One Word Chain Letter

This can be used at most levels, but is best from B2-C2. I usually do it as a review/practice of conjunctions, but it could be used anytime. I originally heard a version of this on the radio when I was visiting the UK once.

  1. Choose a topic such as “a complaint letter, a request for information, an accident report etc.”. Then explain that the whole group is going to “write” a letter with no paper. They are going to create the letter orally. Start the letter my saying “Dear”
  2. The next person in the circle must add exactly ONE word to the letter. For example “Mr.” then “Brown” and so on. The object is to NOT come to a full stop/end the letter! This is where conjunctions come in handy (and I usually refer them to their handout/book or the board with many conjunctions).
  3. If a learner provides a word that does not fit grammatically, allow them the chance to correct themselves/add a word that does work.
  4. The game ends when a learner can not continue the sentence. In which case they respond “period/full stop”.

This is great fun as a review or practice of the conjunctions and there is not a lot of pressure on the learners since they only need to create one word. If they are shy you could put them in pairs, but I have never had to do this.

For 1-1: This activity works well for 1-1 as described above.

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Picture Introduction

This can be used in the very first lesson or at any point in time, really.

  1. Choose a few photos that represent something about yourself. Mine are: a chicken, the Golden Arches, a group of school kids in Japan, a mountain in Arizona, a diving mask.
  2. Put the pictures on the board (or if you have a projector, project them all) so everyone can see them all at once. Alternatively, if they are smaller, give each pair a photo which they will pass around.
  3. Tell the learners: These photos represent a part of my life in the past or present. Brainstorm with your partner what you think the connection is.
  4. Give the learners enough time, usually 10 minutes to brainstorm what they think the connection is.
  5. As a whole class ask for ideas. What is the connection to the chicken? Groups might say: Do you love to eat chicken? Do you have a pet chicken? etc. If they guess it you could give them a point. If not, give little tips like: There is a connection to one of my past jobs, until they discover the story (I worked on a chicken farm for 2 years. It was my first job. I didn’t like it and on a side note, I am now a vegetarian.).
  6. Continue playing until all the stories have been discovered.
  7. Depending on the size of the class you can ask them to show a picture (just google image search) that represents something about themselves the others don’t know. If the group is large, have them do it in small groups or pairs. If the group is small, do it as a whole class. Alternative: as homework they should bring in 3 pictures (these do not have to be pictures of themselves! They can use “stock” photos to represent the concept).

For 1-1 training this can also be used. Just ask directly: What do you think the connection is? Follow up by bouncing it back to the learner. What about you? Have you ever worked with animals? Tell me about it.

Disappearing Dialog

This is great for A1-A2 levels. It works on vocabulary, pronunciation, phrases… The dialog should be a “typical” one, like introducing oneself, in a cafe/restaurant, asking about someone’s family etc.

  1. choose or write a dialog on the white board.
  2. Check that the learners understand the dialog (use CCQ etc.).
  3. Then practice the pronunciation with simple choral and individual repetition of each sentence as a whole.
  4. Put them in pairs and have them read the dialog with one person A and the other B.
  5. Then have them switch roles.
  6. Now, go to the board and erase about one word per line. Repeat the process.
  7. Again, erase another word per line and repeat.
  8. This continues until there is no dialog at all on the whiteboard, only A: B: .
  9. Finally ask the pairs to demonstrate the dialog to the whole class.

Tip: the dialogs can’t be too long. About 6 lines (3 per person) is good, not more than 10 lines (5 per person).

1-1: This can work for 1-1 as well just as described. The language trainer takes on one of the roles.

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.