. Focus on how they handled the call and if it was ultimately successful.

For lower levels: Have them answer the call in pairs.

1-1: This can work well for 1-1. However, if possible, I sometimes get a colleague or friend to make the call so it is a bit more realistic.

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.

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.


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.